WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Senators announced that a proposed 2015 omnibus funding bill would more than double federal investment in a key tool to help America’s small businesses increase exports and create jobs back in the United States.
Cantwell joined Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) this week in introducing bipartisan legislation to reauthorize and enhance the State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) program. STEP has supported more than $900 million in U.S. small business exports, producing a return-on-investment of 15 to1 for taxpayers.
The Senate is expected this week to consider the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act for 2015, which funds the federal government. That bill would reauthorize the STEP program next year and includes $17.4 million for 2015. That is more than double the $8 million that Congress allocated for the program in 2014.
“In the Pacific Northwest, we know that trade is crucial to growing the economy,” Cantwell said. “This initiative will help America’s small businesses seize the opportunity to increase exports to growing markets overseas. The STEP program has already supported 2,230 jobs in the State of Washington. I look forward to seeing this successful program continue to support small businesses.”
“The STEP Grant Program has proven to be very successful in providing support for our nation’s small businesses and creating jobs,” Collins said. “Last year alone, the State of Maine had a return on investment of 57-1, while generating $4.3 million in export sales. I am pleased to join Senator Cantwell in supporting a five-year reauthorization of program.”
“Small businesses are the backbone of New Hampshire’s economy, and the STEP grant program is a proven, common-sense way to help our small businesses tap into foreign markets and create jobs,” said Shaheen, a member of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee. “Exporting represents a tremendous opportunity for small businesses, and reauthorizing the STEP grant program would be a great win for jobs and the economy.”
Exports drove about one-third of economic growth during the last five years. But less than 5 percent of 28 million small businesses in the United States currently export products or services, leaving untapped potential. Through STEP, states are issued grants through a competitive process to aid small businesses in overcoming barriers to selling products or services overseas.
Without new funding, STEP was set to expire for 2015.
STEP grants can be used to support small businesses on foreign trade missions, trade exhibitions, training or with foreign marketing-related issues such as website translation. About 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside U.S. borders.
The Senators’ legislation – the “STEP UP for American Small Businesses Act (S. 2990)” – would reauthorize STEP for five years and improve the program by expanding the time limit on grants, allowing reverse trade missions, and allowing more start-ups to use the STEP program. In addition, the bill requires better coordination between state and federal agencies to reduce duplication.
In June, several businesses and trade experts testified before the Senate Small Business Committee in support of the STEP program.
About 11.3 million jobs in the United States were supported by exports in 2013.