STEP Grant
Port of New Orleans
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State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) Grant for Export Promotion

The STEP Grant program is designed to help Louisiana small businesses generate new export revenue and create or retain jobs resulting from sales to foreign markets.  Under this program, eligible small businesses can be reimbursed for expenses associated with participation in virtual and in-person trade shows, trade missions, and export training workshops, as well as other eligible expenses including shipping sample products, compliance testing, fee services offered by the U.S. Commercial Service, internationally-focused website development and design of marketing media, and other activities and expenses as determined by SBA.

The program offers a 90% reimbursement rate on eligible expenses, with a maximum benefit per company of $7,500.


Eligibility

To be eligible companies must:

  • Meet the SBA definition of a small business
  • Have been in business for at least one year
  • Be a for-profit business based in Louisiana
  • Be new to export or seeking new export markets
  • Have a plan for exporting (export strategy)
  • Understand costs associated with exporting
  • Be an export-ready U.S. company seeking to export goods or services of U.S. origin OR have at least 51% U.S. content
  • Not be debarred from doing business with the Federal Government 

Reimbursable Expenses

Eligible expenses include:

  • Trade show exhibition/booth fees (virtual and in-person)
  • Trade mission fees (virtual and in-person)
  • Export training courses & workshops (virtual and in-person)
  • U.S. Department of Commerce fee services
  • Travel-related expenses such as airfare, lodging, and meals
  • Marketing materials and media to promote exports
  • E-commerce and website fees (internationally-focused)
  • Cost of compliance testing
  • Other approved activities and expenses  

Getting Started

  • Apply for the STEP Grant Program here
  • Submit completed application to Jessica Steverson via email at [email protected]
  • Contact Jessica Steverson at [email protected] or 225-342-2537 with any questions.

FAQS

Q: Who can apply?
A: Any qualifying small business headquartered in Louisiana can apply. A qualifying small business will: have 500 or fewer employees globally, be registered to do business in the state of Louisiana, have been in business for no less than 1-year, be operating profitably, have at least 51% of their content in the US, have not been debarred.

For further information about qualifying as a small business, please see the SBA’s definition.

Q: Who does not qualify?
A: Ineligible small businesses are those that do not have a product or service to export, are acting as intermediaries for other companies, and/or are recruiting foreign investment. Companies who are already receiving federal funding from another institution for a particular event are also excluded from receiving additional funding through STEP.

Also, companies who receive STEP funding for their travel to a trade show must be registered exhibitors at that show, and STEP travelers must be company employees. Likewise, companies who receive STEP funding for their travel to a trade mission must be a registered participant of that mission.  

Q: Can my company use funds for any trade show?
A: No, companies can only use STEP reimbursement funds for a qualifying trade show as approved by LED staff prior to participation.

Q: How much advanced notice is required in order to apply?
A: The STEP Program must receive your application at least 30 days prior to the event you are applying for. The STEP Program must also approve your company’s tentative travel plans before you book your flight or hotel.

Q: What does Louisiana STEP reimburse for?
A: The Louisiana STEP Program can reimburse for the following eligible expenses:

  • Registration/Exhibit Booth fees
  • Trade Mission fees
  • Ground transportation fees
  • Coach-class airfare that adheres to the Fly America Act
  • Lodging up to federal/state per diem rate
  • Meals up to federal/state per diem rate
  • U.S. Department of Commerce fee services
  • Other approved activities and expenses

Companies approved for STEP travel funds must adhere to the US Federal Foreign Per Diem Rates for international lodging and meals expenses and State of Louisiana Domestic Per Diem Rates for domestic lodging and meals expenses to receive reimbursement. Companies approved for STEP travel funds must reserve coach-class airfare and adhere to the Fly America Act to receive reimbursement. 



Louisiana STEP Program will NOT reimburse for passport or visa fees, immunizations, expenses related to entertaining current or prospective clients or government officials, new product development, cellphone charges.

Q: Can you explain the Fly America Act?
A: A flight must be economy-class on an American carrier in order to adhere to the Fly America Act. STEP cannot reimburse for extra leg-room or Business, First-Class airfares. Flight receipts must show the name of the traveler, the flight class, the dates/cities of travel, and the airline. If booking is done through a 3rd party service (like Expedia or Travelocity), the company is taking a risk that the carrier may be switched to a non-compliant airline without notice. One exception to this requirement is transportation provided under a bilateral or multilateral air transport agreement, to which the U.S. government and the government of a foreign country are parties, and which the Department of Transportation has determined meets the requirements of the Fly America Act. Please review the Fly America Act for further detail.

Q: Does completing my STEP application guarantee my company’s reimbursement?
A: No, the approval of a company’s STEP Application does not guarantee reimbursement. Companies must be approved into the program and fulfill all requirements in order to receive reimbursement. Among these requirements is the submission of a STEP Results Form after each approved activity, and adherence to the Fly America Act (when applicable). Companies who are found to not be in good standing with SBA will also be disqualified from reimbursement.

Q: What are the required documents needed for reimbursement?
A: For reimbursement of approved expenses, clients must provide invoices/receipts (evidence of expenses charged) and proof of payment in order to receive reimbursement. Estimates, quotes and/or hand written receipts will not be accepted as proof of payment and will not be reimbursed. For any reimbursable expense conducted in a foreign currency, confirmation of US dollar equivalent (credit card or bank statement showing expenses) must be provided for reimbursement. A completed evaluation form of the trade event (including meetings and events) along with results and projected sales MUST BE SUBMITTED WITH THE REQUEST FOR REIMBURSEMENT.

Funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration.

SBA U.S. Small Business Administration