Program helps Pennsylvania manufacturing firm retain jobs, increase sales

February 9, 2012

The Small Business Administration-funded State Trade Export Program (STEP) in Pennsylvania has helped a manufacturer in the area retain its staff, increase jobs and record higher sales while its supply partners begin to grow, according to a release from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The release noted that STEP allowed United Metal Fabricators (UMF) to expand its operations domestically, while also providing an opportunity for the company to embark on trade missions around the world to increase sales in the future.

STEP, a three-year pilot trade and export initiative authorized by the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, has let companies work with federal, state and local governments in order to generate more business and sustain growth.

According to the release, U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) officials, along with government officials from all levels, toured the UMF facilities to see how well the program was going at the company.

"I have to commend the Pennsylvania state government in what they do," said U.S. Representative Mark Critz after touring the facility. "We have a very robust program here to help entrepreneurs in the state identify and then go after opportunities outside this country. What we do at the federal level is put funding in to help these organizations that do this international trade and international travel because without it, they could never do it on their own."

UMF President and CEO Eileen Melvin used funding from the state's arm of the STEP program to determine countries that would be likely to make purchases of their equipment. Pennsylvania agencies assisted her in setting up potential business relationships.

Acting SBA Regional Administration Bridget Bean noted that the STEP grants are being awarded to state international trade agencies to support increased exporting for small manufacturers, allowing them to hire more workers and sustain growth.

"STEP grants are a great example of how SBA is working with state and local governments to support regional economic development," said Bean in the release. Melvin noted that her company is now able to compete on a global scale.

According to Keystone Politics, the state of Pennsylvania experienced robust job growth in 2011, with its manufacturing sector adding more jobs than any year since 1990. Although the number of public sector jobs decreased, the private sector added 79,000 jobs for the year.