The US Small Business Administration is providing $30 million in grants to states, territories, and the District of Columbia, to help increase exporting by small businesses during the next 12 months. The grants were authorized by the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, under the State Trade and Export Promotion Program (STEP). Vermont has been allocated $363,768.The STEP program, launched in March, aligns with President Obama’s National Export Initiative. The President’s initiative calls for doubling U.S. exports in five years ‘ and in so doing, supporting two million jobs. The program provides federal government funding for 65 to75 percent of program costs, with states supplying the remainder. SBA Administrator Karen Mills announced the awards today at an event in Raleigh, N.C., at Raleigh Denim, a small business that produces and exports denim products. Forty-seven states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Virgin Islands received STEP grants.‘Strengthening the nation’s economy through a substantial increase of U.S. exports is a top priority for the Administration and the agency,’ said Mills. ‘This is a unique partnership between the federal government and the states. Sharing responsibilities and resources will help new small exporters across the country enter and succeed in the global market.’The funding will support participation in foreign trade missions, foreign market sales trips, subscriptions to services provided by the Department of Commerce, website translations fees, design of international marketing media, trade show exhibitions, participation in training workshops, and other critical export initiatives.Small businesses that want to receive assistance under the STEP program should contact the organizations serving the states in which they are located. For a list of these organizations and more information about the STEP program, visit http://www.sba.gov/about-offices-content/1/2889/resources/14315(link is external).The SBA anticipates it will conduct a new competition for STEP program grants during the winter of 2011. Awards will be made in September 2012 for export support services by states over the following 12 months.
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NewsRegional Environmental watchdog breached rules, court says by: – November 30, 2011 The Palisadoes, a protected area in Jamaica where an environmental watchdog group approved improvement and expansion construction projects. (Credit:Zadie Neufville/ IPS)KINGSTON, Jamaica, Tuesday November 29, 2011 (By Zadie Neufville) – When Jamaica’s environmental watchdog group approved road expansion and coastal improvement works inside the Palisadoes Port Royal Protected Area without consulting the public, environmentalists took them to court and won.Lobbying group the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) sought a judicial review of the National Environment and Planning Agency’s (NEPA) decision to permit the construction of a four-lane highway within the Ramsar Wetlands – 13,000 hectares of cays, reefs and mangroves.At risk, they contended, were more than 300 species of plants and animals, including six native species of cacti.The project, slowed by International Monetary Fund (IMF) budget restrictions, also included boardwalk construction and coastal improvement work along a 2.5 kilometre section of the 14-kilometre roadway that links Jamaica’s capital to the historic city of Port Royal.This work required the removal of centuries-old sand dunes inside the Palisadoes/ Port Royal Wetlands, which scientists say are critical to the environmental and structural integrity of the tombolo.JET charged that NEPA and the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) board had breached local environmental laws when it approved the project without consulting the public on major changes to its original design.The NRCA Act makes it a necessity for the public to be consulted on all developments requiring environmental permits and licences. The NRCA is lawfully responsible for approval, while NEPA issues such permits and licenses.The court victory was bittersweet, however, as NEPA, the agency charged with protecting the environment, also claims absolution. In the Oct. 13 ruling, Supreme Court Judge Jennifer Straw wrote that while the Agency breached the legal standard for public consultation, NEPA and NRCA had upheld their responsibility to protect the environment by issuing adequate permits and licences.In handing down her opinion, Straw noted that NEPA “fell woefully short and breached the legal standard of consultation and the legitimate expectation that all the relevant environmental information would be disclosed to the public before approval was given”.She continued, “The defendants did not breach their statutory duty in failing to require an environmental permit as conditions were attached to a previous beach licence granted in relation to the sand dunes.”NEPA’s CEO Peter Knight celebrated the ruling as a vindication of the agency’s commitment to its duties. The agency has repeatedly been accused of failing to adhere to its mandate to protect the environment and for overlooking its legal duties under pressure from government and investors.“The court rulings, as we understand them, did not challenge our processes, but rather, they concluded that we did not adhere to the processes,” Knight told IPS in a written response. He pointed out that the agency would appeal the ruling in relation to the public consultation.Environmentalists pointed out, however, that Straw’s ruling highlights a system in which large investors and power players can and do pressure governments and watchdog agencies like NEPA into approving environmentally unsound projects.“Failure to meet public consultation requirements is a symptom of a much greater problem: the general lack of transparency in development decision-making,” said Wendy Lee, executive director of the Northern Jamaica Conservation Association (NJCA).This problem “is compounded by a failure to adhere to sustainable land use policies, physical plans where they exist and parish development orders”, she added.Work to elevate the Palisadoes Road began in August 2010 to “protect the airport and infrastructure inside the Kingston Harbour”, Transport and Works Minister Michael Henry said then.In recent years, extreme weather events such as Hurricanes Ivan in 2004 and Dean in 2007 have inundated sections, forcing closure of the airport and marooning Port Royal.But the minister failed to reveal significant new additions to a project that had been approved in 2008. Both the National Works Agency (NWA), which is responsible for the 65-million-dollar project, and NEPA resisted calls for renewed consultations.Here, Straw sided with the environmentalists.“Since the new design would include the removal of the mangroves on the harbour side, as a result of the proposed rock revetment on the harbour side, there should have been disclosure and adequate time given for the consideration of this activity,” she wrote.And although the public consultation did take place, JET’s executive director Diana McCaulay told the local media, “I think it is hard for any reasonable person to say that a public meeting that takes place after permits have been granted and after work has started is a reasonable way to proceed.”This is the second time that environmentalists have challenged NEPA/NRCA’s public consultation process and won.In May 2006, Justice Brian Sykes ruled that NEPA and the NRCA had breached the public consultation process when it failed to consider critical information, including a marine ecology report that had been missing from an environmental impact study.NJCA, JET and other environmentalists had sought judicial review of the decision to grant a permit for the construction of phase one of the 1,918-room Bahia Principe Hotel in Runaway Bay.Relaying his decision to rescind the permit, Sykes noted, “The difficulty for me was that it was known to both NEPA and NRCA that the (environmental impact assessment) was incomplete. How can you consult without giving the public full, complete and accurate information?”Having been ‘vindicated’ by this latest ruling, Knight said that NEPA, which he said is driven by acts, regulations, policies, standards and guidelines, is working to improve its performance through increased “efficiency and effectiveness”.“From a policy perspective we are in process to finalise a number of policies,” he said. “In the short-term we have taken steps to implement changes, which are already positively impacting our capacity. These include the reconfiguration of elements of the organisation structure.”But even as environmentalists savour their win, there is fear that Jamaican authorities may have lost the meanings of protected and preserved.“Even when the public consultation process is ostensibly followed, damaging projects still go ahead despite strong objections from the public and environmental experts, and the damage is usually irreversible,” said Lee. 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Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. The current FFA congress is seen as one of the smallest in world football and lacking significant female representation.The CRWG report, which was completed to meet FIFA’s Tuesday deadline, has not been publicly released and its recommendations can only be revealed at FIFA’s discretion. FIFA commissioned the report to pressure the FFA to comply with statutes around the structure of national governing bodies after trying for several years to force change.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSGinebra beats Meralco again to capture PBA Governors’ Cup titleSPORTSAfter winning title, time for LA Tenorio to give back to Batangas folkSPORTSTim Cone still willing to coach Gilas but admits decision won’t be ‘simple yes or no’FIFA is reported to be ready to approve the report’s recommendations and to demand they be adopted at an FFA special general meeting on Sept. 7. But that seems unlikely after FFA chairman Steven Lowy released a statement on Tuesday expressing opposition to aspects of the report.“There are many elements of the report which are positive steps and wholly supported by the FFA board,” Lowy said. “However, there are also some crucial aspects of the report which the FFA board does not believe are in the best interests of the game and are inconsistent with its guiding principles.” In fight vs corruption, Duterte now points to Ayala, MVP companies as ‘big fish’ Palace OKs total deployment ban on Kuwait OFWs Lights inside SMX hall flicker as Duterte rants vs Ayala, Pangilinan anew Gov’t in no rush to rescue animals in Taal MOST READ SYDNEY — Football Federation Australia appears on course for a confrontation with FIFA after rejecting “some crucial aspects” of a review backed by the world body into the structure of football’s governing congress in the country.The congress review working group (CRWG) has made recommendations to FIFA for the expansion of the Australia congress after seven weeks of consultation with key stakeholders in Australian football.ADVERTISEMENT Nadine Lustre’s phone stolen in Brazil Director plans Tokyo 2020 ceremonies ‘rich in Japanese spirit’ Sports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next ‘High crimes and misdemeanors’: Trump impeachment trial begins View comments Judy Ann’s 1st project for 2020 is giving her a ‘stomachache’ The FFA is thought to have enough support from state federations to vote down the changes. If the CRWG proposals are not passed, FIFA has the power to dismiss the FFA board and replace it with a committee which would run football in Australia.The FFA’s objection is reportedly to the balance of votes which would exist on an enlarged congress. The CRWG recommendations would see considerably more voting power handed to owners of teams in Australia’s professional A-League.State federations, who are supported by the FFA, fear that structure would diminish the power of grassroots or non-professional football. At the same time, the FFA’s recommendations for reform have been rejected by FIFA.ADVERTISEMENT LATEST STORIES After winning title, time for LA Tenorio to give back to Batangas folk Peza offers relief to ecozone firms Carpio hits red carpet treatment for China Coast Guard PLAY LIST 02:14Carpio hits red carpet treatment for China Coast Guard02:56NCRPO pledges to donate P3.5 million to victims of Taal eruption00:56Heavy rain brings some relief in Australia02:37Calm moments allow Taal folks some respite03:23Negosyo sa Tagaytay City, bagsak sa pag-aalboroto ng Bulkang Taal01:13Christian Standhardinger wins PBA Best Player award