OMAHA--Thanks to a grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration, Nebraska small businesses now have added financial support to help market their goods and services to international markets.
The SBA is providing $30 million in grants to states across the country, including $310,860 to the Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED), to help increase exporting by small businesses during the next 12 months. The grants were authorized by the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, under the State Trade and Export Promotion Program (STEP). This effort calls for doubling U.S. exports in five years – and in so doing, supporting two million jobs. The program provides federal government funding for 65 to75 percent of program costs, with states supplying the remainder.
"Strengthening the nation’s economy through a substantial increase of U.S. exports is a top priority for the Administration and the agency," said SBA Administrator Karen 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."
According to Michael Kuzma, the DED's International Economic Development Assistant Manager, the state agency has a tentative plan to use some STEP funds for a trade mission to Japan and China in the fall.
"In addition to the trade mission, DED plans to use some STEP funds to support the export focused activities of the Nebraska Center in Tokyo,” Kuzma said. Nebraska Center Director Koji Nagasaka and Office Manager Hisami Imagawa will attend an export focused trade show in Saitama Prefecture northeast of Tokyo later in January; STEP funds will be used for the transportation and incidental costs of the show.
"The Nebraska Center in Tokyo plays a critical role in our ability to promote trade to and investments from Nebraska to Japan," Kuzma added, "and will also play a central role in the trade mission, helping with logistics, translation and meeting facilitation."
Moreover, Kuzma said, as a result of the additional funding from the SBA, the DED is now able to offer several new marketing opportunities, including the International Market Access Grant (IMAG) program on a rolling application basis through May 1. This grant will reimburse Nebraska companies' expenses related to attending U.S. or international export-focused trade shows, increasing the number of small businesses in the state to start exporting, or to increase awareness of further opportunities for those already exporting.
IMAG will provide up to $2,000 for a qualifying business to attend an export focused trade show in the U.S., and up to $5,000 for a qualifying business to attend an export focused trade show outside the country. To qualify, small businesses must meet the SBA's size standard definitions and must meet the U.S. Department of Commerce requirements for foreign assistance. In addition to the IMAG program, DED will reimburse participation expenses in various Commerce Department programs designed to assist small businesses with exporting.
In 2010, Nebraska products were sold to approximately 180 foreign countries, accounting for more than $5.8 billion dollars in export sales, an increase of 60 percent over the past five years. The top five importers of Nebraska products were Canada, Mexico, Japan, China and South Korea. Major exports included feed grains, processed foods, agriculture & industrial machinery, chemicals and transportation equipment.