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The State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) helps companies grow, expand and succeed internationally. The STEP Program is a pilot Federal-state partnership grant initiative, intended to increase the number of small businesses that export and the value of exports by the small business sector.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has awarded each state different amounts of national and state grants. The STEP Program is put in place to help businesses enter the international marketplace and succeed. STEP Award grants assist small business looking to expand into sector-specific key markets through exports and supports their efforts through additional marketing activities.
Under the STEP program, businesses can receive funding to boost your exports by:
- Participating in foreign trade missions and market sales trips
- Subscription to services provided by the U.S. Department of Commerce
- Website foreign language translation services
- Design of international marketing materials
- Trade show exhibitions
- Participation in export and trade financing workshops, and many more…
• The Program was authorized by the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 for a three year period, and funded at $30 million per year, for the first two years. Under it, competitively awarded grants can be made to the 50 states, District of Columbia, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa.
• Services to be provided by states to ‘eligible small business concerns,’ under the Program include support for participation in foreign trade missions and market sales trips, subscription to services provided by the Department of Commerce, design of international marketing products and campaigns, export trade show exhibits, training, and other efforts aligned with Program goals.
• Under the Program, in most cases the Federal government provides 75% of the funding required for the total project, and states provide 25%. However, for the top three states in value of exports, the Federal government provides 65% of total funding, while states provide 35%.
• The first round of competitive grants was awarded in September 2011, for performance during the period October 2011 – September 2012. In this round, SBA awarded 51 grants totaling $29 million. The average value of awards was approximately $568,000.
• The second round of competitive STEP grants was awarded in September 2012, for performance during the period October 2012 – September 2013. In this round, SBA awarded 52 grants totaling $30 million. The average value of awards was approximately $577,000.
• Under the program, SBA is prioritizing projects that target provision of assistance to ‘eligible small business concerns,’ that are owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, women, and by veterans and/or service-connected disabled veterans; are located in rural areas; promote new-to market export opportunities to the People’s Republic of China; and/or promote regional, industry focused, innovation clusters.
• For further information regarding the STEP Program, and state-by-state information, please click here.
Funds Awarded by State
|State||Federal Award||State Match||Award Total|
Frequently Asked Questions
*put together by The U.S. Small Business Administration Office of International Trade, State Trade and Export Promotion Grant Program
Who can apply for a grant under the STEP Program?
A State agency that has been officially designated as the sole entity responsible for conducting the State’s trade and export activities may apply. The designation must have been made before the application is submitted. The organizational structure of the applicant must reflect an official agency relationship with State government, and the State must provide financial backing and show support for grant activities. The application must include the written endorsement of the Governor or his/her designee. Only one proposal will be considered per state.
Can Small Business Development Centers apply for grants under the STEP Program?
SBDC’s do not meet the criteria of ‘eligible applicants,’ under the STEP Program, and for this reason, cannot apply. But, applicants can propose efforts that include collaborative relationships and sub-contractual relationships with SBDC’s, and that provide for payment of stipends or tuition for, or reimbursements to, STEP Clients for services provided to them by SBDC’s.
How do states rank in terms of the number of small business exporters?
The following table reflects the number of ‘small and medium sized exporters,’ for 2009, the most recent year for which data is available. Note that ‘small and medium sized exporters,’ is the closest surrogate to ‘small business exporters,’ for which data is captured by the Bureau of the Census, U.S. Department of Commerce.
Ready to apply?
**If you would like more information about the STEP program, contact your local SBA or Economic Development Center.