The STEP program, launched in March, aligns with President Obama’s National Export Initiative.  The president’s initiative calls for doubling U.S. exports in five years, and in so doing, supporting two million jobs. The program provides federal funding for 65 to75 percent of program costs, with states supplying the remainder.

Under the program, the CNMI received federal funding of $1,022,781 for a project that will focus on developing small business export acumen, providing venues for small businesses to develop foreign trade networks, solidifying lines of services to export markets, and developing and marketing a “Made in the Marianas” brand for exports. The program will encourage firms to engage in trade shows, exhibitions, and sales trips.

SBA Administrator Karen Mills announced the awards last September at an event in Raleigh, N.C., at Raleigh Denim, a small business that produces and exports denim products.

“Strengthening the nation’s economy through a substantial increase of U.S. exports is a top priority for the Administration and the agency,” said Mills.

“This is a unique partnership between the federal government and the states.  Sharing responsibilities and resources will help new small exporters across the country enter and succeed in the global market.”

The funding will support participation in foreign trade missions, foreign market sales trips, subscriptions to services provided by the Department of Commerce, website translations fees, design of international marketing media, trade show exhibitions, participation in training workshops, and other critical export initiatives.

Small businesses that want to receive assistance under the STEP program should contact the organizations serving the states in which they are located. For a list of these organizations and more information about the STEP program, visit http://www.sba.gov/about-offices-content/1/2889/resources/14315.

The SBA anticipates it will conduct a new competition for STEP program grants during the winter of 2011.  Awards will be made in September 2012 for export support services by states over the following 12 months.

Quick facts

The State Trade and Export Promotion Program, or STEP is a 3-year pilot trade and export initiative authorized by the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010. The program is funded by federal grants and matching funds from the states, and is designed to help increase the number of businesses that export and to raise the value of exports for those small businesses that are currently exporting so they can grow and create jobs.

The STEP grants will help provide support for small business participation in foreign trade missions and foreign market sales trips, subscription to services by the Department of Commerce, website translation fees, design of international marketing media, trade show exhibitions, participation in training workshops and other export initiatives determined to be appropriate by the SBA.

All 50 states, Washington D.C. and the territories were invited to apply for STEP grant awards. 47 states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, the CNMI, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands won STEP grant awards. All states and territories submitted their applications on time received STEP grants.

Through the STEP grants, SBA awarded approximately $30 million, supporting $43.4 million in total project costs. SBA is authorized to grant up to $30 million to states each year under the program.{jcomments off}

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