Export Assistance to Help You Begin or Expand Your Export Business

The Office of Trade & Investment’s Chicago office is staffed by experienced trade specialists who work with the foreign office staff to help Illinois companies begin and expand their export business. They’ll work with you and provide:

  • Individualized counseling and assessment sessions to determine a company’s exporting capabilities and interests.
  • Trade reference materials, international trade leads and international certification opportunities.
  • Market research, analysis and options for the company to determine the best geographic market for its products.
  • Customized lists of buyers, agents, distributors and other potential industry partners overseas.
  • Financial, legal, logistical, and other industry experts as requested.

If you are new to exporting or looking to expand to new markets, the state’s Office of Trade & Investment and the local network of the SBDC’s International Trade Centers can provide you with assistance.

 

​​ISTEP Program​​Local Resources

 

 

To learn about federal resources available to help you export, see below.

 

​Federal Partners​Federal Resources​Export Financing​Manufacturing Consulting​Business Consulting
 

Company Feedback and Success Stories

RoboThink. Located in Lake Bluff. Overall exports because of export promotion assistance totaled around $1 million in 2021.

"By working with the Office of Trade and Investment and the Illinois Small Business Development Center International Trade Center at College of Lake County, RoboThink has been able to utilize helpful tools, assistance and knowledge programs that have been tremendous added value for small businesses like RoboThink. We have increased visibility with potential international customers and we have been able to execute more international deals. This program helped us determine strong target markets for our product and help facilitate business meetings in these international markets. With the help of the OTI, RoboThink is now present in 20+ countries around the world, strengthened relationships with existing customers, opened many doors for new customers and facilitated many new business opportunities in our education target market.

Since working with the OTI since 2018, RoboThink has increased export shipments by over 50% year over year, even during the COVID pandemic.
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Eden Park Illumination. Located in Champaign. Exports to South Korea as a result of OTI export promotion assistance totaled $1.1 million in 2021.
 
Eden Park Illumination manufactures lamps that are used as a disinfection tool to address COVID. They participated in the 2019 trade mission to South Korea organized by OTI. “As a result of the trade mission, leads have resulted in exporting a meaningful number of lamps, which achieved sales last year of more than $1M to South Korea in 2021”, said Sung Jin Park, CTO of Eden Park. Without the support of the mission, achieving these sales would have been much more difficult. Thanks to the progress of the business in the region, our company can expand, including hiring new employees.
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Ringspann

“Ringspann Corp. is manufacturer of power transmission components in Franklin Park. “We are undergoing a pretty significant expansion/investment project and part of the reason we have been able to get to this point is because of the help of you and your team with the State of Illinois,” said Dave Ward, President of Ringspann.  “While there are certainly other factors involved, by participating in various missions with your assistance (PackExpo Mexico, ExpoMIN Chile, and at least one year of ISTEP travel assistance funding), we have been able to realize significant enough growth in sales to warrant a multimillion-dollar investment in: expanding our facility in Illinois, new equipment, additional R&D, a new warehouse in South America, and seven new full-time hires”.
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Automated Design Corporation

Automated Design Corporation located in Romeoville, designs custom automation for the packaging, sports, and component assembly industries. “By working with the Office of Trade and Investment, ADC has been able to increase visibility with our international customers, and we have been more savvy in international dealings. The program helped us determine strong target markets for our product and helped facilitate business meetings in these international markets. Since working with the OTI, ADC has increased export shipments by over 50 %”, said Lisa and Tom Bitsky, owners of Automated Design Corporation co-owners.
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Cast 21

Cast21, in Chicago, creates waterproof alternatives to casts and braces for broken bones. Instead of wrapping messy plaster or fiberglass, Cast 21 is an open lattice net that is fillable with resin, avoiding mess and wait times. “The OTI team is knowledgeable and helpful. They are always accessible and help us close new opportunities to grow our business. They act as a seamless extension of our business, and we're grateful to work with them.” said Ashley Moy, CEO of Cast 21. “Overall exports, as a result export promotion and assistance, have continued to grow since 2021”.
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New Medical Technology

Newmedical Technology Inc., located in Northbrook, is a medical products company focused on development, manufacture and distribution of patented therapies for advanced wound care, scar management, skin care and surgical solutions. “We are grateful for the assistance of the Office of Trade and Investment in helping us expand our export business. Our participation in their programs helps facilitate business introductions and meetings in our key target markets”, said Mike Hanna, CEO of Newmedical Technology, Inc. increased overall exports by 59% in 2021.”
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"Ringspann Corp. is undergoing a significant expansion/investment project which will grow our exports by over $2 million annually, and have plans to hire 6 additional employees this year due in part to the help we received from the OTI team at the State of Illinois."  

Ringspann Corp. – Franklin Park
Participant – ExpoMin 2020
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"The program exceeded our expectations. The WHOLE OTI team was professional and diligent in qualifying our needs. The team's thoughtfulness and preparation showed us the quality of candidates were high. We would absolutely participate again."  

Probat Inc. – Lincolnshire
Participant – American Products Festival Virtual Trade Mission 2021
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"With the assistance…of the OTI team, Global CPR Technologies, Inc has secured a three-year agreement with a company in Nigeria. All objectives were met and exceeded my expectations…Relationships have been fostered and networks expanded as a result of participating in trade missions with the Illinois Department of Commerce"

Global CPR Technologies – Frankfort
Participant – Africa Virtual Trade Mission 2021
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The virtual trade mission was well organized. All appointments reached top level decision makers. Objectives were met. The number and quality of leads also met expectations. Would definitely participate again.

Engis Corporation, - Wheeling, Il
Participant – India Virtual Trade Mission 2021
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We have participated in the Illinois STEP program since 2012 and always felt that Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity's (DCEO) Office of Trade and Investment (OTI) has helped us opening doors overseas. We have enjoyed the support for individual trade missions to Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Austria, Denmark, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Brazil and also participated in Group Trade Missions to Turkey and Germany. Moreover, we have been receiving assistance from local State of Illinois representations in Belgium, Germany and Brazil. We find that the support and quality program of STEP program has been very beneficial to us when increasing our international business activities.

Fredonia Inc. – Wheaton
Participant – World Cargo Alliance Conference
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We came to learn about the ISTEP program while taking part in another State of Illinois (DOC) Trade Mission in Mexico.  During that show in Mexico, the entire Illinois team was engaged is helping ensure that the participating manufacturers had all the support we needed to grow our export sales.  During the various conversations with Illinois personnel, we were introduced to the ISTEP program.  While the additional travel funds from ISTEP were certainly a big help to ensure we could take one last trip to South America for the year, there was help and support well beyond the funding.  Our Illinois and ISTEP program contacts walked us through the application process and some of the restrictions and offered translation services and actual introductions to potential distributors/users in our target countries.  We were particularly interested in option's to deal with Accounts Receivable from new partners overseas through the EXIM Bank, and were introduced to the appropriate representative with EXIM by Illinois/ISTEP.  We also used the various on-line resources available to conduct some research and make sure our understanding of shipping/exporting were up to date.  Once our funding was approved, the trip was made and it was a huge success.  The timing was right and we were able to capitalize on some newly found momentum with one of our key target distributors.  Several meetings and joint sales calls to end users were made and upon returning, we have now received orders in excess of $175,000 from this target distributor!  The help from the Illinois/ISTEP program, and especially all the help and support from their team members made a huge difference for us.  We are very grateful for the support and look forward to continuing to grow our export sales with the ultimate goal of exports being a much larger part of our business.

Ringspann Corporation – Franklin Park
Participant – Expo Pack 2018
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Frasca International has participated in the ISTEP program for several years and has benefited from international trade show assistance. We attend over 20 trade shows each year, many of them to foreign countries as our customer base is truly global. In our industry, the sales cycles can take several years. It’s important to have a continued presence in foreign markets in order to develop relationships, trust and ultimately sell our simulation products. We have also been able to meet with existing customers and cultivate adiditonal sales to them. The ISTEP program has helped offset the costs to attend these events and ultimately increase our international sales.

Frasca International – Champaign 
Participant - European Airline Training Symposium 2018 (EATS)
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"We are very honored to partner with OTI for the chance to expand business overseas. Things like this help to grow local business and expand reach to other areas of the world. --- Overall the show as a great turnout. We meet a lot of potential clients and were able to get our name out in an area that we have been looking to grow. We look forward to being present at the next show. ---- Partnering with OTI is a success in the fact that groups like this help to bring business and potential clients forward for manufacturing industries."

Excel Foundry and Machine – Pekin, IL
Participant – Electra Mining Africa 2018
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“Zhigang Ren and Atul Nair were instrumental in providing all the necessary steps to allow me and my company to participate in this trade mission.  Mr. Ren visited my company and interviewed me for the program.  He determined this trade mission would be a good fit to expand our exporting efforts into Hong Kong and China.  Through Mary Ma's (SBDC) efforts, she connected me with Kitty Leung (Managing Director, Far East Office, State of Illinois) and helped to set up a meeting with Kitty while I was in Hong Kong.  Kitty encouraged me to travel again to Hong Kong soon so she could set up further match making meetings with IL companies that do regular business in Hong Kong and China.  This is my second Trade Mission in China in 3 years and I feel OTI has always provided incredible opportunities in exports that would otherwise never have come to fruition without these valuable trade missions.”

Basic Crating & Packaging Inc. – Elk Grove Village, IL

Participant - Asian Logistics & Maritime Conference 2015
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“We were originally contacted by the DCEO-OTI during a national exhibition in Chicago where they informed us on the DCEO-OTI export programs. Without their initial outreach we would have most likely delayed our export efforts.  By participating in the Parts2 Clean Show in Stuttgart, Germany we were able to meet with a number of potential distributors and customers for the European automotive sector. Based on customer and distributor feedback we determined that our products have good market potential in Europe and we obtained 2 new distribution partners.”

Bertsche Engineering Corporation – Buffalo Grove, IL
Participant – Parts 2 Clean 2015
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“The biggest assistance was enabling us to attend this critical show. To establish new business leads and channels, it's all about making personal contact and spending time with the potential partners. One hour face to face is easily worth 6 months of calls and emails. Without this assistance to attend, it would have been financially prohibitive to attend this show.”

Dental USA – McHenry, IL
Participant – International Dental Show 2015
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“Illinois team is great, meticulous and very determined to help everyone of the delegates.  Iwona & Sioban are wonderful, knowledgeable and thorough.  I am grateful to these tow ladies who worked so hard every day was a long day with results.  These programs are the future.  We create future livelihood, prosperity, and sustenance because world us the market place.   These trade missions give us eye opening knowledge to plan our marketing efforts to service and prosper.  We are stronger and tougher as we gather international knowledge.”

American Plastics Technologies – Mattoon, IL
Participant – Medica 2015
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“This program has certainly helped Cobra Systems debut our product line in the European market.  It would have been cost-prohibitive to exhibit at the Farnborough Air Show on our own, and we are extremely appreciative of all the assistance in attending the show.  We look forward to the Paris Air & Water show next year and maintaining our global reputation as a leading test equipment manufacturer.  We are very thankful for all of the transportation and opportunities arranged by the wonderful managing directors.  We appreciate the expertise, professionalism, and organizational abilities of this department's great program.”

Cobra Systems – Arlington Heights, IL
Participant – Farnborough Air Show 2014
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“DCEO-OTI & its foreign office went above and beyond to ensure a successful show.  You name it the whole team was on it.  From getting samples to Canada, to having our booth ready, transportation, the list goes on.  Speaking with other long term attendees, the feeling was wow they really work their butts off to insure a great successful business building program. Product was very well received.  We expect to close on representation very soon in the Canadian market.”

Empanadas Patagonia – Oak Brook, IL
Participant – Restaurants Canada Show 2015
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“The team was extremely helpful in all aspects of preparing and attending the show.  Having a stand at the show was very effective way for us to meet potential customers, and also a good way for existing customers to see that we are working to expand our international customer base. We have made several strong contacts with companies that we would otherwise not have been aware of or thought to market to.  These connections will likely lead to additional new business in both the U.S. and European markets. “

Ingenium Technologies Corporation – Rockford, IL
Participant - Farnborough Air Show 2014
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“We would not have come to MWC if Sharon had not reached out and suggested it.  Once we agreed to participate, everything was taken care of for us:  the booth, the hotel, badges, travel instructions, Wi-Fi, etc.  As a result of being here, we have improved our potential for export enormously.  Next we would like help with our plan to expand into Europe. As a result of attending MWC'15 we are much better placed to fulfill our global ambitions.  We have learned more about the market and its potential, and we have made a lot of relationships, in terms of partners and prospects.  We expect to achieve significant growth in overseas markets as a result of our participation in the world's largest meet-up and exhibition in our industry.”

Lextech Global Services Corporation – Lisle, IL
Participant – Mobile World Congress 2015
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“The DCEO-OTI was very helpful.  We would have never been able to come to China without the trade mission.  Respa has wanted to export for a decade and did not know how to but thanks to the trade mission we have located partners and will hopefully begin exporting for the first time in the company’s’ 25 year history.  Mr. Ren has been very helpful and the best part of the trip.  Mr. Zhao and Ms. Xu were also very helpful in arranging our meetings and I think all three went above and beyond the required duty to assist.  I would highly recommend all three for an award. We were able to locate multiple leads for distributing our products in China.  The trade mission arranged multiple meetings with companies with helped greatly.  We would highly recommend all IL businesses to consider an IL trade mission.”

Respa Pharmaceuticals Inc. – Addison, IL
Participant – China Nutrition and Health Expo 2015
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“Thank you for this program! With support in the booth and presence at the conference, Advanced Diamond Technologies (ADT) was able to build new relations and make new business contacts with several international clients. All of this business will result in higher investment for ADT in U.S. manufacturing and employment in Illinois. With the State of Illinois’ support and presence at Nanotech 2013, ADT is a more well-recognized international business. Our business outlook has been strengthened with growth potential in international markets and this program has enabled our participation. Thank you for supporting our business…”
 
-- Advanced Diamond Technologies - Romeoville, IL
 Participant - Nano Tech Japan 2013 Group Trade Mission