Three Maine companies and one educational institution were recognized by the state’s trade association for their growth in global markets.

Maine International Trade Center annually recognizes companies that are growing exports. Last year, 2,087 Maine companies exported $2.8 billion in goods and services to 169 countries. The state’s top exports are seafood, semiconductors, aircraft parts and forest products.

Auburn Manufacturing in Auburn and Mechanic Falls won exporter of the year. The award recognizes a manufacturer that has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to international trade through increased exports. The company makes heat resistant textiles, such as fabrics, ropes, woven tapes, blankets and pads that can withstand high heat to the point of being fire resistant. Exports account for 25 percent to 30 percent of its sales.

In 2017, CEO Kathie Leonard filed a petition claiming Chinese manufacturers were dumping large amounts of unfairly subsidized heat resistant fabric into the U.S. market and won. The favorable ruling placed a 200 percent to 300 percent duty on the Chinese products. Leonard said they are slowly gaining back lost business and looking forward to adding more employees to the 52 who currently work at the company.

Luke’s Lobster Seafood Co. in Saco won innovator of the year, which recognizes a company that has accessed international markets through new and innovative processes or products.

The 10-year-old company, under leadership of CEO Luke Holden, works exclusively with fishermen, buying direct and bringing the lobster to their processing facility in Saco. The lobster is cooked and turned into value-added product and shipped all over the world, including to its 11 restaurants in Taiwan and Japan.


International sales account for 20 percent of the company’s business, and Holden believes that number will increase as it opens more shacks outside the U.S.

Thornton Academy in Saco won MITC’s service provider of the year. The award recognizes a service provider that has established an international presence for the export of their service.

A dozen years ago, Thornton Academy decided to develop a robust international program as a way to stem its declining student population. Admissions staff began making trips to China to recruit tuition-paying students to Maine. The school has now welcomed students from more than 40 countries.

Nine Dragons Paper (Holdings) Limited in Rumford and Old Town won the foreign direct investor of the year award. The award recognizes a foreign company that invested in Maine by either opening a new facility or enhancing an existing operation.

ND Paper purchased mills in Rumford and Old Town in 2018. It operates three pulp and paper mills in the U.S. and plans to open a fourth in Old Town this summer.

In Rumford, the mill continues to diversify its product line with items like corporate periodicals, and labels for cans, bottles and deli containers. The mill employs 650 people.

The Old Town mill, which has been shuttered since 2015, is set to come back online this summer and provide 130 direct jobs.

MITC is also honoring three individuals:  Charlie Emmons of the Finance Authority of Maine and Michael Stone of Stone & Associates, will each receive the president’s award, for exceptional support to the organization; and Apryl King, a Saco native and recent graduate of the University of Southern Maine, will receive the future global leader award for her exceptional work as an intern at MITC.

The awards will be  presented during Maine International Trade Day on May 24 at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland.

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