The State Trade and Export Promotion Program (STEP) is a 3-year pilot trade and export initiative authorized by the federal Small Business Jobs Act of 2010. Under the Act the SBA provides competitive grant funding to states to support export promotion for small and medium sized businesses (SMEs).
DCEO’s Office of Trade and Investment (OTI) has won STEP grants in each of the first two years of the pilot program. Illinois' STEP funding provides assistance to Illinois SMEs in order to raise the dollar value of export sales from the state. Illinois' STEP program for year two (October 2012-September 2013) will continue to focus on providing SMEs with financial and technical assistance, including the opportunity to participate in group Trade Missions or Individual Foreign Market Sales Missions. In addition, assistance is also available for Illinois’ SMEs to achieve product compliance certifications.
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STEP assistance will be provided on a first come, first served basis for all qualifying companies.
Below you will find the STEP application. Please contact your nearest SBDC International Trade Center (ITC) or DCEO-OTI Trade Specialist for more information regarding the application process.
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DCEO-OTI Staff Contacts
3-STEP Options to Help Your Business Grow
Group Trade Missions
Group Trade Missions are available to a limited number of companies. Qualified businesses will receive:
- OTI financial assistance covering associated costs including: trade show booth fees, group ground transportation, matchmaking fees, interpreters, briefing materials, and assistance with travel logistics
- STEP financial assistance for 50-75% travel cost reimbursement, not to exceed $5,000 for travel per company
- Partial travel reimbursement for only two Illinois company representatives, which includes economy class air fare and standard hotel room not to exceed the applicable rate established by the general services administration for federal agencies
Individual Foreign Market Sales Missions
Businesses outside of the sectors represented in the scheduled STEP Group Trade Missions are encouraged to undertake an Individual Foreign Market Sales Mission. Qualified businesses will receive:
- STEP financial assistance for 50-75%, not to exceed $7,500 toward approved program and travel costs
- Program costs can include gold key services such as matchmaking and trade show participation
- Partial travel reimbursement for only one Illinois company representative, which includes economy class air fare and standard hotel room not to exceed the applicable rate established by the General Services Administration for federal agencies
Product Compliance Certification
STEP financial assistance is available to help Illinois’ small and medium-sized businesses obtain compliance certification services for their products. Financial assistance is available for measures taken to comply with foreign regulations including those for agricultural products, ISO registration, and packing and recycling laws. Qualified businesses will receive:
- STEP financial assistance for 50% of costs, not to exceed $5,000
- The International Trade Administration’s listing of certifications will be used as a guide. this list can be found on the export.gov website at http://export.gov/regulation/eg_main_018220.asp.
Is your business eligible?
Illinois businesses must meet the following criteria:
- In operation for at least one year with 500 employees or less
- Minimum of $250,000 in annual revenue for U.S. operations, or substantially contributes to Illinois job creation and/or retention efforts as determined by OTI
- Demonstrates an understanding of the costs associated with exporting
- Exports products and/or services that contain at least 51% USA and 25% Illinois content, or in the opinion of the OTI, the products and or services to be promoted substantially contribute to Illinois job creation/retention efforts
- OTI has determined the company has a sound strategy for exporting and is export ready