Helping Arizona small businesses go international

Almost all of the world’s customers — 95 percent — live outside of America’s borders. For small businesses, it’s not always easy to figure out how to make those global sales.

The Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA) is ready to help.

The agency successfully competed for a federal grant to help Arizona companies that want to enter the international market for the first time or want to expand their global reach.

With matching funds from the federal Small Business Administration, the commerce authority has more than $400,000 to help small businesses in Arizona expand trade and exports this year through the State Trade Expansion Program, or STEP. 

ACA is one of 41 state international trade agencies that won a total of $18 million in STEP grants from the SBA this year. The STEP program was designed to assist states with increasing the number of small businesses that export and the value of those exports.  

“These grants are especially helpful as our country is in the midst of negotiating a number of trade agreements, including the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA),” said Chris Pilkerton, acting administrator for the SBA. “All of the administration’s work is aimed at modernizing and creating a better deal for America’s consumers and businesses, including small businesses and workers.”

Not only do small companies receive funding through STEP, they also receive information, training and tools to help them succeed. For every dollar awarded, awardees report that they receive $28 in sales, according to the SBA.

Arizona STEP offers services and tools to Arizona small businesses including:

  • An assessment of export readiness   
  • Export education and counseling 
  • Assistance with market selection strategy and design of international marketing campaigns and export trade show exhibits
  • Assistance with website localization, translation and search optimization for export markets
  • Assistance identifying buyers, agents, distributors, end users, and other partners in international markets
  • Participation in sector-specific trade missions, summits and trade shows  

Arizona will begin enrolling companies starting September 30, 2019. Companies undertake various export initiatives under the program guidelines. These initiatives have a financial assistance component conducted typically on a partial reimbursement basis. For more information, go to: Arizona STEP.

Public-private partnership

AZSTEP is a collaboration of public and private sector partners at the state and national level including the SBA, U.S. Department of Commerce’s Export Assistance Center, Arizona Small Business Development Center Network, U.S. Export-Import Bank, Arizona Technology Council, Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Black Chamber of Commerce, Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Minority Business Development Agency Business Center, Arizona State University, University of Arizona, Northern Arizona University, and others. 

Victoria Harker

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