SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced the availability of federal matching grants to help Illinois food companies increase export sales and encouraged interested businesses to attend a free workshop for application assistance.
The Branded Program reimburses participants for up to half of their international marketing and promotional expenses, including the cost of foreign trade shows, international travel, advertising, product demonstrations, point-of-sale materials and package and label modifications to meet foreign import requirements.
“Illinois is the third-largest exporter of agricultural commodities in the United States and relies upon foreign trade for nearly 40 percent of its agricultural income,” Governor Blagojevich said. “The Branded Program offers a cost-effective opportunity for Illinois food companies to build name recognition in global markets, increase export sales that are so essential to the well-being of our agriculture industry and help put more people to work.”
The Food Export Association of the Midwest, a non-profit association of state agricultural promotion agencies, administers the Branded Program. Funding comes from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service through its Market Access Program.
Program participants must fit the U.S. Small Business Administration’s definition of a “small company” and be incorporated in the United States. In addition, at least half of their products must be made with domestic ingredients. Agriculture cooperatives and export agents that work on behalf of U.S. food companies also are eligible for assistance, provided they meet program requirements.
“This cost-share assistance is intended to spur growth in an industry that includes more than 1,500 companies and employs about 85,000 Illinoisans,” Agriculture Director Chuck Hartke said. “It’s an important investment in the prosperity not only of our food processing industry, but also our state economy.”
The Illinois Department of Agriculture is sponsoring the free workshop to help companies complete the application process. The workshop, which also will cover the reimbursement process, will be held Tuesday, Oct. 24, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Hilton Suites in Oakbrook Terrace. To register, call Sarah Potter, Bureau of Marketing and Promotion, at (217) 782-2581 before Oct. 18.
Interested companies that cannot attend the free workshop still can apply for matching funds by completing an on-line application. The “Branded Program Pre-Qualification Worksheet” can be obtained at www.brandedprogram.org.
The available funds are for the 2007 program year. They will reimburse international marketing activities occurring between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2007.
Gov. Blagojevich recently announced Illinois’ export figures continue to show significant growth, with more than $20.5 billion in exports reported for the first half of 2006, a 16.5 percent increase from the first half of 2005. The Governor also highlighted the work of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s Office of Trade and Investment (OTI) in helping Illinois companies grow their businesses by pursuing overseas markets. Earlier this year, Gov. Blagojevich celebrated Illinois’ third consecutive year of increased exports and the greatest one-year increase in more than ten years.
Since 2002, Illinois exports have grown by more than $10 billion, a 40 percent increase, which is the largest percent increase among the top exporting states. Direct exports amounted to approximately 6.4 percent of the Gross State Product (GSP) in 2005, and there are an estimated 485,600 Illinois jobs supported by exports. Top countries for Illinois’ exports are Canada, Mexico, Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany and Australia. Top sectors include machinery, chemicals, computer/electronic products, transportation equipment, electrical equipment and food and kindred products. This data comes from WISER, the World Institute for Strategic Economic Research, which compiles its information from the US Census Bureau, Foreign Trade Division.