In Colorado, the mountain peaks that form the horizon serve as an ever-present reminder that the world extends far beyond our nation’s borders. In fact, two-thirds of the world’s purchasing power can only be found if you look beyond the borders of the United States.

Modern economies are global.

That means, increasingly, small businesses have to think and work globally in order to thrive. Colorado entrepreneurs are embracing this new competitive reality by exporting goods and services at a growing rate. Small companies made up 87 percent of Colorado exporters in 2013, from the cattle ranch located in the San Juan Mountains to a warehouse in Denver selling computer components.

The U.S. Small Business Admin-istration is committed to ensuring that small firms in Colorado — and across the United States — have the requisite tools and resources to take their business global.

STATE WINS GRANTS

Last week, I invited Colorado’s Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne to join me at the World Trade Center in Denver to announce that SBA has awarded the state of Colorado $186,140 in grants through its State Trade Expansion Program. This program, launched in 2011, allows 56 U.S. cities and counties to compete for federal matching-fund awards that will help small businesses start or expand their export activities.

With STEP funds, small businesses are able to learn the basics of exporting, participate in foreign trade missions and trade shows, develop websites or international marketing campaigns, and much more. Last year, Colorado’s STEP award helped local entrepreneurs participate in trade shows in Munich, Germany; Guadalajara, Mexico; and Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

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The results have been amazing — in the program’s first three years, STEP award recipients generated an average of $22 in U.S. small business export sales for every dollar awarded by the federal government. Colorado’s return on investment has been even higher, with an average of $32 generated for each dollar awarded. This increase in export sales also created jobs — in Colorado, more than 43,000 jobs were supported by exporting during 2014.

STEP is an important part of President Barack Obama’s National Export Initiative — an effort launched during 2010 to create more opportunities and level the playing field for U.S. firms that want to expand globally.

COLORADO SUCCESS

Aircraft Technical Book Company, a small business based in Tabernash, is one of the world’s leading suppliers of aviation maintenance, aircraft homebuilding and flight training materials. Andrew Gold, president and founder of ATBC, launched his company in 1997, based on his lifelong love of airplanes. He soon discovered a niche market and looked to expand his focus to the aircraft maintenance education community worldwide. However, like many other small businesses looking to expand overseas, Gold had to learn how to deal with different economies and different cultures.

With the help of STEP funds, Gold was able to attend a trade show in India and engage online resources in search of new customers and partnerships. Today, the nine-person company is expanding to develop a new certification for aviation and aerospace avionics technicians in the United States and in Europe — setting ATBC up to expand to serve a new untapped market.

There are millions of small businesses across the nation like ATBC that understand that the future is boundless — and the international marketplace is our future. SBA’s State Trade Expansion Program is just one of many ways that we are helping small businesses become part of this global future.

And there are other ways to learn about the potential exporting can bring to small businesses across the state.

Visit sba.gov/managing-business/exporting/us-export-assistance-centers to speak to an export finance manager about the counseling, training and financing opportunities that SBA has available to help small businesses grow and compete across borders.

For more information on the Colorado STEP grant program, call the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade at 303-892-3840.

Maria Contreras-Sweet is administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration. She can be reached through the SBA regional contact, christopher.chavez@sba.gov.