Kentucky Ag News

Grants available to help Kentucky's small businesses export to international markets

Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development
FRANKFORT, Ky. Kentuckys Cabinet for Economic Development is now accepting applications from Kentucky small businesses for grant money made available through the State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP).

The STEP grant program is the latest success of the Governors Kentucky Export Initiative (KEI), which is led by the Cabinet for Economic Development in conjunction with its trade partners. Launched by Gov. Beshear in Dec. 2010, the Kentucky Export Initiative is a consortium of trade and business promotion organizations from across the state whose goal is to grow Kentucky exports.

The goal of the Kentucky Export Initiative is to increase exports, strengthen our economy and put Kentuckians to work, said Gov. Steve Beshear. The STEP grant program is a major key to helping Kentucky companies grow their capacity, increase productivity, and sell more of their goods and services around the world.

The grant program is part of a three-year trade and export promotion pilot initiative authorized by the Small Business Administration Act of 2010, which aims to increase the number of small businesses that export, as well as to increase the value of exports for companies that are currently doing so.

To date, the Cabinet has secured funding in excess of $800,000 through the program to promote exporting activities for Kentuckys small businesses. This is the second round of grants offered through the program. Maximum grant awards for new STEP participants is $7,500; for prior STEP participants it is $2,500. Applications will be accepted through June 2013.

Successful grant applicants will be able to utilize the funds to perform market research, identify international customers, participate in trade shows, and even translate websites and marketing materials. Grants are available to Kentucky companies with fewer than 500 employees that meet revenue requirements set by the Small Business Administration.

Sure, a business can make money selling a great product in Kentucky, but that business can make even more profits, and bring that money into Kentucky, by selling those goods and services to a global market, said Cabinet for Economic Development Secretary Larry Hayes. Most large companies have the resources and expertise to market overseas, but these grants are designed to help the smaller companies sell their Kentucky-made products to the world. The result is increased sales and business growth, which means more jobs, in turn making a stronger economy for all of us.

Kentuckys exports grew 9.9 percent for the first 10 months of 2012, to a record $18.4 billion, eclipsing the former mark set the first 10 months of 2011. Export shipments for all of 2011 totaled $20.1 billion, $740 million more than in 2010. As the exporting numbers grow, Canada continues as Kentuckys largest market, importing $6.5 billion or 32.2 percent of Kentuckys total exports in 2011. Canada was followed by the United Kingdom, $1.5 billion; Mexico, $1.5 billion; Japan, $1.1 billion; and Brazil rounding out the top five at $997 million.

Last year, exports added $4.7 billion to the Commonwealths gross domestic product and directly created 47,000 jobs. Kentucky ranks 19th in the nation in total exports, and is ranked 11th in U.S. exporting on a per capita basis.

The U.S. Commercial Service office and the World Trade Center Kentucky are members of the consortium of trade and business promotion organizations from across the state working as partners in the Kentucky Export Initiative.

The boost in exports is another positive sign that Kentuckys international efforts, along with our KEI partnership, are paying dividends, said Peggy Pauley, director with U.S. Commercial Services office in Louisville.

The World Trade Center Kentucky is proud to share Kentuckys vision for export trade in the Commonwealth, said J. Edwin Webb, president and CEO of World Trade Center Kentucky. Frankfort's leadership, along with the Kentucky Export Initiatives commitment to small and mid-size businesses, is a winning combination for Kentucky.

For more information on the STEP grant, visit and click on Assistance.

The application is available at