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NDTO News Article

Grow Your Exports One STEP at a Time

The North Dakota Trade Office is excited to announce a new year of the State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) to continue the support of ND companies interested in exporting. The STEPND program is a grant funded by the Small Business Administration (SBA) to assist small businesses with entering and expanding into international markets. NDTO was awarded  $300,000.00 to assist ND companies with a variety of activities, including trade missions, focused international sales trips, international marketing, translation projects, and more.

“The NDTO is proud to continue with the STEP Program as it continues to support North Dakota exporters. With increased funding from last year’s award, we hope to make an even bigger impact on the global stage with North Dakota products and services. With so many opportunities, we see a bright future for the state’s small businesses and their global exports,” says Drew Combs, NDTO’s executive director.

This year marks the 10th year of the SBA’s STEP program, which has awarded over $195.5 million to all 50 states and six territories to assist more and the 12,000 small businesses in exporting opportunities. As a whole, the federal STEP program assisted companies in expanding to 141 countries across the globe. In 2022, $20 million in grant funding was awarded to 52 states and territories. Great impact is seen with this program as the SBA reports that every dollar spent returns $42 in export sales. ND typically ranks as one of the highest in return on investment with STEP funding.

In 2021, ND exported $8.4 billion, primarily from mineral fuels, cereals (wheat, corn, barley, and oats), oil seeds (soybeans, sunflower, rapeseed or colza seeds), followed by industrial machinery. “We want to continue growth and diversification in North Dakota’s economy,” says Combs, “and STEP in conjunction with the work we do at the NDTO, helps to engage partners and leverage resources to assist in exporting success.” 

The STEP program opens up many opportunities beyond the traditional exported products in ND. Technology, software, and services are among some of the increasingly exportable products coming from ND. With this grant, there is ample opportunity to assist small businesses with their exporting potential.

Both for companies new to exporting or those expanding their exports, STEP can assist with a variety of projects geared towards ND exporters, including:

  • Market research
  • Translation of marketing materials
  • Design of marketing materials for international markets
  • Foreign sales trips
  • International tradeshows
  • Sample shipping
  • Compliance testing
  • Website localization
  • Domestic tradeshows with 25% international presence

Each year, the NDTO tries to simplify and streamline the process while keeping aligned with the grant goal and requirements. Applications have been updated and are available for projects after October 1, 2022. ND’s STEP for 2022 has a three-part application process, including a Company Application, Activity Application, and Reimbursement Form. Each application provides NDTO the opportunity to ensure your company and projects are well-suited and eligible for funding.

STEP 2022 is available for ND companies seeking up to two eligible projects to be reimbursed for 75% of eligible expenses up to $5,000 ($10,000 total) through October 1, 2023. If there is still remaining funding, additional applications may be accepted to fund eligible companies up to $25,000. 

If you are interested in applying, learn more here:

Our team at the NDTO is happy to assist with any questions you may have. Contact for questions or to set up a meeting.