An innovative micro-loan fund created by the Sunrise County Economic Council (SCEC) to help local fishermen and marine businesses create or retain jobs is celebrating its third birthday this month. The Down East Commercial Fisheries Fund, established in July 2010 with strong support from an anonymous donor, the King and Jean Cummings Trust, and coordinating support from the Maine Community Foundation, offers micro loans to qualifying marine businesses at a time when many in the industry are facing severe challenges.

“Fishing and marine-related activities are a vital component of our natural-resources-based economy,” SCEC Executive Director Harold Clossey observed. “Up and down the coast, hundreds of Washington County families have made their living from the sea for many generations. It’s always been tough, but these days, people are in uncharted waters with unstable lobster prices; rising fuel, gear and bait costs; ever-changing federal and state rules and regulations, not to mention the mandatory costs of licensing and insurance requirements, it’s hard for a fishing family to survive, let alone grow their business.”

Clossey explained, “If fishermen can’t get enough traps in the water to make ends meet, or the boat blows an engine, it’s felt across some of the area’s most tight-knit communities. There’s less money coming into the household. That means less money being spent at the grocery store, the hardware shop, or the takeout down the road. It’s a scary situation to be in, and we wanted to find a way to help some of Down East Maine’s hardest workers sustain or grow their family business.”

Clossey said that since 2010, DECFF has lent approximately $37,000 in loans and created or retained dozens and dozens of jobs as a direct result of the investment SCEC has made in Down East Maine’s fishing industry.

“While we are a lending agency, we’re not a bank,” Clossey added. “We compliment the local banking industry, quite often working closely with mutual clients. With the local banks and business counselors, we try to ensure that everyone who applies has the best chance for success, access to capital and technical assistance. It’s more than financing; if needed, we connect client with business counselors and work with them to develop the total loan package in the language lenders need to make decisions.”

Loans are available from $1,000 – $10,000 to qualifying applicants.  Eligible uses include: boat and gear acquisition/improvements; creation and/or expansion of value added-products/services; training and education, marketing assistance; energy efficiency improvements; and assistance with the formation of start-up capital. Applicants must live and work in Washington County.

“We can be creative and innovative, plus we have free and confidential technical assistance available,” Clossey said.

Additional details and requirements, including application forms and supporting documentation for SCEC’s Down East Commercial Fisheries Fund are available online at To request an informational packet or ask questions, please contact SCEC Communications Manager Will Tuell at 255-0983 or email

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