Finland-Maine Trade Mission with Maine International Trade Center still a go, although virtual

PORTLAND – Maine forest products will be front and center for a virtual trade and study mission starting later this month. The original trade mission from Maine to Finland was scheduled to take place in June, but with travel restrictions related to COVID-19 it was put on hold. The virtual trade mission is now scheduled to take place starting Thursday, Aug. 20 with the first of two webinars focused on the Forest Products Industry.

Finland’s bioeconomy is seen as a success story, with the country being called a pioneer based on innovation, cooperation, and its wide-ranging industry cluster. In just ten years, Finland has managed to build a thriving bioeconomy with a forward thinking approach and world-changing innovations. Meanwhile, Maine’s Forest Products Industry accounts for more than $8 billion in economic activity in the state. Despite trends in paper mill closures in recent years, the industry is poised for growth as new innovations, global opportunities and consumer trends to bio-based products grow. This virtual trade mission is intended to support that growth potential.

“The opportunity to learn from Finland’s successes and share some of our own successes in this forest products focused trade mission is exciting,” said Steve Schley, formerly of Seven Islands Land Company and the FOR/Maine coalition. “Because it’s a virtual trade mission, it opens the doors to more people being able to take advantage of the sessions, and to continue to grow Maine’s Forest Products Industry as well as overseas partnerships with an innovative look to the future.”

The first webinar, Finland as a Model of Success for Maine’s Forest Economy” and will feature presentations and discussion from Finland’s government, economic development, and forest industry. Finland’s transition from traditional work to a bustling bioeconomy is the root of the success, and that transition will be discussed. This webinar is scheduled for 8 a.m. on Aug. 20.

The second webinar, “Maine Reinvents Its Forest Industry” is focused on Maine’s efforts to reinvent its own Forest Products Industry, and will include discussion from the FOR/Maine coalition, as well as university research and innovation, and business promotion and attraction. This webinar is scheduled for 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 25, and is geared toward Maine’s partners and businesses in Finland, although any person or entity interested in learning about Maine’s process and strategy is invited to attend.

“Maine’s Forest Products Industry is full of innovation and opportunity,” said Patrick Strauch, executive director of the Maine Forest Products Council. “We’re excited about the global interest of investing in Maine’s forests and the future of our bioeconomy.  We look forward to growing our relationship with industry partners in Finland.”

The trade mission stems from a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by Gov. Janet Mills and the Government of Finland in October of last year. The MOU committed the state to working collaboratively with Finland towards building its forest bioeconomies and sharing best practices. The virtual trade mission is organized by the Maine North Atlantic Development Office (MENADO) at the Maine International Trade Center (MITC). 

In addition to the webinars, virtual B2B matchmaking is being offered throughout the month of September. MENADO and business Finland are organizing the efforts. 

The webinars are free of charge, but advance registration is required and space is limited. Registration details and more information about the virtual trade mission can be found at www.mitc.com

Maine’s Forest Opportunity Roadmap, or FOR/Maine, released an action plan in September of 2018 with a goal of creating actionable steps to grow Maine’s forest-based economy. The plan included a combination of transportation, community outreach, workforce development, and strategic investment attraction. A federal grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration was awarded to the Maine Forest Products Council to help fund the effort. 
More details on the FOR / Maine initiative can be found at www.formaine.org.