July 01, 2015

Export-Import Bank Lapse Hurts W.Va. Businesses | Charleston Gazette-Mail

Today is the first day in over 80 years that West Virginia businesses will not have the backing and resources of their government to support them in exporting their products overseas. They will not have a bank that will guarantee loans for them; they will not have the legal backing and financial expertise that is available to their competitors in over 60 countries around the world. During these difficult economic times, and as our economy becomes more and more global each day, it is shameful that we have let political gamesmanship hurt our small businesses.

At midnight last night, the U.S. Export-Import Bank, officially expired for the first time in 81 years. Although many West Virginians and Americans may not be familiar with the Ex-Im Bank, this lapse should alarm us all. The bank plays a vital role in keeping our economy competitive and strong. Since 1934, it has fulfilled its mission of giving American businesses a hand-up, not a handout, and a competitive edge in the global marketplace.

The Export-Import Bank provides loans, guarantees, and insurance to help U.S. companies sell their products overseas. Since it was established during the Great Depression, the Ex-Im Bank has maintained overwhelming support because it creates jobs, keeps businesses strong, boosts the market for American-made goods abroad, and most importantly — does not cost taxpayers a dime. Let me repeat that: the Export-Import Bank does not cost the American taxpayers a dime.

In fact, last year alone, it returned over $1 billion to the American taxpayer. It supported more than 205,000 American jobs and generated $37.4 billion in U.S. export sales. As of Tuesday, the bank will be barred from making new loans until Congress votes for its reauthorization. Our job in Congress is to fight to protect each and every job we have, and at a time when our nation’s economy is in recovery, it defies common sense to shut down an agency that directly supports American jobs.

Some in Congress say they want to eliminate the bank, calling it corporate welfare that only helps big businesses using American taxpayers’ money. That’s simply false. Not only does the Ex-Im Bank secure American jobs, but it has generated nearly $7 billion more than the cost of its operations. That’s money the bank generates for the American taxpayer, to help reduce the federal deficit. And it did all of that with a default rate of less than one percent.

While there are indeed larger companies that benefit from the Ex-Im Bank, small businesses are the true beneficiaries of the agency. Last year, 89 percent of the bank’s transactions directly supported American small businesses. As a former West Virginia small business owner, I know that small businesses are the engine for growth and jobs in our state, and I know how truly beneficial it is for small business owners to find new markets and customers. I speak with business owners all of the time, and they tell me that they want to export, but they don’t know where to start and they worry about dealing overseas. Well, the Ex-Im Bank provides small business exporters with that needed certainty and protection to tackle new markets and expand and create jobs.

Since 2009, the Ex-Im Bank worked with 13 small businesses in West Virginia, providing $32 million in loans to support $135 million in exports. The family-owned Wheeling Truck Center is just one example of the many businesses in our state that has used the Bank to expand internationally. Since it began exporting trucks and truck parts in 2010, Wheeling Truck Center has been recognized with the 2011 Export Achievement Award and with the 2014 President’s “E” Award for Exports, the highest honor a business can receive for significantly contributing to the expansion of U.S. exports.

West Virginia businesses that are suppliers to the larger companies that utilize the bank have also benefitted from its transactions. Companies include Constellium in Ravenswood, which supplies products to companies like Boeing, SpaceX, and Lockheed Martin. Components of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner are machined from Ravenswood plate. Also, the Falcon 9 Rocket, a SpaceX product that traveled to the International Space Station, uses materials sourced from the West Virginia plant.

The Ex-Im Bank has been so successful in spurring job growth and economic prosperity here at home, that it is now copied in most nations competing with the United States. While Congress holds up reauthorization of this important agency, companies in China, Russia, South Korea and Europe are aggressively using state-backed export-credit agencies of their own to secure major industrial contracts in developing countries. In just two years, China’s counterpart agency has extended $670 billion in credit. Since its founding, the Ex-Im Bank has lent or guaranteed only $590 billion. With nearly 60 other export credit agencies around the world trying to win jobs for their own countries, we need this bank to help level the playing field for American businesses. America is the undisputed business leader of the world, and American businesses, large and small, cannot unilaterally disarm against our global competitors.

I have been a constant Ex-Im Bank supporter since joining the Senate. Earlier this year, I was proud to introduce legislation to reauthorize this important financing tool and allow it to fulfill its critical mission while also making critical reforms that protect taxpayers and allow the export of U.S. coal technologies. In order to make sure American businesses remain competitive in a global marketplace and boost economic prosperity here at home, Congress must not wait any longer to reauthorize a long-term extension of the Ex-Im Bank. It is my sincere hope that Congress can come to its senses and vote on allowing this important federal credit agency to continue to help the American business community.