(Durham, NH) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, today hosted a field hearing at the University of New Hampshire on exporting opportunities for small businesses. Chair Shaheen highlighted the programs and resources available for Granite State small businesses to compete in the global marketplace, including the State Trade Expansion Program (STEP).

Photos from today’s field hearing can be found here.

Watch Chair Shaheen’s opening statement here.

Last week, the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship reported out legislation that reauthorizes STEP. The STEP Modernization Act of 2024 streamlines the application, reporting and compliance requirements, improves award consistency and transparency and establishes a formula that will replace the current competitive process for determining award amounts once appropriations reach a set level. These changes make STEP more flexible and easier to administer in order to increase the number of small businesses that access and compete in international markets.

Read Chair Shaheen’s opening statement, as delivered, below.

It’s really an honor to be here at UNH. For those of you who don’t know, I live about five minutes down the road, so it’s especially nice for me to be here. I really appreciate the Innovation Center for hosting us this morning, and very much appreciate the witnesses for joining us.

Today we’re going to discuss small business exporting, and in particular, how we work together to expand small business opportunities abroad.

More than 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside of the United States, but less than 4 percent of small and medium sized businesses actually export. That number has gone up a little bit. I can remember when I first got to the Senate in 2009, only about 1 percent of small businesses were exporting, so we’ve made some gains but not a lot, and we have a significant opportunity for growth and that’s what this hearing is about: to give us a chance to explore how we can help America’s small businesses reach consumers.

In 2021, approximately 2,500 firms exported goods and services worth over $6 billion from New Hampshire. Of those exporters, over 85 percent were small and medium sized businesses.

Now, the numbers are good, but as I said, I think we can do better. The 85 percent represents about 2,000 small businesses, so there are many more small business owners who have never explored exporting, and many of them could benefit greatly.

There is untapped potential for growth, which makes it critical that we address access and resources to assist small businesses in finding new markets for their products.

Companies like MADCO3D in Rochester, just not too far down the road, I got a chance to see firsthand the product that they’re producing. They’re 3-D printing houses, and they can also help address building coral reefs. I think there’s a tremendous opportunity for companies like MADCO3D, and we’re going to hear from companies this morning who can talk about what they’ve seen as the result of exporting.

I became a real fan of international trade when I was governor and led the first trade mission overseas back in 1997, so a long time ago, but what I saw was just the benefits that New Hampshire businesses could gain as the result of trade. That’s why, when I got to the Senate I helped to create the STEP program in 2010 to help small businesses offset the cost of training, market research, website upgrades and trade missions to begin or expand sales internationally.

Last week, the Small Business Committee advanced legislation to update STEP to make it easier for states to administer so that more small businesses can access and compete internationally. And the changes that we made to the legislation were by and large the result of what we’ve heard from all of you who work on exporting about what we need to do to make it easier to access those funds and to make them more usable.

Here in New Hampshire, I know our STEP grantee, the Office of International Commerce, works closely with the Commercial Service to ensure that small businesses are supported throughout the process.

I’m glad both of those offices are represented here today to discuss the tools that they currently have available. We have two experienced exporters who are also joining us today who can talk about the gaps that we can address better to support small businesses.

Last year, New Hampshire exports reached a record of $7.6 billion. That’s up 85 percent since 2016 and it demonstrates the focus that we’ve had on expanding international growth in New Hampshire.

I still think there is more we can do and that’s what this hearing is all about.