Enterprise Zone Commission Seeks Small USVI Businesses for State Trade Expansion

USVI Economic Development Authority

Slots are currently open for U.S. Virgin Islands’ small manufacturers to become participants of the State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) in the USVI. The Enterprise Zone Commission (EZC), an entity of the Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority (VIEDA), invites USVI small manufacturing businesses to apply for STEP. The application deadline for STEP is Sunday, May 7.  Small manufacturing businesses can apply by downloading the application form from VIEDA’s website at www.usvieda.org.

This grant will be used to assist export-ready small manufacturing business owners — through training, trade shows, etc. – to increase opportunities to export products to larger markets and generate more revenue for their businesses. This program provides another revenue stream for the growing small businesses in the territory.

According to Nadine T. Marchena Kean, VIEDA’s managing director of the Enterprise Zone Commission, businesses from a variety of industries can apply for State Trade Expansion Program (STEP). “There is no limit on the type of industries each export-ready-business can represent as long as the product is made or grown in the U.S. Virgin Islands,” said Kean.

With the support of Gov. Albert Bryan Jr., the EZC applied for a grant in August 2022 for small manufacturers in the territory to participate in State Trade Expansion Program and received a grant award from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

To be an eligible participant of the State Trade Expansion Program, an applicant must be in business for at least one year and must be profitable. These businesses must also demonstrate their readiness for exporting with their product’s packaging, language use, shelf life, etc. After the application for STEP is received, a panel will review the application and the business’ product.

Once prospective applicants are approved to participate in STEP, the EZC team will discuss with each participant the markets that will be best for their product and will work on coordinating introductions between STEP participants and potential buyers. There is also the potential to for State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) participants to travel to the country where they can introduce their products to buyers.  Export training will also be offered for each client.

The VIEDA’s EZC will determine who is eligible for the STEP Program through a panel that will review the prospective business’s application and product.

Since 2014, the VIEDA’s EZC applied for STEP and has received eight grants to administer STEP in the USVI to assist small manufacturers in becoming export-ready and expanding their product’s foreign client base.

In addition to STEP, the EZC supports local, small manufacturers through the “Made in the USVI” Pop Up Shop initiative.  In April 2023, the locally-made merchandise under Made in the USVI Pop Up Shop initiative is now available all year round at a kiosk in the Vendor’s Plaza on St. Thomas, USVI.

The “Made in the USVI” Pop Up Shop originated in 2018 through a collaborative partnership between the EZC and the VI Department of Planning and Natural Resources VI Council on the Arts. From 2021-2022, the “Made in the USVI” Pop Up Shops generated more than $120,000 in sales revenue.

For more information, contact the Enterprise Zone Commission at ezc@usvieda.org.  To learn more about STEP, visit https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/grants/state-trade-expansion-program-step.