The North Dakota Trade Office (NDTO) announced today that it has been awarded a $287,694 grant by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) through its State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) program to build on North Dakota’s success in expanding international exports. The NDTO will use the funds to create STEP ND 2015, a program that will enable eligible North Dakota companies to receive monetary reimbursement for international business activities. This one-year program will begin Oct. 1, 2015. This is the second STEP Grant that the NDTO has received, with the previous STEP Grant awarded in October 2012.
The NDTO has also been awarded $179,596 by the North Dakota Department of Agriculture, which administers the U.S. Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant program. The NDTO will use the funds within its Specialty Crop Program with the goal of increasing global market visibility and competitiveness of the specialty crop sector of the upper Midwest. Specialty crops included in this program are peas, beans, lentils, and confectionary sunflowers. This is the second Specialty Crop Block Grant that the NDTO has received, with the first awarded last year in 2014.
“We’re very pleased to be able to assist North Dakota businesses with the planning and expense of developing international markets,” said the NDTO’s executive director Dean Gorder. “This second Specialty Crop Block Grant allows us to maintain the momentum that we’ve gathered from the first. And being awarded a second STEP Grant is such a boon to North Dakota exporters; we’re determined to repeat the success that we had with our first STEP program.”
STEP ND 2015
STEP ND 2015 will focus on providing financial assistance and training to eligible North Dakota small businesses that currently export internationally or desire to enter the export market. The program is designed to provide resources to increase North Dakota’s presence in the global economy and to identify new-to-export companies.
Activities that qualify for reimbursement under the STEP ND program include trade missions, reverse trade missions, foreign trade shows, international marketing materials, ExporTech, and services of the U.S. Commercial Service such as Gold Keys.
“North Dakota is a fast-growing exporter, with a 42 percent increase in exports from 2013 to 2014 alone,” Senator John Hoeven said. “This dramatic increase in exports has helped fuel our state’s economic growth, which outpaced all other states’ last year. Today’s STEP funds will help North Dakota small businesses continue to be leaders in export and economic growth.”
Selection of companies will be first-come-first-served, based on pre-approval of their STEP ND program application and export expansion plan. Any North Dakota small business as defined under SBA guidelines is eligible to apply.
The NDTO hopes to reach the same level of success with the STEP ND 2015 program as it did with the STEP ND 2012 program. STEP ND 2012 began October 1, 2012 and within sixteen months, fifty-two (52) North Dakota small businesses took part in the program and increased the allocated grant funds by 13,000 percent, generating $89.5 million in immediate sales.
Specialty Crop Program
The NDTO’s Specialty Crop Program is designed for specialty crop companies that are interested in developing future international markets. The NDTO, working with partners and industry stakeholders in specialty crops, helps companies identify target markets, qualified buyers, distributors, and importers of specialty crops. The program then assists approved companies with the costs of developing these strategic markets through the reimbursement of expenses associated with the NDTO led outbound trade missions and reverse trade missions.
This second Specialty Crop Block Grant award will allow companies to benefit from the continuation of specialty crop focused trade missions. The NDTO’s Specialty Crop Program launched in October 2014 and has since led trade missions to Italy, Croatia, and Colombia. A Colombian reverse trade mission took place last week with 17 delegates meeting one-on-one with specialty crop companies and participating in pulse education sessions. Upcoming outbound trade missions include Mexico/Dominican Republic, Israel, India, as well as a return to Colombia in February 2016.
STEP ND and the Specialty Crop Program are part of a larger strategy to promote North Dakota’s high quality products in key international markets throughout the world. According to U.S. Department of Commerce statistics, North Dakota’s merchandise exports have grown nearly 430 percent since the inception of the NDTO, from $1 billion in 2004 to over $5.3 billion in 2014.
The NDTO will facilitate both programs with the help of partners including the North Dakota Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Commercial Service, Impact Dakota, North Dakota Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and the District Export Council (DEC).
Information and applications for the Specialty Crop Program is currently available on the NDTO website at www.ndto.com. Applications for the STEP ND program will be available on the NDTO website in the near future.
The NDTO is a member-based organization that provides education, research, advocacy and leadership so that North Dakota companies can develop and expand their export business. The NDTO is a public-private partnership, led by a board of directors, chaired by North Dakota Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley.