More than $1.3 million in export assistance funds available for Michigan’s small businesses

Thursday, October 1, 2020

• Michigan Strategic Fund awarded largest STEP award in the nation for fourth consecutive year • Program expanded to support more export-related activities, increased reimbursement amount • More than $3.5 billion in export sales supported through MEDC’s MI-STEP over the past decade

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan has once again received the top award in the nation from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) State Trade Expansion Program for the upcoming fiscal year. Michigan received $1.35 million to enable more access for Michigan businesses to global markets and buyers – the maximum amount awarded by SBA and a $450,000 increase from the previous year’s allocation.

The Michigan Strategic Fund is providing an additional $450,000 as the state match to support the Michigan STEP grant initiative (MI-STEP), now in its 10th year of supporting financial assistance for exporting activities of eligible Michigan businesses.

Administered by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s International Trade program, this year’s SBA award supports export development for small- and medium-sized businesses through financial assistance grants for trade missions, international sales trips, and trade shows along with website translation, localization, and search engine optimization.

“This year's STEP grant is once again the largest award in the nation, reflecting the Small Business Administration's strong confidence in Michigan's successful execution of export promotion to increase international sales for our local businesses,” said MEDC CEO Mark A. Burton. “Export sales help diversify companies’ customer bases, provide longer-term stability, and can support higher-paying jobs, which will be critical to our long-term economic recovery efforts. These expansions will allow for our International Trade program to support more businesses and create more opportunity for growth throughout the state.”

Last month, the Michigan Strategic Fund approved an increase in the maximum grant reimbursement from 50 percent to 75 percent, maintaining the annual cap of $15,000 per company. The MSF also approved an extension through fiscal year 2021 of eligible activities allowed under the program as part of the CARES Act, including e-commerce and compliance testing, as well as increased website expenses. These additions are designed to help companies grow their visibility in target markets through today’s evolving business environment and align the program with changes SBA announced to their eligibility requirements earlier this month.

MI-STEP is designed to spur job creation by empowering Michigan small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to export their products. The program provides financial assistance awards to SMEs, reimbursing them for eligible export-related expenses and easing the cost of doing business in foreign markets. The program has three primary objectives: increase the number of Michigan small businesses that export, increase the dollar value of Michigan exports, and increase the number of Michigan small businesses exploring significant new trade opportunities, including expansion of existing export markets.

MEDC’s MI Project Exception Program (MI-PEP), which provides export assistance to companies that do not meet the SBA’s small business requirements, also received MSF approval of an increase in the maximum grant reimbursement amount from 50 percent to 75 percent.

MEDC has participated in STEP since 2011. Since then, the program has facilitated more than $3.5 billion in export sales through federal and non-federally funded programs. In fiscal year 2019, export sales generated a total of $682 million. More than 300 companies received more than $2 million in incentives through Michigan’s export grant programs, with 560 fully executed grants and 100 percent of funds disbursed directly to companies, or Eligible Small Business Concerns (ESBCs).

The MEDC’s export plan was developed and executed through collaboration with strategic Michigan export service providers including: U.S. Department of Commerce, Michigan Small Business Administration, Michigan Small Business Development Center, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, MSU International Business Center, Automation Alley, Van Andel Global Trade Center, Networks Northwest, East & West Michigan District Export Councils along with other state & local service providers.

The MEDC coordinates a statewide export assistance delivery system with public and private resources to ensure company access regardless of geographic location.

Applications for fiscal year 2021 MI-STEP grants are now open to small- and medium-sized businesses. For complete details on how companies can apply for assistance, including eligibility requirements and the application process, please visit or contact an International Trade Manager.

About Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is the state’s marketing arm and lead advocate for business development, job awareness and community development with the focus on growing Michigan’s economy. For more information on the MEDC and our initiatives, visit For Pure Michigan® tourism information, your trip begins at Join the conversation on: Facebook Instagram LinkedIn, and Twitter.