Second Year of STEP Funding Approved for Illinois Exporters

By Jim Ryan, International Trade Specialist
Illinois SBDC International Trade Center, Bradley University

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s Office of Trade and Investment (OTI) has, in a competitive bidding process, secured State Trade and Export Promotion Program (STEP) funding for the second year. Assistance is being disbursed beginning in November of this year.  STEP is a three-year pilot program authorized by the federal Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 to provide support for export promotion for small and medium-sized businesses.

STEP funding reimburses an Illinois exporter’s approved, overseas travel expenses up to $7,500 (approximately 50 to 75 percent) incurred. The travel expenses cover STEP activities such as participating in STEP designated trade missions, trade shows or overseas match-making and distributor searches. An important addition to this year’s STEP grant is financial assistance to Illinois’ small and medium-sized businesses for complying with foreign laws and regulations related to exporting, such as Europe’s CE mark or ISO registration.  Guidance on the type of standards that will be covered can be found at www.export.gov.

The Illinois SBDC International Trade Center at Bradley University (ITC) has been allocated two referrals to OTI for approval for reimbursing fifty percent of costs related to securing compliance for their products or services, not to exceed $5,000.  The ITC will be making these referrals on a first come, first served basis.

Another significant change to this year’s grant is that the number of STEP designated trade missions has been increased to twenty.  Terry LaRocca, OTI Senior Trade Specialist, stated, “We are really encouraging Central Illinois companies to take a close look at an Illinois trade mission, as almost all expenses related to participating in a targeted, major trade show are covered, as well as unparalleled state and federal support in the form of research, briefings and matchmaking.”

The ITC is currently recruiting for trade missions in February.  Small businesses that would like more information, or would like to apply for STEP grant funding may contact Jim Ryan at (309) 677-3075 or send an email.

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STEP Missions for 2013