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Jan. 15, 2014

Appropriations Bill Includes Funding for State Trade and Export Promotion Program

CSG Instrumental in Advocacy for Program

WASHINGTON, D.C.--As part of a $1.2 trillion bill to fund the federal government unveiled late Tuesday, congressional leaders provided funding for the State Trade and Export Promotion--or STEP--program for a third year. The legislation is now under consideration in the full House and Senate, where it is expected to pass and be signed into law late this week.

The Council of State Governments was instrumental in drafting and advocating for the STEP program, a three-year pilot trade and export initiative authorized by the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010. The program was initially funded for two years. If the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014 is signed into law, the program would receive a third year of funding but at a reduced level.

"The STEP program is a critical tool in states' economic toolkit," said David Adkins, executive director/CEO of The Council of State Governments. "As states continue down the path of economic recovery, we need innovative programs like STEP to provide incentives to both start and grow small businesses."

Funded by federal grants and matching funds from the states, the STEP program is designed to help increase the number of small businesses that are exporting and to raise the value of exports for those small businesses that are currently exporting. STEP grants can be used for any services or activities that assist a small or medium-sized company preparing to enter a new market or increase the activity of that company in an existing market.

"States have been positioning international exports as a key component of their job creation strategies. The STEP program is a vital component of statewide strategies across the country, and I appreciate Sen. Mary Landrieu's leadership to make America more globally competitive," said Wade Merritt, president of the State International Development Organizations, or SIDO, and vice president of the Maine International Trade Center. SIDO is a CSG affiliate.

All 50 states, Washington, D.C., and U.S. territories were invited to apply for STEP grant awards. Over the course of two years, 49 states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands have won a STEP grant award.

States have seen impressive economic benefits stemming directly from the STEP program. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has noted the number of trade companies receiving services from his state's Department of Economic Development increased by 30 percent because of the program. He also has cited a 121 percent increase in the number of export opportunities provided to companies in the state and a 17 percent increase in the number of export deals. One deal in particular netted the sale of $1.5 million worth of nuts from three south Georgia producers.

Nineteen governors and 23 U.S. senators requested continued funding for the STEP program.

The Council of State Governments is our nation’s only organization serving all three branches of state government. CSG is a region-based forum that fosters the exchange of insights and ideas to help state officials shape public policy. This offers unparalleled regional, national and international opportunities to network, develop leaders, collaborate and create problem-solving partnerships.