BUSINESS & ECONOMY

SBA Regional Administrator: STEP Program Assists Small Businesses in Exporting

Two years ago a Freehold solar heating company got a $6,200 government grant to attend trade missions in Bogotá, Colombia and two Western African countries. They got business from Burkina Faso and Zambia and landed a contract to send 50,000 solar streetlights to Jamaica. Helping small business go global is the goal of the Small Business Administration‘s State Trade and Export Promotion or STEP program. And now New Jersey stands to get almost half a million dollars more in STEP awards. The SBA’s Regional Administrator is Kellie LeDet. She told NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams that the STEP program was established to assist small businesses.

“So STEP, as you said is the State Trade Export Promotions program. This was established in 2010 by the Obama Administration and primarily to assist small businesses that already are exporting to grow their dollar value and those that are looking to export or to begin exporting,” LeDet said.

On the $6,200 grant that was given to 21st Century Group, LeDet said that the grant was small but it produced 50,000 lights in Jamaica and that it was all possible with the grant by STEP.

When asked about the return on investment on the small amounts that are granted, LeDet said, that businesses such as 21st Century Group are able to go to trade missions.

“They are able to take their websites and have translations. They’re able to have subscription services from the Department of Commerce. There’s a number of initiatives that they benefit from, from small grants such as these,” LeDet said.

Another grant — consisting of $17.5 million — is going to be available for small businesses across the country, as announced by the SBA. According to LeDet, New Jersey will be getting a share of the grant. New Jersey will receive about $498,000, an increase of 81 percent from the previous year. LeDet said that the grant shows the administration’s commitment to small businesses and the confidence that is invested in the New Jersey Business Actions Center.

When asked about which businesses will receive some of the grant money, LeDet said, “They have to apply through the New Jersey Business Action Center and then there’s a three phase application process that they have to go through. So it’s the SBA, the Office of International Trade and the state of New Jersey Business Action Center.”

On what barriers for exporting small businesses face compared to large corporations, LeDet said it all goes back to the core of the SBA and what they call the three C’s — counseling, contract and capitol access. LeDet said that businesses have to know how to export and they have to be a part of the SBA family, using the SBA’s resource partners and learn the counseling aspect.

“So that if there are barriers that they’re able to overcome them. It’s about educating the exporter,” LeDet said.

According to LeDet, New Jersey exports were approximately about $36 billion last year and that there are 20,000 exporters in the state. She also said that 19,000 of those exporters are small and medium size business.