Illinois’ State Trade and Export Promotion (ISTEP) Program Updates

If you are an Illinois exporter and have not heard of Illinois State Trade and Export Promotion (ISTEP) grant, you are missing out! To most active ITC clients, ISTEP has been one of the most utilized financial resources that provide Illinois’ small businesses with both financial and technical assistance to increase their exports. 

Just recently, ISTEP has expanded its coverage and added Ex- Im Bank Export Credit Insurance (ECI) as part of the program. Export Credit Insurance is an insurance policy for U.S. Exporters that protects foreign receivables from both commercial and political non-payment risks, covering up to 95% of sales invoices.  With the coverage, exporters have the flexibility to provide better payment terms to increase sales to existing buyers and to meet or beat their competitors.

Eligible companies will receive 50% reimbursement, not to exceed $10,000 per company in a fiscal year. In conjunction with the application, companies need to submit an Export Credit Insurance proposal, which includes information, such as product(s) to ship, the anticipated value of goods, and the anticipated insurance premium.

Aside from ECI, ISTEP also supports:

Group Trade Missions (GTM)

Group Trade Missions are available to a limited number of companies. Qualified businesses will receive:

  • Financial assistance covering associated costs including trade show booth fees, group ground transportation, matchmaking fees, interpreters, briefing materials, marketing materials, sample shipping, and assistance with travel logistics
  • Financial assistance for 25%-75% travel cost reimbursement, not to exceed $5,000 for travel for two Illinois company representatives, including roundtrip economy class airfare on a US carrier and standard hotel room

Individual Foreign Market Sales Missions (IFMSM)

Businesses outside of the sectors represented in the scheduled ISTEP Group Trade Missions are encouraged to undertake an Individual Foreign Market Sales Mission. Qualified businesses will receive:

  • Financial assistance for 25%-75% travel cost reimbursement, not to exceed $10,000 for travel for two Illinois company representatives, including roundtrip economy class airfare on a US carrier and standard hotel room
  • Program costs can include gold key services such as matchmaking and trade show participation

Product Compliance Certification (PC)

Financial assistance is available to help Illinois' small and medium-sized businesses obtain compliance certification services for their products. This assistance is available for measures taken to comply with foreign regulations including those for agricultural products, ISO registration, and packing and recycling laws. Priority will be for lab testing services to achieve product certification, such as CCC mark, CE mark, ISO 9001, ITAR, AS91 00, and ATEX. Qualified businesses will receive:

Website Localization and eCommerce (WL)

Financial assistance is available for website localization which consists of website translation services, localization for foreign markets, search engine optimization payment functions, hosting, app integration, web services, and cybersecurity; for companies to increase opportunities for export success.

  • Financial assistance for 50% of costs, not to exceed $10,000 per company.

To apply, your company needs to be:

  • An Illinois company with its head its headquarters and/or a substantial facility located within the State of Illinois.
  • A small business as defined by the SBA 
  • In operation for at least one year
  • Profitable with gross annual revenue of at least $250,000
  • Products/ services must contain at least 51% USA and 25% Illinois content
  • Not applying for or receiving any other local, state, or federal grant funds associated with export promotion assistance.