Contact: Lauren Huffman, DCEO


Announcement comes during May’s World Trade Month and with State Offering $900,000 in Program Funds to Help Companies Interested in Starting or Expanding Foreign Sales
​SPRINGFIELD – Just in time for May's World Trade Month, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) today announced the 2021 summer trade mission schedule to assist companies in starting or expanding their international sales pipeline. Following the onset of COVID-19 last year, the State of Illinois will host five upcoming virtual trade events allowing businesses to participate remotely alongside international partners spanning three continents. 

Trade events are designed to help Illinois companies increase international sales through a variety of resources offered by the Department's Office of Trade and Investment (OTI). These resources include Illinois State Trade and Export Promotion (ISTEP) program funding, awarded by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and making $900,000 available for Illinois businesses seeking to attend trade shows to boost their international sales and market share this year.

"Illinois continues to be a leader in global exports, thanks to the diversity of our economy, our talented workforce, and the ingenuity and innovation of businesses that call our state home," said Governor JB Pritzker. "Despite the pandemic, our resilient companies from every corner of the state pivoted operations and continued to expand exports. During World Trade Month and beyond, Illinois is poised to drive continued growth that will allow more local companies a chance to increase their market share, add jobs, and ensure exports play a role in rebuilding our Illinois economy." 

Upcoming virtual trade events are planned by the Illinois Office of Trade and Investment and will take place on the following dates. To register, please visit

• Middle East and North Africa Multisector Trade Mission | June 7 – 10, 2021 
• China Aid Trade Show | Shanghai, China | June 7 – 10, 2021 
• Mobile World Congress Trade Show |Barcelona, Spain | June 28 – July 1, 2021 
• India Multisector Trade Mission | July 27 – 28, 2021 
 West Africa Multisector Trade Mission | August 2021

"At a time when COVID-19 has affected revenues for so many businesses, expanding sales from exports represents a key opportunity for Illinois businesses to build back better and increase visibility on an international stage – all while stimulating jobs and economic activity right here at home," said Sylvia Garcia, Acting Director of DCEO.  "Under the leadership of Governor Pritzker, DCEO is happy to announce new international trade missions this year and to providing more Illinois businesses an opportunity to increase their foreign presence through programs like ISTEP."

Illinois companies are encouraged to apply for ISTEP dollars that can help offset the costs of participating in an upcoming international trade exhibit hosted by the State and its international partners. ISTEP supports small companies by providing resources for market intelligence, access to foreign markets through trade missions, trade show participation, product compliance, website localization and e-commerce, export training, and more.  Additional missions are being planned for the Fall 2021.
"The SBA's STEP program has been a critical resource for Illinois companies, and helps to remove barriers to market entry," said SBA Illinois District Director Robert Steiner. "Working closely with the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunities' Office of Trade and Investment, SBA is delivering tools that will help more of our state's small businesses build relationships, diversify customer base, and increase their service offerings and sales abroad."
Applications for the competitive ISTEP program are accepted throughout the year and considered on a rolling basis. To submit an application or to learn more about export assistance available through the Office of Trade and Investment and through any one of the 10 statewide SBDC International Trade Centers.

"We are grateful for the tailored support and resources that we received from by DCEO's Office of Trade and Investment," said Femi Morgan, President and CEO of South Holland, IL based Green Innovation and Technology Company (GITEK Inc.), which provides affordable food processing technology and renewable energy solutions to reduce dependence on fossil fuel for food and agricultural processing. "Thanks to OTI's expertise, knowledge of the marketplace and match-making services, we have expanded our export market in Africa to include a presence in Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Tanzania, and Ethiopia, and look forward to continued growth in the years ahead." 

Since 2019, the State and its Office of Trade and Investment have deployed over $1.6 million in funding to Illinois exporters, with ISTEP financial assistance reaching 200 small businesses annually. This support helps businesses increase sales, create new jobs while boosting Illinois' international profile.
"Through one-on-one guidance and support from the DCEO Office of Trade and Investment, we have participated in numerous international trade shows over the last five years, which have led to an increase of several millions in sales that would not have been otherwise possible," said Brandon Sachtleben, Contract Administrator of Red Bud Industries, Red Bud Illinois, a leader in manufacturing of coil processing equipment for over 60 years.  "And, to further expand in new markets, we are currently working with OTI on customized website localizations to offer platforms in native languages and layouts for territories we had previously targeted.  With OTI as a trusted partner, we look forward to continued success for decades to come." 
Illinois is a leading global gateway, with its convenient geographic location and proximity to airports, railways and shipping ports helping companies move their products to over 200 countries around the world. According to rankings by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Illinois is now number four in the nation for exports. With exports valued at more than $58 billion in 2020, Illinois has moved up from its number five spot, replacing Washington as the fourth largest exporter in the country, and maintaining its spot as the largest exporter in the Midwest.

The Illinois Office of Trade and Investment (OTI), housed within DCEO, has a strong global network including posts in six key strategic locations around the globe to provide Illinois companies an advantage toward international success.  OTI plays a central role in boosting the state's growth in exports, with over $3 billion in sales reported as a result of the ISTEP program.   For more information about trade missions and other resources available through the State of Illinois' Office of Trade and Investment, please visit