By: Micki Vandeloo, President, Lakeview Consulting
Is your manufacturing company diversifying markets by promoting your products overseas? If so, your state may be happy to support you in this endeavor!
Trade Show Grants: An Introduction
The State Trade Expansion Program, or STEP, is a federal program funded by the Small Business Administration (SBA). State entities apply for this funding to help companies in their state “…carry out projects that support and develop exports by eligible small business concerns (ESBCs)…. “Per the funding language, the objective of STEP is to increase the number of U.S. small businesses that export, the dollar value of exports, and the number of U.S. small businesses exploring significant new trade opportunities.
The grant amount and eligible activities covered by a state’s STEP program vary from state to state. Usually, the eligible activities include the following:
- Travel to an international trade show,
- Ship samples to an international trade show,
- Attend state sponsored trade missions,
- Obtain certifications to produce product that will be shipped overseas,
- Participation in the SBA’s Gold Key program, which matches US manufacturers with buyers for their products overseas,
- Translation of websites and marketing materials into the language of markets you may be targeting, and/or
- Cost of booth rental for an overseas trade show.
In some states, there is a funding cap for each activity. In others, there may just be an overall funding cap for a proposal that includes eligible costs. For example, in Colorado, companies can apply for a maximum of $10,000 in a year. In Massachusetts, however, there is a funding cap of $2,000 for shipping expenses; a $3,000 cap for product compliance testing; a $3,000 cap for design of export-specific marketing materials; and a $3,000 cap for website localization for target export markets, which includes website translation and search engine optimization in the local market. Massachusetts companies that apply are subject to a total funding cap of $12,000 per year.
States also vary by cost share match for these grants. States typically provides grants for 50% to 90% of the eligible costs (10-50% company cost share).
It is important to remember that, in most cases, companies can apply on an annual basis for these grants. So, a Colorado company can apply for a $10,000 grant to cover a portion of the eligible costs for a trip to a trade show in Europe this fiscal year (July 2023 through June 2024), and then apply again in FY2025 for a grant to attend the same or a different show.
How to Find Trade Show Grants
The key to obtaining this funding is to know how your state’s STEP program is structured and the details concerning what that program’s grants will cover. This is very easy to do if you are a subscriber to the Manufacturers Grant Database. You simply log into the database, sort by results for the state the plant that is exporting is located, and sort for “exporting” under activities. That will take you to the STEP grant(s) for the state(s) performing eligible activities.
If you are not subscribed the Manufacturing Grants Database, simply click here and subscribe. You will have access to not only information about STEP grants, but grants through state and federal sources to fund many of your growth projects. The database is updated once per month, and you can unsubscribe at any time!
Exports are good for the economy and are an effective way to increase and diversify a manufacturer’s revenue. If you are planning to export, check out your state’s STEP program today!