State offers businesses international trade assistance

Staff Report

The Rockford Area Economic Development Council (RAEDC) continues to support and expand programs to help manufacturers achieve sustainable growth through international trade.

Exports from the Rockford area achieved their highest growth rate in five years in 2011, and highest total export value since the U.S. Department of Commerce began tracking the data in 2005.

Rockford-area companies will have new opportunities to promote the brand of their company internationally though the 2012-2013 State Trade & Export Promotion (STEP) Program.

he State of Illinois, in partnership with the RAEDC and the U.S. Commercial Service, introduced Illinois’ 2012-2013 STEP Program to a group of Rockford-area business leaders at an informational seminar. Illinois’ STEP Program, administered by the Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity’s Office of Trade and Investment, provides financial and technical export assistance to eligible small- and medium-sized businesses.

Companies can participate in up to two of the 18 group trade missions, which will be organized by the State of Illinois in 2012-2013. Group trade missions will be held on five different continents and span multiple industry sectors. Qualified businesses will receive 50 to 75 percent travel cost reimbursement, up to $5,000, along with the support of the State of Illinois Office of Trade & Investment in the identification and advancement of leads generated throughout the trade mission.

Companies outside of the sectors represented in the scheduled STEP Group Trade Missions are encouraged to undertake an Individual Foreign Market Sales Mission. These Individual Foreign Market Sales Missions will meet the individual needs of the participating companies, and can incorporate participation in an international trade show, or individual customer appointments. Qualified businesses can receive 50 to 75 percent reimbursement of approved program and travel costs, up to $7,500.

Companies can also receive financial assistance to obtain compliance certification for their products. Financial assistance is available for measures taken to comply with foreign regulations, including those for agricultural products, ISO registration, and packing and recycling laws. Qualified companies can receive financial assistance for 50 percent of costs, not to exceed $5,000. The International Trade Administration’s listing of certifications will be used as a guide for qualified certifications. This list can be found on the website at

Companies interested in pursuing STEP Grant funding to mitigate the cost of international travel, or achieving certifications, can begin the application process by contacting Carrie Zethmayr, manager of International Trade at the RAEDC at (815) 969-4263 or

The aim of the STEP initiative is to help states grow the number of small businesses that are exporting and increase the value of exports for small businesses that are exporting. These goals build on Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s (D) goal of doubling Illinois’ exports by 2015 and strengthens Illinois’ competitive edge in the global market.

From the Dec. 19-25, 2012, issue

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