Kathie Leonard, president and CEO of Auburn Manufacturing in Mechanic Falls, stands beside one of the looms that manufactures high-temperature materials. Sun Journal file photo by Russ Dillingham

PORTLAND — Maine companies in 2018 exported goods and services to 169 countries around the globe. Kathie Leonard shipped to 38 of them.

The Maine International Trade Center on Tuesday named Leonard’s Auburn Manufacturing its Exporter of the Year in the 2019 International Trade and Investment Awards.

Auburn Manufacturing, in Auburn and Mechanic Falls, specializes in heat-resistant textiles.

“Not everyone is going to work in IT or science,” Leonard said in a news release. “Manufacturing jobs are good jobs. They pay a living wage with good benefits, and we need that for a lot of people in this country.”

The trade center also named ND Paper, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Nine Dragons Paper (Holdings) Limited, its Foreign Direct Investor of the Year.

The Chinese company bought and invested in the Rumford paper mill last year and plans to reopen a paper mill in Old Town this summer.


“What’s exciting about ND Paper is they are bringing a 100-year outlook to these mills, so our focus has switched from surviving to thriving,” mill Manager Randy Chicoine said in the release. “These investments give the communities hope and the next generation hope of a future in the pulp and paper industry.”

Last year, 2,087 Maine companies exported $2.8 billion in goods and services, according to the trade center, with the top four exports being seafood, semiconductors, aircraft parts and forest products.

In recognizing Leonard and Auburn Manufacturing, the trade group pointed to Leonard successfully taking on the flood of subsidized Chinese heat-resistant fabric hitting the U.S. market and illegally undercutting her sales. The U.S. International Trade Commission ultimately placed a 200 to 300 percent duty on those Chinese products.

Leonard told the Maine International Trade Center that 25 to 30 percent of her sales are international in industries such as oil and steel, shipbuilding and power generation. She also said it’s been slowly gaining back lost business, and she hopes to add more people to her staff of 52.

ND Paper from China bought the former Catalyst paper mill in Rumford last spring. Sun Journal file photo

The trade center said that after Nine Dragons’ purchase in Rumford, the mill diversified its product mix into growing markets such as gift wrap, corporate periodicals and labels for cans, bottles and deli containers.

The mill employs 650 people and the Old Town mill, closed since 2015, is expected to employ 130.

Thornton Academy in Saco received the Maine center’s Service Provider of the Year Award and Luke’s Lobster Seafood Co. of Saco received the Innovator of the Year Award.

Charlie Emmons of the Finance Authority of Maine and Michael Stone of Stone & Associates each received the President’s Award and Apryl King received the Future Global Leader Award.

Awards will be presented during Maine International Trade Day on May 24 at an event in Portland.

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