Maine-based community development finance institution Coastal Enterprises Inc., or CEI, has launched a new lending firm for small businesses that will offer a popular type of U.S. Small Business Administration-guaranteed loan.

The new for-profit company, CEI 7(a) Financing LLC, is a non-bank lender that will offer the SBA’s flagship product, the 7(a) loan. CEI 7(a) will make loans of up to $5 million to qualified borrowers and will focus on small businesses in typically underserved areas, the company said in a news release.

“The 7(a) program’s purpose is to make loans available to viable small businesses – particularly in rural regions – that cannot otherwise obtain loans at reasonable terms from conventional sources,” it said.

The new lending entity extends CEI’s mission to help create economically and environmentally healthy communities in which all people, especially those with low incomes, can reach their full potential, the company said.

It also expands CEI’s national portfolio, which includes a New Markets Tax Credit practice, venture capital funds, sustainable agriculture, fisheries and forestry work, and policy initiatives focused on boosting the economy, creating equal opportunity and helping the environment, it said.

“There is clear demand and need for ethical, non-bank, small business lending capacity,” CEI 7(a) CEO Rob Wilson said in the release.

Based in Wiscasset, CEI provides financing and technical assistance to small and medium-sized businesses, natural resource-based industries including the farm, fish and forest sectors, community facilities, renewable energy, commercial real estate and affordable housing.

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