SMITHFIELD, RI – U.S. Senator Jack Reed is working to help more local companies go global and grow the state’s export trade.  And a new $150,000 federal grant for Bryant University’s John H. Chafee Center for International Business should provide a boost to assist more eligible small businesses.

Since first helping to launch the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) over a decade ago, during the Obama Administration, Senator Reed has worked as a member of the Appropriations Committee to fund it.  This year, Reed helped direct $20 million in federal funding to STEP to assist states working with local small business to enter the international marketplace and sell more goods and services abroad.

This month, SBA is distributing $20 million in competitive STEP grants to all 50 state international trade agencies across the country, including a new infusion of $150,000 for Rhode Island.

The federal funds may be used to reimburse small businesses for eligible export-related expenses.  The STEP funds can help offset costs incurred by export related activities, including participation in foreign trade missions and export trade show exhibits, designing international marketing campaigns, and taking part in training workshops.

“STEP helps local companies tap into global markets and expand their international sales.  It’s a valuable tool for small businesses and I commend Bryant University and the Chafee Center for providing comprehensive international trade services to help local businesses expand,” said Senator Reed, who helped create the STEP program as part of the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010. “STEP provides a strong return on investment and I will continue working to assist Rhode Island companies and ensure the federal government is responsive to their needs so they can compete and thrive.”

“We want to thank Senator Reed for his strong support of Rhode Island businesses and continuing recognition of the value that Bryant University brings to the RI economy,” said Bryant University President Ross Gittell, Ph.D. “The Chafee Center for International Business at Bryant University looks forward to continuing its work to enroll small businesses in the STEP Program, helping them receive the tools necessary for international expansion.”  

“For over ten years, the SBA’s State Trade Expansion Program has been an important federal and state partnership to get funding directly to small businesses seeking to grow their businesses and our economy with international trade opportunities,” SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman said in a statement. “And with these funds, small businesses can get trade-ready, attend trade shows in foreign markets, and grow through global e-commerce.”

Last summer, Guzman and Reed met with local small businesses across the state to highlight ways the SBA can partner with local businesses to help boost opportunities for overseas trade and communicate with stakeholders about business concerns such as supply chain issues or workforce development.

This year marks the 11th year the SBA has provided STEP funding to states, resulting in $235.5 million of direct support for small businesses pursuing access to markets and buyers outside the United States.  Rhode Island has received over $1.2 million in STEP funding over the past five years.

According to SBA, last year, every $1 in STEP funding yielded $43 in export sales.  

The SBA’s Export Assistance Center can assist Rhode Islanders with one-on-one business advice for best practices selling outside of the country.  The SBA backs three export loan options: International Trade, Export Working Capital, and Export Express.  With maximum loan amounts up to $5 million, this financing can help businesses quickly and efficiently access financing to reduce risk and improve cash flow.  The SBA guaranty of up to 90 percent makes the loan more attractive to lenders.

Learn more about STEP and how to apply at: