Enhancing small business exporting is Trade Expo goal

The Mississippi Development Authority (MDA), along with the Mississippi World Trade Center and the U.S. Small Business Administration, will host the 2012 Gulf States Trade Alliance Annual Export Conference from April 10-12 at the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino in Biloxi, Miss.

The Gulf States Trade Alliance is comprised of economic development agencies from Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Louisiana. The alliance’s annual conference connects participating small businesses from the four states to resources that can help them expand their businesses through trade and identify potential export opportunities, as well as new markets for their products.

“The market focus this year is Canada, Central America and the Caribbean, and attendees will be pleased with our diverse line-up of speakers, with some traveling to the Coast from Panama, Costa Rica, Trinidad & Tobago and the Dominican Republic,” said Liz Cleveland, MDA’s Trade Bureau manager. “In addition, the conference is an excellent vehicle for sponsors to capture the attention of regional business leaders and firms in the international trade arena.”

The conference will feature informative sessions and networking events that will provide attendees with opportunities to learn from and network with international trade experts and ask questions they may have regarding international trade. An international trade attorney, along with international trade specialists from MDA and representatives from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Export-Import Bank and the Southern U.S. Trade Association, will be on hand to meet one-on-one with conference attendees, also.

Small businesses interested in attending the conference may qualify for financial assistance through Mississippi’s new State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) Program, a U.S. Small Business Administration-funded program designed to increase the number of small businesses exporting their products and services and raise the value of exports for those small businesses that are currently exporting.

Mississippi companies qualifying as small businesses by STEP criteria are eligible to receive a 50 percent fee reimbursement incentive to participate in the conference. STEP grant assistance is available on a first-come, first-served basis, and small businesses interested in learning more about the STEP grant program are encouraged to contact MDA’s team of international trade specialists at (601) 359-3155.

The Gulf States Trade Alliance Export Conference is open to all small businesses in Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Louisiana. Registration is available online at www.mswtc.org or by calling the Mississippi World Trade Center at (601)353-0909.

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