A Big STEP for Small Business

by Abby Ware, WIPP Government Relations  

Thinking about exporting, but have no idea where to start? Take a look at the Small Business Administration’s State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) program. As state governments receive funding from the STEP program in coming months, small businesses will have increased access to emerging trade opportunities and export support initiatives. Utilizing the STEP program is what JM Grain of Great Falls, Montana did when it decided it wanted to export lentils and chickpeas. The STEP grant allowed JM Grain to attend a Gulfood Trade Show in Dubai, exposing the small business to new markets and an estimated $600,000 in additional export sales.

The STEP program is a federally funded pilot program with two objectives: 1) increase the number of U.S. exporting small businesses, and 2) increase export value for small businesses that already export. State governments apply and match the funds with a federal to state ratio of 75% to 25% (65% to 35% for high exporting states). STEP activities are then provided and managed at the local level by state government organizations.

Small businesses in the State of Washington in particular have benefitted from STEP, better equipping Washington to incorporate trade-promoting programs such as Export Voucher. The Export Voucher program provides up to $5,000 to small businesses for export-related expenses for companies that want to export.  Washington has also provided financial counseling and targeted support for women, veteran and minority-owned businesses through STEP funding. More information on Washington’s efforts can be found here.

To see if a state already participates and receives STEP grants, go to this link and talk to them about their small business assistance.  Every state deploys its federal STEP program in different ways, so it is important to contact the office listed on the map.

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