The U.S. Small Business Administration has awarded $344,500 in funding to the Maine International Trade Center through the SBA’s competitive State Trade Expansion Program, or STEP, to support export growth among Maine small businesses.

The grant represents the largest amount ever received by the trade center through the STEP program, the SBA said.

STEP is designed to increase the number of small businesses that export, the value of exports for small businesses and the number of small businesses that explore significant new trade opportunities, the SBA said Thursday. Expanding the base of small business exporters and making the process as easy as possible are key components of the SBA’s strategy, it said.

“Maine International Trade Center’s receipt of a record amount of STEP funding is truly a testament to the hard work of their staff, and the quality of their programs,” said Amy Bassett, SBA district director for Maine, in a statement. “We look forward to continued partnership with MITC as they use this funding to expand opportunities for Maine’s small businesses in the international marketplace.”

Trade center President Wade Merritt said this is the sixth consecutive year that the center has received a grant through the STEP program.

“This is the largest amount that we’ve ever received to help Maine businesses increase their export sales,” Merritt said in a statement. “We will be offering added incentives for new activities, such as exhibiting for the first time at a trade show, as well as activities in Asia, Latin America or the North Atlantic-Arctic region.”

Maine small businesses interested in learning more about how to access STEP funds to expand their export sales can visit the trade center website at mitc.com/how-we-help/grants/.

J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: jcraiganderson

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