U.S. Small Business Administration Awards Colorado $700,000 STEP Grant to Spur Small Business Exports

DENVER -- The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has awarded the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) a $700,000 State Trade and Expansion Program (STEP) grant to promote international exports for small businesses. 

The State of Colorado has steadily increased its STEP funding since its inception. In 2015, Colorado received $195,938 and in 2019, it received $480,000. The $700,000 this year represents a nearly 46% increase in funding.

STEP funding is open to Colorado small business exporters to conduct international sales trips, attend trade shows and develop websites or international marketing campaigns. Nationwide, the SBA provided these awards to a majority of U.S. states to support activities that increase exporting by small businesses. STEP is celebrating its tenth anniversary in 2020.

“We are thrilled to receive an increased SBA award to help Colorado businesses access new markets,” said Betsy Markey, executive director of OEDIT. “Support for our small businesses is needed now more than ever and these funds provide an invaluable tool to help more Colorado businesses expand their exporting activity.”

STEP has assisted hundreds of Colorado companies to expand their international reach. Wilmarc, a medical device company located in Fort Collins, has been participating in the STEP program since 2018 with its attendance at the Medica trade show. As one of the few manufacturers of PVC free medical device components, Wilmarc has been able to grow their export market exponentially through their STEP participation. Another participant, Steelhead Composites, a composite pressure vessel manufacturer, attended Hannover Messe in 2019 with the State of Colorado and was able to secure immediate sales of $10,000. Being able to attend Hannover Messe year after year has allowed them to gain market credibility and increase sales in Europe.

Through the STEP grant, OEDIT and the Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) will also participate in ten trade shows that connect Colorado small businesses to international buyers.

The key industry programs include:

  • Medica in Düsseldorf, Germany from Nov 16 to 19, 2020 
  • ANTAD in Guadalajara, Mexico in March 2021
  • JEC World in Paris, France from March 2021
  • International Food Expo (IFE) in London, England in March 2021
  • SIAL Canada in Montreal, Canada in April 2021
  • Hannover Messe in Hannover, Germany in April 2021
  • TuttoFoods in Milan, Italy in May 2021
  • Food Taipei in Taipei, Taiwan in June 2021
  • AFB Trade Show in fall 2020
  • Green Expo in September 2020

Last year, Colorado’s STEP award helped more than 50 small businesses across Colorado participate in trade shows in Mexico City, Mexico; and Dusseldorf, Germany.

About the State Trade Expansion Program

The State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) is a financial assistance program for aspiring and current Colorado exporters entering into a new global market. Funded in part by a grant with the U.S. Small Business Administration, STEP provides grant awards to small businesses to offset international business development and marketing costs. Eligibility and application guidelines can be found here.

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