Tools of the Trade: Michigan Helps Companies Go Global


Resources from MEDC’s International Business Program Provide Michigan Businesses with Global Growth Opportunities

Safe and simple

With a globally connected location and a robust industrial supply chain, Michigan is the gateway to the world. In fact, $55.5 billion in total merchandise was exported from Michigan in 2021 alone. And although Michigan is home to many global corporations, the state’s small business community actively contributes to Michigan’s presence in the global marketplace. Example: Nearly 89% of Michigan’s exporters are small businesses.

In honor of World Trade Week May 2-6, 2022, Michigan is celebrating the importance and benefits of global trade to our state’s economy. Throughout the week, business leaders and communities share international business knowledge and resources through events and conferences, highlighting the connection between international business and Michigan’s economic well-being, praising successful businesses in global markets and recognizing the contributions of international trade to job creation. in the state.

Celebrated in Michigan for 36 years, World Trade Week holds special significance in the state, where MEDC’s International Trade Program offers a wealth of expertise and resources available to help Michigan businesses grow within state and internationally. For more than 10 years, the state has been at the forefront of helping Michigan small and medium businesses grow in the state through increased export opportunities.

MEDC International Trade Program

When considering exporting, business owners ask questions. Are their businesses ready? How do they bond? What if they lack financial resources or don’t speak other languages? MEDC’s International Trade Program provides the support needed to open doors to global market opportunities.

Since the International Trade Program’s inception in 2012, the program has worked with thousands of Michigan businesses to support $4.64 billion in export sales. Thanks in part to the team dedicated to international trade, Michigan has the fourth highest percentage of trade as a share of its GDP in the country, with inbound-outbound trade accounting for 33% of the state’s GDP.

MEDC’s network of sales representatives covers more than 135 countries to support Michigan’s small business export development and global market opportunities.

As a gateway to export services for Michigan businesses, the program facilitates opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses to export their products around the world so they can grow and prosper in the state. In fiscal year 2021, 321 Michigan businesses found the support they needed to increase their exports to 117 countries through the international trade program.

For Michigan business owners interested in exporting or planning to be export-ready, the Michigan Small Business Development Center (SBDC) partners with MEDC’s International Trade Services to provide additional export assistance to small businesses. from Michigan.


MEDC offers a federally and state-funded Michigan Business Expansion Program, also known as MI-STEP, to help eligible Michigan-based small businesses increase their reach in markets. international as part of their export journey. Eligible companies can apply for this competitive financial assistance to help offset the cost of export-related activities, reducing the cost of doing business in global markets so they can grow and diversify their customer base.

Eligible Michigan small businesses can receive reimbursement of 75% up to $15,000 per year for export-related activities, including: overseas trade missions and sales trips; reverse trade missions; development of international websites; international trade fairs; export training; services of the United States Department of Commerce; international marketing media; e-commerce platform expenses; and more.

Safe n Simple, a Clarkston-based medical device company, wanted to expand its sales in the global market. The company applied for and received an MI-STEP grant to participate in Arab Health, a leading healthcare conference and trade show in the Middle East. Arab Health Expo 2020 provided Safe n Simple with exposure to potential and current customers looking to distribute their medical products.

The trip also gave the company the opportunity to connect with its sales representative covering the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. As a result, Safe n Simple is now reporting strong export sales under a contract it was working on when it participated in Arab Health 2020, resulting in six-digit export growth in January. 2022.

Great Lakes Sound & Vibration (GLSV) of Portage Township, a defense solutions manufacturer, is another company with a growing global presence through its engagement with MEDC’s international trade program since 2014. GLSV has used the Michigan Canada Center, one of the International Trade Centers and MI-STEP to offset the cost of export-related activities.

In 2019, GLSV participated in the program hosted by MEDC and US Commercial Service, ExporTech, an intensive 10-week export planning course program that helped the company develop a strategic export plan, provided market in their most potential markets and offered the resources and service connections that can support them along the way. GLSV plans to participate in future international trade shows, including Eurosatory in June 2022, building on best practices and relationships established with the help of MEDC.

Sound and Vibration of the Great Lakes

In September 2021, Governor Whitmer announced that Michigan had received the nation’s highest award from the United States Small Business Administration (SBA) State Commerce Expansion Program for the upcoming fiscal year. Michigan received $2 million in federal grants — the maximum amount given by the SBA and an increase of $650,000 beginning in 2021 — to help Michigan small businesses grow in the state through increased access to world markets. The Michigan Strategic Fund provided an additional $667,000 as state matching to support the MI-STEP grant, which continues to impact Michigan businesses through 2022.

Trade Missions

MEDC’s International Trade team also hosts in-person and virtual missions and trade shows and creates networking opportunities for international companies to connect with Michigan businesses and increase the value of Michigan exports. When companies face obstacles to international growth, MEDC’s international business managers identify resources and make presentations to overcome the obstacles and reinvigorate the company’s momentum in a foreign market.

For Detroit-based PROLIM, expanding into the Indian automotive and industrial machinery market was key to its continued growth to help companies succeed in their product lifecycle management strategies. PROLIM was invited to join the MEDC International Trade Program, which was in partnership with Automation Alley of Troy, for a trade mission to India. MEDC organized a personalized itinerary for each participant which, in PROLIM’s case, focused on meeting potential customers and local market resources.


PROLIM also received funding through MI-STEP to offset the costs of participation. Traveling with MEDC and Automation Alley, PROLIM met with over 10 companies in one week to assess new business opportunities. Following the trade mission, PROLIM received its first order at its new sales office within three months. The company’s expected growth was $1 million in the first year, then at least 30% per year. Sales in an international market like India helps PROLIM expand its customer base, maintain steady growth and profitability that supports jobs in Michigan.

Service providers

In addition to grants, MEDC’s international trade team also has a number of service providers who support the expansion and entry of Michigan exporters into new overseas markets. These entrepreneurs provide real-world, actionable resources for the technical elements of export success for new and experienced exporters. Service providers cover a range of support, from legal training on intellectual property and international compliance to data privacy, corporate website translations and international search engine optimization. These offerings complement the additional support businesses can access by working with the International Trade team.

To learn more about how MEDC’s International Business Program can help you expand your business into new markets, please visit

MEDC’s International Trade Team facilitates export opportunities for Michigan companies that are interested or currently selling their products in foreign markets. To begin your export journey, complete our international trade inquiry form.

Contact us

To contact a business development specialist, click here or call 1.888.522.0103.


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