States Granted Federal Funds to Expand Small Business Exporting

On Sept. 19, the U.S. Small Business Administration, or SBA, awarded $18 million in funds to 47 states through the State Trade Expansion Program, or STEP, to help support and increase exporting from small businesses. The STEP grant program has been a vital resource to help states increase the number of companies that export, and thus grow their economies.

Exports from the United States account for nearly 13 percent of the gross domestic product and support millions of direct and in-direct jobs. Moreover, firms that export are more diversified and pay 15-20 percent higher wages on average than their nonexporting competitors.

The benefits of exporting are clear. However, although 95 percent of the purchasing market is outside of the United States, less than five percent of eligible small businesses export their product or service to a foreign market. The STEP grant program aims to fill those gaps and provide resources to small firms to help them start or expand their exports.

“The SBA is committed to ensuring equal access for small businesses to international markets and expanding export opportunities, and ensuring small business have the resources they need to drive their businesses and local communities forward,” said SBA Administrator Linda McMahon in a press release.  “The STEP awards are an important resource that provide small businesses with the confidence and funding they need to thrive in this competitive international market.” 

The STEP grant program is a competitive matching grant program with the goals of increasing the number of small firms that export, increasing the value of exports for small firms, and increasing the number of new export opportunities for small firms. 

“For Delaware, the STEP grant program has been an invaluable resource in our mission to help more small firms start or expand their exports,” said David Mathe, Delaware’s export director and president of the State International Development Organizations, or SIDO.  “STEP also helps strengthen the relationship between state and federal trade agencies, which helps ensure we (both federal and state trade agencies) are providing the highest quality services to those small businesses.”

The Council of State Governments and SIDO have played a leading role in securing continued funding for the STEP grants for states.  SIDO is an affiliate of CSG and represents the states’ international trade and economic development organizations.