What funding is available to help Wisconsin companies expand exports?

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) was awarded a State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) Grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), which will provide $712,000 to help Wisconsin companies implement their export growth strategies.

In addition, WEDC continues to offer International Market Access Grants (IMAGs) for companies and Collaborative Market Access Grants (CMAGs) to organizations that will, in turn, distribute smaller grants to companies. All of these initiatives together make up WEDC’s Global Business Development Program.

Who can apply for support under the STEP Grant?

The majority of the funding ($525,000) is intended for companies that have completed the ExporTech™ Program, to help them execute the strategies they designed during the program. The remainder of the funding will provide partial support for companies’ participation in global trade ventures to foreign markets. This funding is available to companies regardless of whether they have completed ExporTech.

All companies applying for support under this grant must be small businesses as defined by the SBA. Criteria vary by industry; for example, manufacturing companies must have 500 or fewer employees, and agricultural companies’ annual revenues must not exceed $7 million.

What can STEP Grant funds be used for?

For the trade venture component of the initiative, small businesses can apply for funding support for an upcoming trade global venture led by WEDC or the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). These funds will be used toward the cost of a company-specific market assessment prepared by Wisconsin’s authorized trade representative in the target market. WEDC is planning upcoming trade ventures to China, Mexico, Canada, Germany and South Korea. Under this component, companies can apply for funding to offset participation fees for DATCP’s upcoming trade missions to Vietnam and Mexico, or toward the cost of participation in DATCP’s delegation at the National Restaurant Association’s international trade show in May 2016 in Chicago.

For the export strategy implementation component, each ExporTech graduate company can receive up to $15,000, and can use up to $2,500 in grant funds for up to six of the following options:

  • Training in business ethics, cultural competency or best business practices in foreign markets
  • Export compliance education
  • Foreign language education
  • Market assessments and/or the U.S. Commercial Service Gold Key Matching Service
  • Partner/distributor searches
  • Globalization of company websites
  • Translation of company materials
  • Trade trips, conferences, meetings
  • Trade shows targeting specific markets and industry strengths
  • One-on-one in-country business meetings

Why are certain STEP Grant uses limited to ExporTech graduates?

As part of ExporTech, companies identify specific markets for export growth and design entry strategies tailored to those markets, with the help of global business growth experts from WEDC, the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership and the UW-Stout Manufacturing Outreach Center. This program has become a model for other states. WEDC recognizes that ExporTech can require a significant investment of time and resources on the part of a participating company; additional funding to support implementation helps reward the investment these companies have made. Furthermore, companies that have completed ExporTech generally have better success with export growth. Reserving part of the STEP funding specifically for ExporTech graduates helps to ensure that this federal money is being used wisely to support thoughtful, well-designed export growth strategies.

Companies that have not yet completed ExporTech but can provide proof of enrollment in an upcoming session are welcome to apply for funding under the implementation component of the STEP Grant. Companies that have neither completed nor enrolled in ExporTech are still welcome to apply for trade venture funding or for an IMAG.

When is the application deadline for these grants?

There is no specific deadline, but applications are evaluated on a rolling basis, so companies are encouraged to apply early. Activities funded under a STEP Grant must take place between Oct. 1, 2015, and Sept. 30, 2016.

How do I apply?

Please visit the Global Business Development Program webpage for more information about these grant initiatives, including application materials and contact information.

(October 2015)