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Hirono Announces $500K to Help Hawaii Small Businesses Expand Into Overseas Markets

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), member of the Senate Small Business Committee, announced that the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) will receive $500,000 through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) State Trade Expansion Program (STEP). The funding will be used to support Hawaii’s small businesses as they work to expand into overseas markets and create more jobs. The funding comes just weeks after Senator Hirono hosted SBA Administrator Isabella Guzman for a tour of organizations supporting small businesses and small businesses on Oahu as part of her ongoing efforts to support Hawaii’s local businesses.

“Access to global markets is essential for small businesses in Hawaii, especially as they work to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Senator Hirono. “For the last decade, the State Trade Expansion Program has enabled Hawaii’s small businesses to expand into overseas markets by providing millions in financial support—creating hundreds of jobs and generating over $80 million in new exports. I am glad to see Hawaii receiving $500,000 in new STEP funding, which will allow even more businesses and entrepreneurs across our state to expand. As a member of the Senate Small Business Committee, I’ll continue working to support Hawaii’s small businesses, business owners, and the employees who power them.”

Only 1 percent of America’s more than 30 million small businesses export their products and services because they often lack the relationships and expertise necessary to secure business in the global marketplace. Congress created STEP in 2010 to increase opportunities for small businesses to engage in international trade. The program awards grants to state economic development agencies so they can help small businesses attend international trade shows and connect with customers in foreign markets. The grants also allow economic development agencies to provide counseling and training to help small businesses understand the rules of international trade.

Since its creation in 2011, the Hawaii STEP program (HiSTEP) has received more than $5 million in federal funding through STEP to provide assistance to over 900 businesses in the state. HiSTEP has also supported the creation of over 900 jobs, and created over $172 million in economic impacts—generating millions in state taxes. Senator Hirono voted to create STEP during the 111th Congress, and has since advocated for increases in program funding.

“SBA’s State Trade Expansion Program has an extensive record helping small businesses grow their revenue by reaching beyond their borders to new markets and customers,” said SBA Administrator Isabella Guzman. “Scaling these awards to meet growing opportunity and demand will help ensure that America’s 33 million small businesses and innovative startups are positioned to succeed with the resources and support they need to seize opportunities abroad, grow through trade and compete in this increasingly global economy.”

This year marks the ten-year anniversary of STEP funding, which continues to support export growth and international expansion among small businesses. To date, the program has awarded $215.5 million in grants that directly support small businesses going global. Since its creation, STEP has recorded over $3.8 billion in exports with more than 12,000 small businesses receiving grants to fund their export opportunities and increase their footprint across 141 countries.