A new venture fund designed to support the growth of young companies in western and central Maine launched Thursday.

Western Maine Venture Fund was formed by the Skowhegan Savings Charitable Foundation, the charitable arm of Skowhegan Savings Bank, and Opus Ventures, a Portland venture capital firm. The intent is to develop a $10 million pool of capital for targeted investments in early-stage companies in that region.

The fund has been qualified under the state’s Seed Capital Tax Credit program, and will be managed by Opus Ventures, according to a news release.

“This is a great opportunity to partner with the Skowhegan Savings Charitable Foundation to bring venture investing to Maine in a targeted way,” said Jacques Santucci, managing director of Opus Ventures and president of Opus Consulting Group, in the release. “We are proud to join the bank’s tradition of ambitious vision for the future of local entrepreneurs paired with genuine interest in seeing Maine’s economy prosper.”

The bank’s charitable giving program makes donations to local nonprofit and charity organizations with a focus on financial literacy, economic and community development, including programs that promote job creation, business retention, business growth and community enhancement.

Opus Ventures has a history of investing in alternative health care, high technology, manufacturing, environmental, biotechnology, financial services and emerging industries. Santucci co-founded the Wellness Connection, a chain of four medical marijuana dispensaries operating in Maine.

The Seed Capital Tax Credit program awards state income tax credits to investors for up to 50 percent of the cash equity they provide to eligible Maine businesses. Investments may be used for fixed assets, research or working capital. The program is administered by the Finance Authority of Maine.

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