Small Businesses Shine At Ex-Im Annual Conference

Often lost in the fevered debate over reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank is what it means for small businesses. Fortunately, small businesses earned a lot of applause at this year’s Ex-Im Bank Annual Conference.

Among the companies celebrated were fire truck maker W.S. Darley & Co., cheesecake company Love & Quiches Gourmet, and Texas-based Fritz-Pak Corp. These companies have tapped Ex-Im Bank financing to sell their products abroad.

Love and Quiches Gourmet, based in New York, sells brownies, cheesecake, and chocolate all over the world – thanks to Ex-Im.

Without Ex-Im, founder Susan Axelrod told a packed room at the Ex-Im Bank’s annual conference, “we’d be at a competitive disadvantage.”

And, she added, we “wouldn’t be able to compete with other bakers around the world for our piece of the pie.”

Fritz-Pak manufactures a variety of products such as plasters and concrete mixes that are used in stadiums all over the world. The Dallas Cowboys play in a stadium built using some of Fritz-Pak’s products. And if you watched the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, you saw their handiwork on display.

While they are just one of the more than 5,000 small companies that have used Ex-Im since 2007, they have quite a story to tell. The Great Recession was nearly their downfall. Then they discovered Ex-Im.

President and founder Gabriel Ojeda recently said that before using the Ex-Im Bank international sales were just 15 percent of the company’s total sales. But when the Great Recession hit, the construction industry shrank and forced the company to lay off workers.

After pouring years of his life into Fritz-Pak’s success, Mr. Ojeda even considered selling the company.

Then he heard about Ex-Im.

“Expanding internationally had always appealed to us,” but figuring out how to do so “during the worst recession in our lifetime seemed like a pipe dream,” said Mr. Ojeda.

After consulting with bankers at Comerica, Mr. Ojeda was put in touch with the Ex-Im Bank. Using the Bank’s short-term export credit insurance program, Fritz-Pak was able to insure their international receivables at minimal cost, affording them a valuable safety net when exporting abroad.

In fact, over the past five years, Fritz-Pak has increased its international sales to over 35 percent of its business, with major trading partners in over 30 different countries including Brazil, India, Russia, and Taiwan.

The Ex-Im insurance for Fritz-Pak wasn’t free. Ex-Im isn’t free. It charges money for its services just like a private bank. It’s because of this that Ex-Im has returned nearly $7 billion to taxpayers since 1992.

It’s because of its role in helping businesses—small, medium, and large—that Ex-Im has broad, bipartisan support. Republicans and Democrats in both the Senate and House have introduced legislation to reauthorize Ex-Im.

Now small businesses are waiting for one thing: Congress to act.