Small Businesses Tell Lawmakers Ex-Im Bank Is Vital To Growth

Washington, D.C.—Today, four small-business representatives briefed Congressional staff about how vital the U.S. Export-Import Bank is to their businesses and urged them to reauthorize it. The speakers, who came from around the country, included Charles Wetherington, President of BTE Technologies (Baltimore, Maryland), Leanne Spees, International Finance Manager of Goss International (Durham, New Hampshire), Jim Hirsch, President and CEO of Air Tractor (Olney, Texas), and Michael McQueeny, President of AirFixture (Kansas City, Kansas).

These four executives told lawmakers that prior to using the Ex-Im Bank it was nearly impossible for them to export their products abroad. Mr. Hirsch, whose company manufactures agricultural aircrafts, described how he searched for financing from private banks, but not a single one could help.

“If there was a competitive commercial option, we’d be there. But there’s not,” he said.

Through the credit insurance and loan guarantee offered by the Ex-Im Bank, Mr. Hirsch was able to reach new markets and customers. Prior to using Ex-Im, about 10 percent of Air Tractor’s sales were exports. Now half of their sales come from exports. Similarly, Mr. Wetherington said when they started BTE Technologies they had only 40 employees and just three percent of their business was international sales. Today, exports are over 50 percent of sales and they have grown to 90 employees.

“Ex-Im was a great kick-start for us. As a small business we really needed something like this in place to help us get going.” Mr. Wetherington also wanted to make clear that they don’t use the Ex-Im Bank for every deal they make abroad, but “Ex-Im helps when there is no other solution.”

Ex-Im is needed, they say, because the global marketplace is not a “free marketplace.” Strong export assistance programs in other countries make it so that businesses overseas have funding advantages when competing for customers. Today’s small businesses have to compete not only on quality, but on financing. This has been particularly evident for Leanne Spees of Goss International. Goss produces commercial printing presses, including ones as long as half a football field, which are a significant capital investment. They are one of only three manufacturers in the world- the other two are located in Germany. Spees says that Goss would be unable to compete with the German companies who are receiving German export credit assistance without the Ex-Im Bank.

“Getting a commercial bank to provide 5-7 year financing comparable to the German firms, to countries where we see a lot of opportunity like Brazil, Colombia, and Sri Lanka simply can’t happen without Ex-Im.”

They all expressed concerns about what would happen to their businesses and employees if the Ex-Im Bank were not reauthorized. Mr. Wetherington sees the threat as substantial- “small businesses can fail because of bad business, but they can also fail because of bad cash flow.”

Hirsch stated that 25 percent of his business would be lost, which would translate to 60 pink slips. And for what Mr. McQueeny calls “the smaller of the small businesses,” it is a tipping point. “You can’t just shave off a few percentage points of jobs. It’s not like we can fire our one electrical engineer. This is survive or not survive.”