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NDTO News Article

Press Release: SBA awards North Dakota $326,865 State Trade Expansion Program Grant

FARGO, N.D. – The U.S. Small Business Administration announced that the North Dakota Trade Office (NDTO) will receive a $326,865 grant to support export growth among small businesses through SBA’s competitive State Trade Expansion Program (STEP). This year’s grant amount is a $79,251 increase over the dollars awarded in 2018.

“This year’s increase in STEP grant funding allows additional opportunities for companies to either begin exporting or expand their current export operations,” said Lindsey Warner, NDTO’s director of marketing and events. “STEP grant funding helps companies travel to international markets as well as obtain access to in-depth market research provided by the U.S. Commercial Service office in Fargo.”

The NDTO’s STEP ND 2019 program will reimburse eligible North Dakota companies for expenses paid during international business activities, including foreign market sales trips, research and NDTO-led trade missions.

“SBA is proud to partner with the STEP grant winners and provide much-needed resources that help small businesses increase their sales by exporting,” said Acting Administrator Chris Pilkerton. “These grants are especially helpful as our country is in the midst of negotiating a number of trade agreements, including one between the United States-Mexico-Canada (USMCA). All of the Administration’s work is aimed at modernizing and creating a better deal for America’s consumers, businesses, including small businesses, and workers. The SBA’s STEP partners not only help entrepreneurs increase and diversify their customer base; they also help to create and retain local jobs.”

Today, trade represents nearly 58% of the world’s $80 trillion economy, and 95% of the world’s consumers are located outside the United States. Exporting is an important way for U.S. small businesses to grow revenue and boost local economies. STEP is designed to assist states with increasing the number of small businesses that export and the value of those exports.

“It is a little known fact that 98 percent of America’s exports are driven by small firms that sell their products and services globally,” said SBA Regional Administrator Dan Nordberg. “This federal STEP grant ensures that small businesses in North Dakota will have the tools necessary to expand and market their home grown products and services to international markets.  North Dakota has been a leader in supporting the export potential of small businesses and we’re honored to partner with them once again on this important endeavor.”

The 2019 STEP awards will help North Dakota assist their small businesses with the information and tools they need to succeed in export-related activities. Exporting activities include: participating in foreign trade missions and foreign market sales trips, obtaining services provided by the U.S. Department of Commerce, accessing expertise in designing international marketing campaigns and export trade show exhibits, and participating in training workshops, as well as other important means of engagement.

“I’m glad to see the North Dakota Trade Office receive another STEP Grant to assist North Dakota companies with expansion in the global marketplace,” said SBA North Dakota District Director Al Haut. “The increased award shows SBA’s commitment to helping our rural small businesses succeed.”

Expanding the base of small business exporters and improving the process to explore new trade opportunities is a key component of SBA’s small business strategy. Since 2011, the STEP program has awarded approximately $157 million in grants to fund export opportunities and increase the footprint of small businesses in countries all over the world.

Individual STEP awards are managed at the local level by state government organizations. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of International Trade administers the STEP awards at the national level.

How to Apply

The program will accept applications for activities occurring from September 30, 2019 through September 29, 2021. 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. Information and applications for STEP ND 2019 will be available by September 30, 2019 on the NDTO website at

NDTO will facilitate STEP ND 2019 with the help of partners including North Dakota District Office of the SBA, North Dakota Small Business Development Center (SBDC), North Dakota Department of Agriculture, North Dakota Department of Commerce and the U.S. Commercial Service.

About the North Dakota Trade Office and Small Business Administration

The North Dakota Trade Office is a membership-based, private/public partnership that provides education, research, advocacy, organization, and leadership so that NDTO members and North Dakota companies can increase exports and grow their international business.

The U.S. Small Business Administration makes the American dream of business ownership a reality. As the only go-to resource and voice for small businesses backed by the strength of the federal government, the SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small business owners with the resources and support they need to start, grow or expand their businesses, or recover from a declared disaster. It delivers services through an extensive network of SBA field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations. To learn more visit