Auburn Manufacturing Inc. faced aggressive Chinese competition amid the COVID-19 struggles and is now selling products in 30 countries.
AUBURN, Maine — Kathie Leonard smiled as she led a tour of her warehouse Wednesday.
Unless her guests were a few feet away, her voice could not be heard over the hum of the textile weaving machines nearby.
To Leonard, the noise was a beautiful orchestra. That meant her shelves were being filled with textiles, with trucks soon to follow—bringing goods to customers across the US and to ports that would transport them to 30 countries.
It was a welcome noise especially because navigating the business world over the past six years or so had been like walking a tightrope for the CEO of Auburn Manufacturing Incorporated, or AMI.
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“We’re doing fine,” she shrugged. “It’s still an uphill battle — not a battle, but there are some skirmishes.”
Clashes, like the clash with the Chinese government.
AMI produces valuable textiles that are woven, stitched or dyed to insulate against extreme heat. Leonard and the US Commerce Department found that Chinese companies were dumping similar products in the US at what the department deemed unfairly below market value, and it imposed duties against China in 2017.
Then, COVID-19 came along just as AMI was renewing itself.
On Wednesday, Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, and Judith Pryor, vice chair of the board of the Export-Import Bank of the U.S., or EX-IM, visited the warehouse to talk about the resources available to help businesses like AMI thrive on a global scale.
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The federal bank just launched what it calls the “Doing More in America Initiative” and aims to help businesses thrive by overseeing through loans and insurance that backs nearly all potential sale funds in international deals.
This means Leonard can make sales with confidence and without asking for all the money up front.
“We go all the way to India to ship products, and it’s great that we can have a relationship where we can sell them, just like we would here in the United States, and offer terms, payment terms,” she explained. “They don’t have to pay it off early and, in the old days, that’s what we would have done and that never seemed right to me.”
AMI employs 50 Mainers at two locations. Business owners can apply for the federal program here.
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