June 1, 2013

LePage announces trade mission to Mexico, Colombia

By Jessica Hall jhall@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA – Gov. Paul LePage will make his second international trade trip, going to Mexico and Colombia this fall to promote Maine businesses in those growing markets.

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Maine Governor Paul LePage speaks at the International Trade & Investment Awards Luncheon on Friday, May 31, 2013.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Staff Photographer

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This September 2012 file photo shows Gov. LePage on a trade mission in China meeting with an unnamed "reputable Hong Kong University" interested in developing relationships with Maine. LePage announced Friday, May 31, 2013 he and the Maine International Trade Center will lead a delegation of businesses and schools to Mexico and Colombia later this year.

Courtesy of the Governor's Office

LePage and the Maine International Trade Center will lead a group of Maine businesses and schools on the trip. The last state trade trip to Mexico occurred in 2001. This will be the first to Colombia.

LePage went to China last year with officials from seafood and life sciences companies. The governor and representatives from 13 Maine businesses and organizations went to Hong Kong and Shanghai and had nearly 80 business meetings over the course of a week.

The trip to Mexico and Colombia will be the 15th international trade trip for a Maine governor. Previous trips have generated new sales of $3 million to $8 million for the participating companies, according to the Maine International Trade Center.

The most successful trip, to Spain and Germany in 2009, generated more than $20 million in new sales, the group said.

"Each mission is different," said Janine Bisaillon-Cary, president of the Maine International Trade Center. "The major goal of this trip is to bring Maine companies down there and help Maine develop new markets."

Bisaillon-Cary said she expects oil, gas, food, infrastructure, automobile and aviation supply companies to make the trip to Mexico and Colombia, as well as schools and academies.

About a dozen companies and schools already have expressed interest in the trip, which will run from Oct. 27 to Nov. 2. Those two countries were chosen because of the economic growth that's happening in Latin America, said Bisaillon-Cary. While Europe is still a strong trade partner with Maine, its economy remains stagnant.

Mexico and Colombia rank among the top emerging markets for Maine exports, with Mexico positioned as one of the top 15 markets worldwide and Colombia showing signs of solid growth with the advent of a new free trade agreement with the United States.

Maine exported goods worth $34.9 million to Mexico and $8 million to Colombia in 2012. The top exports now include paper, motor vehicle parts, vaccines, fruits and nuts, diagnostic materials, medical products and plastics.

Mexico has been a growing source of foreign investment in the United States and, most recently, Maine, where Dalegip America Inc. recently announced a joint venture with Searsport-based GAC Chemical.

Tim Hussey, CEO of North Berwick-based Hussey Seating Co., said Mexico has been a good market for his company, which makes seating for sports stadiums and arenas, concert venues and theaters, university classrooms and school gymnasiums.

"They have a desire for American-designed products, and we are finding we can be competitive in a number of niche markets," Hussey said. "Their economy is growing, and we are seeing our business grow there."

Hussey said his company has been doing business in Mexico for about 15 years, and has seen a nice spike in sales in the past five years. One high-profile project was providing about 45,000 seats for a soccer stadium in Guadalajara. In the past 60 days, Hussey Seating got a similar contract for a rival stadium in Monterey.

"These were big, high-profile projects that wanted the latest and greatest products," said Hussey, who said he will not make the trade trip with LePage because the company already has sufficient contacts in Mexico.

In Colombia, political stability, a growing middle class and improved security have created an economic boom, making it Latin America's third-largest market for U.S. exports, said the Maine International Trade Center.

Terry Ingram, owner of Allagash International in South Portland, which makes valves and controls for petroleum production, pulp and paper, and textiles, has been doing business in Colombia for the past nine years.

Ingram said companies that aren't doing business in Colombia are "missing by far the fastest growing per-capita country in the region. The culture is warm and Colombians are always excited to partner with U.S. companies."

Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:

jhall@pressherald.com

 

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