Maine International Trade Center (MITC) is Maine’s leading source for international business assistance. MITC offers customized consulting, research, and an extensive network of connections across Maine and around the world to help businesses expand global markets for their products and services.
A public-private partnership, MITC activities are supported by nearly 300 businesses and organizations, corporate sponsors, and the Maine Department of Economic & Community Development (DECD). MITC members include manufacturers, service providers, and educational institutions located in all 16 Maine counties. While our members support the organization through annual membership dues, MITC provides assistance to any Maine business whether members or non-members. We work with both exporters and importers.
What Trade Means for Maine
- More than 2,000 Maine companies exported over $2.7 billion in goods and services to 176 markets in 2019.
- With more than 96% of the world’s population and 75% of the world’s purchasing power outside the U.S., future economic growth and jobs for Maine increasingly depend on expanding opportunities in the global marketplace.
- 85% of Maine exporters are small- and medium-sized businesses (less than 500 US-based employees).
- International trade supports 176,100 (more than 1 in 5) Maine jobs.
- Foreign-owned companies employ 34,800 Maine workers.
Sources: U.S. Census Bureau and “How Maine’s Economy Benefits from International Trade & Investment” report from Business Roundtable
Dear MITC Members and Friends:
“Needless to say, 2020 has not gone as planned.”
No, it did not. And whenever I spoke those words in the past few months, everyone on the Zoom screen smiled. Why? Because we all knew the feeling. Plans made for the year were out the window by March, and revised plans were updated more than a few times after that.
This year, I’ve spent a lot of time reading and reflecting on leadership, managing in a crisis, and keeping one’s own emotions in check. One insight I picked up along the way was about resilience: it isn’t about bouncing back; it’s about bouncing forward. It’s not about how we return to the way things were in January 2020, but about using this time to propel us into the future. What will we bring with us? And what will we leave behind?
Rather than use all the 2020 cliches that we all know by heart, I prefer to frame the MITC story of this year as one of resilience and forward evolution. Evolution that, although prompted by tragedy, propelled changes that were long planned: using technology to engage more businesses in more areas of the state; exploring and creating virtual international trade events; and an emerging focus on e-commerce and digital exports.
In this report, we also highlight the incredible sense of community among MITC’s staff, board, partners, and members in the face of unimaginable challenges. When we left our offices in March, my message to our team was simple, “We will do whatever we need to support our community.”
And we did. MITC continued to assist Maine companies with traditional international trade services at about 88% of the volume we see in a typical year. We also helped more than 90 Maine businesses access economic relief programs through our parent DECD and other partners. We listened and we led, organizing training on e-commerce and supply chain issues and modifying our SBA STEP grant program to provide more funds to small businesses to improve their digital marketing and online sales infrastructure to better compete globally. In lieu of travel, we shifted to online trade development efforts in the seafood, education, and forest bioeconomy industries.
Looking forward, MITC will continue this evolution of our initiatives and services in 2021, always with an eye on what our international business community wants and what our state needs. Thank you for your ongoing support of MITC and our mission.
While the year began in typical fashion, with MITC staff organizing and traveling with Maine companies and educational institutions, suddenly everything changed. In March, as the spread of COVID-19 resulted in travel bans and postponements or cancellations of several major international trade shows, the MITC team transitioned to working from home. For the first time, we made the difficult decision to cancel our annual conference – Trade Day 2020 – scheduled for May. We watched with admiration and awe as several Maine companies, many of them MITC members, pivoted operations to manufacture much-needed PPE.
Our team continued to assist Maine businesses, focusing first on personal calls and emails to check on our members and clients to see how they were doing and make sure they knew about all available state and federal resources to help their business during the pandemic.
Through the spring, international business continued, and MITC never stopped receiving requests for assistance. In-person meetings were replaced by emails and phone or video calls. Our team explored and experimented with different models and virtual platforms that would allow Maine businesses to maintain existing overseas relationships, as well as develop new global markets during the pandemic.
For example, a week-long visit by a Maine delegation planned for June was transformed into the Finland-Maine Virtual Trade and Study Mission 2020, which kicked off with two webinars in August followed by virtual B2B matchmaking and roundtable meetings in September and October for 53 businesses and organizations in Maine and Finland.
In July, we launched Members Supporting Members as a way to bring Maine’s international business community together. With generous support from our Members Supporting Members sponsors, MITC continued to help Maine companies during this challenging time as a trusted resource with a vital network of connections across the state and around the world. Now more than ever, we believe those relationships matter.
In uncharted territory, we were uncertain what to expect when invoices for annual membership dues were sent out. We were humbled by the strong support received from Maine businesses. As of December, 214 of our members had paid their annual membership dues for FY2021.
In August, our Annual Member Appreciation Event was held virtually for the first time, and only in 2020 our Thank You gifts mailed to attendees and presenters were Shah Bars from Wilbur’s of Maine.
In this year like no other, the global pandemic reminded us that we are all connected and in this together.