This Just In: MEDC’s export assistance program gives Michigan businesses more flexibility, opportunities to increase international sales

Monday, October 11, 2021

• Reimbursement limits removed on exporting expenses, giving companies more access to financial assistance to support export initiatives • $2 million Michigan State Trade Expansion Program (MI-STEP) provides federal grant funds to help Michigan small businesses grow through increased access to global markets

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation announced today that the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has changed requirements of the Michigan State Trade Expansion Program (MI-STEP), removing reimbursement limits on activity categories that will now give companies more flexibility in growing their sales in international markets.

“The removal of the reimbursement caps on export activity categories will allow for our International Trade program to support more businesses, especially growing small businesses, as they compete in today’s global economy,” said MEDC Director of International Trade Alyssa Tracey. “Export sales help to diversify customer bases, provide longer term stability and support higher-paying jobs that are critical to our long-term economic growth as a state, and these changes will allow Michigan businesses to grow even more.”

In September, MEDC announced that Michigan received $2 million in federal grant funds – the maximum amount awarded by the SBA and a $650,000 increase from 2021 – to help Michigan small businesses grow in the state through increased access to global markets.

Administered by the MEDC’s International Trade program, MI-STEP funding supports export development for small- and medium-sized businesses through financial assistance grants for virtual and in-person trade missions, international sales trips, and trade shows along with website translation, localization, and search engine optimization and more. MI-STEP is designed to spur job creation by empowering Michigan small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to export their products, providing financial assistance awards for eligible export development-related expenses.

Previously, certain activities had limitations on the allowable reimbursement amounts. Eligible companies can still receive 75 percent reimbursement up to $15,000 annually, now with no limitations among MI-STEP-eligible categories. The eligible activities include:

  • International website design, development, and translation
  • Search engine optimization and localization maintenance and monitoring
  • eCommerce fees including hosting and maintenance
  • Design and translation of international marketing media including social media and digital ad placements
  • Cost of compliance testing for existing product’s entry into an export market
  • Sample product shipping

Additional eligible activities not previously impacted by limitations that continue to be allowed include:

  • Participation in foreign trade missions
  • Foreign sales trip
  • US. Department of Commerce services
  • International trade show participation
  • US.-based international trade show participation
  • Participation in export training workshops

The Michigan Strategic Fund is providing an additional $667,000 as the state match to support the Michigan STEP grant initiative, now in its 10th year of supporting financial assistance for exporting activities of eligible Michigan businesses. To date, MEDC’s International Trade program has facilitated more than $4.1 billion in export sales through federal and non-federally funded programs. In fiscal year 2020, Michigan businesses in the program generated total export sales of $592 million.

The International Trade Program recently added international certifications and export credit insurance premiums from EXIM Bank as expenses eligible for MI-STEP grant funding. International certifications such as ISO, AS9100, CE Mark for Europe, and CCC for China, can be expensive hurdles for Michigan small businesses to face when trying to expand their capacity to sell to global markets and credit insurance extends credit to international buyers and provides businesses with access to working capital.

“By allowing these new MI-STEP-eligible activities, Michigan companies with an export strategy can now bolster their brand and create a competitive advantage by obtaining certifications and insuring their export sales with less out of pocket premium costs through reimbursement of up to 75 percent through MI-STEP grants,” Tracey said.

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

Applications are accepted on an ongoing basis for MI-STEP grants 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.

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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.