South Carolina expands small business export initiative with SCOPE

Program generated $4.7 million in export sales since 2011

COLUMBIA, S.C. - The State of South Carolina is expanding its export initiative for in-state businesses through a new program: South Carolina Opportunities for Promoting Exports, or SCOPE. Administered through the South Carolina Department of Commerce, SCOPE is aimed at assisting small and medium-sized businesses as they enter new markets and increase their exporting activities.

The South Carolina Department of Commerce has ramped up efforts to support the small business community - including international trade - in recent years. In 2011, with a grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), Commerce implemented the State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) program. Since that time, 65 participating companies, with an average of 39 employees, have contributed nearly $4.7 million in export sales in South Carolina. In September 2014, the SBA announced the third round of competitive STEP awards, totaling $8 million. South Carolina was awarded its full requested amount of $250,000 and was one of 24 states to receive an award.

In an effort to build on the success of STEP, the South Carolina Department of Commerce has created SCOPE. With funds through the State of South Carolina, SCOPE allows companies that have been in business for at least two years and operate with fewer than 500 employees the opportunity to apply for one of four packages to specifically address that company's needs. These packages range from finding overseas buyers to helping fund booth space at trade shows as well as translation services for a company's website or marketing materials.

South Carolina Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt said that exporting programs are essential for South Carolina's economic future.

"South Carolina companies, large and small, increasingly compete on a global scale. We have all the key ingredients in place to help businesses participate in international trade - like our world-class port facilities - but we first have to help open the door. Providing resources for these companies to either begin exporting or grow their exports helps ensure the future prosperity of our state," said Hitt.

In addition to direct employment, exporting provides downstream impacts throughout the supply chain, supporting jobs in the transportation, distribution and logistics sector and boosting volume through the state's ports. In fiscal year 2014, the Port of Charleston handled nearly 1.7 million 20-foot equivalent units, up eight percent from the previous year.

South Carolina Ports Authority President and CEO Jim Newsome said the state's small business export initiative is a contributor to the port's success.

"Exports are an important part of the Ports Authority's growth strategy and are expected to outpace imports by the end of this decade. South Carolina companies of all sizes that manufacture goods for export through our facilities play a key role in the Port's success and the Southeastern economy," Newsome said.

Eligible companies may apply to participate in STEP from October 1, 2014 through September 30, 2015 and for SCOPE from October 1, 2014 through May 31, 2015. Companies may not apply to both the SCOPE and STEP programs during the 2014-2015 period. Companies interested in participating in either the SCOPE or STEP programs may learn more and apply online.