LePage departs Sunday on trade mission to Mexico, Colombia

Gov. Paul LePage speaks in Hong Kong to an audience of seafood importers, distributors and hotel/restaurant buyers at a Maine lobster tasting event during a trade mission to China in 2012.
Courtesy of the Governor's Office
Gov. Paul LePage speaks in Hong Kong to an audience of seafood importers, distributors and hotel/restaurant buyers at a Maine lobster tasting event during a trade mission to China in 2012.
Posted Oct. 25, 2013, at 5:53 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage and a contingent of Maine business leaders will depart on Sunday for a five-day trade mission to Mexico and Colombia.

The group, which includes representatives from eight Maine organizations, will arrive in Mexico City on Sunday and spend several days there before traveling to Bogota, the capital of Colombia. The group also will visit the Mexican state of Queretaro before departing on Saturday, Nov. 2, for its return trip to Maine.

The mission, the governor’s third during his administration, aims to foster business connections between Maine and Mexico and Colombia, which are two of Latin America’s most successful economies, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

In 2012, Maine businesses exported more than $30 million worth of goods to Mexico and roughly $8 million to Colombia, according to Maine International Trade Center, one of the mission’s organizers.

The Maine businesses participating in the mission are South Portland-based Allagash International, which manufactures industrial valves; Bridgton-based Shively Labs, which manufactures broadcast equipment; Portland-based Southworth Products Corp., which manufactures materials-handling equipment; and GAC Chemical in Searsport, a producer of chemicals used in the paper and manufacturing industries, among others, according to Wade Merritt, the trade center’s vice president.

Brunswick Landing, the business campus at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station, is also participating, Merritt said.

The three other participating organizations are schools interested in recruiting more foreign students from Latin America. They are Husson University, Lee Academy and Thornton Academy, Merritt said.

All are attending because they see opportunity in their particular markets. For example, Shively Labs is participating for a specific purpose: Mexico began in 2009 to transition all AM radio stations to FM.

“This is a very complicated, ongoing process,” Angela Gillespie, Shively’s sales manager and its representative on the mission, said in a statement. “It’s clear there is a definite need for the types of products we can provide. We’ve received great feedback ahead of the trip, and we’re looking forward to making connections while we’re there.”

Past trade missions have generated sales for participating companies, Janine Bisaillon-Cary, president of the trade center, has previously told the Bangor Daily News. Depending on the destination market and the types of industries involved, past trade missions have resulted in between $3 million and $8 million in sales for the companies involved, she said.

The last trade mission LePage led was to China in September 2012.

Trade between Mexico and the United States totals more than $1 billion a day, but Maine has only a small piece of that trade. In 2012, Maine companies exported $34.8 million worth of goods to Mexico, which represents a 23 percent increase from $28.3 million in 2011, according to data from the Maine International Trade Center. The major items exported from Maine to Mexico include $6.6 million worth of paper and wood pulp, $5.7 million worth of industrial machinery, $3 million worth of vehicles and parts and $2.8 million worth of plastics, according to the trade center’s data.

Maine businesses exported $8.1 million worth of goods to Colombia in 2012, actually a 15.2 percent decrease from 2011, according to the trade center. That includes $2 million worth of paper and wood pulp, $1.4 million worth of “arms and ammunition” and $1 million worth of industrial machinery.

“Maine needs to be more competitive across the globe,” LePage, who will make several presentations during the trip, said in a statement. “Our goal in Mexico and Colombia will be to develop additional contacts for private investment and promote Maine as a great place to study and invest.”

Besides the Maine International Trade Center, other agencies that helped organize the trade mission are the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Small Business Administration.

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