Skip to main content

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announces $2 million in export assistance funds available for Michigan's small businesses



September 9, 2021                                                                                                               

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announces $2 million in export assistance funds available for Michigan's small businesses   

Michigan Strategic Fund awarded largest federal STEP award in the nation for fifth consecutive year 

Funds expected to assist more than 350 Michigan companies in increasing international sales 

LANSING, Mich. - Governor Gretchen Whitmer joined the Michigan Economic Development Corporation today to announce Michigan has received the top award in the nation from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) State Trade Expansion Program for the upcoming fiscal year. Michigan received $2 million in federal grant funds - the maximum amount awarded by the SBA and a $650,000 increase from 2021 - to help Michigan small businesses grow in the state through increased access to global markets 

"These federal STEP grants are vital to helping businesses across Michigan create and gain access to new revenue streams as they compete in today's global economy," said Governor Whitmer. "As we continue making investments at the state level to grow our middle class and support small businesses, we welcome this infusion of federal funding from the Small Business Administration to help even more Michigan businesses grow, fostering increasing international collaboration and prosperity for all." 

Administered by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation's International Trade program, this year's SBA award supports export development for small- and medium-sized businesses through financial assistance grants for virtual and in-person trade missions, international sales trips, and trade shows along with website translation, localization, and search engine optimization and more. MI-STEP is designed to spur job creation by empowering Michigan small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to export their products, providing financial assistance awards for eligible export development-related expenses. 

The Michigan Strategic Fund is providing an additional $667,000 as the state match to support the Michigan STEP grant initiative (MI-STEP), now in its 10th year of supporting financial assistance for exporting activities of eligible Michigan businesses. To date, MEDC's International Trade program has facilitated more than $4.1 billion in export sales through federal and non-federally funded programs. In fiscal year 2020, export sales generated a total of $592 million for Michigan businesses. 

"Export sales help to diversify customer bases, provide longer term stability and support higher paying jobs that are critical to our long-term economic growth as a state," said Quentin L. Messer, Jr., CEO of MEDC and President and Chair of the MSF Board. "These funds will allow for our International Trade program to support more businesses, especially growing small businesses, and accelerate our efforts to create a more equitable, inclusive and resilient economy for all Michiganders." 

The International Trade Program recently added international certifications and export credit insurance premiums as expenses eligible for MI-STEP grant funding. Certifications for ISO, AS9100, CE Mark for Europe, CCC for China, and many more, can be expensive hurdles for Michigan small businesses to face when trying to expand their capacity to sell to global markets and credit insurance extends credit to international buyers and provides businesses with access to working capital. By allowing these new MI-STEP-eligible activities, Michigan companies with an export strategy can now bolster their brand and create a competitive advantage by obtaining certifications  and insuring their export sales with less out of pocket premium costs through reimbursements of up to 75 percent through MI-STEP grants.  

In September 2020, the Michigan Strategic Fund also approved an increase in the maximum MI-STEP grant reimbursement from 50 percent to 75 percent, maintaining the annual cap of $15,000 per company. Eligible activities allowed initially under the CARES Act, including e-commerce and compliance testing, as well as increased website expenses will continue to be eligible going forward. These additions were designed to assist companies grow their visibility in target markets through today's evolving business environment. 

"Automation Alley is committed to providing export assistance to businesses across Michigan, especially those looking to expand their Industry 4.0 capabilities, through our award-winning trade mission program with the ongoing support of the MEDC," said Tom Kelly, Executive Director and CEO of Automation Alley. "These STEP funds are crucial to ensuring companies have access to international growth opportunities and we look forward to continuing to partner with MEDC to help companies expand their reach globally." 

"The Michigan SBDC has found the STEP grant to be an invaluable resource for small business owners to grow their export sales and international footprint," said Ronald Stevens, Associate Regional Director, Michigan Small Business Development Center (SBDC). "It's one of the easier grant programs to access that helps small businesses build their international website presence, develop relationships with potential buyers and identify key partners to expand their business abroad. We're very excited that the MEDC continues to be a national leader in supporting export growth in Michigan, which allows our work to continue to help small businesses grow into new markets." 

The MEDC's export plan was developed and executed through collaboration with strategic Michigan export service providers including: U.S. Department of Commerce, Michigan Small Business Administration, Michigan Small Business Development Center, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, MSU International Business Center, Automation Alley, Van Andel Global Trade Center, Networks Northwest, East & West Michigan District Export Councils along with other state & local service providers. 

The MEDC coordinates a statewide export assistance delivery system with public and private resources to ensure company access regardless of geographic location.  

Applications are accepted on an on-going basis for MI-STEP grants to small- and medium- sized businesses. For complete details on how companies can apply for assistance, including eligibility requirements and the application process, please visit  or contact an International Trade Manager.  

About Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) 

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is the state's marketing arm and lead advocate for business development, job awareness and community development with the focus on growing Michigan's economy.?For more information on the MEDC and our initiatives, visit? Pure Michigan® tourism information, your trip begins at?www.michigan.orgJoin the conversation on:?Facebook,?Instagram,?LinkedInand?Twitter. 

# # #