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April 3, 2018

New Gloucester IT service provider recognized for its global growth

Courtesy / Planson International
Courtesy / Planson International
Planson International of New Gloucester has been named 'Service Provider of the Year' by the Maine International Trade Center. Steve Clark, shown here driving a forklift, has been employed at the company for 23 years, according to CEO and co-founder Connie Justice.

Planson International may be New Gloucester's best-kept secret, but not for long.

The 25-year-old-global supplier of information technology software, hardware and services was just named "Service Provider of the Year" by the Maine International Trade Center. The award recognizes a service provider that has established an international presence for the export of its service.

Still run out of the red barn on the family property where it was started, the firm has grown to $52 million in annual sales and a 45-strong workforce, mostly in Maine but also including employees that relocated from Maine and now work remotely.

It has a subsidiary in Ringe, Denmark, and is a supplier to the United Nations and other international organizations providing humanitarian aid and economic support in developing countries. Last year the company completed a $26 million project to supply computer labs to nearly 900 high schools in the Philippines.

In an interview with Mainebiz ahead of Tuesday's announcement, CEO and co-founder Connie Justice said that while she prefers to keep a low profile, "we've reached the size now where it's appropriate that people know about us."

"The main impetus to let us be a little more known publicly is from my employees," she added. "They're very proud of working here, and I want them to feel proud and for others to know who they work for."

The MITC award follows five straight years of 20% growth, though Justice said this may be a good time to "take a breather" from that pace.

"My biggest concern this year," she said, "is to make sure we do an excellent job of supporting the business we have today rather than growing even more."

Planson will be honored, along with the other winners, at an awards luncheon in Rockport on May 18.

The event will take place on the second day of MITC's annual Trade Day conference, to be held May 17-18 at the Samoset Resort in Rockport. This year's theme is "Trade's New Era: Accessing Asia."

MITC's other 2018 winners

The other winners are:

Maine Coast, 'Exporter of the Year': With a focus on exporting lobster internationally, York-based Maine Coast has experienced 125% growth over the past three years. Revenue in 2017 was nearly $57 million. The company shipped 7 million pounds of lobster from its facilities in York and Boston last year, with 60% of that exported overseas, to 29 countries. Asia has become a crucial market for Maine Coast, where live seafood is an important part of the diet, and lobster tops the list of favorite foods. Maine Coast supports almost 50 full-time jobs, most of those in York, where crews work around the clock to pack and ship lobsters worldwide.

Fiber Materials Inc., 'Innovator of the Year': Biddeford-based FMI has created parts for a rocket, a Formula One racing car, and even a prosthetic limb. It designs, develops and manufacturers high-temperature composite materials for air, land, sea and space. While the core business is defense, FMI also plays a key role in the country's space program. In collaboration with NASA, it designed a heat shield system for the Mars 2012 Rover mission and is working on new systems for the Mars 2020 Rover mission and the New Frontiers program.

St. Croix Tissue, 'Foreign Direct Investor of the Year': Baileyville-based St. Croix Tissue is a bright spot for Maine's paper industry. In 2016, the parent company, International Grand Investment Corp., a U.S.-based company for a Chinese investment firm, invested $120 million in two new tissue-making machines that has resulted in more than 80 new jobs at the mill and hundreds of indirect jobs. As part of new market grant money the company received, 60% of the new hires were low-income earners, providing economic opportunity for people in Washington County. Jobs at the mill pay between $18 and $35 an hour. Thirty-percent of the workforce are women. The giant machines produce tissue rolls that weigh 2.5 tons, and the mill can produce 125 rolls per day. All tissue produced in Baileyville is trucked to other plants for the production of paper towels, facial tissue, and other consumer goods.

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