STEP – Program Guidelines

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 STEP ND grant program is available through December 31, 2020. Qualified activities and programs include:

  • Foreign trade missions
  • Foreign trade shows
  • Foreign market sales trips
  • Subscription to services of the US Commercial Services
  • ExporTech
  • RAISE Program Research
  • Website translation to a foreign language
  • Foreign marketing materials
  • Shipping of sample materials/products to trade show/sales trip

Applications and accompanying information can be obtained on NDTO’s website at


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, there is assistance available for you.


The North Dakota Trade Office through administration of the US Small Business Administration, Office of International Trade’s State Trade Expansion Program will make available a maximum of $326,865 for development of STEP ND. These funds will be available effective September 30, 2019 through December 31, 2020 and will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, provided the applicant company has been deemed qualified according to program guidelines and requirements. Regardless of the program’s ending dates identified elsewhere, when all the STEP ND funds have been committed and/or paid out, no more applications will be accepted.

Funds will be used to assist eligible companies as follows:

  • Expense reimbursement per qualifying activity with a maximum of five events for foreign trade missions, foreign trade shows, domestic trade shows and foreign market sales trips.
  • Expense reimbursement up to $3,000 per company for website foreign language translation and/or production of foreign language marketing materials.
  • Reimbursement for ExporTech program fees up to $1,500 per company, per program
  • Expense reimbursement for shipping sample products to foreign markets up to $2,000
  • Reimbursement for RAISE program fees up to 75% on a per case basis

Eligible small businesses can take advantage of reimbursement of up to five approved activities with a maximum total reimbursements per company of $25,000 during the award period.


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 U.S.C. 695 et seq.);

    The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) size standards are found at 13 C.F.R. Part 121. Use the following link for information on size standards for your business (;

  4. Has been in business for not less than 1 year, as of the date on which assistance using a grant under this subsection commences; and
  5. 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 participant, and
  6. 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 STEP ND 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 STEP ND and SBA guidelines
  3. All approved activities must be completed by December 31, 2020. All receipts must be submitted by January 30, 2021 to NDTO in order 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 and provide quarterly information on program outcomes after the activity to include:
    • 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, 2021,
    • US dollar value of actual export sales through September 29, 2021,
    • 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.
  5. Activities/projects must be completed as proposed on the approved application to NDTO. No changes will be allowed.
  6. If international air travel is submitted as an activity expense for future reimbursement, 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 Participant chooses to travel on a different price class, then an economy-class quote must be obtained simultaneously along with the increased class price reservation/purchase to be considered for reimbursement.
  7. If a pre-approved activity or project is not started within 60 days of the application date, the project will be deemed to be withdrawn by Applicant and must be resubmitted as a new application if desired by Applicant.


Each application will be acknowledged by email as having been received and submitted for review. 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 acknowledgement email, applicant will be notified of the decision


For additional questions, please contact NDTO at or by calling 701-929-6702.