$1.2 million in export assistance funds available for Michigan’s small businesses

Thursday, September 21, 2023

LANSING, Mich. – Governor Gretchen Whitmer joined the Michigan Economic Development Corporation today to announce Michigan has received an award of $900,000 from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) for the upcoming fiscal year. The Michigan Strategic Fund is providing an additional $300,000 as the state match to support the Michigan STEP initiative (MI-STEP) and help small businesses grow through increased access to global markets. In January 2023, MEDC’s International Trade program reached a significant milestone of $5 billion in facilitated export sales for Michigan businesses and, to date, the program has now facilitated more than $5.3 billion in exports by deploying export development services.

This year marks the 12th year of STEP funding from SBA, which has awarded nearly $14 million to the state of Michigan since its inception. Since 95% of the world's consumers and two-thirds of all purchasing power are located outside the United States, this grant program plays a critical role in providing access to capital, connection to global markets, and meetings with potential customers.

“The MEDC’s State Trade Expansion Program connects local businesses to the international market, supporting good-paying jobs and driving investment back home in Michigan,” said Governor Whitmer. “Today’s federal grant from the Small Business Administration will bolster their mission, helping Michigan small businesses continue making their mark in advanced manufacturing, life sciences, and so many other industries. Let’s keep working together to bring jobs and investment home, grow the middle class and keep unemployment low, and ensure that our products and our story make it around the world.”

This year’s SBA award will continue to support export development for small- and medium-sized businesses through grants for international sales trips, trade missions, and trade shows along with website translation, localization, search engine optimization, and more. MI-STEP is designed to spur job creation by empowering small- and medium-sized businesses to export their products, providing reimbursement grants up to $15,000 annually for eligible export-related expenses.

“Export sales enable more businesses to take Make It in Michigan to all corners of the globe. Exports help diversify customer bases, provide longer term stability, and support higher paying jobs that are critical to our economic growth,” said Quentin L. Messer, Jr., CEO of MEDC and President and Chair of the MSF Board. “In fiscal year 2022, this critical STEP funding facilitated $614 million in export sales for Michigan businesses, resulting in the growth of their operations and workforce here in the state. Congratulations to all participating Michigan businesses; I am grateful to colleagues that help facilitate these sales.”

Due to a tremendous response from Michigan exporters in fiscal year 2023, MEDC disbursed 100% of MI-STEP funds in record time. Between October 2022 and July 2023, more than $1.86 million was awarded to our state’s makers and innovators pursuing business development opportunities in foreign markets. Given the especially high demand for these funds, and to better support companies’ most critical export development activities, two MI-STEP changes will go into effect in fiscal year 2024. To allow funding to support as many Michigan companies as possible, the program’s reimbursement rate will return to 50 percent from the 75 percent rate that was maintained throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recovery, and international ground transportation will be removed as a MI-STEP-eligible expense.

MI-STEP applications are accepted October 1 through September 15 for small- and medium-sized businesses pursuing export development. MI-STEP grants are competitive awards and funding is not guaranteed. Companies that may not qualify for MI-STEP or do not receive MI-STEP funding are encouraged to engage with Michigan’s network of international trade resources and service providers offering support for businesses at any point along their international growth journey. These services include B2B matchmaking, qualified and unqualified partner lists, international website development, worldwide credit reports, customized market research, and more – many available at no cost to Michigan small businesses.

For details on how to apply for assistance, including MI-STEP eligibility requirements and the application process, please visit www.michiganbusiness.org/export or complete the online intake form to start a conversation with 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 www.MichiganBusiness.org. For Pure Michigan® tourism information, your trip begins at www.michigan.org. Join the conversation on: Facebook Instagram LinkedIn, and Twitter.