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SBA grants awarded

Encourages small businesses to think on global scale

Lisa Olivia Fitch | 8/27/2015, midnight

With 95 percent of the world’s consumers living outside of the United States, many local small businesses are missing out on a huge market.

On Monday, the California Community College system received $747,781 in a federal award in the form of a grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The grant funds the State Trade Export Promotion (STEP) program, which provides local tools and resources to entrepreneurs.

“I just marvel at everything small businesses do,” SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet said during a news conference at the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. “But only 1 percent of U.S. small businesses export to the outside world.”

Monday’s STEP award was the third such investment to promote entrepreneurial exporting. In 2012, L.A. Valley College, L.A. Trade Technical College and East L.A. College benefited from a similar grant, establishing workforce training programs and partnerships.

“The ROI (return on investment) for STEP has been $19 in export sales for every one dollar the SBA has invested,” Contreras-Sweet added. “We are rethinking trade in a way that works for working Americans.”

As the nation approaches 55 months of consecutive job growth under the Obama Administration, the SBA continues to offer entrepreneurs counseling and capital towards growing their businesses.

The purpose of the 2015 awards, totaling $17.4 million across the country, is for states to assist small businesses with export-related activities and initiatives that are in line with the objectives of the STEP program.

California is planning 14 different activities for various industries, including arranging for small farmers in the Central Valley to go on agricultural trade missions to Asia and for construction businesses to take trade missions to Mexico.

Businesses can apply to take part in STEP program events and training beginning Oct. 1 through the Center For International Trade Development, which is funded through the California Community Colleges. Visit www.citd.org for details.

“Our colleges are direct service providers for small businesses,” said Dean Walter De Mantova of the Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office Workforce and Economic Development division. “I believe in partnerships between the ‘three Es’: educators, entrepreneurs and exporters,” he added.

“Two out of three new jobs are created by small businesses,” said Gary Toebben, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, as he hosted the news conference. “And over the years, the SBA has provided more than $100 billion in loans for small businesses.”

“We know the pivotal role this region plays in the U.S. economy,” Contreras-Sweet said, citing Chibani, FedEx, Apple and Nike as some of the many successful businesses which started with the help of SBA loans.

“We want to help small businesses become big exporters.”

For additional information on the STEP program and the 2015 awardees, visit https://www.sba.gov/offices/headquarters/oit/resources/14315.