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SBA’s $900,000 STEP Award Boosts Export Opportunities for Illinois Small Businesses

Nationally, $19 Million Awarded to Help Small Businesses Enter and Compete in the Global Marketplace
Release Date: 
Wednesday, October 14, 2020

CHICAGO – Illinois small businesses have access to $900,000 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 $19 million to 48 state and territory international trade agencies through its competitive STEP effort to support export growth among U.S. small businesses. Here in Illinois, the STEP 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. 

“SBA’s STEP has been a critical resource for states to help their small businesses and entrepreneurs expand into international markets,” SBA Great Lakes Regional Administrator Rob Scott said. “This is important because small businesses that export can grow revenue, contributing to a higher likelihood of them staying in business and strengthening local economies with job creation, especially in challenging times like this, as 95% of the world’s consumers are beyond U.S. borders.”

STEP is designed to assist Illinois with increasing the number of small businesses that export and the value of those exports. Since its creation in 2010 as part of the Small Business Jobs Act, STEP has recorded over $3.8 billion in exports and awarded approximately $176 million in grants to fund export opportunities, increasing the footprint of American small businesses in countries worldwide. Illinois has received about $7 million in STEP awards over the program’s 10-year existence.

“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 Illinois small businesses. By supporting the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunities’ Office of Trade and Investment, the SBA is delivering tools for small businesses here to build relationships and diversify their customer base by offering their services and products abroad,” said SBA Illinois District Director Robert Steiner.

The 2020 STEP awards will allow Illinois 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. SBA’s Office of International Trade administers the STEP awards at the national level and its guide to exporting offers more information on STEP and other small business resources for international trade.


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