NC Wins $618,640 Grant to Help Small Businesses Increase Exports

September 29, 2020


RALEIGH ― North Carolina has won a $618,640 federal grant to help small businesses grow their exports during a year when COVID-19 is requiring a shift to doing international business virtually rather than in-person.

North Carolina is among states successfully competing for the funding provided through the State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) of the U.S. Small Business Administration. This 2020-21 grant cycle marks the ninth year North Carolina has received the award to help businesses of fewer than 500 employees begin exporting or enter new markets.

The Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina manages STEP at the local level. The program funds everything from educational workshops and customized market research for exporters to direct grants that help businesses pay for exhibiting at international trade shows and joining trade missions.

“Because the risks of the pandemic have crippled travel and canceled in-person trade events around the world, STEP now has even more flexibility to help exporters generate global sales leads online ― through exhibiting at virtual trade events and localizing their websites in other countries,” said John Loyack, vice president of EDPNC global business services.

“During a pandemic, connecting online with potential international buyers and distributors is more important than ever.”

With that in mind, the SBA recently expanded STEP grant eligibility to businesses participating in virtual trade shows or missions.

STEP can now reimburse a small business up to $5,000 during the year for registering a booth in an in-person or virtual international trade show, up to $6,000 for related foreign-language translation of marketing materials, and up to $3,000 for airfare and lodging connected to an in-person event.

In addition, STEP now offers up to $10,000 to help a small business pay for translation and search-engine optimization of its website in two global markets. The average cost for such website work is roughly $12,000, Loyack said, “so this will go a long way toward helping small businesses afford the cost of raising their brand recognition in other countries.”

Advanced Superabrasives Inc., a Mars Hill, N.C.-based manufacturer of high-precision grinding wheels exported to 28 countries, is translating and optimizing its website in Canada and Mexico with STEP support.

“Customers feel you’re more invested in them by having your website localized in their country,” said Jonathan Szucs, company president and owner. “It’s not just throwing up window dressing. You’ve actually invested time and money in reaching out to the customer. And in today’s world where you can’t travel, that’s even more important.”

The EDPNC assists 150-200 businesses a year through STEP support of activities including trade shows, translations, and export education. According to EDPNC surveys, for every $1 in STEP support a North Carolina company receives, it generates roughly $40 in international sales.

Companies interested in applying for STEP grant support should email the EDPNC international trade division at

About the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina
The Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina is a private nonprofit corporation that serves as North Carolina’s statewide economic development organization, committed to serving all those looking to invest in, visit or do business with the state. The EDPNC, which operates under contract with the North Carolina Department of Commerce,  leads the state’s efforts in business and job recruitment, existing industry support, international trade, tourism and film marketing.

Media contact: Mary Wilson, EDPNC communications manager
(919) 447-7784