ST. GEORGE — The U.S. Small Business Administration recently awarded World Trade Center Utah with a $1,050,000 State Trade Expansion Program grant, up from $641,000 in 2020.
The grant is meant to help Utah businesses – who may apply for the grant here – expand into global markets with their products and services, said Shawn Christensen, director of business outreach at World Trade Center Utah.
“These awards are good for established businesses, who may be looking to take their business to the next level,” Christensen told St. George News. “We assess businesses for their suitability and help them find ripe international markets to grow into.”
Christensen said that many businesses that have received STEP funds in the past weren’t thinking about going global before they applied for the grant. But, as World Trade Center Utah’s Chief Revenue Officer Aaron Starks told St. George News, the nonprofit organization helps businesses identify and vet potential markets, and then use the funds to reach them.
“These funds can be used for many things,” Starks said. “The funds cover marketing research, trade show attendance and sales booths, or building a localized website in a new market, among many other things.”
Starks said that World Trade Center Utah has helped local businesses like Staheli West, Steribin Disinfection Systems, all STEP grant recipients located in St. George.
To be sure, these are cost-reimbursement grants, according to World Trade Center Utah’s website. Recipients may receive up to $15,000 (the average award is about $3,000) for various eligible international business activities for the award year. Awards require a 25% cash match by the grant recipient.
Over the past three years, the Small Business Administration has increased Utah’s STEP grant from $300,000 to $1,050,000, the largest increase among any state in the country, according to a press release issued Tuesday. This is due to “Utah’s nation-leading trade promotion program, and the success of Utah businesses that are utilizing the STEP Grant to increase their international sales and opportunities,” the news release states.
World Trade Center Utah administers the grant in partnership with the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity to provide small businesses with financial support and business services to help them compete and win in global markets.
Marla Trollan, district director for the Small Business Administration Utah, said the success and impact of the STEP grant program in recent years has been inspirational.
“International trade has been a high priority for me since I came to the Small Business Administration in 2017,” Trollan said. “We have collaborated with the World Trade Center on many initiatives, and I am proud of what we have been able to achieve together. The substantial increase in grant funding is a direct result of these efforts.”
Utah’s export growth rate has been the highest in the nation for the past two years. According to the press release, 85% of Utah’s exporters are small businesses, and international sales add $5 billion across the state in additional revenue for these small business exporters.
Jackie Hobson, who does marketing and outreach out of the Small Business Administration office in St. George, called the grant an investment in Utah’s small business community, as well as the state’s economic potential.
“We want to make sure that all Utah businesses are aware of this assistance, because it is not just for those along the Wasatch Front,” Hobson said. “Around 96% of the world’s purchasing power is outside the U.S., and Utah small businesses can reach those international buyers with the STEP grant. This is a great opportunity especially for rural businesses that are trying to reach customers who are outside of their local market.”
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