Newly elected Minister of International Trade Chrystia Freeland told a group of small businesses gathered in Waterloo yesterday “I am your chief marketing officer,” according to a report on Communitech’s website.

So what does she bring to the table if she’s vying for an executive position at your company? How about $50 million? That’s the size of the new CanExport program unveiled yesterday by the government, aimed at helping small and mid-sized businesses boost exports. Announced at the Communitech Hub, the five-year program will cover eligible companies’ expenses related to export development, with grants ranging from $10,000 to $100,000. Companies can start applying now and Freeland says a response will be issued within 25 days.

While any export-based business with fewer than 250 employees, and revenues between $200,000 and $50 million annually, can apply, Freeland’s choice of the Communitech Hub and her speech infer that technology firms might be the priority.

We dug through the details of the new program and here’s what you need to know:

Who can apply?

You need to be a for-profit company that is either incorporated or run as a limited liability partnership. Get your business identifier number that you use with your taxes ready. You’ll need to have at least one full-time employee, but no more than 250.

What do I get?

CanExport will reimburse 50 per cent of eligible business expenses for activities that develop international business. The activities have to go beyond your “core activities” (i.e. it can’t be included in your regular business operations) and provide an opportunity to yield incremental results. Expenses for buisness travel, participation at trade fairs, market research, adaptation of your marketing tools for a new market, or legal fees could all be eligible.

If you’ve already been active in a market for 24 months, it won’t be eligible for this program. The program is really looking for efforts to develop long-term relationships with export markets, so don’t just ask for a short-term promotion to be covered.

Which countries are covered?

Only countries where Canada has imposed sanctions aren’t eligible. (So forget about covering expenses for that trade show in North Korea). Keep your project application to just one new market and explain why you’ve not yet exported to this market. (Or haven’t done so in the past 24 months).

What’s the catch?

If you’re approved for the program, there’s an online portal for submitting expenses, so that sounds pretty painless. But the government is making it known that you can expect audits, evaluations, and even site visits to your business. You’ll have to submit a report after the project, and then annually for three years following the project, documenting the benefits.

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