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Export and Trade


Alabama’s State Trade Expansion Program (STEP)

The Alabama State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) Grant offers eligible Alabama small and medium-sized businesses assistance in launching or expanding export activities. Grant funds are used to reimburse Alabama businesses for pre-approved, eligible export marketing expenses. The program is funded in part through a grant with the U.S. Small Business Administration and administered by the Office of International Trade on behalf of the state.

Small Business Eligibility Criteria:

  • A for-profit business registered in Alabama
  • Physically located & operational in Alabama at least one year
  • Not barred from receiving federal funds
  • One or more full-time employees
  • Sufficient resources to bear the costs associated with trade
  • Small business in accordance with SBA guidelines and size standards:
    Size Standards or Electronic Code of Federal Regulations

STEP Grant allowable expense reimbursements

Financial Caps on activities vary.

Foreign Trade Missions or Individual Overseas Marketing Sales Trips

Missions may be led by state or federal agencies.  Expenses related but not limited to include:

  • Travel Expenses (airfare & lodging capped at $4,000 per company)
    • Airfare (consistent with Fly America Act guidelines)
    • Hotel Lodging during participation of event (capped at the U.S. Department of Commerce U.S. per diem rates)
  • Trade mission fees, activity, participation, registration, etc.
  • Services from an individual to translate documents, interpret conversations, and/or facilitate multilingual transactions for the trade mission

International and Domestic Trade Shows

  • Travel Expenses (airfare & lodging capped at $4,000 overseas shows/$2,000 domestic shows per company)
    • Airfare (consistent with Fly America Act guidelines)
    • Hotel Lodging during participation of event (capped at the U.S. Department of Commerce foreign per diem rates)
  • Trade show registration fees
  • Services from an individual to translate documents, interpret conversations, and/or facilitate multilingual transactions
  • Rental Car and/or mileage of personal vehicle based on Alabama mileage rates

Additional Activities

  • Website translation into a foreign language, search engine optimization, and localization services (capped at $6,000) through the Alabama Online Global Program
  • Fees associated with export credit insurance (capped $5,000)

U.S. Commercial Service subscription services

  • Gold Key Services provides pre-screened appointments with potential overseas agents, distributors, sales representatives, business partners and other local in-country entities
  • Matchmaking Services includes an International Partner Search and/or International Partner Search with Virtual Introductions
  • Single Company Promotion promotes your company in a specific market and may consist of targeted direct mail or email campaigns.
  • Market intelligence includes Customized Market Research.

STEP Grant Unallowable Expense Reimbursements:

  • Passport or visa fees
  • Meals
  • Immunizations
  • Expenses related to entertaining current or prospective clients or government officials
  • New product development or alteration of existing products
  • Cellphones and cellphone charges
  • Television and radio production
  • Efforts to create or augment marketing and advertising campaigns to draw international visitors to a State
  • Cost for printing marketing materials
  • Cost for development and/or design of a website for a company
  • Cost for enhancement and/or development of an existing company’s product Incidental expenses associated with individual’s attendance at meetings, conferences and symposiums

STEP Success Stories

STEP has been providing resources to Alabama small and medium sized businesses to help them tap into new markets and increase their international sales. Here are two success stories on how the STEP and Alabama Online Global Programs have benefited local companies.

Davies Hood, president of Birmingham-based Induron Protective Coatings, said his company has been working with IBT Online and is already seeing benefits from its “internationalization through localization” approach to marketing.  “Sometimes we tend to look at the world through the lens of our own culture, experience and/or preconceptions, so they have helped us take a more local, customer-focused approach,” Hood said.  “Their professionalism and politeness impress me, but I genuinely value their approach that is based more on systems and processes than more touchy-feely marketing approaches.”

Chris Wilder of SEPCO, an Alabaster-based maker of fluid sealing products, said STEP has benefited his company.  “The STEP grant program been a vital part of our global export growth strategy. We have used it for everything from market research, to trade mission prospecting,” Wilder said. “Currently we are working with the program to further develop our international digital marketing assets. The STEP grant program is an is an excellent value,” he added.

For more information on the AL STEP program, please contact us at

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