WASHINGTON D.C. – U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), Ranking Member of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, introduced legislation yesterday to help small businesses expand into foreign markets.  The Small Business Export Opportunity Act of 2009 (S. 1208) would bolster assistance for small business owners as they locate international sales opportunities, and improve export financing programs provided by the Small Business Administration (SBA) to help U.S. small businesses to compete internationally, expand their business, and create jobs. 

 “This legislation will enable America’s entrepreneurs to obtain new customers for their goods and services around the world,” said Senator Snowe.   “Even as globalization has opened opportunities overseas, less than 1 percent of small businesses sell their goods and services internationally.  As small businesses are our nation’s real job generators, creating approximately 75 percent of net new jobs each year, we must help them take advantage of all potential opportunities, including those in foreign markets.” 

The bill ensures that small business interests are reflected in U.S. trade policy and trade agreement negotiations by establishing a United States Trade Representative for Small Businesses, a provision Senator Snowe first introduced in 2001.  It also creates a new Office of Small Business Export Development and Promotion at the SBA, as well as requires that the SBA immediately fill its trade specialist positions that have been vacant for years.  Furthermore, the legislation includes an innovative grant program that matches up to $5,000 for expenses incurred by small businesses that are actively working to start or expand export activities.  The grant could be used to support a wide variety of activities, including participation in a foreign trade mission, translation of a website, or training workshops. 

The Small Business Export Opportunity Act of 2009, also:

  • Improves the SBA’s Export Working Capital Program by increasing the maximum loan amount from $1.66 million to $5 million, while maintaining the 90 percent government guarantee level.
  • Establishes a permanent Export Express program, which provides streamlined processing, allows lenders to use their own credit decisions and documentation, and provides expedited eligibility review.
  • Promotes the use of the International Trade Loan program by firms adversely affected by international trade, and increases the maximum loan amount from $1.66 million to $5 million with a 90 percent government guarantee.
  • Requires the SBA to partner with the Export-Import Bank to extend delegated authority to more lenders and expand the availability of small business export credit.
  • Increases the number of counselors nationwide through the SBA and its resource partners, trained to provide support for small businesses that currently have an export business, or are working to expand their business into international markets.