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Webber: SC has a bright future, if Congress doesn’t rain on our parade

Author: Cherod Webber

Source: The State

August 15, 2014

COLUMBIA, SC — To grow our economy in South Carolina, small businesses have had to think outside the box. For my Greenville-based company, Innovative Global Supply, that means thinking outside the country.

We started in 2008 as an all-export business, selling nutritional products to emerging markets in Eastern Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. Now we’re set to export pre-fabricated housing boards to Ghana, which will create and retain up to 300 jobs in South Carolina.

But this project and many other exports could be stopped in their tracks if Congress shuts down the Export-Import Bank, which provides export insurance, credit and loans to help American companies sell their goods abroad — nearly $40 billion last year, supporting more than 200,000 jobs. In South Carolina, Ex-Im has financed more than $1 billion in exports in the past five years.

My business used to require full payment in advance to protect ourselves, and we lost sales because of that. But with Ex-Im-backed purchase-order insurance, we can safely sell on credit, just as we would to American businesses. Ex-Im’s insurance gives us the ability to compete globally with Chinese companies, worrying less about possible non-payments and focusing more on expanding our company to create more jobs here in South Carolina.

The Ex-Im Bank only backs financing for U.S. exports when commercial loans aren’t available, so it is not distorting or displacing private enterprise. It returned $1 billion to the U.S. Treasury last year after accounting for all costs, thanks to strict loan standards and a default rate below 1 percent. This is no crop subsidy or tax loophole that benefits the wealthy few at the public’s expense — much less “corporate welfare.”

Although Ex-Im financing supports Boeing aircraft sales — a good thing for South Carolina since many of these planes are built in Charleston — nine out of 10 Ex-Im loans go to small and medium sized firms. Ex-Im also helps small businesses navigate foreign regulations, tariffs and bureaucracies, and provides purchase-order insurance for smaller retail sales. Its recent partnership with the Charleston Chamber of Commerce will help small businesses like mine find new opportunities overseas.

The right thing for the Congress to do is to renew America’s Ex-Im Bank without delay. The future of many South Carolinians depends on it.

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