Economic Development Grant Helps NC’s Small Businesses Tap Global Markets – Southern Pines Pilot

North Carolina has received a $727,315 federal grant to help small businesses across the state grow by increasing their access to global markets. Grant funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) is managed at the local level by the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina (EDPNC).

“Companies that export are 17 percent more profitable than those that don’t,” said John Loyack, EDPNC’s vice president of global business services. “That’s because roughly three quarters of the world’s purchasing power and over 95% of world consumers are outside the U.S.”

Since STEP was created in 2010, it has supported the international trade goals of 1,700 North Carolina businesses.

“Over the past decade, this competitive federal grant program has become essential to helping North Carolina’s first-time or veteran exporters reach those vast markets,” Loyack added.

Qualifying businesses of 500 or fewer employees can receive up to $24,000 a year in STEP reimbursements for a range of export-building activities. They include exhibiting in virtual or in-person trade shows, joining trade missions, translating marketing materials into foreign languages, and localizing business websites in other countries. STEP also supports free export-education workshops for company employees.

“During the pandemic, we’ve seen many more companies use the $10,000 STEP grants available to translate and set up search-engine optimization of their websites in their targeted international markets. With COVID-19 still restricting international business travel, businesses everywhere in the state really need to generate more international leads and sales online,” said Loyack.

STEP grants also provide businesses up to $5,000 toward a booth at a qualifying in-person or virtual international trade show; up to $3,000 for airfare and lodging connected to an in-person event; and up to $6,000 for export services and marketing material that aid in reaching international markets.

STEP grants are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Businesses interested in learning more or applying should visit