Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is STEP ND?
The decision to export products from North Dakota to the world enables you to participate in North Dakota’s State Trade Expansion Program, STEP ND. STEP ND is funded under a grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The mission of STEP ND is to increase the number of small businesses that are exporting and to increase the dollar value of exports for those small businesses. To accomplish this, we encourage North Dakota eligible small business concerns (ESBCs) to participate in the program. Participating companies can receive up to a 75% reimbursement for eligible costs generated from approved activities. The STEP ND program is accessible through our website, ndto.com.
2. What types of activities are eligible to receive a reimbursement under STEP ND?
- Foreign trade missions
- Foreign trade shows
- Domestic trade shows approved by US Commercial Service’s International Buyer Program or International Buyer Program Select
- Foreign market sales trips
- Subscription to services of the US Commercial Services
- RAISE Program
- Website translation to a foreign language
- Foreign marketing materials
- Shipping of sample materials/products to trade show/sales trip
3. What is the duration of STEP ND?
STEP ND is a two-year program beginning September 30, 2019 through September 29, 2021. However, all activities must be completed between September 30, 2019 and December 31, 2020.
4. Who administers STEP ND?
The North Dakota Trade Office (NDTO) is duly authorized by the Governor of the state of North Dakota to administer the STEP ND program in cooperation with the SBA.
5. Who can apply for STEP ND?
STEP ND is open to eligible small business concerns (ESBCs) with a significant presence in North Dakota who export products or services. Companies must be in business for a minimum of one year and meet the size standards established by SBA.
6. Is my company eligible for the STEP ND program?
Participants must meet SBA’s definition of ‘eligible small business concerns.’ Additional eligibility requirements are available in the STEP ND program document. SBA size guide lines can be found at: https://www.sba.gov/tools/size-standards-tool
7. Can food companies be eligible for STEP ND?
Yes, North Dakota exporters of agricultural products and food are eligible provided they meet the defined eligibility requirements, (see above and STEP ND Program Guidelines).
8. Can my products be covered by another program, such as the Branded Program?
Multiple federal funding sources cannot be used on the same activity. Companies can participate in STEP ND ONLY if the company is not utilizing other federal funds for the same activity.
9. How long does it take for application approval?
STEP ND application approval can take up to one (1) week or longer. Approvals are based on the quality of the application, receipt of all required documents and the funding dollars available. We reserve the right to accept or reject any application, amend the applicant’s requested funding or limit applications to any applicant. Spending and activities that occur before your approval date will not be eligible for reimbursement.
10. How will a company be notified when their application is approved?
When your application is approved, you will be notified by an email which will indicate the approval terms.
11. My company has been in business for less than one year, but we have an international customer that wants to purchase our product. Are we eligible to apply for funds to visit this new customer?
Your company must be in business for at least one year by the date of the activity.
12. Can in-kind contributions be used for the 25% company match requirement?
Only cash contributions/expenses can be used as a match.
13. Are companies required to utilize foreign U.S. Commercial Services (e.g. Gold Key, etc.) in order to qualify for funding?
U.S. Commercial Services is a valued partner in the STEP ND program and we encourage applicants to utilize their services when appropriate. However, purchasing similar services in a foreign country/market other than USCS does qualify as an eligible activity.
14. Is there a fee to participate in this program?
There is no fee.
15. What are my reporting requirements for participating in STEP ND?
A condition of participation in STEP ND will be the applicant’s written commitment (see the Success Agreement) to report related export sales and jobs data to NDTO on a quarterly basis through September 29, 2021 for reporting to SBA. The information reported is held confidential.
16. Will my company be able to publish a success story relating to STEP ND?
Absolutely! SBA and NDTO love success stories and would be happy to share your story with the media.
17. What are the expected outcomes from STEP ND?
Increase the number of small businesses that are exporting, Increase export sales and export to new markets.
18. What documentation is required for reimbursement of eligible expenses?
Please see under ‘How to Apply’, Section F on our website.
19. When should a company submit their request for reimbursement?
Reimbursement requests should be submitted timely, within 30 days after the expense is incurred. Late submissions incur the risk of not being reimbursed.
20. Should a company submit their original documentation with a reimbursement claim?
No, please submit only photocopies of receipts; do not submit originals.
21. Do companies have to exhibit in a US Pavilion, if one is available, to be eligible for reimbursement?
Companies are not required to be in a US Pavilion.
22. Our company wants to print literature for a foreign market that speaks English, is this allowable?
Only marketing materials that are printed in a language other than English are an allowable expense under STEP ND.
23. Do I have to provide survey results and expected sales numbers?
The survey results and expected sales outcomes are a requirement of your participation in STEP ND. Participants are required to provide the number of export related agreements, dollar value of projected sales, dollar value of actual sales, number of jobs created or retained as a result of these sales and any information on the success of the program or success stories relevant to the program through September 29, 2021.
24. Can I exhibit at a show in my overseas agent’s booth?
You may exhibit in your distributor’s booth.
25. Can I use STEP ND funds for costs associated with a Trade Show after December 31, 2020?
Only activities prior to December 31, 2020 are allowed.
26. Where can I find federal per diem rates for foreign cities?
Foreign per diem rates for allowable lodging expenses are managed by The State Department, and located at: https://aoprals.state.gov/web920/per_diem.asp