U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) joined U.S. Small Business Administration Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet and a Maryland business owner Tuesday in calling for the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank -- a key tool to helping small businesses sell their goods overseas and create jobs back home. Without Congressional action, the Bank's charter will expire in 64 days.
The Senators called for a long-term extension of the Bank's charter to give small business owners the certainty they need to continue securing deals in international export markets.
"Export markets are the next great frontier for U.S. economic growth. Over the next decade, 1 billion consumers in the emerging world are going to the join the middle class. Our small businesses must sell to them in order to remain competitive," Administrator Contreras-Sweet said. "I've talked to many entrepreneurs across the country -- they are eager to participate in the international marketplace but have uncertainty about getting paid by foreign buyers halfway around the world. The Ex-Im Bank removes that uncertainty by providing insurance products to guarantee they will get paid."
About 90 percent of the Ex-Im Bank's transactions involve small businesses.
Bobby Patton, CEO of Patton Electronics Company in Gaithersburg, Maryland, said his company has used the Ex-Im Bank's services to help grow exports of telecommunications products to 140 countries around the world. As the company's international business grew bigger and more competitive, private banks became less willing to finance the company's export deals, he said. Private insurance was too expensive and onerous for the size of transactions that typically dealt with, he said. The company was introduced to the Export-Import Bank through a private bank.
"Now 70 percent of our business comes from outside the United States," said Patton, whose startup now employs 150 people. "This is critical piece of our business. We would not be able to sustain the kind of business we're doing now without the kinds of products the Ex-Im has. I'm a Republican and I keep looking at private options and you know what? They are not there. The only option I have is the Ex-Im Bank. It is something essential to the growth and continuity of my business."
Photos of the news conference are available here.
The "Ex-Im Bank," which was established 80 years ago, helps American companies sell their products or services to foreign customers by financing or insuring those purchases in cases where the private sector is unable. The Ex-Im Bank's charter is set to expire Sept. 30, and unless Congress acts, it will be forced to end its assistance to American companies. In 2013, the Ex-Im Bank supported $37 billion in export sales and 205,000 jobs.
"If you can't reach the customers who want to buy your product -- and American products are so desirable -- you're not going to be successful. That's where the Ex-Im Bank comes in," said Kaine, the Co-Chair of the Senate Career and Technical Education Caucus. "It's about the success of these business and thousands and thousands like them. We need to do this and we need to do this now, and we need to do this for a sufficient period to allow our businesses to plan and to succeed."
"We have 16 legislative days left -- according to the Senate calendar, to get the Export-Import Bank reauthorized," said Cantwell, the Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. "We want to send a clear message that if you are voting against the Export-Import Bank, you are hurting these small businesses."
"American manufacturers can compete on a level playing field with any country in the world," said Cardin, a member of the Senate Small Business Committee. "But we can't give up the tools that are available while other countries don't. This tool, the Export-Import Bank, provides a way we can compete and needs to be reauthorized."
The Ex-Im Bank is self-supported through interest payments and fees charged to customers, turning a profit for the U.S. taxpayer. In 2013, the bank transferred $1 billion to the U.S. Treasury.