In the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, passed by the Congress late last year, and subsequently signed by President Obama, there is a significant government program to increase U.S. exports to foreign countries. The program will be run through projects established by the fifty states, the District of Columbia and various territories. Information of this program and others offered through the federal government and state agencies can be found on the TopGovernmentGrants Website. The program is a pilot that is designed for state government together with the Small Business Administration (SBA) and small businesses to expand U.S. exports.Entitled the “State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) Grant Program”, the legislation established a funding process managed by the SBA that will distribute up to $30 million a year to the states for programs designed to increase U.S. exports from their state. The program is authorized for three fiscal years, 2011 through 2013.Each state can submit proposals to the SBA to be funded out of 2011 funds starting March 1, 2011 through April 26, 2011. The awards for the first year will be made by the summer of 2011, but no later than September, and will be awarded competitively.Each state can only submit only one proposal, but the proposal can be for such activities as:Participation in foreign trade missions.
Foreign market sales trips.
A subscription to services provided by U.S. Department of Commerce.
Design of international marketing products or campaigns.
Export trade show exhibits.
Other export initiatives that are in line with the goals of the pilot grant initiative.The SBA will contribute 65%-75% of the budget, based on the export volume of the state making the application. The state contributes the balance, and there are some rules about where that funding can come from. Each applicant is encouraged to use the resources of the SBA and other government organizations, so as to reduce and duplication of effort.Working with the appropriate agency in each state government, small businesses can use this resource to expand their knowledge and marketing edge in the export market.Overall, this new program provides a wonderful resource for establishing the market infrastructure necessary to aggressively pursue increased export sales volume. Any small business that needs additional market knowledge is encouraged to contact your state agency or the SBA to participate in this project.For more information about the STEP Grant program, visit the SBA Website.