Ninety-six percent of the world’s consumers live outside of the United States and represent two-thirds of the world’s purchasing power. U.S. companies that export enjoy business success with increased sales and profit potential. Exporting also helps businesses weather downturns in the domestic economy by being prepared to respond to foreign competition and global market trends.
Exports have been a key driver in our economic comeback. Exports support 11.3 million American jobs, and contributed one-third of our annual growth between 2009 and 2013. In other words, with exports come opportunity, and we want small businesses to partner with the SBA to earn their fair share of the global marketplace.
SBA’s State Trade and Export Promotion program is one way small businesses can reach global markets. The purpose of the STEP program is for states to assist small businesses with export-related activities or other export initiatives that are in line with the objectives of the program. These objectives include participation in foreign trade missions, foreign market sales trips, subscription 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.
The SBA manages STEP nationally; however, activities are managed and provided at the local level by state government organizations.
Recently, SBA announced the FY 2015 STEP Awards, providing $17.4 million to promote small-business exporting. STEP will unlock capital for small businesses to help them enter and compete in the global marketplace.
In 2014, U.S. businesses exported $2.35 trillion of goods and services, hitting a record high for the fifth straight year. In that same year, U.S. exports increased 2.7 percent to a record $1.64 trillion. Exporting provides tremendous opportunities for America’s small businesses that are looking to expand and grow. Recipients in the first two rounds of STEP awards, in FY 2011 and FY 2012, reported a strong return on investment of over 19:1.
In 2013, Delaware’s ANP Technologies visited Israel as part of the STEP-funded Delaware State Delegation. On that trip, ANP met with a large number of potential partners, among them, the Israeli company Merkot. ANP credits that STEP-funded opportunity with its ensuing partnership with Merkot and, together, their being awarded a Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation grant to develop an automated monitoring system to detect pesticides in water. For ANP, it is clear that its participation in SBA’s STEP program allowed it to establish international commercial ties for its small business.
For additional information on the STEP program and the FY 2015 awardees, visit www.sba.gov/offices/headquarters/oit/resources/14315. To learn more about how you can export with the SBA, visit www.sba.gov/exporting.
Editor’s note: Natalia Olson-Urtecho is a Small Business Administration regional administrator for Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia and Washington, D.C.