The Maine North Atlantic Institute at USM (MNAI), has established a working group to broaden the business community’s understanding of market opportunities and available trade resources. The group includes the New England Ocean Cluster (NEOC), the Maine Port Authority (MPA) and faculty members of the University.

The group will host a series of events to bring business leaders, students and private sector entities together to examine and discuss the first steps within the international export process. The June 4th kickoff event focuses on the Maine Port Authority’s First Pallet Free program, which covers up to $800 in first-time freight costs for Maine businesses moving product overseas, and will showcase how USM supports businesses in need of capacity.

“Our goal is to eliminate as many hurdles as possible,” says Patrick Arnold, founder of New England Ocean Cluster and President of Soli DG, the company managing the International Marine Terminal. Arnold says the First Pallet Free Program, announced in April, received a burst of interest and new trade relationships have already developed as a result.

Developed by USM, MNAI is an academic platform offering workforce development and educational programs designed to create globally competitive students trained to enter and support emerging industries in Maine. USM’s President, Glenn Cummings says that “this initiative will strengthen Maine businesses’ ability to grow overseas, and at the same time, offer USM students a first-hand look at what it will take to compete in a global economy.”

“For many small businesses, the cost to ship kills the initial spark,” says Jon Nass, CEO of the Maine Port Authority. “Our goal is to remove that barrier and empower businesses to see what they are capable of.”

The free-shipping offer is good for Maine businesses that have not exported before, and for those who have a new product to test overseas. Businesses can move product anywhere within the Eimskip network, which makes weekly trips to Canada and seven European countries. Qualifying businesses will have up to $800 in freight costs covered for a 4-foot by 4-foot pallet, roughly 2-thousand pounds of goods.

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