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STEP ND Program Guidelines

STEP ND is North Dakota’s exporter reimbursement program funded in part through a grant from the Small Business Administration’s State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) and administered through the North Dakota Trade Office (NDTO). The current STEP ND grant program is available for projects through September 29, 2025 (as available funding allows), at times there are multiple grant periods running at the same time. Qualified activities and programs include:

  • Foreign trade missions
  • Foreign trade shows
  • Foreign market sales trips
  • Domestic trade shows with an international presence
  • Subscription to services of the US Commercial Services
  • RAISE Program
  • Website translation into a foreign language
  • Design and translation of international marketing materials
  • ExIm Premiums

Applications and accompanying information can be obtained in the Application Section

The mission of STEP ND is to enhance 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 is designed to channel resources to ND companies to strengthen their export plans and increase ND’s presence in the global economy. Whether your company is currently exporting or new to export, assistance is available for you.

The North Dakota Trade Office, through the administration of the US Small Business Administration and Office of International Trade’s State Trade Expansion Program, will make available a maximum of $300,000 for the development of STEPND. These funds will be available effective through September 29, 2025.

The North Dakota Trade Office allocates funds to approved companies on a rolling basis. Applications are assessed with program fit and funding availability as they come in. Once all funding is fully allocated, the application process is over (unless allocated funds are under-utilized by awarded companies and turned back to NDTO). Applicants may receive less than the full amount requested. NDTO reserves the right to accept or reject any application or to limit allocations to any applicant. Allocations are determined based on a variety of factors, including but not limited to:

  • Amount of total funding available
  • Grant requirements to meet metrics
  • Quality of a company’s application, including expected increases in export sales and/or retained or new jobs
  • Number of activities and previous funding allocations to the company
  • Markets to be entered

Funds will be used to assist eligible companies for reimbursement of 75% of eligible costs up to $5,000 per activity, including:

  • Trade missions
  • Trade shows
  • Foreign market sales trips
  • RAISE Program
  • Website localization
  • Foreign language translation
  • Marketing materials for the international market

Eligible small businesses can take advantage of reimbursement starting with two applications for up to $10,000 ($5000 each) of funding through 9/29/24. If unallocated funding is available, additional applications may be accepted for companies who have completed two projects *Maximum cap amounts are subject to change with proper SBA approval. Please contact for the most up-to-date information.

Participation in STEP ND is open to any ND small business as defined under SBA guidelines meeting the operational definition as required by the State Trade Expansion Program as follows:

  1. Is organized or incorporated in the United States;
  2. Is operating in the United States;
  3. Meets
    • The applicable industry-based small business size standard established under section 3 of the Small Business Act; or
    • The alternate size standard applicable to the program under section 7(a) of the Small Business Act and the loan programs under title V of the Small Business Investment Act of 1958 (15 USC 695 et seq.);
    • The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) size standards are found at 13 CFR Part 121. Use the following link for information on size standards for your business:
  1. Has been in business for not less than one year, as of the date on which assistance using a grant under this subsection commences; and
  2. Has access to sufficient resources to bear the costs associated with trade, including the costs of packing, shipping, freight forwarding, and customs brokers.

In addition, applicants must:

  1. Be a ND-registered company in good standing and have a significant on-the-ground presence in ND
  2. Have a current commercialized product or service with domestic and/or foreign sales history
  3. Apply directly to receive program funds – no third-party representatives may apply on behalf of the company,
  4. Not be debarred, suspended, proposed for debarment, declared ineligible, or voluntarily excluded from participation in receiving these funds by any federal department or agency,
  5. Submit the Company Application to NDTO only once for approval. Separate Activity Applications must be submitted for each planned event by the participant
  6. Read and Sign the Company Application and all accompanying attachments to it.

NDTO reserves the right to approve or disapprove any application and associated expenses, determine eligibility matters, approve or disapprove reimbursement of expenses to a company, and interpret STEPND guidelines and requirements.

  1. No STEP ND funds can be used for reimbursement of any expenses that a company incurred prior to receiving a written commitment from NDTO, which will outline the agreed-upon activity, allowable expenses, and time period
  2. STEP ND funds can only be paid to a company on a reimbursable basis upon timely submission of receipts/proof of payment to NDTO. No cash advances will be paid. NDTO reserves the right to determine the expense reasonableness and whether an expense is allowable under the STEPND and SBA guidelines
  3. All approved activities must be completed by September 29, 2025. All receipts must be submitted by October 30, 2025 to NDTO to be considered for reimbursement under STEP ND
  4. Participants will be required to provide estimated goals and outcomes at the time of application as a result of accepting STEP ND funds. In addition, you agree to timely answer surveys in and provide quarterly information on program outcomes after the activity including:
    • The number of export-related agreements the participant signs, such as memorandums of understanding (MOU), distributor or agent agreements, sales agreements, etc.
    • US dollar value of projected export sales through September 29, 2025
    • US dollar value of actual export sales through September 29, 2025
    • Number of FTE jobs created and/or retained as a result of these increased export sales
    • Any additional information or success stories relevant to your participating in the STEP ND grant program
  1. Activities/projects must be completed as proposed on the approved application to NDTO. Changes will only be allowed upon written approval.
  2. If international air travel is submitted as an activity expense for future reimbursement, the participant acknowledges that air travel must be on a US carrier (Fly America Act) departing and returning to the US, and only economy-class airfare will be reimbursed. If the participant chooses to travel on a different price class, then an economy-class quote must be obtained simultaneously with the increased class price reservation/purchase to be considered for reimbursement.

Each application will be acknowledged by email as having been received and submitted for review. The applicant may or may not be contacted by NDTO or its partners during the review process to discuss the application. Within 1-2 weeks of the acknowledgment email, the applicant will be notified of the decision.

For additional questions, please contact NDTO at or by calling 701-929-6703.