Jeff Porter, Maine US Export Assistance Center Director of the US Commercial Service, can spend hours happily talking about what he does, but he can also communicate his role in one simple sentence.
“The only reason I exist is to help Maine companies export their goods and services.” says Porter.
While his job description sounds similar to what Maine International Trade Center (MITC) does, he works for the federal government. Rather than compete with MITC, Porter works collaboratively, giving Maine companies access to additional resources.
“MITC does a lot of the introductory market research,” explains Porter. “This allows me to focus on what I consider our best skill set, helping a company find a new agent or distributor overseas.”
Recently, Porter worked with Montalvo Corporation, MITC’s 2021 Exporter of the Year, to help the company connect with agents in India, a market the company was eager to explore. With their Gold Key Service, the US Commercial Service will identify, vet, and arrange meetings with interested partners in overseas markets for Maine companies. SBA-eligible Maine companies can apply for STEP Financial Assistance Awards through MITC to help cover the costs for this customized, in-market service.
“We did a Gold Key Service, business matchmaking and one-on-one appointments, for Montalvo. We provided 8 to 10 leads, narrowed it down to 4 that would be a fit, and the company had good talks with two of them,” says Porter.
With 26 years of experience, Porter knows people all over the world. For example, he has strong ties to a colleague in Spain, who helped facilitate meetings for several Maine brewers with Costco last year.
“You want to go into the markets no one is going to yet, so we looked at Spain and Vietnam. Working with MITC, we lined up brewers who wanted to go forward with it, and Costco is interested in importing beer from three Maine companies. COVID-19 has complicated the process, but we hope a container with Maine beer will ship to Spain every other month.” – Jeff Porter, Maine US Export Assistance Center Director of the US Commercial Service
Porter also works closely with MITC’s StudyMaine initiative to promote Maine as an education destination, helping to recruit Maine schools to participate in educational fairs and overseas missions, as well as bringing international education agents to Maine.
While most of his work has been virtual since the pandemic, Porter is looking forward to the return of trade missions and in-person meetings because he believes those personal connections, including the ones he has with MITC, are a key to success.
“Each one of us brings something to the relationship,” says Porter. “When you team up, the product is always better.”
In this case, the product is the common goal of helping Maine companies successfully export their products or services and find new overseas markets.
Maine US Export Assistance Center Director
US Commercial Service