To the small-business owner, moving goods and services across international borders might seem like a daunting and costly ordeal. But export experts now point to a grab-bag of resources to make the job nearly effortless in some cases.
Louisiana small businesses wanting to break into the export market are encouraged to apply to the State Trade and Export Promotion Program, a new grant program designed to help fund travel expenses, trade show booth fees, website translation costs, training workshop fees and other costs.
Funding for the program comes from the U.S. Small Business Administration and is in step with President Barack Obama’s focus on increasing U.S. exports through the 2010 National Export Initiative. Louisiana was awarded $850,000 this year for the trade enhancement program, which is being administered through the Louisiana Department of Economic Development. LED is in the process of reapplying to receive a similar grant next year, said Stephen Moret, secretary of Louisiana Economic Development.
“The state will use the program to help up to 120 Louisiana small businesses grow their export trade business,” Moret said “The program will reimburse a maximum of $5,000 per company for eligible export-related expenses and a maximum of $9,000 per company for eligible export-related expenses focused on China.”
To date, 44 companies with products ranging from motorcycle parts and printing products to medical manufacturing and barge products have inquired about the program, Moret added.
Another resource businesses should not overlook is the U.S. Export Assistance Center in New Orleans, a division of the U.S. Commerce Department. Businesses can get assistance in areas like finding and developing an international market, learn the easiest countries to trade with and other services.
“They can help a small business virtually find information on any market in any country they need,” said Bryan Greenwood, director of the Louisiana Small Business Development Center on LSU’s South Campus — also a resource for learning about export opportunities.
The Export Assistance Center offers a range of services, and the first counseling session is free.
“Our best service is the Gold Key Service,” said Donald van de Werken, director of the Export Assistance Center in New Orleans. There are 120 offices around the country. The Gold Key Service costs $700, and can be reimbursed by STEP grants. “The Gold Key opened access to potential buyers by setting up one-on-one appointments,” van de Werken remarked.
Part of what the Small Business Development Center can do is help businesses draft an export strategy, Greenwood said. There are 10 SBDCs around the state.
“It’s kind of like building a business plan for a new startup, or a company that exists for rolling out a new product,” he explained.
These resources are meant to help businesses expand markets and grow jobs, experts said.
“So, we have some tools,” Greenwood remarked. “It’s probably not perfect, but we have more than we’ve ever had for small business to tap into.
“I just think that it’s something everybody should look at,” he continued. “It doesn’t matter if you’re technology or non-technology. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling a product or a service. But take a look at it.”
Copyright © 2011, Capital City Press LLC • 7290 Bluebonnet Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70810 • All Rights Reserved