Washington did it again! For the sixth straight year, the state received a U.S. Small Business Administration’s State Trade Expansion Program) grant. The $900,000 is the highest amount awarded from a total $18 million handed out nationwide. Commerce will use the funds to continue a number of successful export assistance programs for small businesses, including export vouchers, support for industry-focused trade shows and trade missions, inbound buyer events and export training.

More than 580 small businesses around the state have benefited from about $5.1 million in STEP-funded support since the program’s inception through the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010. They have achieved over $512 million in sales, creating an estimated return on investment of about 100:1. Of these small businesses, 170 are located in 25 rural Washington counties – or almost 30 percent of all participating STEP companies.

“In the Pacific Northwest, we know that trade is crucial to growing the economy,” Washington Senator Maria Cantwell said. “The STEP program has already supported 2,770 jobs in Washington state. With these new grants, I am certain more Washington businesses will create more jobs by seizing the opportunity to increase exports to growing markets overseas.”

“The STEP program helps support hundreds of local exporters,” said U.S. Congressman Rick Larsen (WA-02) “and every dollar spent through STEP returns $98 to Washington’s economy. This nearly million-dollar investment will help create jobs and boost Washington state’s small businesses.”

“Washington is the most trade-centered state in America and no other has shown a larger return on investment from our State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) work. Congratulations to our international trade team at Commerce on again being rewarded with the largest possible STEP grant to continue their outstanding assistance to our state’s new and growing exporters,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “Our strong success doesn’t happen by accident – it is possible only when we invest in promoting our world-class products, our incredible ports and helping small and mid-size business access foreign markets.”

“One in three jobs throughout Washington state are tied to international trade, so growing exports has direct impact on strengthening communities all over the state,” said Commerce Director Brian Bonlender. “Small businesses need targeted programs such as STEP and the Export Finance Assistance Center of Washington to help them tap into worldwide markets. We use these flexible federal dollars to introduce new companies to exporting and help rural communities participate in our state’s trade economy.”

Bonlender added, “Commerce is eager for the Washington Legislature to renew state funding for these programs so that we can accelerate and expand services and support to small business as soon as possible.”