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,

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

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

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

Africa Health 2020

May 9, 2020  - May 15, 2020 

Visit host website for updates as dates for this event may have changed:

Event Description:

Automation Alley is seeking Michigan companies to join its trade mission to South Africa to participate in the Africa Health Exhibition 2020, Sub-Sahara’s largest annual healthcare event that attracts more than 10,000 healthcare 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.

In addition to medical equipment and healthcare services, South Africa also has a strong demand for the following Michigan-made products, services and technologies:

  • Automotive
  • Environment and pollution control technologies
  • IT and ICT
  • Renewable energy

Why South Africa?

  • South Africa serves as the gateway to Africa’s 1.3 billion consumers.
  • A nation of 58 million, South Africa’s free trade agreements with other African countries provides duty free access to U.S. companies seeking to expand further into the continent
  • 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.

Why Join Our Trade Mission?

  • Africa Health is the leading exhibition in Africa in the healthcare sector, providing opportunities for Michigan exporters in this fast-growing market.
  • Your company will have the opportunity to participate with the Michigan pavilion at the show.
  • We offer customized appointments with prospective partners, distributors, and buyers.
  • Meet the key players you need to know to be successful in South Africa. Attend 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 in Africa.
  • Automation Alley trade missions have generated more than $1.3 billion in export sales for company participants while creating 7,007 local jobs.
  • Automation Alley received the President’s “E Star” Award for Export Service (2013) and the Presidents “E” Award (2008) from the White House, the nation’s highest and most prestigious awards granted to economic developers in recognition of their contributions to increasing American exports overseas.
  • Michigan’s State Trade and Expansion Program (MI-STEP) may qualify your company to receive up to a 50% reimbursement for the costs of participating on our mission.
  • We will take care of all your planning before, during and after the mission. International flights are not included.

Participation is limited to 10 companies and the deadline to register is March 27, 2020. The cost to participate is $3,500 for members and $4,500 for non-members. Price includes business briefings by the U.S. Embassy and local trade organizations, matchmaking meetings, business tours, in-country ground transportation, five-star hotels and dinner receptions. International flights are not included.

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

Cultural Activity Option

For interested trade mission participants, we will organize a Pilanesberg Safari Tour the weekend prior to the trade mission. We highly recommend that you participate as it is an experience not to miss! Please inquire if interested.

South Korea & Japan Trade Mission

August 17-21, 2020

Registration Deadline: June 2, 2020
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.


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

Mexico Trade Mission

September 20-24, 2020

Event Description:

Let Automation Alley help your company expand business opportunities in Mexico by reaching new customers, agents and distributors in the world’s second-largest market for U.S. exports!

Apply today and join Automation Alley's trade mission to Mexico to meet directly with potential buyers and end-users of your products, services, and technologies. We will take care of all your business planning before, during and after the mission at significant savings. Participants will travel to Mexico City, Puebla, and Guanajuato from Sept. 20-25. This trade mission includes participation in the Automotive Supply Forum 2020 and the Automotive Cluster in Guanajuato.

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.  
Mexico is a nation with a strong demand for the following Michigan-made products, services and technologies, including: 

  • Aerospace and defense

  • Automotive components and supplies

  • Design, engineering and advanced manufacturing services

  • Environmental technologies 

  • Health care and medical

  • IT and information communication technologies

Why Mexico:

  • As Michigan's second-largest market overseas (behind Canada), $11 billion in exports were shipped to Mexico last year alone.

  • The country is Latin America's second-largest economy and world's 10th most populous nation (132 million).

  • Mexico is a global leader in automobile production.

  • Mexico's 14 free trade agreements with more than 50 countries (including the USMCA) spans three continents and encompasses 60% of global GDP.

  • The nation is a world-leading manufacturing powerhouse.

  • 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 Attend Automotive Supply Forum 2020 in Leon, Guanajuato:

  • More than 2,500 companies participating 

  • 130 buyers participating in B2B meetings and networking activities

  • More than 250 exhibitors

  • Booth space in Michigan pavilion 

  • Networking with participating companies in the supply chain and automotive industry

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 July 31. The cost to participate is $3,500 for Automation Alley members and $4,500 for non-members. The price includes business briefings by the U.S. Embassy and local trade organizations, matchmaking meetings, business tours, in-country ground transportation, hotels and dinner receptions. Airfare is not included.

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

Visit Automation Alley's Website for More Details

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