Growing Maine’s Economy
Growing Maine’s Economy
Maine International Trade Center (MITC) helps Maine businesses grow through international sales. We offer one-on-one Trade Assistance, which covers a broad range of topics including logistics, tariffs, documentation, referrals, and research on best new markets.
MITC staff have a combined total of 96 years of international trade experience. Along with experience comes a depth of knowledge in key industry sectors including advanced manufacturing & composites, food & beverage, forest products, and life sciences. In addition, our team has developed a network of valuable contacts in Africa, Asia, Canada, the High North/North Atlantic, and Europe.
|Maine’s Top Exports|
Wood & Paper Products
|Maine’s Top Export Markets|
Trade Shows & Missions
For small and medium-sized companies MITC offers valuable, face-to-face exposure to international buyers and distributors in a cost-effective way through coordinated group participation in Trade Shows & Missions. In addition to exhibiting in a shared booth space, companies have one-on-one meetings with pre-screened international buyers and distributors. Our team also works closely with participating companies to make the most of the experience before, during, and after the show or mission.
While MITC had planned to coordinate participation for Maine companies in several major trade shows in 2020, only Winter Fancy Food was held as scheduled with 5 Maine companies exhibiting in our shared booth in January, and the other shows were cancelled due to the global pandemic. Seafood Expo North America was postponed then eventually cancelled. MITC worked with Food Export USA to organize virtual meetings for 8 Maine seafood companies with international buyers representing Cambodia, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand, U.A.E., and Vietnam.
Export Assistance Grants
Through Export Assistance Grants, MITC provides financial assistance to eligible Maine companies to expand international sales. Generally, these funds may be used for business-to-business matchmaking, interpreters or translators, trade show space, or other on-the-ground overseas activities. The global pandemic required a shift in focus for how funds could be used in 2020 to virtual B2B matchmaking, online export skills training, and international e-commerce and digital marketing.
“I want to thank MITC for their support of companies like OSS, and specifically on behalf of OSS a big thank you for this international marketing support. This support is critical as we struggle with developing materials for international business development, which is a difficult task in normal times, but is even more challenging in the age of COVID-19. I can’t help but believe that this support will be a key factor in helping OSS achieve success.”– Roland Sirois, CEO, Orono Spectral Solutions (OSS) Inc. (Hermon, ME)
In October, MITC was awarded an additional $461,000 for two years from the U.S. Small Business Administration under the State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) to increase the number of businesses that export. MITC increased the dollar amount per activity and total number of awards and dollar value per year, as well as lowered the match requirements, for STEP Financial Assistance Awards.
During 2020, 24 applications from Maine small businesses were approved for STEP Financial Assistance Awards. Of the 16 completed activities, 13 companies reported $136,000 in actual sales with an additional $4.8 million projected sales in the next 12-18 months. These figures represent a 2.3:1 immediate return and a projected 81:1 future return on grant funds.
MITC is the state partner for Food Export USA, which promotes the export of food, seafood, and agricultural products through the Market Access Program (MAP). MAP provides cost-share assistance to eligible organizations for activities such as consumer advertising, public relations, point-of-sale demonstrations, participation in trade shows, market research, and technical assistance. According to the most recent annual reporting available (2019), 26 Maine companies participated in 101 activities resulting in $17 million in actual sales and $29 million in projected sales.
The Maine North Atlantic Development Office (MENADO) was formed in 2013 as an initiative of MITC to increase trade, investment, and collaboration between the State of Maine and markets of the North Atlantic and to develop Maine’s engagement in Arctic affairs. In 2020, MENADO coordinated and supported 16 virtual events, reaching over 1,500 participants in Maine and around the world.
Less than a year after Maine and Finland formally committed to building our respective forest bioeconomies and sharing best practices for climate resilience via a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), MENADO organized MITC’s first-ever virtual trade mission.
The Finland-Maine Virtual Trade and Study Mission 2020 focused on building networks and collaboration between our forest industries. The virtual mission kicked off with two webinars in August, followed by virtual B2B matchmaking. Partnering with Business Finland, MENADO provided matchmaking and facilitation services between 73 participants from 53 companies and institutions in Maine and Finland for a total of 32 meetings and roundtable discussions in September and October.
“We are in the heart of a large wood basket capable of supplying timber and fiber of all types. We see an amazing opportunity for Finnish technology to leverage our forest resource and existing manufacturing infrastructure to deliver products to North America that could possibly incorporate our insulation lines and offer more complete building solutions to the construction market.”– Scott Dionne, Chief Marketing Officer, GO Lab (Belfast and Madison, ME)
Additional 2020 highlights include:
- MENADO engaged in and explored initiatives with Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Scotland, and Greenland on a variety of themes including aquaculture, forest bioeconomy, cleantech, renewable energy, creative industries, food and beverage, and consumer goods.
- MENADO provided advocacy and letters of support to Maine higher education institutions for $4.8 million in successful Arctic-themed federal grants in 2020.
- MENADO continued to play a leadership role, serving on the Arctic Circle Mission Council on Greenland and the Arctic and as Working Group Chair for the Arctic Economic Council’s Blue Economy Working Group to develop a Pan-Arctic alliance of ocean clusters.
A statewide consortium of Maine high schools, colleges, and universities, MITC’s StudyMaine initiative, in close partnership with the U.S. Commercial Service office in Portland, promotes Maine overseas as a top U.S. education destination. Typically, more than 2,500 international students contribute an estimated $80 million annually to Maine’s economy. The global pandemic, as well as uncertainties around travel and student visa applications, made last year exceptionally challenging for international student recruitment.
In early 2020, StudyMaine organized and led an Education Mission to Turkey and Azerbaijan with three Maine educational institutions and one immigration law firm. The delegation visited Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir in Turkey and Baku in Azerbaijan. U.S. Commercial Service organized matchmaking meetings with education agents in each location, and ISE World (an education agency in Turkey) organized seminars where delegation members presented to audiences of 300-500 students/parents and held one-on-one meetings with interested families. The Maine delegation’s visit to Turkey received media coverage on TV and in multiple newspapers. Meetings with the Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir Chambers of Commerce were also held to promote Maine to their business members.
“I thought the mission was outstanding. I’ve traveled with numerous groups and this was among the very best admission trips I’ve gone on…What made it a best trip: extraordinarily well organized, lots of exposure and good media events, student fairs were well attended, and cultural experiences that are helpful to understanding the market and building student experience back on campus. I think having agents visit Maine and then our going over to Turkey was an excellent strategy.”– Beth Ross, Fryeburg Academy (Fryeburg, ME)
Following the mission, StudyMaine overseas activities shifted to online presentations and virtual education fairs. At the request of the Azerbaijan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, StudyMaine and the 3 Maine schools from the mission presented via Facebook Live and Zoom to an audience of over 300 viewers. In June, StudyMaine organized participation for 9 Maine educational institutions in VEF Virtual Education Fairs based in Turkey. As a direct result, one school enrolled 3 students in their online summer program.
Invest in Maine
Invest in Maine is an initiative of MITC and Maine Department of Economic and Community Development established to promote job creation and growth through overseas business attraction. Last year, the primary focus remained on Italy.
Maine’s food mystique brought executives from Italy’s Gastronomia Toscana to the state to assess the potential for a manufacturing location and wine bar. The company has an established relationship with Costco and wants to begin production in the U.S. to lower logistics costs. The January visit, organized by MITC’s Invest in Maine initiative with assistance from Maine Port Authority and MITC Member Modula USA, showcased all that Maine has to offer, including tours of potential sites in Biddeford, Lewiston, and Portland.
Other 2020 highlights included:
- Thanks to efforts by MITC’s lead generation consultant OCO Global, over 40 video calls were held, resulting in several companies preparing to visit the state as soon as pandemic restrictions are lifted.
- In December, the U.S. Commercial Service’s SelectUSA program in Milan hosted a webinar to virtually introduce Italian companies to Maine. The event was attended by 15 companies in Italy from several sectors including clean energy, logistics, and medical devices. The program was conducted in Italian and headlined by Modula USA’s CEO, who shared his company’s experience in Lewiston, ME.