October 6, 2014
Next 2014

Janine Cary waves the flag to take Maine products global

PHOTo / Tim Greenway
PHOTo / Tim Greenway

Janine Cary

President and state director of international trade Maine International Trade Center, Portland

Maine International Trade Center

511 Congress St., Suite 100

President and state director of international trade: Janine Cary

Founded: 1996

Business: Promotes international trade of Maine goods and services, foreign direct investment and international student attraction

Employees: 9

Trade mission export sales volumes: $59.28 million from FY2010-2013 ($14 million a year average)

Contact: 541-7400

It's no secret that people readily move to Maine for its quality of life, but getting Mainers, especially busy businesspeople, to travel outside the state is another story. Just ask Janine Cary.

"One of my biggest challenges is getting Maine businesses out of Maine," says Cary, who heads the Maine International Trade Center, also known as MITC, a nonprofit organization that promotes global trade of goods and services. It's not necessarily a lack of money for travel, she says. Many times it's because owner/operators of companies can't take time off for initial trade missions and the follow-up visits required to nurture overseas relationships.

"Even when companies see an opportunity for them, sometimes it's hard to get them to take the next step and go overseas," she says.

From 2000 to 2012, MITC spearheaded 48 overseas missions with 449 Maine business participants and total reported sales of $103.5 million. It also offers intangibles, like meeting the key players in a given market and even important government officials.

There's another plus to the trips. "Often this is the first time companies are meeting with other Mainers in the market," she says. "They sometimes end up doing business with each other and help each other with entering the [overseas] marketplace."

The governor typically travels on the missions. Countries visited include Germany, The Netherlands, Mexico, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Italy, France, South Korea, Japan, Canada, Spain, Brazil, Chile, Hong Kong and China. The most recent mission, in June, was to Iceland and the United Kingdom. Cary says MITC will hold off till next year, after the November election, to initiate a new trade mission.

Cary came to MITC in 2000 as vice president and senior trade advisor, a position she held until September 2006, when she was promoted to head the nonprofit organization. She also is on the board of the Maine Port Authority and other boards.

Prior to MITC, she worked in private industry, first as a sales and import manager for DLP International in Wakefield, Mass., then at Resource Trading Co. in Portland as an international sales manager and then vice president, a position in which she developed the $1.3 million seafood processing startup company into a $22 million international enterprise.

That private industry background, she says, prepared her for handling Maine-based and international companies in her current role.

"It taught me very early on that there are certain common systems in industries, especially the distribution and import parts," she says. "It prepared me for vertical market integration."

Growing up global

You might say that thinking internationally is in Cary's blood. Raised by first-generation immigrants — her father is French Canadian and her mother's parents are from Portugal — Cary says her family's household was always internationally oriented in terms of food and culture, especially around the holidays. Her first trip out of the country was to Canada, then in high school to France as an exchange student.

She also holds bachelor of arts degrees in French and economics from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, and she attended the Sorbonne University in Paris to study French history and literature.

Along with her study abroad in high school, she says she was able to "experience the world as part of my education and realize how connected we all are."

A calm intensity

Cary describes herself as intense at work, where she puts in long hours. "Some of the most satisfying things for me are working on and building a trade mission. It's a huge endeavor," she says, sitting upright, smiling, eyes alert and looking directly into her interviewer's eyes throughout a recent discussion with Mainebiz.

She describes trade missions as one-on-one matchmaking with partners overseas. "We see who might be interested and vet the overseas companies, so by the time [Maine companies] get there, they have an interested potential buyer," she says. The trade missions typically are export-oriented for Mainers.

Unlike other states, where international trade missions may get the bulk of their funding from government, MITC is almost entirely funded by private industry. Companies pay to go on the trade missions.

Apart from "horizontal" trade missions that include all industry areas and are accompanied by the governor, MITC sponsors trade-specific shows.

Cary was a key player — though she credits John Henshaw, executive director of the Maine Port Authority — in convincing Iceland-based Eimskip to locate shipping operations in Portland. "Because Iceland is more reliant on importing, with Eimskip they can buy directly from Maine," she says.

One example is Amber Lambke, president of Maine Grains in Skowhegan. She was on the most recent trade mission to Iceland, and told Mainebiz earlier that there's opportunity in that country for Maine farmers to ship their grains for artisan bread-making and other uses.

That kind of activity, notes Cary, assures Eimskip's ships will be full of import and export items coming from and going to Iceland.

"That's added a lot to the local economy," she says.

Read more

LePage to lead trade mission to Japan, China

Growth in Maine exports led by fresh lobster

Iceland officials in Maine this week

Eimskip seeks boost from sports sponsorship

Report: Maine foreign exports decline

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