PORTLAND, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage will lead a trade mission to Iceland and the United Kingdom this summer to explore opportunities for Maine businesses to increase exports to those countries, according to a news release from the Maine International Trade Center.
The trade mission, scheduled for June 8-13, was born of the arrival in Maine of Eimskip, an Icelandic shipping company that in early 2013 moved its U.S. logistical hub from Virginia to Portland, offering Maine businesses the first direct shipping connection to Europe in 30 years.
Eimskip’s arrival boosted Maine exports to Iceland by nearly 460 percent last year, from $210,376 in January-November 2012 to nearly $1.2 million in January-November 2013.
The trade mission is being organized by the newly established Maine North Atlantic Development Office, or MENADO, which was created in December to boost international trade opportunities in the North Atlantic region.
“Eimskip’s commitment to Maine has provided the means to increase our exports to Northern Europe and Eastern Canada,” LePage said in a statement. “Creation of the Maine North Atlantic Development Office demonstrates Maine’s commitment to capitalize on this opportunity. MENADO will work with MITC to fill those ships with Maine products, facilitate valuable throughput for the Port of Portland, and create a growing presence for us in these markets.”
LePage’s most recent trade mission was a five-day trip in October 2013 to Mexico and Colombia.
In announcing the trade mission, MITC also revealed that it has hired Dana Eidsness as the first director of the new North Atlantic office. Eidsness has previously worked for MITC and was director of international trade for Vermont from 2004 to 2009. Most recently, she was director of international business for the Vermont Chamber of Commerce.
The trade mission to Iceland will focus on opportunities in ocean-related industries, as well as the food and renewable energy sectors, according to a news release.
The United Kingdom portion of the trip will focus on developing trade and investment opportunities for Maine’s life sciences, food and offshore energy sectors.
“The UK is a diverse, $57 million market for Maine with room to grow, and Iceland is a receptive market that imports almost everything,” Eidsness said in a statement. “Maine has excellent relationships with Iceland’s government and business community and has already increased exports fourfold since Eimskip services began. I look forward to working within this network and with MITC’s partners in the UK to develop opportunities for Maine businesses.”
Janine Cary, president of MITC, told the Bangor Daily News that the governor and trade mission participants will also have an opportunity to sit down with Iceland’s president, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson. Cary said it was the first time in her knowledge that Maine’s governor would meet a country’s president during a trade mission.
“I think it’s a huge thing that the state has gotten recognition and the attention of a president of a nation,” Cary said.
Grimsson, at the invitation of Eimskip executives, spoke at Maine International Trade Day in 2013. In his remarks, he encouraged Maine to become more involved in North Atlantic and Arctic affairs.
“I am pleased to see that the state has decided to create a North Atlantic Development Office and appoint a director to run it,” Grimsson said in a statement distributed by MITC. “I also welcome the decision by the governor of Maine to accept my invitation to visit Iceland together with a business delegation.”
Eidsness will leave Thursday for Iceland to complete advance work on the trade mission.