Podcast: World Trade Center Utah’s STEP Grant

Pete CodellaBusiness Elevated Podcast


Business Elevated Podcast (Episode 23)

This podcast series features business and government leaders discussing what it’s like to live and work in the great state of Utah. This episode includes a conversation between Ryan Starks, managing director of Business Services for the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development, and Nicole Sherwood, STEP project director at World Trade Center Utah.

The Business Elevated podcast is also available on Apple PodcastsSpotify and Stitcher.



Welcome to the Business Elevated Podcast, where we discuss what it’s like to live and work in the great state of Utah. Did you know Utah is frequently ranked the best state for business by Forbes? This podcast is a production of the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Thanks for joining the conversation.

Nicole Sherwood


Ryan Starks (0:21): Good afternoon. My name’s Ryan Starks, I’m the managing director of business services for the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. This is the Business Elevated Podcast, episode number 23. Today we’re really excited to invite our good friends from the World Trade Center Utah. We have Nicole Sherwood with us. Did you know that the World Trade Center Utah offers financial assistance and support to promising Utah companies looking to grow internationally?

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Utah’s the national leader in export growth. Nicole, welcome, we’re happy to have you.

Nicole Sherwood (1:01): Great, happy to be here.

Ryan Starks (1:03): Today we’re going to talk about a program called the STEP grant. The state of Utah received the State Trade Expansion Program grant or STEP grant. It’s meant to help small businesses enter and expand into dynamic global markets. World Trade Center Utah administers the grant funds with a goal of increasing the number of Utah businesses exporting and exploring significant new trade opportunities.

Speaking of the World Trade Center Utah, in 2020 the state of Utah received a State Trade Expansion Program Grant of $500,000. What’s exciting about this is, it’s $200,000 more than Utah received last year. It’s the largest increase in funding given to any state. With that in mind, Nicole, would you please tell us a little more about this grant.

Nicole Sherwood (2:00): Great. I’m going to actually start off and let you know World Trade Center Utah administers the STEP grant. The STEP grant is funded in part by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Companies that we’re looking forward to applying for this grant. We’re looking for small businesses located in Utah who are looking to expand internationally. We’re looking for small businesses in diverse industries such as life sciences, outdoor recreation, aerospace and defense industry, as well as small businesses that might be new to export or already exporting.

Ryan Starks (2:45): That’s interesting. So what about a business located in rural Utah? Could they qualify for this grant?

Nicole Sherwood (2:52): Yes, we’re looking for businesses throughout Utah, including those businesses in rural Utah. We’ve had a couple in rural Utah take advantage of the STEP grant. Some examples include Ram Manufacturing down in St. George, Ultraspire, they attended ISPO Munich 2019 with us and they’ll be returning to ISPO Munich 2020 with us. We’re looking for companies all around Utah, whether you’re in rural Utah, Salt Lake City, just all around.

Ryan Starks (3:26): Are there certain types of companies that are eligible for the grant and what can they use the grant money for?

Nicole Sherwood (3:34): The STEP grant is a competitive grant. We are looking for applications and our deadline is coming up on January 24th, 2020. You can go to our website at wtcutah.com to find an application. Companies can use the grant for a couple of different things. They can join us on a state led trade show. Some of our upcoming trade shows include ISPO Munich, focused on the outdoor industry. The Singapore Air Show coming up in February, as well as JEC World for the Composite Industry in March.

Businesses use the grant for governor led trade missions. We actually have an upcoming trade mission in April to the Middle East and this will include locations to the United Arab Emirates as well as Saudi Arabia. Companies can use the grant for travel support, as well as gold key services while on the trade mission.

And lastly, companies can use a financial assistance award. That can be used for a range of activities that are more independent activities such as website optimization, compliance testing, as well as attending independent trade shows.

Ryan Starks (5:05): Well, that’s really exciting. It sounds like it’s a real benefit to companies throughout Utah. We know World Trade Center Utah’s one of the great organizations in the state and we really appreciate the mission of the World Trade Center Utah. How does this grant really fall into that mission in serving the business community?

Nicole Sherwood (5:24): The STEP grant really helps Utah companies meet the World Trade Center’s mission. The STEP grant is a resource for companies to be able to go international. Success stories in Utah that have used the STEP grant include Kaddis Enterprises, they went with us on the European Trade Mission and the Paris Air Show last summer. Cotopaxi came with us to the outdoor show as well as ISPO Munich 2019.

Finally in the life sciences industry, Maxtec used the grant for a number of international activities, including MEDICA where we had a state delegation go as well as a financial assistance award to Arab Health. It really helps small businesses and companies that wouldn’t ordinarily have those types of resources. The STEP grant really helps with that.

Ryan Starks (6:30): Nicole, that’s really exciting. How much money can a company apply for?

Nicole Sherwood (6:35): A company can apply to receive up to $10,000 in one cycle. Our cycle is going to run until September 30th, 2020. Usually, the award amounts are between $2,000 to $3,000 per international activity, but companies can receive up to that $10,000 each year.

Ryan Starks (6:57): Nicole, it’s really exciting to see the great things that the STEP grant is doing for businesses in Utah. What are some of the other grant opportunities that companies should look out for throughout the year?

Nicole Sherwood (7:08): So our main grant is the STEP grant. We do have other grant opportunities. One of the other grants we offer is called the Rural Business Development Grant. That one is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and focuses on helping those rural companies out in rural Utah. We offer boot camps through our trade services manager, Jim Porter. That leads me into talking about other services we offer at World Trade Center Utah. That includes our trade services division with Jim Porter. This includes market research, as well as different trainings, seminars and events.

Ryan Starks (7:56): That’s exciting. Do you have any events coming up?

Nicole Sherwood (7:59): We actually do. Our one that’s coming up to lead us off into our governor led trade mission in April to the Middle East is on January 28th, 2020. That is doing business in the Middle East.

Ryan Starks (8:14): Nicole, it seems like there’s so much talk in the news about tariffs. What’s the World Trade Center Utah doing to address tariffs and educate businesses?

Nicole Sherwood (8:23): We actually offer different seminars and events to cover these relevant topics such as tariffs.  We just had an event this past Tuesday regarding the tariffs in China. We’re always looking for upcoming opportunities to address relevant issues going on regarding trade as well as tariffs and other pertinent issues.

Ryan Starks (8:50): That’s great. Nicole, World Trade Center Utah’s always been a great partner to go in. In fact, we’re even co-located in the same building downtown. What do you think the value is of having such a tight relationship with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development?

Nicole Sherwood (9:06): I know World Trade Center Utah sees the Governor’s Office of Economic Development as a valued partner. It’s great because we get to work with GOED on different events, such as our ambassador lunches as well as our governor led trade missions. Specifically again the one coming up this April to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Ryan Starks (9:35): This has been a great conversation with Nicole Sherwood. Nicole, thanks for joining us on our podcast today. For our listeners, where should they go to learn more about the STEP grant?

Nicole Sherwood (9:46): To learn more about the STEP grant and other opportunities at World Trade Center Utah, I encourage everybody to go to our website, which is wtcutah.com. You can learn more about our STEP grant as well as our other upcoming activities. Apply for our upcoming trade missions, one to the Middle East, and we’ll also be taking a trade mission to Australia and New Zealand this September.

Ryan Starks (10:21): Well, that’s really exciting and best of luck on those trade missions. Thanks for the good work you’re doing on behalf of the state. My name’s Ryan Starks, I’m the managing director of business services for the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Nicole, thanks again for joining us and for joining the Business Elevated Podcast.

Nicole Sherwood (10:40): Great, and thank you so much for having me.


Thanks for listening to the Business Elevated podcast, a production of the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Listen to other episodes where you get your podcasts or at business.utah.gov.