Congress must reauthorize Ex-Im Bank

Every poll taken shows that the number one issue on the minds of voters is “jobs and the economy.” Why, then, is a federal program that has helped create thousands of Wisconsin jobs at hundreds of Wisconsin businesses and generated billions in economic activity for the state currently on life support in Washington, D.C.?

I’m talking, of course, about the U.S. Export-Import Bank, a rare government program that actually generates taxpayer savings and has supported over a million jobs nationwide, most of them at small or mid-sized businesses. The Ex-Im Bank, as it is commonly known, is the official export credit agency of the U.S. This 80-year-old institution provides financing services to companies manufacturing goods here in the U.S. and selling them in markets overseas. Ex-Im is prohibited from competing with private sector lenders or financing companies.

Instead, Ex-Im steps in in situations where the conditions of a loan or the stability of the overseas region being served make private financiers unable or unwilling to operate. Here in Wisconsin, the Ex-Im Bank’s services have supported more than $4 billion in export activity from 198 different businesses in literally every corner of the state over the past decade.

Despite the bank’s success, however, it will be put out of business unless Congress reauthorizes it by Sept. 30. Why? At the heart of the current political controversy is a case of mistaken identity. Opponents of the bank have painted it as a corporate welfare agency doling out favors to mega-companies like Boeing and General Electric. While it is true that large companies including these are recipients of the Export-Import Bank’s help, the true face of the U.S. Export-Import Bank is not these companies. It is the face of small Wisconsin businesses.

The face of Ex-Im is Hampel Co., making molded plastic products for agricultural use worldwide from its home in Germantown.

The face of Ex-Im is Enercon Industries Corp., also in Germantown, the world’s leading manufacturer of induction sealing systems and surface treating equipment.

The face of Ex-Im is the face of Maxon Industries, providing construction equipment all over the globe from its home here in Milwaukee.

The face of Ex-Im is the dozens of other small businesses throughout Wisconsin that simply would not be able to compete in overseas markets without the help of the U.S. Export-Import Bank. More importantly, the face of Ex-Im is the hundreds of Wisconsin workers whose jobs would not exist without their employers’ access to these overseas markets.

It’s easy for politicians to create fat cat bogeymen to demonize programs like the U.S. Export-Import Bank. But these easy stereotypes ignore economic reality. Failure to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank might put a momentary hitch in a mega-corporation’s economic stride, but companies like these have other options at their disposal to remain active in the world marketplace. Those options include locating to other countries or obtaining financing from other nations who are aggressively expanding their own export financing operations even as the U.S. stands on the cusp of shutting its own down.

For dozens of small and mid-sized businesses here in Wisconsin, however, elimination of the U.S. Export-Import Bank would mean elimination of their ability to do business overseas and the elimination of their ability to create jobs here at home. For these business owners and their employees, the debate over the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank is not an academic exercise or a political game: it is a matter of economic life and death.

The MMAC is proud to stand up for these workers and invite you to do so as well by going to and urging your elected leaders to support Wisconsin jobs by supporting reauthorization of the U.S. Export-Import Bank.

Steve Baas is vice president of government affairs at the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce.

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