Trading Thoughts Blog
Permanent link for Michigan Small Businesses are Missing Out on Free Money: Why You Should Take Advantage of MI-STEP on April 20, 2022
by Natalie Bremmer
Michigan Economic Development Corporation's MI-STEP
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) oversees Michigan’s State Trade Expansion Program (MI-STEP) to give financial assistance to small businesses to pursue exporting their products and gain access to larger global markets.
They have roughly $2.667 million worth of aid to give out to small businesses across the state. Up to 75% of pre-approved exporting expenses can be covered with a $15,000 maximum per business in a fiscal year when the Michigan company follows the MI-STEP eligibility criteria.
This program makes entering or expanding in new global markets viable for small or medium-sized businesses eager to expand while accommodating a more limited budget.
MI-STEP may seem confusing at first glance, so here are its three main objectives:
- Increase amount of small and medium-sized businesses in Michigan that participate in exporting
- Grow the dollar value of Michigan exports
- Provide an avenue for Michigan small businesses to explore new trade opportunities
The eligibility criteria to secure aid from this program include:
- Being in accordance with SBA standards
- Demonstrate understanding of export costs and business with foreign markets; including freight forwarding, packing, shipping, and customs brokers
- Show potential for successful exporting as well as a positive impact on the regional economy
- Provide an EIN number that is linked to a Michigan address
- Must be in good standing with the Michigan Department of Treasury as well as any other regulatory agencies
- Must be a U.S. company that is prepared to export goods of U.S. origin with a minimum of 51% U.S. content
Once a business gets this aid, there are particular transactions that will be covered by MI-STEP funds. These include but are not limited to:
- Participating in foreign-trade missions
- E-commerce fees for advertisement and website design
- Participation in international trade shows
- Foreign sales trips (up to two people on an economy flight)
- EXIM export credit insurance premiums
- Participation in export training workshops
One company that benefitted greatly from an MI-STEP award was Armor Protective Packaging: a rust removal company that specializes in making clean, safe, and easily used vapor corrosion inhibitor packaging. Through MI-STEP, they were able to expand to provide to 90% of the Fortune 500’s industrial companies as well as several other countries across the world. More specifically, MI-STEP helped this company with having the funds to create a local website translated and customized for the different languages and cultures of the specific countries they were selling to– effectively expanding their digital footprint. They were also able to travel to some of these countries to network and secure international business partners which was another huge step for them to reach their global markets.
GVSU's Van Andel Global Trade Center
The Van Andel Global Trade Center is an easily accessible resource with various export training programs and workshops that are eligible for MI-STEP coverage that teaches small businesses how to find success similar to how Armor Protective Packaging did. VAGTC’s incredibly knowledgeable team has been working with businesses across Michigan for over two decades in both one-on-one and group settings– entirely depending on their clients' needs. Throughout their time at GVSU they’ve worked with over 10,000 companies and have assisted more than 31,000 business professionals. Not only do they have a wealth of experience with exporting, but they also assist companies of all sizes with importing concerns.
VAGTC consults with companies in the following areas:
- Export & Import Procedure Manuals
- Compliance (export and import)
- Free Trade Agreements such as USMCA
- Global Supply Chain Logistics
- Export Controls Training: ITAR & EAR
- Cultural Training
- Market Research
- Foreign-Trade Zones
- Global Risk Factors
- Harmonized Schedule/Classifications, Export Control Classification Numbers
- and more!
Their website has a variety of helpful resources like guidebooks, available programs, trade zones, and Worldwide Credit Reports. VAGTC memberships are also available for discounts on workshops and more individualized assistance.
With an ever-expanding global market, there has been no better time to enter it than right now. Check out MEDC's MI-STEP website with full details on the program and begin taking full advantage of all that MEDC has to offer! Companies can also learn more about VAGTC’s services and how we can get you connected to the MI-STEP program by contacting us today! Now is the time to grow your small business through increased export sales, let us help!!
About the Author
Natalie Bremmer is a Student Assistant at GVSU’s Van Andel Global Trade Center . She is a sophomore currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in Finance and Human Resource Management at Grand Valley State University. She enjoys lifting weights, playing video games, spending time with friends, and going on long hikes.