The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation this week reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank's charter, bringing much-needed relief to small exporters.
Since the bank's charter expired on June 30, it has been unable to provide new loans or make new transactions through its credit insurance program, which has been devastating to small exporters and entrepreneurs looking to expand their businesses to international markets.
The Export-Import Bank is important to small businesses because it gives them an edge by leveling the playing field between small firms and their larger counterparts. The bank fills in the gaps offered by traditional financing by partnering with private-sector lenders to provide loans, loan guarantees and credit to aid foreign purchasers in buying American-made goods. Additionally, the bank offers credit insurance so small business owners don't have to worry about non-payment from foreign buyers.
Many small businesses rely on the bank because commercial lenders typically don't support small businesses in this area. In fact, nearly 90 percent of the Ex-Im Bank's transactions in 2014 were for American small businesses. Additionally, the bank financed more small business exports in the last five years than in the previous 11 years combined. Without it, small business owners say they wouldn't be able to compete internationally.
One such small business owner is Jenny Fulton, owner of Miss Jenny's Pickles in Kernersville, North Carolina, whose jarred pickles can be found in grocery stores across the United States and overseas. While Fulton and her business partner quickly found success here at home, she knew that she needed to expand to foreign markets in order to continue growing her business.
"Considering that 95 percent of the world's population is outside of the United States, we knew that exporting would be crucial to our success," she said.
Fulton turned to the Ex-Im Bank for help, and she utilized the bank's credit insurance program so she wouldn't have to worry about nonpayment from buyers on the other side of the world.
"Thanks to support from the Export-Import Bank," Fulton said, "we've exported more than 10,000 jars of Miss Jenny's Pickles to Canada, China and Germany. These exports are crucial to keeping our business afloat. Without the Export-Import Bank, I'd lose 10 to 15 percent of my business, and I'd be forced to layoff one of my five full-time employees as a result. And it's not just my employees that would be impacted; this would have a trickle down effect to the company we hire to pack our jars as well, which has 200 employees."
Fulton is not alone. The Ex-Im Bank is responsible for more than $34 billion in exports each year. Without it, tens of thousands of workers engaged in the exporting business could be laid off, and several thousand exporters--mostly small business owners--would take a substantial financial loss, as would the suppliers who make or grow the products being exported.
While it's encouraging the U.S. House of Representatives passed this important legislation, if the Senate fails to pass a long-term reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank, it will be damaging to the economy and place an unfair burden on small business owners like Jenny Fulton and other hard-working exporters.
It's time for Congress and the Administration to do the right thing and provide our small exporters the certainty they need to continue brokering deals with foreign countries that bolster our economy here at home.