Many more Maine companies may now be eligible for a new pot of federal money designed to help small exporters develop overseas markets. The Maine International Trade Center recently unveiled the new federal funding program for companies with fewer than 1,500 employees and under $35 million in annual revenue. Whereas other federal trade support has gone to food or agricultural businesses, the State Trade and Export Promotion Pilot Grant Initiative is available to all companies looking to boost their overseas impact. Maine received $146,000 to be used for several initiatives, including a reimbursement program for Maine companies attending trade shows and missions or using overseas matchmaking services to connect with potential customers, distributors or sales agents, MITC Vice President Wade Merritt says. The amount per company is capped at $2,000 annually. MITC will also use the federal money to buy new video-conferencing technology for MITC's Portland headquarters, giving Maine businesses the ability to speak with companies around the world. And MITC plans to subscribe to a U.S. database called PIERS that tracks what's being shipped into the country, what's going out and which companies are buying what, according to Merritt. Lastly, the funding will pay for joint booth space for Maine exporters at two or three international trade shows next spring, possibly including a seafood fair in Brussels and a gift show in Toronto.
Additionally, MITC has developed a separate fund to reimburse travel expenses. President Janine Bisaillon-Cary says she has $1,000 grants to give to 20 companies to cover costs such as airfare and hotels. The money will be available Dec. 1 for MITC members using an international matchmaking service or attending a foreign trade show.
For both grant programs, companies must apply 60 days before traveling and submit invoices within 60 days of returning.