U.S. Senators Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., and Olympia J. Snowe, R-Maine, Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, today sent letters to governors across America encouraging their participation in the State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) grant pilot program. The program, passed by Congress as part of the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-240) and signed into law by the President on September 27, 2010, seeks to increase exports by small businesses by providing funding to states to start or enhance export assistance programs.
"With 95 percent of the world's customers living outside the U.S. and less than 1 percent of our small businesses selling abroad, our small businesses are missing lucrative opportunities to find new customers, expand their businesses and create new and higher-paying American jobs," Senators Landrieu and Snowe said in the letters. "Moreover, even a modest increase in small business exporting will help reduce the trade deficit and make our businesses more competitive in the global marketplace."
The application period for the STEP program will last from March 1, 2011 until April 26, 2011, and is being administered through the Small Business Administration's (SBA) Office of International Trade. States can use STEP funding to start or expand small business export assistance programs and to reduce the cost of a number of start-up activities associated with exporting including, attendance at trade shows, participation in foreign trade missions, the translation of websites into foreign languages, and the purchase of services from the Department of Commerce. Nearly $30 million in funding is available for qualified states in the first year of the program, with individual grants awarded on a competitive basis starting in mid 2011. Each state may submit one application per funding cycle and must be certified by the Governor.
According to the most recent data available from the U.S. Department of Commerce, in 2009 the United States was world's largest exporter of goods and services, sending almost $1.6 trillion worth of goods and services abroad. Export supported jobs account for almost seven percent of total U.S. private sector employment, and they pay 15 percent more on average than domestically created jobs. Although only 1 percent of the United States nearly 28 million small businesses currently export their goods and services, these firms typically account for almost one-third of the country's annual export volume, suggesting that global markets hold vast economic potential for small businesses.