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SBA’s $700,000 STEP Award Boosts Export Opportunities for Illinois Small Businesses

Nationally, $18 Million Awarded to Help Small Business Enter and Compete in the Global Marketplace
Release Date: 
Monday, September 30, 2019

CHICAGO – Illinois small businesses have access to $700,000 in funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s State Trade Expansion Program to help them expand with exporting opportunities. In all, the SBA has awarded $18 million to 41 state and territory international trade agencies through its competitive STEP effort to support export growth among U.S. small businesses. In Illinois, the award will support small business exporting activities, including business-to-business matchmaking, group and individual trade shows, trade mission participation, export training, export compliance and website assistance. 

“STEP is one of SBA’s important resources for America’s small businesses and entrepreneurs to expand into international markets and a key component of our agency’s small business support strategy,” SBA Great Lakes Regional Administrator Rob Scott said. “With a majority of the world’s purchasing power outside of the United States, small businesses that export can grow revenue, contributing to a higher likelihood of them staying in business, and boost local economies.”

Today, trade represents nearly 58% of the world’s $80 trillion economy and 95% of the world’s consumers are outside the United States. STEP is designed to assist Illinois with increasing the number of small businesses that export and the value of those exports. Since the program began in 2011, the state has received more than $6.1 million in STEP funding. In total, approximately $157 million in grants have been awarded to fund export opportunities and increase the footprint of small businesses in countries all over the world. 

“STEP and SBA’s other export resources, including SBA-backed loans and local U.S. Export Assistance Centers, help remove barriers to market entry for small businesses. By supporting international trade efforts, the SBA is delivering tools for Illinois small businesses build relationships and launch their services and products abroad,” said SBA Illinois District Director Robert “Bo” Steiner.

One business that has benefited from a STEP award is DoMor, a Eureka, Illinois, company that designs and manufactures grading and gravel-spreading attachments. With guidance from the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Bradley University in Peoria, senior leaders from DoMor used STEP assistance to attend international trade missions in Chile and Canada. The program has “given some more credibility to us in different regions,” Director of Operations Ryan Deemer said. “DoMor is such a small company. The opportunity to go to different regions is key. We never would have put it in the marketing budget.” The company sells to customers in Chile, Brazil, Namibia, Canada, Mongolia, Myanmar, and Colombia, among others.

“Exports play a vital role in the Illinois economy, and international sales stimulate job growth at home,” said Margo Markopoulos, Office of Trade and Investment director at the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. “Last year alone, over $65 billion worth of Illinois manufactured goods were sold to countries across the globe. With funding from the State Trade Expansion Program, we will continue to help small businesses from across the state take advantage of sales opportunities available to them in foreign markets and further expand Illinois’ global presence.” 

The 2019 STEP awards will allow states to assist small businesses with the information and tools they need to succeed in export-related activities in line with the program objectives. These objectives include participation in foreign trade missions, foreign market sales trips, services provided by the U.S. Department of Commerce, as well as design of international marketing campaigns, export trade show exhibits, training workshops and more.

Individual STEP awards are managed at the local level by state government organizations. The SBA’s Office of International Trade administers the STEP awards at the national level.

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About the U.S. Small Business Administration

The U.S. Small Business Administration makes the American dream of business ownership a reality. As the only go-to resource and voice for small businesses backed by the strength of the federal government, the SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small business owners with the resources and support they need to start, grow or expand their businesses, or recover from a declared disaster. It delivers services through an extensive network of SBA field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations. To learn more, visit www.sba.gov.