Gov. Paul LePage will travel to Iceland in June for a trade mission meant to foster business and cultural connections between Maine and the island nation near the Arctic Circle.
News of the trip comes a month after the Maine International Trade Center, a quasi-state agency, created an office to build trade with the North Atlantic region, and nearly a year after an Icelandic steamship company made Portland its only port of call in the United States and its logistics hub for North America.
The steamship line, Eimskip, is now moving containerized cargo between Portland, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Iceland, and Norway, where cargo is transferred to ships traveling to ports throughout northern Europe.
Eimksip’s move to Portland has enhanced Maine’s presence in the global economy, said Janine Bisaillon-Cary, president and state director of the International Trade Center, which is organizing the trade mission.
“We are not at the of the line any more,” she said during a World Affairs Council of Maine panel discussion. “We are really, physically, a hub. It’s really an important connection, and we have to seize upon that.”
Some members of the trade mission will travel from Iceland to England to attended prearranged meetings in with qualified buyers, distributors, and potential business investors.
LePage, who traveled to the Boston Fish Show last year to help recruit Eimskip to Portland, said in a statement Tuesday that the steamship line will help Maine businesses increase exports to Northern Europe and Eastern Canada. Eimskip mainly exports frozen fish, bottled water and aluminum to the United States.
The International Trade Center was formed in 1996 to help Maine’s businesses develop overseas markets and sales. Last week, it hired Dana Eidsness to run the newly established Maine North Atlantic Development Office. Eidsness, a former Trade Center employee, most recently was director of international business for the Vermont Chamber of Commerce.
On Thursday, Eidsness will travel to Iceland with John Henshaw, executive director of the Maine Port Authority, and Patrick Arnold, the authority’s director of operations and business development, to lay the groundwork for the June trip.
She said the mission will familiarize Maine businesspeople with various industrial sectors in Iceland. Maine food producers will have the chance to meet with grocery store chains and food distributors in the island nation of 320,000 people, which depends on exports for most of its food. In addition, there will be opportunities for Maine businesses to make connections in the geothermal and wind industries, she said.
The trade delegation will also meet with officials at Iceland’s Ocean Cluster, a private entity that facilitates networking among people in ocean-related industries.
Eidsness said she is trying to set up a meeting between LePage and Icelandic President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, who last June spoke at the Maine International Trade Day in South Portland.
Eidsness said Eimskip, which has 51 offices in 18 countries, has been helping Maine businesses develop trade contacts in countries where it has offices.
The trade delegation will depart for Iceland on June 8. After three days, it will travel to England.
Eidsness said people who want to join the trade mission may select to visit both countries or just one of the countries. All Maine businesses are eligible to attend the trip. Eidsness said the International Trade Center has not yet determined the cost.
Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at: