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ISTEP Program

​Illinois' State Trade and Export Promotion (ISTEP) program provides Illinois' small businesses with both financial and technical assistance to increase their exports. The ISTEP program includes 5 options for Illinois' companies to grow their export sales: Group Trade Missions (GTM), Individual Foreign Market Sales Missions (IFMSM), and Product Compliance (PC), Website Localization (WL), and Ex-Im Bank: Export Credit Insurance (ECI).

ISTEP assistance will be provided on a first come, first served basis for all qualifying companies.

Below you will find the ISTEP application. Please contact your nearest SBDC International Trade Center (ITC) or Department of Commerce OTI Trade Specialist for more information regarding the application process.

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Funded in part through a grant with U.S. Small Business Administration.

  

5 ISTEP Options to Help Your Business Grow

Group Trade Missions (GTM)

Group Trade Missions are available to a limited number of companies. Qualified businesses will receive:

  • Financial assistance covering associated costs including: trade show booth fees, group ground transportation, matchmaking fees, interpreters, briefing materials, marketing materials, sample shipping and assistance with travel logistics
  • Financial assistance for 25%-75% travel cost reimbursement, not to exceed $5,000 for travel for two Illinois company representatives, including roundtrip economy class airfare on a US carrier and standard hotel room

Individual Foreign Market Sales Missions (IFMSM)

Businesses outside of the sectors represented in the scheduled ISTEP Group Trade Missions are encouraged to undertake an Individual Foreign Market Sales Mission. Qualified businesses will receive:

  • Financial assistance for 25%-75% travel cost reimbursement, not to exceed $10,000 for travel for two Illinois company representatives, including roundtrip economy class airfare on a US carrier and standard hotel room
  • Program costs can include gold key services such as matchmaking and trade show participation

Product Compliance Certification (PC)

Financial assistance is available to help Illinois' small and medium-sized businesses obtain compliance certification services for their products. This assistance is available for measures taken to comply with foreign regulations including those for agricultural products, ISO registration, and packing and recycling laws. Priority will be for lab testing services to achieve product certification, such as CCC mark, CE mark, ISO 9001, ITAR, AS91 00, and ATEX.  Qualified businesses will receive:

  • Financial assistance for 50% of costs, not to exceed $10,000 per company.
  • The International Trade Administration's listing of certification will be used as a guide. This list can be found on the export.gov website, HERE.

Website Localization and eCommerce (WL)

Financial assistance is available for website localization which consists of website translation services, localization for foreign markets, search engine optimization payment functions, hosting, app integration, web services, and cybersecurity; for companies to increase opportunities for export success.

  • Financial assistance for 50% of costs, not to exceed $10,000 per company.

Ex-Im Bank: Export Credit Insurance (ECI)

Financial assistance is available for EX IM Banks' Export Credit Insurance a program that protects an exporter's accounts receivable from 95% commercial and political loss

  • 50% reimbursement rate, not to exceed $ 10,000 per company.

Is Your Business Eligible?

Illinois businesses must meet the following criteria:

  • An Illinois firm with either its headquarters and/or a substantial facility located within the State of Illinois.
  • A small firm as defined by the SBA i.e. less than 500 employees.
  • In operation for at least one year prior to the date of the trade mission or trade show ("Program") in which the Company seeks to attend.
  • Profitable with gross annual revenue of at least $250,000 (a lesser annual revenue may be acceptable if in the opinion of DCEO-OTI the company substantially contributes to Illinois job creation and/or retention efforts.
  • Products and/or services must contain at least 51% U.S.A. and 25% Illinois content, or in the opinion of OTI, product and/or services substantially contribute to Illinois job creation/retention efforts.
  • The Company is not applying for or receiving any other Local, State, or Federal grant funds associated with export promotion assistance from any outside sources for the mission, compliance, or support, except for ExporTech program, for which this application requests funds from DCEO-OTI.

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