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Guadagno touts SBA grant as key tool to get N.J. companies into exporting

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A $204,000 grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration will provide New Jersey small businesses with assistance to boost their exports, including training, international marketing, participation in trade missions and website translation services, as the state joins the SBA’s State Trade and Export Promotion program.

Acting Gov. Kim Guadagno launched STEP on Tuesday in a speech to the U.S. Commercial Service Global Business Forum in Atlantic City. The state Business Action Center’s Office of International Business Development and Protocol will direct STEP, which is for businesses new to exporting as well as those already doing business globally. According to the state, New Jersey ranks fifth nationally, with 14,406 small-business exporters.

Guadagno said STEP “will equip small businesses with better knowledge, and provide opportunities to promote their goods and services in the global marketplace. This program will strengthen New Jersey’s small-business sector, strengthen our job-creation efforts and spur new business opportunities.”

Al Titone, New Jersey district director for the SBA, said exports from New Jersey rose nearly 19 percent, to $38.1 billion, in 2011 from the prior year.

“As companies were looking for things to do to expand their business, they started looking at exporting,” he said.

Titone said STEP gives states a lot of leeway to “customize the program to their own agenda, so we’re hoping it can stimulate more business for the state.” According to the SBA, during fiscal 2011, the agency’s New Jersey office approved 18 export loans for $7.1 million. During the current fiscal year through Sept. 21, that was up to 21 export loans for $9.7 million. And the SBA cited statistic that over the last four years, the U.S. Export-Import Bank has financed more than $2.7 billion in exports from 182 companies in New Jersey.

Bob Loderstedt, who heads the nonprofit New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program, said he hopes to partner with STEP. Early next year, NJMEP will roll out an accelerated export training program, Exportech, that initially will work with six companies.

In recent years, he said, manufacturers have reduced waste and become more efficient: “Now, manufacturers have to grow their top line profitably, and the way to do that is through innovation and exporting.” He said Exportech is designed to help companies identify their export opportunities, then provide them with the expertise they need to get into the international market. The goal is “lowering the risk, and making sure that you understand what you are exporting — why and where and how you can make money.” Exporting “is a long-term commitment, and when it is done correctly, there is money that can be made,” he said.

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