Imagine Maine in 2035: The crane operator, a Skowhegan native and a recent hire at the Port of Portland, maneuvers the steel shipping container up and away from the ship’s deck. The container, marked with the iconic blue Eimskip “E,” carries wild-caught haddock and cod from the cold waters of the Norwegian Sea. The ship, a Danish-built feeder container vessel, is a familiar sight along the Portland waterfront, and it’s the third Eimskip ship this week to call at the city’s port. Like the others, the ship will soon be steaming across the North Atlantic to Nuuk, Greenland, loaded with lumber, Maine-sourced consumer goods and world-famous Maine craft beer.

Farther up the coast, a Chinese container vessel departs the offshore liquefied natural gas fueling station. The Washington County facility, part of a larger network of North Atlantic fueling stations, services ship traffic transiting the warming waters of the Northwest Passage. The fueling station is the newest addition to Maine’s diversifying marine infrastructure complex, and employs highly skilled engineers and technicians from around the United States – workers who are finding a home in the coastal communities of Washington County.

Far inland, a group of entrepreneurs from the Maine Startup Initiative gather in a repurposed warehouse on the banks of the Androscoggin River. Newfound opportunities to bring product to market throughout the North Atlantic have sparked a wave of innovation in the state’s western foothills. These enterprising entrepreneurs have partnered with universities across the state, and are searching for the next product to successfully employ the “Made in Maine” brand, a renowned moniker in the northernmost European markets.

To some, these scenes may seem like science fiction. New Englanders often think of Maine as the proverbial “end of the line” – the northern frontier situated at the periphery of the great Northeastern megalopolis.

With this age-old narrative in mind, I was surprised when I arrived at the 2017 Arctic Circle Assembly in Iceland to find a delegation of more than 50 Mainers at work promoting a flourishing partnership between Maine and Iceland. Among this delegation, I met visionaries who have constructed a narrative that fundamentally challenges the way people think about Maine’s place in the world. These visionaries, a coalition of business leaders, policymakers and academics, are positioning Maine as the premier gateway between New England and the countries of the North Atlantic.

Why does Maine sit as the center of a growing trans-Atlantic relationship? As a student of history, geopolitics and diplomacy, I find the arguments quite convincing.

The ports of Maine are strategically located as the first stops in the United States for ships traveling from cold waters of the northernmost Atlantic region. Maine boasts a rich maritime heritage, well-established marine industries and a government that is open to opportunities that will grow the economy. New Englanders and Scandinavians share a close cultural affinity. Not to be discounted, the people of Maine are industrious, innovative and thirsting for opportunity in the wake of a major decline in the paper industry. There is little wonder why the leaders at Eimskip chose Portland over larger competitors.

Despite the activity in the Maine-Iceland relationship, there remains a great deal of uncertainty about the future. The course that Maine charts regarding this gateway vision is ultimately up to the people of the state and their propensity for risk-taking. Port infrastructure projects are expensive, long-term ventures that require large upfront investment. Better connecting Maine’s ports to the greater New England transportation system will require updating rail infrastructure and constructing warehouse and storage facilities. Increased industrial capacity as a response to greater economic activity may change the landscape of Maine’s cities and towns.

While the visionaries must successfully promote Maine on the world stage and argue that Mainers will benefit from breaking the periphery-state narrative, the people of the state must also have the courage to stake out a new position in a changing world.