State Trade Expansion Program: 10 Years of Success

On Sunday, September 27, 2020, the U.S Small Business Administration marks the 10th anniversary of the State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) – a program dedicated to helping small businesses just like yours find global success.  For the last decade, STEP has awarded 302 state grants, which averaged over $518,000 in funding to all 50 states and U.S. Territories for a total of more than $156,000,000, generating nearly $1.8 billion in exports.  The Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 created STEP in partnership with U.S. states and territories to assist small businesses with entering and expanding into international markets. 

A key to expanding any business is finding more customers, and in today’s modern global economy, businesses that think and work globally will thrive. Data shows that small businesses that export are outperforming those that do not. Business owners not only increase their sales but are also able to pay higher wages and employ more workers.  Despite these benefits, only a small fraction of U.S. small businesses export, even though 95 percent of the world’s customers live outside of the U.S.   

STEP helps small businesses overcome obstacles to exporting by providing grants to cover the costs associated with entering and expanding into international markets.  STEP can support participation in foreign trade missions and market sales trips, subscriptions to services provided by the U.S. Department of Commerce and other federal agencies, the design of international marketing products and campaigns, and attendance to export trade show exhibits and training workshops. 

The SBA offers grants that help capitalize on international opportunities. STEP grants are incredible tools, providing direct support to small businesses as they seek new and increased international sales.  

WCCO Belting, Inc. is a great example of a small business that took advantage of STEP to reach new global customers.  This North Dakota company is a leading manufacturer of specialized custom rubber belting for machines in agriculture, construction, industrial, and recycling industries with a growing list of domestic and international equipment manufacturers and distributors.  With assistance from STEP, WCCO Belting, Inc. developed new virtual promotional material to showcase and demonstrate its products to an international market without customers having to be in the presence of the large-scale equipment.  They attended trade shows around the world, including Agritechnica in Germany, AgriShow in Brazil, and International Machines in Agriculture (EMIA) in Italy.  Additionally, WCCO Belting, Inc. conducted sales trips and participated in a trade mission to Australia.  They also redesigned and translated their website.  Since 2012, these projects have resulted in the company’s expansion into Germany, Italy, Brazil, and Australia, with more than $2.25 million in sales.  WCCO Belting, Inc. continues to build on its success and seek new opportunities worldwide. 

On this 10th STEP Anniversary, SBA is proud to reflect on the many small businesses we assisted and look forward to helping even more entrepreneurs reach their global potential.  We hope to see your business succeeding in the international marketplace soon. For more information about STEP and other export resources, visit the SBA’s business guide to exporting products

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