(NEWS CENTER) — There is some good economic news to celebrate regarding Maine exports.
Maine's Economic Growth Council is reporting Maine's international exports grew 5 percent over the past year, while U.S. exports dropped 3 percent nationwide.
It's a positive trend that innovators are hoping to take advantage of in their efforts to expand and export their products to the international markets.
Steve Underwood is one of those innovators. He owns Deep Blue Design, LLC, out of Scarborough. "I wanted basically something that would fit in the bottom of a daypack that you wouldn't be going, 'oh, if only I had my tripod,'" he said.
In fact, Underwood cites his own work shooting underwater documentaries for designing the Pakpod — a compact, versatile, waterproof tripod for GoPros, smartphones and small cameras. "I was in rivers and lakes and had these cameras and thought, 'well, I want to stake this into the riverbank or attach it to this log,'" Underwood said.
To do that, his tripod design boasts three different kinds of stakes, for stability. Underwood's Pakpod earned him one of six spots to represent Maine at the New Products Global Showcase held this May in Bangor.
The company AmpFins will also be there. Created by northern Maine water lover Randy Lord, who lost his leg in a construction accident, the AmpFins mean freedom for him and, soon, freedom for soldiers. "We just got back from Walter Reed Hospital down in D.C., which they loved it … we've been in talks with the VA, they loved it, so we just got a couple hoops to jump through and it looks like they're going nationwide."
That means members of the military, those who have had amputations, will likely use the AmpFins during in-pool physical therapy. Lori Lord says having her husband's comfortable return to the water has made him stronger and happier. Plus, she says, "I would bet that on him in a race against Michael Phelps. With the AmpFin, I know Randy would win."
Janine Cary, president of the Maine International Trade Center, says there is innovation going on all around the state which a lot of people don't realize.
She points to newer innovators, like Portland-based Zootility Tools, which creates animal-based functional products for everyday use; and Trenton-based Rain Wise — developer of measurement and monitoring solutions for meteorology, as examples of the export future.
"It's not just Mainers selling to themselves. It's really bringing cash in and it's creating jobs here," Cary said. "This is a niche that we can satisfy on the international front."
Saco-based custom rope manufacturer Yale Cordage's newest creation, ZipGrips are designed to be used in the installation and maintenance of offshore power and communication cables. And Biddeford-based Fiber Material Inc.'s (FMI) 3-D polymer matrix composite materials could be a game changer for the military.
World Wide Sales and Marketing Director Dan Godbout says troops would benefit greatly. "Think about the troops that are carrying around all this heavy metal protective equipment, firearms, where we could potentially use this material to take the weight out of firearms to reduce the weight that they're carrying around."
Six Maine companies, considered the most innovative in the state, will compete again later this month. That prize could make theirs a household name.
"We have so much video and such that's going to go on their website," Godbout said. "That we'll make announcements internationally, so they're really winning global exposure – that's probably what they care about the most."