The U.S. Small Business Administration recently awarded World Trade Center Utah with a $1,050,000 State Trade Expansion Program grant, up from $641,000 in 2020.
“We assess businesses for their suitability and help them find ripe international markets to grow into.”The grant is meant to help Utah businesses – who may apply for the grant here – expand into global markets with their products and services, said Shawn Christensen, director of business outreach at World Trade Center Utah.
Christensen said that many businesses that have received STEP funds in the past weren’t thinking about going global before they applied for the grant. But, as World Trade Center Utah’s Chief Revenue Officer Aaron Starks told St. George News, the nonprofit organization helps businesses identify and vet potential markets, and then use the funds to reach them.
“These funds can be used for many things,” Starks said. “The funds cover marketing research, trade show attendance and sales booths, or building a localized website in a new market, among many other things.”
To be sure, these are cost-reimbursement grants, according to World Trade Center Utah’s website. Recipients may receive up to $15,000 (the average award is about $3,000) for various eligible international business activities for the award year. Awards require a 25% cash match by the grant recipient. Starks said that World Trade Center Utah has helped local businesses like Staheli West, Steribin Disinfection Systems, all STEP grant recipients located in St. George.
Over the past three years, the Small Business Administration has increased Utah’s STEP grant from $300,000 to $1,050,000, the largest increase among any state in the country, according to a press release. This is due to “Utah’s nation-leading trade promotion program, and the success of Utah businesses that are utilizing the STEP Grant to increase their international sales and opportunities.”
World Trade Center Utah administers the grant in partnership with the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity to provide small businesses with financial support and business services to help them compete and win in global markets.
Utah’s export growth rate has been the highest in the nation for the past two years. According to the press release, 85% of Utah’s exporters are small businesses, and international sales add $5 billion across the state in additional revenue for these small business exporters.