SALT LAKE CITY - The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced that World Trade Center Utah (WTC Utah) will receive a State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) Grant of $641,000 on behalf of the state, a record-high STEP Grant in Utah, to accelerate the growth of international sales for Utah small businesses.
Thanks to the success of Utah businesses, the SBA has increased Utah's STEP Grant from $300,000 to $641,000 over the past two years, the largest increase among any state in the country in this highly competitive process. WTC Utah will administer the grant by providing financial support and business services to small Utah businesses to help them compete and win in global markets. STEP is funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Marla Trollan, District Director of SBA's Utah operations, is excited to hear about the increased STEP Grant funding for WTC Utah for this upcoming year. "This is the second year in a row that the SBA has dramatically increased its support for Utah businesses. The 114% increase in funding for Utah over the last two years validates the incredible work WTC Utah and our Utah businesses are doing to leverage STEP Grants to accelerate Utah's international growth. Our office is proud to work closely with WTC Utah on this grant program and other innovative international trade programs that we are developing through a formal cooperative agreement between our two organizations, including an international pipeline process and intermediate grant program."
Utah's export growth rate has been the highest in the nation for the past two years. Eighty-five percent of Utah's exporters are small businesses, and international sales add $5 billion across the state in additional revenue for these small business exporters. STEP Grant funding ensures that these small businesses have the tools necessary to expand and market their products and services around the world.
"Not only is the FY 20 STEP Grant award amount the highest Utah has received from the SBA's program in its ten-year history, but it is also $141,000 higher than our FY 19 award and more than double our FY 18 award," said Nicole Sherwood, who leads WTC Utah's STEP as the Director of Grants and Operations and STEP Project Director. "No other state in the country has seen its STEP Grant increase this dramatically over the past two years. This increase is a direct result of the incredible work Utah companies are doing to pursue international opportunities. The SBA is aware of Utah's impact on a global scale and the innovative work that is happening here, and this year's increase in funding speaks to that."
Small businesses can apply to receive STEP Grant support to offset a wide range of costs associated with pursuing international sales, including designing of international marketing media, services provided by the U.S. Department of Commerce, website optimization/localization/translation, travel costs for foreign market sales trips, and participating in foreign trade missions, trade show exhibitions and export training programs.
Although the pandemic has decreased international business travel, WTC Utah is experiencing an increase in demand for STEP Grants as Utah companies seek to use the relative economic strength we enjoy in Utah to take advantage of the historic disruption in global markets. Over the last few months, award recipients are using STEP Grants to translate materials, enhance their e-commerce platforms, implement global marketing strategies and to cover travel costs to countries around the world that are open to international travel.
UltrAspire, a St. George-based running accessory company, recently utilized STEP Grant funding to produce a video highlighting their Momentum 2.0 race vest official launch. "Our international distribution is a huge part of our business and every market is different. The STEP Grant enabled us, especially in these times, to create a powerful asset to help launch a new iteration of one of our best sellers," shared Joe Petty, Marketing Director for UltrAspire. "We created it with no dialogue in order to be used in any international market. Thus far during the prelaunch phase, it has been a huge factor in spreading awareness and pre-order conversions worldwide."
"We're glad so many Utah businesses have taken advantage of this grant, and we would like to thank the Small Business Administration for funding the program and World Trade Center Utah for administering the funds," said Val Hale, executive director of the Utah Governor's Office of Economic Development. "It's great to see so many Utah companies expanding and doing business globally."
Since 2010, STEP has awarded approximately $3.4 million in grants to fund export opportunities and increase the footprint of small businesses in countries all over the world. Exporting is an important tool for U.S. small businesses to grow revenue and boost local economies. STEP is designed to assist states with increasing the number of small businesses that export and the value of those exports.
"Over two-thirds of the world's purchasing power resides outside the United States. That makes exporting a critical economic driver for Utah small businesses that are ready to expand their reach into new and increasingly borderless global markets," said SBA Regional Administrator Dan Nordberg. "These STEP awards, in addition to SBA's export loans and U.S. Export Assistance Centers, make sure that small businesses in Utah have the tools, resources and relationships they need to take their businesses global."
"In conjunction with WTC Utah's award, we are also excited to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the STEP Grant program and the support it has provided here in Utah," said Trollan. "In the last decade, through WTC Utah and the Governor's Office of Economic Development, SBA has provided just over $4 million of funding for small businesses looking to establish or expand into global markets."