(Washington, DC)—Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Chair Ben Cardin (D-Md.) today issued a statement lauding a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announcement that small businesses across the country will receive a total of $20 million through the State Trade Expansion Program (STEP). Maryland, which was awarded $600,000, and other states and territories will use their federal grants to connect small businesses to potential new markets through international trade missions. The SBA also awarded grants to a total of 52 international trade agencies, which is the highest number of grantees since the program was created. A full list of current STEP awardees can be found at this link.

More than 50 Maryland small businesses take advantage of STEP-funded export promotion activity each year, which has resulted in more than $50 million in confirmed sales.

“Many Maryland small businesses make products that are in high demand in foreign markets, but they lack the contacts and technical know-how to take advantage of these opportunities,” Cardin said. “This investment from the SBA gives the State of Maryland resources to help small businesses develop the relationships and expertise they need to compete in the global marketplace.”

Only 1 percent of America’s more than 30 million small businesses export their products and services because they often lack the relationships and expertise necessary to secure business in the global marketplace. Congress created STEP in 2010 to increase opportunities for small businesses to engage in international trade. The program awards grants to state economic development agencies so they can help small businesses attend international trade shows and connect with customers in foreign markets. The grants also allow economic development agencies to provide counseling and training to help small businesses understand the rules of international trade.

In addition to STEP, the SBA helps small businesses enter international markets through the following programs:

  1. the Export Express Loan Program, which provides loans of up to $500,000 to small businesses that are in the early stage of the exporting process;
  2. the Export Working Capital Program, which provides loans of up to $5 million to small businesses to cover the cost of international purchase orders. The loans allow small businesses to expand into international markets without disrupting their domestic financing and business plan; and
  3. the International Trade Program, which provides loans of up to $5 million to small businesses that regularly engage in international trade so they can expand their production capacity.

STEP is especially successful, with a 2020 performance report finding that the program generated nearly $1billion in export sales and assisted more than 7,000 small businesses nationwide. The report also found that STEP returns more than $54 in sales for small businesses for every dollar invested in the program.