SBA Announces STEP ProgramFebruary 10, 2016
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) recently announced that states will be able to immediately apply for SBA cooperative agreement awards that support efforts to increase exporting by small businesses. The State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) Program was appropriated $18 million to make awards by Sept. 30, 2016 and these STEP Program cooperative agreements will be awarded on a competitive basis.
According to SBA Administration Maria Contreras-Sweet, last year, the SBA surpassed their trade finance record and supported $3.3 billion in export sales. Small businesses are increasingly engaging in the ever evolving global market place and through the STEP awards programs, states can transform more small businesses to become exporters and expand their export sales. In the process, these small businesses will create jobs and strengthen their communities.
The STEP Program has two objectives: 1) increase the number of small businesses that begin to export and 2) increase the value of exports for small businesses that currently export. The 50 states, the District of Columbia, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands are eligible to apply.
The award amounts will vary based on the awardee’s proposed project plan, budget, and competitive quality. Expanding the base of small business exporters and making the process as easy as possible is a key component of the Administration’s National Export Initiative NEXT. A state may not submit more than one application for a STEP award and must support the following export related activities: participation in trade missions, foreign market sales trips, design of international marketing campaigns, export trade show exhibits, export training workshops or other export initiatives that are in line with the objectives of the program.
Past results for the STEP program have been very successful. Awardees reported supporting export activities a return on investment of federal funds of over 19:1 from export activities in 85 country markets supported by STEP funding during the first two award years.
The presence of small and medium-sized enterprises (SME’s) in America’s global trade strategy must continue to increase and the government needs to ensure that they facilitate the exporting process. The STEP program takes strides to enhance small-business access to government exporting experts as well as the myriad avenues to connect them with global buyers. As such, NSBA/SBEA is pleased to endorse the STEP program as it helps create jobs while simultaneously expanding trade activities of small businesses.