Want to get into the export trade?

Small business grants now available

HARLINGEN — Businesses in the Rio Grande Valley can apply for a cut of the latest funding now available for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s State Trade Expansion Program.

The SBA announced this week $500,000 has been awarded to the Texas Department of Agriculture to be passed out as grants to businesses seeking to expand markets beyond the U.S. border.

“The administrator is the Texas Department of Agriculture, but it doesn’t have to be someone in agriculture,” said Angela R. Burton, SBA district director for the Lower Rio Grande District. “This particular grant goes to businesses that are looking to expand their market outside the United States.

“You can use the grant for, say, translating your website,” she added. “Say you’re wanting to do business in Germany, the grant will pay for your website to be translated into German. It pays for going to trade shows. It pays for marketing materials.”

Trade represents nearly 58 percent of the world’s $80 trillion economy, and 95 percent of the world’s consumers are located outside the United States, the SBA said.

“Exporting is an important way for U.S. small businesses to grow revenue and boost local economies,” Burton said. STEP is designed to assist states with increasing the number of small businesses that export and the value of those exports.

Burton added that SBA officials are working to ensure some of the STEP funds are allocated to businesses in non-urban areas.

“Since we’re a small area, our regional export finance guy is helping me to push the state to set aside a small bit for our smaller areas, because what happens is Austin and Houston just eat those grants before our folks even get an opportunity to apply,” Burton said.

Since 2011, the STEP program has awarded approximately $157 million in grants to fund export opportunities and increase the footprint of small businesses outside the United States.