Four Companies Honored with 2023 Trade and Investment Awards

Maine International Trade Center (MITC) is announcing the winners of the 2023 International Trade and Investment Awards. Four companies are being recognized for their commitment to grow their business in international markets. In 2022, more than 2,000 Maine companies exported over $3.4 billion in goods and services to 178 international markets.

“We’re very pleased to recognize this year’s award winners who demonstrate commitments to excellence, global connections, innovation, and sustainability,” said MITC President Wade Merritt. “We look forward to presenting the awards and celebrating their success with Maine’s international business community at Trade Day 2023.”

Exporter of the Year:  North American Kelp (Waldoboro, ME)

The Exporter of the Year Award is presented to a manufacturer that has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to international trade through increased exports.

North American Kelp was founded in 1971 by Robert Morse, a marine engineer and one of the first members of the Maine Organic Farmers Association (MOFGA). For more than 50 years, North American Kelp has sustainably harvested rockweed (Ascophyllum nodosum) from the Mid-Coast of Maine. They turn nutrient rich kelp into products for the agricultural market in the form of animal feed supplements, liquid extracts, and soluble powders. North American Kelp has been selling its products internationally for decades and exports to countries in Europe and Asia. Approximately 15% of North American Kelp’s business is international.

“We have a long and proud history harvesting Maine seaweed in a responsible and sustainable way,” says Samantha deGroff, Marketing and Project Coordinator at North American Kelp. “Our kelp products are known globally for their high quality, and demand for our products overseas has increased exponentially in recent years. We are proud to be recognized by MITC with the Exporter of the Year Award.”

Innovator of the Year:  Fox Forestry (Orland, ME)

The Innovator of the Year Award is presented to a company or organization in Maine that has accessed international markets through new and innovative processes or products.

Tom Fox wants to revolutionize Maine’s forest industry, and he’s looking worldwide to bring best practices to Maine. Fox Forestry began as a forest management company in Orland and has grown to be an exclusive distributor of forest equipment imported from companies in Sweden, Finland, and Italy. Fox travels globally to source high-quality equipment and learn management techniques that create a healthier forest. He is sharing his expertise with counterparts in Ethiopia. The company is also starting to export forest equipment made in the United States to the EU.

“I have always had a passion for forestry,” said Tom Fox, owner of Fox Forestry. “Over time, we have built strong relationships overseas, as we sourced the most innovative forest equipment in the world. We want to revolutionize the industry by adding value to forest products that didn’t have a market and teaching landowners to discover that value. We are honored to receive the Innovator of the Year Award from MITC.”

Service Provider of the Year:  Dirigo Strategies (Thomaston, ME)

The Service Provider of the Year Award is presented to a service provider that has established an international presence for the export of their service.

Dirigo Strategies, LLC, a marine consulting company in Thomaston, advises agencies and corporations on operations and planning, the Arctic, marketing, domestic and international sales opportunities, R&D, and advanced technologies. The company specializes in helping others understand the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, and NOAA. President of Dirigo Strategies Brian Perkins (Capt. ret) has a deep understanding of the government’s seagoing needs after his 30-year career in the U.S. Coast Guard. Working with a team of professional consultants, he helps both U.S. and international companies sell products that meet the needs of these services and related agencies. Brian has traveled to trade shows in Canada and Norway with MITC and is headed to Oslo for the Nor-Shipping Exhibition this summer and Scotland in the fall.

“We care about the safety and well-being of the people we are helping; we perform our due diligence when clients come to us with products that they wish to sell to the U.S. government,” said Brian Perkins, President of Dirigo Strategies. “We know what questions to ask and if there’s a product made in Sweden that can make a U.S. Coast Guard ship safer and more efficient, we want to help bring that product to the right people. We have established relationships around the world and are pleased to be named MITC’s Service Provider of the Year.”

Foreign Direct Investor of the Year:  Libellula (Brunswick, ME)

The Foreign Direct Investor of the Year Award is presented annually to recognize foreign-owned companies that have made a strategic decision to invest in Maine by either opening a plant or enhancing their existing operations here.

Julia Franchi Scarselli calls her product “liquid gold,” referring to the extra virgin olive oil that comes from her birth country of Italy where she started Libellula (Italian for ‘dragonfly’). Scarselli and her father partnered with smallholder farmers in a town north of Rome to help them revitalize their heritage olive groves and sell their cold-pressed, organic olive oil in the U.S. Libellula has set up shop in Brunswick at TechPlace, a business accelerator for early-stage companies. The company offers an adopt-a-grove program for a subscription of extra virgin olive oil, as well as individual bottles for sale. While a personal connection led her to Maine, Scarselli says the vibrant sustainable food culture and business accelerator environment provide an excellent fit for her company.

“Smallholder farmers are at the frontlines of climate change as they face increasing droughts and floods and yet receive the least amount of support,” said Scarselli. “However, these farmers are at the heart of sustainable food systems, and we need for them to thrive. Through our collective, farmers can access agricultural resources as well as markets interested in their products. We are so pleased to be building our business in Maine and are honored to receive this award from MITC.”

Two additional awards are also being presented by MITC this year.

The Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative (MLMC) will receive the President’s Award, given to an individual or organization which has displayed exceptional support to Maine International Trade Center. Maine brings in over 80% of lobster landed in the U.S., and Maine lobster is sold in 38 countries around the world. MLMC’s goal is to tell the story of Maine’s heritage industry. MITC and MLMC partner to promote Maine lobster around the world, including international seafood shows to introduce lobster to global buyers.

Keegan Stanton-Meas will receive the Future Global Leader Award, which recognizes exceptional work of a MITC intern. Stanton-Meas provided valuable assistance to the MITC team during the fall of 2022, tackling projects like the Member Spotlight social media campaign. After graduating from the University of New England in December, he has returned to MITC working as a Trade Assistant until he leaves in August for graduate school in a business program that will take him to San Francisco, London, and Dubai.

This year’s award winners will be honored at Trade Day 2023 on May 17th from 5:00 – 7:00 pm in Portland.

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