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Updated: September 16, 2019

MITC lands $344K for international trade expansion

trade graphic Courtesy / Maine International Trade Center State Trade Expansion Program grants from the U.S. Small Business Administration provide funding to increase the number of businesses that export, and are administered in the state by Maine International Trade Center.

The U.S. Small Business Administration announced that $344,500 has been awarded to Maine International Trade Center to support export growth among the state's small businesses.

The money comes through SBA’s competitive State Trade Expansion Program.

“Small businesses must continually seek new markets and new customers in order to grow and thrive,” Amy Bassett, SBA’s district director for Maine, said in a news release. “Maine small businesses like Blue Barn recognize that diversifying sales through exporting provides significant opportunity to expand and the STEP grant can help make that happen.” 

In the past year, Blue Barn LLC, Scarborough-based maker of  the Bluet brand of blueberry wines, was among Maine companies that used STEP funds to expand internationally, showcasing its wines at the 2019 Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. RainWise Inc., a Trenton maker of weather forecasting equipment, used STEP funds to attend a trade show in Switzerland. Others revamped marketing campaigns and visited customers in foreign markets.

This is the seventh straight year MITC has received a STEP grant. In 2018, the center was awarded $345,000 in STEP funding, up from $195,000 in 2017.

“The STEP program has helped hundreds of small businesses in Maine become better, stronger, and smarter exporters, in addition to providing financial support to directly explore global markets,” Maine International Trade Center President Wade Merritt said in the release.

According to the most recent fiscal year (2017-18) with complete numbers available, over 50 Maine companies received STEP Financial Assistance Awards, resulting in $12.8 million in actual sales with an additional $17.2 million then project for the following 12 to 18 months.  

The 2019 STEP awards will help Maine assist their small businesses with the information and tools they need to succeed in export-related activities. Exporting activities include: participating in foreign trade missions and foreign market sales trips, obtaining services provided by the U.S. Department of Commerce, accessing expertise in designing international marketing campaigns and export trade show exhibits, and participating in training workshops, as well as other important means of engagement.

Expanding the base of small business exporters and improving the process to explore new trade opportunities is a key component of SBA’s small business strategy. Since 2011, the STEP program has awarded $157 million in grants to fund export opportunities and increase the footprint of small businesses in countries all over the world. 

Individual STEP awards are managed at the local level by state government organizations.

Maine businesses interested in learning more about how to access funds to expand export sales will find information on STEP Financial Assistance Awards, including guidelines and the online application link, by clicking on the MITC website here.

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