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Move to reauthorize Export-Import Bank gaining ‘traction’

Author: Ashley Boncimino

Source: GSA Business

September 4, 2014

Efforts supporting reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, which provides financing and other support for U.S. companies to export, are starting to make headway, said GE Power & Water Global Government Affairs and Policy Director George Pickart Tuesday.

The Export-Import Bank will close this month if not reauthorized by Congress. Large companies such as Boeing have received the largest total disbursements from the bank — nearly $700 million — but 35 others in the state have received some sort of Ex-Im Bank assistance in the last two years. Almost half of those are in the Upstate.

“The business community has been fully mobilized now for months, and it’s been difficult, but I think it’s making some traction,” said Pickart at a GE-organized round table of several of the company’s suppliers. “I think the word is starting to get into the debate now about what this really means, above and beyond philosophy, but really the real-world impact of the Ex-Im.”

Pickart said all of the company’s international competitors have access to an export-oriented financial support entity, which means not reauthorizing the bank for U.S. exporters would leave them at an international disadvantage.

“In many cases, we’re bidding on projects that require Ex-Im financing as part of the bidding documents,” he said. “We might not even use it, but we have to be able to show that we can bring it with our bid, so it’s really a fundamental matter of our competitiveness.”

GE is not a customer of the bank, but many of GE’s customers are, said Monte Atwell, power generation life cycle product management leader at GE Power & Water. Nine out of every 10 turbines made in Greenville over the last five years have been exported, and about 10% of those have been deals that benefitted from financing via the Export-Import Bank, said Atwell.

“Not every turbine that’s built is pulled through with Ex-Im financing, but a significant portion is,” he said. “We all play a big role in this thing, and Ex-Im is kind of the cornerstone in our ability to be competitive against French, German and Japanese companies that have access to, frankly, a lot more money of that type of financing, and it’s very helpful in the customers that we deal with.”

While that real-world impact could include putting U.S. companies at a global disadvantage, resulting in fewer winning bids and decreased production, it could also affect the employee base as well as the success of companies that work closely with Ex-Im customers.

“It’s more than just a question of big companies like GE and Boeing who are beneficiaries, but a lot of other entities are ties to them, whether they’re direct suppliers or companies that transport the goods or deliver them,” said Pickart.

For example, transportation firm CSX has transported 30 turbines from Greenville to Charleston to date, making up a significant piece of business for the company and its 1,000 S.C. employees, said CSX Resident Vice President of State Government and Community Affairs John Dillard.

“Their (GE’s) interests and their concerns and priorities, we share those and support those and their ability to be competitive, because that allows us to maintain our business and our employee base in South Carolina,” Dillard said.

Another of those companies is Energy Hardware, which supplies electromechanical hardware and fasteners to industrial original equipment manufacturers, subcontractors and repair operators.

“As a supplier, everything is leveraged around volume,” said GE Director of Business Development John Sucin. “If the Greenvilles of the world start leaving, the periphery GE support sites start leaving as well, so it’s absolutely vital for us that GE is successful.”

GE employees alone have generated 11,000 letters to Congress about the issue, said Pickart. “We hear reports of many, many businesses hosting members of Congress out in their districts and giving them a very similar story,” said Pickart. “Frankly, I think it’s starting to resonate.”

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