HiSTEP Company Assistance FAQs

Q1: If we use airline points to purchase our airline tickets, can we claim reimbursement?
A1: No, accounting rules do not assign a value to airline miles (that is why there are not taxable) so we cannot offer reimbursement.

Q2: I want I want to attend a trade show on the mainland US. I notice that the show is not listed on the IBP website.  Can I still be reimbursed for allowed expenses for this show?
A2: No, we can only reimburse companies for allowable expenses for events outside the US or at USDOC IBP-approved trade shows in the US.
Q3: I want to travel to New York to meet with buyers who are flying in from Europe. Can I be reimbursed for my airfare and other allowable expenses for this?
A3: No, we can only reimburse companies for allowable expenses for events outside the US or at IBP-approved trade shows in the US.
Q4: I only need $3,000 for a trade show I plan on attending.  I notice that the minimum budget request is $5,000. Can I still apply?
A4: No. Companies applying for HiSTEP-CA funds should remember that this is a competitive process.  DBEDT looks to assist companies that will grow their export markets significantly and thereby show a return on investment (in the form of increased exports and revenue) to the State. In the application we ask for an export development plan. The plan should not be just a description of a one-time event, but rather a company’s plan to achieve export growth over time.

Q5: What other travel expenses besides airfare will HiSTEP reimburse me for?
A5: HiSTEP will only reimburse companies for airfare, subject to the restrictions in the RFP. Airfare for up to two people who work for the company can be covered.

Q6: In last year’s HiSTEP RFP there was a 25% cash match? Is that still a requirement this year?
A6: There is no cash match required in this RFP. Since the only travel expense we will reimburse companies for is airfare, we realize that companies will be making a significant contribution to their export development plans in the form of other expenses we do not cover, such as hotels.  

Q7: I am a sales representative, and I work with a couple of Hawaii companies. Can I apply for the HiSTEP program to cover my expenses at the trade shows I participate in?
A7: Generally, HiSTEP is designed for companies that manufacture products for export (or provide services that can be exported). The application should be completed by the management of the manufacturers themselves. If a consultant or sales representative submits the application, the evaluation committee will want to see supplementary information signed by the manufacturer’s management that the manufacturer has approved, understands, and will implement the export development plan.

Q8: Can I submit my application electronically?
A8: No. Application submission requires an original and 3 copies to be submitted (see Section 5.07 APPLICATION PREPARATION), and they must be received at DBEDT (not postmarked) by the due date (see Section 5.10 SUBMISISON OF APPLICATION).

Q9: I realize that the due dates for the applications are problematic since I’ll be traveling a lot next quarter leading up to these dates. Can I request an extension?
A9: No, state procurement rules do allow us to grant an extension to just one company.

Q10: Does a company have to exhibit at a tradeshow in order for that activity to qualify for funding consideration or can the company just walk a tradeshow for research purposes?

A10: A company must exhibit at the tradeshow or have at least six meetings with buyers in order for the event to be considered under this award.  See section 2.07 ALLOWABLE USE OF AWARD FUNDS of the RFP. The award is not designed to support exploratory or research trips.

Q11: What is a service company?
A11: In the context of the HiSTEP assistance program, a service company is a Hawaii company that provides services that can be exported, e.g., services provided to a foreign buyer. Examples would be architectural, engineering or environmental services companies.

Q12: If my company receives a grant from another federally-funded program (i.e., Small Business Development Center, Mink Center for Business and Leadership, WUSATA, etc.) that covers my export-related travel expenses, am I still eligible to apply for the HiSTEP Company Assistance?
A12: Yes, as long as the HiSTEP funds are not used to provide matching contributions to the other federal award. Companies are also cautioned not to claim the same expense in two different programs.

Q13: One of the allowable uses of the HiSTEP-CA funds is for an Export Research Tool Subscription. What is this?
A13: This would be a fee a company pays for a research service that provides the company with information that helps the company with its export development plan or other business decisions. An example is The Economist Intelligence Unit where a company registers, and for a fee, the company is provided with market and/or industry intelligence and analysis reports.

Q14: Is the cost of an interpreter an allowable expense, and if so, in what budget category should the cost be included?
A14: Yes. In Addendum No. 2 issued January 10, 2017, Section 2.07 ALLOWABLE USE OF AWARD FUNDS (pages 5 and 6 of the RFP) item number 3 was amended as follows:

“Trade show booth build-out or other booth related (e.g., interpreter services) expenses ($3,000 maximum).”
Q15: If my independent sales representative attends a qualified trade show for my company, can the airfare for my rep be included in the HiSTEP-CA budget?
A15: Yes. In Addendum No. 2 issued January 10, 2017, Section 2.07 ALLOWABLE USE OF AWARD FUNDS (pages 5 and 6 of the RFP) was amended as follows:

“Allowable airfare is for one or two people per company. Only employees of the company or individuals under contract with the company are eligible for airfare reimbursement.
Q16: Can I use HiSTEP-CA funding to update my company website, as long as the cost is under $3,000?
A16: Section 2.07 ALLOWABLE USE OF AWARD FUNDS, item number 6 states that award funds can be used for “Localization services for collateral materials and website ($3,000 maximum).” Essentially what this means is the translation of your collateral materials and website for a particular export market. So for example, if you are interested in exporting your product to Japan, then you would probably want to have at least a part of your website translated into Japanese. Even if you are looking at exporting to an English-speaking country – say Canada or Australia – there still might be some adjustments you have to make to your website (maybe terminology, maybe pricing in their currency) for your customers/distributors in that market. The funds are not intended for overall upgrades or changes to your website. It must be tied to how you are going to increase exports.

Q17: We want to exhibit at the Las Vegas Souvenir and Resort Gift Show in September 2017 and FOODEX Japan in March 2018. Can these shows be included in our application?
A17: There are two issues that need to be addressed in this question, the first is the specific trade show, and second is the timing of the trade show.

  1. The RFP states, “Proposed trade shows must be shows held outside the U.S. unless it is a U.S. Department of Commerce, International Buyer Program Trade Show (A list of approved domestic shows can be found at: http://www.export.gov/ibp).” (Ref. Section 2.07 ALLOWABLE USE OF AWARD FUNDS, last paragraph.) Under this new criteria issued by the SBA, the Las Vegas Show does not qualify. (Note: In previous years before this criteria was established, DBEDT organized a Hawaii Pavilion at the Las Vegas Show.) Any international trade show, such as FOODEX Japan, does qualify.
  2. A company is allowed to include expenses for airfare, trade show booth rental and trade show build out for trade shows and flights that occur before December 15, 2017, as long as the company pre-pays these expenses before September 29, 2017. (Ref. RFP Section 2.07 ALLOWABLE USE OF AWARD FUNDS, second to the last paragraph.) The 2018 FOODEX Japan show does not qualify since it occurs after December 15, 2017.

Therefore, neither of these shows qualify to be included in the application based upon the factors stated above.

Q18: Can a company use HiSTEP-CA funds to cover the application fee for a foreign trademark registration?
A18: No, SBA does not consider this an allowable expense.