State Trade Expansion Program (STEP)

Van Andel Global Trade Center is the State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) Regional Export Network Host for West Michigan!

STEP works to increase the number of small business exporters and increases the value of exporters for those who currently trade overseas. Qualifying Michigan companies can use the program to help diversify their customer base, provide long-term stability and create new jobs. STEP has provided support to over 980 unique companies growing their export-related activities. For more information on how your company could benefit from this program visit, www.michiganbusiness.org.

CURRENT FUNDING PERIOD: October 2019, through September 2020.

Note: All activities must take place during this time period.

Please Note:

Companies must be an export-ready U.S. company seeking to export goods or services of U.S. origin or have at least 51% U.S. content.

NEW as of April 2020!

MI-STEP grant reimbursements have increased from $3,000 to $6,000 annually for website localization and improvement requests related to company promotion in a foreign market. Website localization costs are also now eligible for up to 75% reimbursement, up from 50%, now through 9/30/20.

Eligible Export Activities

1. Participation in foreign trade missions

2. U.S. Department of Commerce services

3. Website translation into a foreign language, search engine optimization, and localization services capped at $6,000  reimbursement per award year

4. Design of marketing media (brochures, branded giveaways, social media, advertising, etc.) capped at $6,000 reimbursement per award year

5. International trade show participation

6. Foreign sales trip

7. U.S.-based international trade show participation

8. Participation in export training workshops 

9. Reverse foreign buyer missions (meeting space/audiovisual)

Award Amounts

New-to-Export Companies: Maximum reimbursement $7,000 per year
Market Expansion companies: Maximum reimbursement $15,000 per year 

If you are unsure of your funding level OR are new to the program, please complete the online intake form.

Need portal access? Send full name, title & email address to your Regional International Trade Manager to request a username & password. 

For questions related to the new funding year, please contact your Regional International Trade Manager or the STEP Program Manager, Natalie Sandborn, at sandbornn@michigan.org


MEDC Support During COVID 19

MEDC continues to support Michigan businesses and communities as they are impacted by COVID-19. Resources for small businesses impacted by COVID-19 are available at michiganbusiness.org/covid19.

Michigan Small Business Relief Program
Offers Funding to Businesses Impacted by COVID-19:

The news follows the authorization by the Michigan Strategic Fund to fund the Michigan Small Business Relief Program, which will provide up to $20 million in grants and loans to support businesses facing drastic reductions in cash flow and the continued support of their workforce.

The program authorizes the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to provide up to $10 million in small business grants and $10 million in small business loans to provide emergency relief to businesses directly impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. Learn more about the Small Business Relief Program.

Pure Michigan Business Connect
Virtual Procurement, Donation Assistance:

The MEDC launched a new free, statewide online procurement and donation platform through its Pure Michigan Business Connect program for buyers and suppliers of critical health and human services across a broad range of categories, including local municipalities, to minimize the impact of the virus in the state. The platform will allow health and human service providers across Michigan in need of critical supplies to connect with vetted Michigan businesses and municipalities able to provide or donate goods and services.

Export Consultation:

MEDC's International Trade Program offers virtual and over-the-phone consultation to identify needs and connect you to resources and opportunities that align with your goals. Virtual resources include website translation, market research, SEO consultation, and legal support. Work with your regional International Trade Manager to see what services are available for your company right now. 

International Trade Centers:

MEDC's in-market experts serve over 90 countries offering business matchmaking services, customized market research, pricing analysis, and more. For companies looking to reach established or emerging markets, MEDC's international trade centers offer simple, responsive, and comprehensive services and are available online or over the phone. Contact your International Trade Manager to schedule a call with our local experts today.


MEDC 2019 -2020 Trade Events


Virtual Trade Mission to Mexico

Date/Time Information:

Trade Mission Dates: Sept. 21-25, 2020
Registration Deadline: August 7, 2020   

Fees/Admission:

Member Price:  $1000
Non Member Price:  $1500

Event Description:

Not the Time for International Travel? Perfect Time for Business!

Expand your business into the world's second-largest market for U.S. exports with help from Automation Alley. Join our virtual* trade mission to Mexico, a nation with a strong demand for the following Michigan-made products, services and technologies:

  • Aerospace

  • Automotive components and supplies

  • Design, engineering and manufacturing services

  • Environmental technologies 

  • Healthcare and medical

  • IT and information communication technologies

Why Mexico:

  • As Michigan's second-largest market overseas (behind Canada), $20 billion in exports were shipped to Mexico last year alone.

  • It is the world's 10th most populous nation with 132 million consumers.

  • Mexico is the world's fifteenth-biggest economy and Latin America's second-largest economy.

  • Mexico's multiple free trade agreements with 46 countries (including the USMCA) spans three continents and encompasses 60% of global GDP.

  • The nation is a manufacturing powerhouse in aerospace, automotive, and electronics.

  • Competitive advantages include a highly skilled yet low-wage workforce, excellent product quality, inexpensive transportation costs, and geographic proximity to the U.S.

  • Wide gaps in Mexico's supply chains offer U.S. companies significant opportunities for expansion.

Why Join Automation Alley's First-Ever Virtual Trade Mission:

  • Virtual matchmaking meetings from the comfort of your home or office will place you directly in touch with potential buyers and end-users of your products, services, and technologies. This includes the companies participating in the annual Automotive Supply Forum in Guanajuato.
  • Meet the key players you need to know to be successful in Mexico. Business meetings and conferences with government officials and business and industry leaders who will share their firsthand insights about the opportunities and challenges of doing business there.
  • Automation Alley's award-winning trade mission program (including the President's "E Star" Award) introduces small and medium-sized businesses to high-growth markets and opportunities to expand abroad. These missions are results orientated, having generated nearly $1.5 billion in export sales for past companies and the creation of 7350 local jobs.

This trade mission is made possible in partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). Be sure to ask about Michigan's State Trade Expansion Program (MI-STEP), which may qualify your company to receive up to a 50% reimbursement for the costs of participating in our mission.

Participation is limited to 10 companies and the deadline to register is August 7, 2020. The cost to participate is $1,000 for Automation Alley members and $1,500 for non-members. The price includes business briefings by the U.S. Embassy and Mexican trade organizations, matchmaking meetings and translators.

For more information or to register, please contact Lisa Lasser, Automation Alley's International Business Services Manager, at lasserl@automationalley.com or 248-457-3283.

*The global pandemic has placed constraints on international travel but not on international business.  Under normal circumstances, visiting in person is key to gaining a foothold in new markets overseas.  Given the current conditions, Automation Alley's Virtual Trade Mission will take advantage of today's virtual meeting platforms that will place you in contact with potential business partners throughout Mexico.

Visit Automation Alley's Website for More Details


Virtual Trade Mission to South Africa

Date/Time Information:

Trade Mission Dates:  Oct. 12-16, 2020 
Registration Deadline:  Sept.11, 2020

Fees/Admission:

Member Price: $1000
Non Member Price: $1500 

Event Description:

Not the Perfect Time for International Travel?  The Perfect Time for Business!

Automation Alley is seeking Michigan companies to join its virtual trade mission to South Africa, a nation with a strong demand for the Michigan-made products, services and technologies, including:

  • Medical equipment
  • Health care services
  • Automotive
  • Environment and pollution control technologies
  • IT and information communication technologies
  • Renewable energy
  • Agriculture technologies

This trade mission may also include an option to participate in the online Africa Health Exposition 2020. The exhibition is Sub-Sahara's largest annual health care event that attracts more than 10,000 health care and trade professionals from 67 countries worldwide. The majority of the attendees are senior-level business executives, government officials and other key decision makers responsible for procurement.

Apply today and join Automation Alley's trade mission to South Africa to meet virtually with potential buyers and end-users of your products, services, and technologies. 

Automation Alley's award-winning trade mission program has generated nearly $1.5 billion in export sales for Michigan companies while creating 7,350 local jobs.

Why South Africa?

  • South Africa serves as the gateway to Africa's 1.3 billion consumers.
  • A nation of 58 million, South Africa is a member of the African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), the worlds largest free area with 54 participating countries.
  • The U.S. is a critical trading and technology partner for South Africa and the latter's third-largest bilateral partner in two-way trade by value.
  • Trade between South Africa and the U.S. reached nearly $14 billion in 2018, a 9.4% increase from the previous year.
  • South Africa's geographic advantages, logistics infrastructure, widespread use of the English language and relatively transparent legal processes eases the market-entry process.

Automation Alley Provides:

  • Virtual matchmaking meetings from the comfort of your home or office that will place you directly in touch with potential buyers and end users of your products, services and technologies.
  • Introductions to the key players you need to know to be successful in South Africa.
  • Business meetings and conferences with government officials and industry leaders who will share their firsthand insights about the opportunities and challenges of doing business in South Africa.
  • Business planning before, during and after the mission.

Apply Today:

  • This trade mission is made possible in partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Be sure to ask about Michigan's State Trade and Expansion Program (MI-STEP), which may qualify your company to receive up to a 50% reimbursement for the costs of participating in our mission.
  • Participation is limited to 10 companies and the deadline to register is Sept. 11, 2020. The cost to participate is $1,000 for members and $1,500 for non-members. 

For more information or to register, please contact Lisa Lasser, Automation Alley's International Business Services Manager, at lasserl@automationalley.com or 248-457-3283. 

*The global pandemic has placed constraints on international travel but not on international business.  Under normal circumstances, visiting in person is key to gaining a foothold in new markets overseas. Given the current conditions, Automation Alley's Virtual Trade Mission will take advantage of today's virtual meeting platforms that will place you in contact with potential business partners throughout Africa.


South Korea & Japan Trade Mission

August 19-23, 2021

Registration Deadline: February 8, 2021
Hosted by the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Governors & Premiers and MEDC

Join the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors & Premiers multi-sector trade mission to South Korea and Japan! Benefit from customized B2B meetings to meet with prospective customers and business partners, which is critical to establishing business relationships in the region. Let the MEDC affiliate trade offices in South Korea and Japan save you valuable time and resources to maximize your results.

WHY SOUTH KOREA AND JAPAN?

In 2018, Japan ranked #4 in terms of Michigan’s volume of exports and South Korea ranked #6. 2018 bilateral MI–Japan trade in goods surpassed $4.6 billion and MI–South Korea trade in goods surpassed $7.4 billion. Japan’s GDP is valued at $4.872 trillion, ranking 3rd in the world and 2nd in East Asia. Korea’s GDP is valued at $2.09 trillion, ranking 11th in the world and 3rd in East Asia.

Click here for details and registration for South Korea and Japan Trade Mission


For more information on the upcoming Trade Missions, Trade Shows and Exporting Events & Trainings visit the Michigan Economic Development Corporation's website.