CARY, NC (WNCT) – The U.S. Small Business Administration has awarded a grant of nearly $775,000 to help small businesses in North Carolina increase their international sales.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced this week that the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina (EDPNC) had received a $774,514 grant through the federal agency’s competitive State Trade Expansion Program, which the EDPNC’s international trade division administers locally on behalf of the state.
The SBA announced $18 million in STEP awards to 41 state international trade agencies. Six states, including North Carolina, received awards of $700,000 or more.
“The EDPNC is proud of the relationship it has developed with the SBA, and it has led to results that have made an amazing impact on small businesses,” said John Loyack, EDPNC’s vice president for global business services. “As a state, we’ve been a leader in the sheer volume of companies that benefit from the grant and in the diverse ways we use it.”
“This funding is key to our ability to help eligible companies do everything from offsetting travel expenses to exhibit jointly with us at key international trade shows to covering the cost of an individual trade show booth,” Loyack said. “From participating free in our export-education workshops to translating marketing materials and business websites into a foreign language.”
In the last fully completed grant cycle, State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) funding helped 185 North Carolina businesses participate in 290 exporting activities that resulted in $36.9 million in international sales.
In 2019, beneficiaries have ranged from veteran exporters such as Greensboro-based Latitude Aero, which overhauls commercial aircraft seating, to relative beginners such as Safe ‘N’ Clear in Davidson, which markets a surgical mask with a clear window over the mouth.
“Thanks to the STEP program, Latitude Aero has been able to engage with prospects and exhibit our offerings in London, Dubai, Hamburg and Amsterdam in the last year,” said Kelvin Boyette, company president and chief executive officer. “The STEP grant has been an invaluable resource for establishing our brand around the globe.”
Latitude Aero expects to grow from 12 employees in Greensboro to 30 nationwide by the end of this year, with the opening of a new Seattle repair station to support international Boeing customers. “Strategic partnerships internationally that have made this growth possible are thanks, in large part, to the assistance of the STEP grant,” Boyette said.
Meanwhile, Safe ‘N’ Clear used STEP this year to offset travel costs to exhibit at its first overseas trade show – Arab Health Dubai, the largest health-care exhibition in the Middle East.
“EDPNC assisted with the STEP funding, which was critical to our small company being able to go,” said Anne McIntosh, company founder and chief executive officer. “I’m still following up on leads and hope to get sales from this trip.”
In the new grant year beginning Sept. 30, STEP will offer qualifying North Carolina businesses up to $3,000 for airfare and lodging expenses related to exhibiting jointly with the EDPNC at an international trade show or on their own; up to $5,000 to register an individual trade show booth; and up to $3,000 for translation of websites or marketing materials.
STEP will also fund a new initiative to help North Carolina businesses increase sales in Southeast Asia, including Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand. “Southeast Asia is a very hot market right now,” said Mike Hubbard, EDPNC international trade director.