STEP program for small businesses that eye export market

ENTERPRENUERS on Saipan are encouraged to take part in the State Trade Expansion Program or STEP which aims to boost local exporters.

On Tuesday, local STEP coordinator Frank D. Cabrera said they are recruiting 22 eligible small businesses to join the program.

So far, he said they have three clients from Rota, two from Tinian and five from Saipan.

Cabrera was the Rotary Club of Saipan’s guest speaker on Tuesday. With him was  Michael Camacho of the Commonwealth Development Authority.

According to Cabrera, STEP is a state-federal partnership funded by a grant from the Small Business Administration.

“This is the first time such an award has been granted to the CNMI.  It is a one-year grant with the possibility of an extension for another year.”

He said the program provides financial assistance to qualified CNMI small businesses that want to tap into the international market.

STEP “is designed to help increase the number of small businesses that are exporting and to raise the value of exports for those small businesses that are currently exporting so they can grow and create more jobs.”

In addition, STEP supports participation in foreign trade missions or trade shows, Cabrera said.

The program is under the Department of Commerce in collaboration and in partnership with the Commonwealth Development Authority.

Cabrera told Rotarians about his recent meetings with the Palauan ambassadors in China, Japan and the Philippines regarding Palau’s interest in meat products.

Cabrera said the cattle associations on Tinian and Saipan as well as local meat-product companies should consider making  beef jerky and “chicharon” or pork rinds instead of jut selling fresh meat.

These value-added products can be exported to Palau, Kosrae, Pohnpei and Chuuk, he said, adding that the shelf-life of beef jerky is 12 to 24 months and of pork rinds, from 45 to 60 days.

He said Rota’s sweet potato farmers can make potato chips which have a shelf-life of 46 months.

Taiwan is a possible market for Rota sweet potatoes and tapioca, he said.

“Those are some of the things we suggest when we provide assistance to [eligible] small businesses,” Cabrera said.

To qualify for the program, a small business must have been in business for no less than the one year. It must also have a strategic plan for exporting in place, and must agree to provide export-sales information.

For more information, email  [email protected].

Source: Marianas Variety :

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