SBA Awards $493K to Boost MN’s Small-Biz Exports

As part of the State Trade and Export Promotion initiative, 210 Minnesota small businesses will receive assistance aimed at boosting exports.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced Monday that $30 million in funding has been made available to U.S. states in an effort to boost exports from small businesses—and Minnesota will receive $493,086.

The funding, which will benefit 210 Minnesota small businesses, is part of the State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) initiative that was launched last year as part of the federal Small Business Jobs Act. The initiative aims to increase the number of small businesses that export goods while boosting the value of existing small-business exports.

This marks the second year that the funding has been doled out. Last year, $29 million was awarded nationally, including $454,000 in Minnesota. Individual states applied to the SBA in order to be eligible for the funding.

The STEP program subsidizes small businesses that participate in trade missions, trade shows, development of international marketing campaigns, and other efforts. The SBA said that it expects this year’s aid to Minnesota small businesses to result in $25 million worth of exports.

The SBA also said that the Minnesota Trade Office and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture intend to organize several business development missions, including missions to Germany, Sweden, Norway, Brazil, and Chile to be led by Governor Mark Dayton—but Minnesota Trade Office Executive Director Katie Clark told Finance & Commerce that Dayton “has not announced any trade missions for the remainder of 2012 or 2013 at this point,” and the SBA’s information was inaccurate.

SBA Administrator Karen Mills joined Minnesota’s U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken Monday afternoon at Delkor Systems, Inc., a packaging machinery manufacturer, for a tour of the Circle Pines-based business and to announce the second round of STEP funding.

Delkor received STEP funding last year to participate in the Packaging Machine Manufacturing Institute’s Pack Expo in Mexico City. Delkor has since added a business contact in Mexico, hired three bilingual employees, and expects to generate $1.5 million in exports to Mexico in 2013, according to the SBA.

“With 95 percent of the world’s consumers living outside of the United States, exporting gives small businesses the opportunity to reach new markets, increase sales, and create jobs,” Mills said in a statement. “The second round of STEP funding will be instrumental in helping small businesses start or expand their exporting opportunities so they can create an economy built to last.”

The funding comes at a time when the Twin Cities and Minnesota have seen growth in overall exports. In 2011, Minnesota companies exported $20.3 billion in agricultural, mining, and manufactured products—surpassing the previous record of $19.2 billion, set in 2008, according to data from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

The state’s companies exported a record $5.4 billion in the second quarter of 2012, breaking the previous record of $5.3 billion set during the second quarter of 2011, according to DEED.

Meanwhile, recently released data from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA) showed that the Twin Cities metro area exported $26.2 billion worth of merchandise in 2011—making it the 10th largest export market in the nation. (Unlike DEED, whose export reports are statewide and include only Minnesota-made products, ITA’s report is specifically for the Twin Cities metro area and includes goods that are manufactured elsewhere but shipped out of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.)