Wilmington, DE - Everyone agrees that U.S. companies should export more of their goods and services to other countries. After all, 90% of the world's spending occurs outside the United States. Delaware is taking action to help small businesses in the state do exactly that. Fifteen Delaware businesses recently visited China and another five visited Brazil to start or improve their exporting to those countries. This trip was funded in large part by a $246,000 State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and coordinated with help from the State of Delaware's International Trade and Development Group (ITG).
The STEP program is a 3-year pilot trade and export initiative authorized by the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010. 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.
Analtech Inc. of Newark was one of these businesses. Analtech, Inc. started manufacturing Thin Layer Chromatography Plates in 1961 and began selling products internationally in the mid-1990s. While they have more than 60 distributors around the world, they have had a difficult time finding a distributor in China through phone calls and e-mails alone. But, since the trip in May they have made more progress in gaining access to Chinese markets than in the previous 15 years. It is clear that nothing compares to face-to-face meetings when it comes to establishing business relationships.
Prior to setting foot on Chinese soil, much work was done by the ITG, SBA, the U.S. Department of Commerce, World Trade Center Delaware, and several other groups and organizations to help plan this event. That preparation helped make the trip an effective and efficient endeavor.
"Once in China, at each meeting, we found ourselves speaking directly with people who either were great potential customers or distributors - or who could offer us useful and practical information to help us connect and grow our exports. We were able to establish (with the help and guidance of our translator) new social media channels on Weibo and Youku to better communicate with individuals, businesses, universities, and government officials in China," said Ken Grant, Sales and marketing Director of Analtech Inc.
Steven Miles, General Manager, Analtech Inc. remarked, "This trip is considered a success by our company and a significant step forward in our ongoing attempts to engage with the Chinese marketplace. Upon our return to the U.S., we set up a page on our web site specifically for visitors from China where they can access our videos (YouTube is blocked in China, we now have videos available through Chinese Youku) and learn more about our company. We are continuing conversations with potential distributors and customers in China and look forward to long and fruitful relationships with our new friends," Other Delaware small businesses participating in the program report similar positive results.
Each state submits a grant request to the SBA to request funding for the STEP program, and each state can define how the money will be used. Delaware chose to focus on exports to China and Brazil. John Pastor, the Director of the ITG in Delaware stated, "The program was well thought out and allows each State to provide focused assistance to eligible small businesses. Small businesses have limited resources and generally require advice, information and hand-holding when entering or expanding in international markets. The STEP program is excellent use of money that provides the funding to directly assist the small business to enter new export markets and increase their export business volume."
Through the STEP grants, SBA awarded approximately $30,000,000, supporting approximately $43,400,000 of total projects costs. SBA is authorized to grant up to $30 million to States each year under the program. The STEP grants can help provide many possible support mechanisms for small businesses such as:
- participation in foreign trade missions and foreign market sales trips
- subscription to services by the Department of Commerce;
- website translation fees;
- design of international marketing media;
- trade show exhibitions;
- participation in training workshops; and
- other export initiatives determined to be appropriate by the SBA.
"While it will take a little more time to see an actual increase in exports from these trips, the foundation has been laid in the form of relationships, partnerships, and open lines of communication to build our exports in the coming years," said Tony Leta, district director of the Delaware SBA office. And that is a STEP in the right direction.