Governor John Baldacci celebrates with Maine businesses and dignitaries in Canada during the Maine International Trade Center mission which has proven to be the most successful mission to date. Photo by Ramona du Houx

International trade brings new companies to Maine, grows Maine’s businesses in the global economy

Article by Ramona du Houx

February 13th, 2009

For companies who have participated on trade missions, there is nothing like being able to meet face to face with potential business partners, and having the head of state at the table encourages companies to invest in Maine.

On the recent mission to Canada, Governor John Baldacci paid his own expenses to spend the last day of the mission in Toronto. The trip was critically important to help Maine business and to bring business to Maine.

Baldacci attended the reception for Maine after meeting with executives from TD Banknorth, and Brookfield Asset Management, which owns Katahdin Paper Co. in Millinocket. The mill shut down earlier this year and the governor has been working with Brookfield on restarting it.

Despite the recession, new opportunities are opening up around the globe. While some companies are holding back on investing, others are jumping at the chance to invest to gain a competitive advantage.

“Canada was very exciting. It’s our largest trading partner with $900 million in trade. It’s been the best trade mission so far in terms of first-year trade sales, with already $6.5 million in sales generated,” said Baldacci.

Dr. Martin Hirst with Jay Palmer of Maine Institute for Human Genetics & Health looking at an Illumina Genome Analyzer at the Genome Sciences Centre during the Maine International Trade Center mission to Canada.

Dr. Martin Hirst with Jay Palmer of Maine Institute for Human Genetics & Health looking at an Illumina Genome Analyzer at the Genome Sciences Centre during the Maine International Trade Center mission to Canada.

“Frankly, I was surprised by how much business was accomplished. Canada has been insulated to some degree from the subprime meltdown. That’s not to say the global fallout hasn’t impacted them, but their financial institutions like TD BankNorth are doing well. They have a triple-A company rating, and they see this time as an opportunity for them to grow. They like Maine — the way we do business and doing business here — and are considering expanding here.The Maine International Trade Center (MITC), which puts together Maine’s trade missions and helps businesses get established in international markets, reported double-digit increases in exports to Malaysia, South Korea, Belgium, and Australia.

“There are bright spots out there, and with our aggressive plan of Pine Tree Zones and our highly capable, productive workforce, I think Maine has a good chance of gaining business in some sectors, like we did with Boston Financial and NotifyMD.”

The trade mission opened doors for Maine businesses.

“There were businesses that got huge opportunities, like LaBree’s bakery in Old Town that just got a new jellyroll machine in, to meet the Canadian order. He’s employing three to four hundred workers. For sixteen months Berrie LaBree couldn’t find answers to his questions, and then he went on the trade mission. He told me, ‘Governor, I got more done in three days than I did in three years.’ Canada turned out to be a natural market for him.

“Then there was Falcon Shoe from Lewiston. They’ve designed shoes that the Canadians will use in their mines. He was very pleased and said, ‘Governor I’ve finally been able to get through these doors.’ US Windblades, who service alternative energy systems in wind and ocean energy and make composite blades, were also successful,” said the governor.

The Maine Lobster Promotion Council, made important contacts with match making meetings and hopes to open up direct sales of lobsters to Toronto and Asian markets.

“The matchmaking business meetings set up by the Maine International Trade Center really do help businesses make the connections that they need. MITC is a valuable resource. I am excited by the business opportunities that have been — and continue to be — generated by trade missions. I’d like for more small companies that don’t have corporate offices in other countries to realize that Maine International Trade Center is their corporate headquarters to the world, so that they would use the services available to them. They would gain a lot of information to help their businesses and make needed connections with the matchmaking meetings

For more information on MITC, visit www.mitc.com.