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Maine Transportation Assets Go Global

Maine's excellent transportation assets now there present new opportunities in the North Atlantic for expanded foreign trade.

By Gary Wollenhaupt on December 10, 2014

Maine’s transportation and logistics assets help the state’s businesses reach a growing number of global destinations.
Among the state’s transportation assets are six commercial airports, more than 60 corporate and general aviation airports and 1,400 miles of rail track. The state’s three major deep water ports, Portland, Searsport and Eastport, are easily accessible to rail and highway connections and open year round.
Hundreds of trucking firms with operations in Maine carry goods nationwide, and the state has undertaken a 20-year maintenance and improvement plan to keep its highways safe and efficient. More than a fifth of U.S. markets and more than half of Canadian markets are within a 10-hour drive of the state.
Maine exports more than 100 different products led by pulp and paper, wood, seafood and semi-conductor products. Additionally, the state exports everything from medical and pharmaceutical products to agricultural products and aircraft parts.
“We have the advantage of a healthy port infrastructure,” says Janine Bisaillon-Cary, president and state director of the Maine International Trade Center (MITC), which assists Maine firms in exporting their products. “As a membership-based organization, we work with Maine companies looking to expand their business.”
Maine has always enjoyed a good global reach, but a number of recent developments are stretching that reach into new territories.
North Atlantic Markets Open Up for Maine Businesses
One major development was the establishment of a container shipment operation out of the Portland’s International Marine Terminal in 2013 by Iceland shipper Eimskip. Not only have exports to Iceland grown, but exports to the North Atlantic region have also started to take off.
MITC has established a North Atlantic Development Office to take advantage of this new opportunity. Dana Eidsness, director of the new office, says the office is looking first to increase trade and investment in northern Europe, Greenland, Scandinavia and eastern Canada. Additionally, the office represents Maine’s interests to ensure the state has a seat at the table for important discussions regarding Arctic resources, sustainable development and emerging trade routes.
The ice melt in the Artic Region has resulted in expanded oil and gas exploration in Greenland and Iceland and has also created additional trade routes to the North Atlantic region. Northern Europe represents about $350 million in Maine’s exports annually and there are numerous opportunities for growth for Maine businesses, Eidsness says.
“Maine is in a competitive position to take advantage of these developments in the region,” Eidsness says.
MITC has conducted several trade missions to Iceland, the United Kingdom and Greenland. Eimskip’s move to Portland has opened up opportunities for Maine companies and has also helped Iceland’s businesses access North American markets. It represents the first container service between Maine and Europe since the early 1980s.
Maine companies have started shipping blueberries, french fries, processed lobster, gas stoves and household goods to Iceland. Eimskip imports a range of commodities including frozen cod and haddock, bottled water, lamb and cryolite from Iceland. Eimskip has built a niche business focused primarily on moving frozen and chilled goods, mostly fish caught in the North Atlantic, worldwide.
Portland is Eimskip’s only U.S. port of call, and company officials see Portland as its gateway to U.S. markets. Eimskip, Iceland’s largest shipping service, expects to move as many as 5,000 containers through Portland each year.
FTZs Help Maine Compete
Foreign trade zones also provide Maine businesses with major advantages. Maine has FTZs in Auburn, Bangor, Brunswick, Madawaska and Waterville.
The Central Maine Growth Council (CMGC) in Waterville utilizes a different approach, known as alternative site management (ASM), which is a more flexible way to utilize FTZ programs for companies in the region. The ASM allows for rapid inclusion into an FTZ, enabling companies to take advantage of the tax and duty benefits of the zone without having to move into it. In addition to Waterville, Auburn and Bangor are also seeking the ASM designation and will likely receive federal approval soon.
Kimberly Lindlof, president and CEO of the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce, a partner with CMGC, says the ASM structure is a better alternative for companies that are not necessarily located within a specific trade zone.
“It opens up opportunities for many of our members as well as companies thinking of locating in this region of Maine,” Lindlof says.
Learn more about why Maine is a great place for business.

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