PORTLAND — The U.S. Small Business Administration has awarded $121,000 to the Maine International Trade Center to help small businesses expand their abilities to export.

The money is part of $30 million the SBA is doling out as part of the State Trade and Export Promotion initiative, which was launched last year under the Small Business Jobs Act. The STEP program was designed to increase the number of small businesses that want to export, and help increase the value of exports for those small businesses already involved in exporting products.

The SBA grant money will be used by the Maine International Trade Center to support Maine companies participating in overseas trade efforts, which includes exhibiting at MITC-sponsored and some nonsponsored international trade shows and business-to-business international matchmaking services, according to Janine Bisaillon-Cary, president of MITC.

The four MITC-sponsored trade shows have not all been identified, but will include the Fancy Food West in San Francisco, which has a large number of Asian buyers, and the European Seafood Exposition in Belgium, Bisaillon-Cary told the Bangor Daily News in an email.

This was the second round of STEP funding. Last year, Maine received $146,000 under the program, which was used to support a Maine presence at the European Seafood Expo, the Farnborough Air Show in the United Kingdom, and the MEDICA biotech and medical products show in Germany, Bisaillon-Cary said. It also was used by 22 Maine companies for international matchmaking activities that participated on MITC trade missions to Brazil, Chile, Canada and China, and matchmaking for five companies that participated in activities on their own overseas.

“Reported export sales by participating Maine companies using the SBA’s STEP grant totaled $13 million,” Bisaillon-Cary wrote. “In addition, first-year STEP funding is being used to install videoconferencing at MITC to allow trade education programs in Portland to be broadcast to remote sites statewide, as well as providing Maine companies videoconferencing capacities with overseas contacts and buyers.”

According to the SBA, preliminary results of the STEP program have been positive. It expects a return on investment of federal funds on the order of 10-to-1, according to a news release.

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