Over 2,000 Maine companies exported $2.8 billion in goods and services to 169 countries in 2018, and international trade supports 157,300 Maine jobs. This is an impressive contribution to our state’s economy, and companies of all shapes and sizes are interested in breaking into the world of international trade. These businesses also need guidance and advice on how to do it—plus, a bank with sophisticated solutions to support timely transactions across borders, currencies, and time zones.

In Portland, we recently hosted an educational event with Amanda Rector, the Maine State Economist, and Wade Merritt, President of the Maine International Trade Center to discuss the unique challenges, opportunities, and resources for Maine businesses looking to navigate international trade.

Studies show that more Maine companies would export goods and services if they had the workforce capacity.

U.S. trade policy can create uncertainty for businesses; however, according to Amanda Rector, Maine State Economist, demographic challenges have also suppressed workforce development in Maine. It’s no secret that Maine is the oldest state in the nation; plus, Maine’s labor force has remained flat since 2005. At the same time, unemployment rates are even lower than one year prior. These demographic conditions create a distinct challenge for Maine businesses that want to “go international,” but don’t have an adequate employee-base to do so.

Collaborative, cross-sector initiatives support workforce growth and international trade.

Despite demographic challenges, there are several resources for businesses looking to expand their workforce locally and their trade output internationally.

In December 2019, Governor Janet Mills released a new 10-year economic plan for Maine which sets a goal of growing the skilled workforce by 75,000 people. Key components of the plan will benefit businesses:

  • Increasing the labor force participation of existing residents
  • Building a new “welcome home” campaign, showcasing Maine as a career and lifestyle destination
  • Expanding and simplifying the education opportunity tax credit
  • Helping new Americans and other newcomers get qualified to work in Maine

In addition to the state’s economic plan, Maine businesses can benefit from access to key organizations working to grow Maine’s workforce, including the Maine International Trade Center (MITC).

Created by the state legislature in 1996, MITC is a public-private partnership funded through membership dues of over 300 businesses and organizations, corporate sponsor contributions, and Maine Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD). MITC’s primary purpose is to help Maine businesses enter and expand global markets for their products and services.

MITC assists businesses in several key ways:

  1. In-person and web-based seminars on best practices in all levels of international trade
  2. One-on-one consulting and research, covering a broad range of topics including logistics, tariffs, documentation, sourcing, and research reports on new markets
  3. An ongoing internship program which provides practical experience for interns and assistance to Maine businesses
  4. Access to a network of contacts in Asia, Canada, Europe, and the High North/North Atlantic

Companies looking to develop international business should lean on their bank for guidance.

At Camden National Bank, we provide sophisticated products and services to enable smooth, secure international trade for business clients. Our Treasury Management experts work closely with client teams, and we also partner with organizations, such as MITC, EXIM Bank, and the Small Business Administration (SBA). We’ve developed a network of resources to help businesses of all sizes expand their international capabilities with confidence and support.

To learn more, please reach out to Barbara Raths, Senior Vice President, Treasury Management Sales Advisor and International Treasury Specialist at Camden National Bank.