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NDTO News Article

Celebrating SBA’s STEP Program and Highlighting North Dakota All-Star- WCCO Belting, Inc.

The U.S. Small Business Administration celebrates 10 years of support for small business growth through the State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) grants.  The goal of STEP is to increase exporting opportunities and value of small businesses across the US; the North Dakota Trade Office has been the recipient of STEP funding as far back as 2012.

The STEP program as a whole has assisted in providing over $3.8 billion in exports since 2010, and more than 1200  businesses have received support through a variety of export activities. STEP recipients have increased their visibility across 141 countries.  The SBA reports that for every $1 in grant funding provided, the STEP awardees report an average of  $66 in export sales, which is the highest return on investment to date, for the most recently completed STEP grant (FY17). 

In North Dakota alone, STEP has supported more than 90 companies providing over $1 million in funding of export activities, including foreign sales trips, trade missions, trade shows, exporting research, marketing, and translations assistance. More than 60 countries have been visited for export opportunities by ND Companies, and they have reported numerous connections and sales made over time.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) and STEP program celebrates a North Dakota Company as an excellent example of the STEP program in practice. WCCO Belting Inc. is a leading manufacturer of specialized custom rubber belting for machines in agriculture, construction, industrial, and recycling industries with a growing list of domestic and international equipment manufacturers and distributors. The STEP funded activities have taken WCCO Belting around the world to Agritechnica in Germany, AgriShow in Brazil, and International Machines in Agriculture (EMIA) in Italy. Website redesign and translations for increased accessibility have also assisted in their global presence as well as sales trips and trade missions.  Since 2012, these projects have expanded into Germany, Italy, Brazil, and Australia, with more than $2.25 million in sales.  WCCO Belting, Inc. continues to build on their success and seek new opportunities. 

 “This year marks 10 years that the SBA has awarded STEP grants supporting state-level investments in small business export programs,” said SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza.  “STEP provides tremendous opportunities for American businesses to reach customers beyond our borders.” 

The SBA has awarded over $157 million in funding to more than 300 grants across all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands. 

The vision of STEP is to assist small businesses in reaching their exporting potential in international markets. For North Dakota, the STEP program enhances the ability of export-ready ND small businesses to expand their export sales and marketing programs and increase or retain jobs as a result of the use of the grant funds. STEP ND channels resources to ND companies to strengthen their export plans and increase ND’s presence in the global economy.

North Dakota Trade Office is excited to continue assisting North Dakota’s small businesses with STEP funding through the SBA. If you are interested in opportunities in exporting, please contact us at