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Velázquez Looks to Strengthen SBA Office Responsible for Boosting Small Business Exports

Washington, D.C.— Today, the House Small Business Committee, under Chairwoman Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY), held a hearing reviewing the operations of the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of International Trade (OIT), which is responsible for supporting small business international trade development and encouraging small business exports. OIT’s primary responsibility is administering the State Trade Expansion Program (STEP), which provides grants to states and territories to directly support small businesses looking to export.
“For small businesses, exporting products abroad can jump-start growth and unlock an enterprise’s full potential. Nearly 96 percent of consumers live outside of the United States. When small firms sell their products internationally, they can reach countless new customers, become more resilient, and boost their bottom line,” said Chairwoman Velázquez. “Today, I want to take a closer look at the operations of SBA’s Office of International Trade and particularly STEP, and the actions Congress can take to improve the program and address any challenges facing the Office.”
Small businesses looking to export their products abroad often face issues like difficulty obtaining capital to fill foreign purchase orders, struggling to connect with foreign buyers, and trouble navigating international rules and regulations. To address these challenges, STEP provides matching funds to states and territories for participation in trade missions, global marketing efforts, workshops, export trade show exhibits, and other promotional activities. In FY 2021, SBA supported $832 million in export sales through STEP and assisted over 3,400 small businesses.
During the hearing, SBA Associate Administrator of OIT, Gabriel Esparza, testified on the current issues facing STEP and ways Congress can empower the program to help more small businesses. Members also discussed the “STEP Improvement Act of 2022”, recently introduced by Rep. Dwight Evans (D-PA) and Rep. Young Kim (R-CA), which would reauthorize the program for four fiscal years and make a variety of improvements.
During the hearing, Associate Administrator Esparza updated the committee on the current status of STEP:

- This year’s STEP applications were the largest ever, both in terms of states/territories applying as well as the total dollars requested
- In 2022 STEP will have a record 48 states participating in the program
- In Fiscal Year 2021, more than 92 percent of international trade loans were made by community or regional banks.
- In Fiscal Year 2021, more than 92 percent of international trade loans were made by community or regional banks.
- Over the last decade, STEP has awarded over $200 million to all 50 states plus 6 territories, which has supported 12,000 small businesses and generated $5,480,291,665 in export sales.

“SBA is focused on increasing awareness for exporting by connecting to a broader audience of small businesses who are currently exporting or could potentially be exporting,” said Associate Administrator Esparza. “We are increasing our marketing of the importance of exporting by focusing on partnerships and events as well as other channels and mediums to reach new audiences. We are focused on creating new, intentional small business exporters that will drive economic growth by tapping into the global marketplace.”


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