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Tom Donohue: Export-Import Bank Offers Big Opportunity for Small Businesses

An employer doesn’t have to be big to have the aspiration, or the opportunity, to do business on a global scale. In fact, if businesses want to grow, creating American jobs in the process, they need to find more customers — and 95 percent of them live beyond U.S. shores.

The Export-Import Bank of the United States — which provides loans and loan guarantees when other financing is not available — has enabled businesses of every size to reach foreign markets and customers, including a growing global middle class with rising spending power. Almost 90 percent of Ex-Im’s transactions have helped small and medium businesses export, and the overall impact on our economy has been huge.

Last year alone, the bank provided financing or loan guarantees for $34.7 billion in U.S. exports and supported more than 200,000 American jobs.

Across the country, small businesses are expanding and hiring in large part because of Ex-Im and the trade it facilitates.

Maryland-based Patton Electronics, a family-owned firm started by two brothers in their parents’ garage, is now exporting its products to more than 120 countries because of a loan guarantee backed by the bank. Because Patton does the majority of its business abroad, its operations and workforce rely on the continued availability of Ex-Im-backed financing.

Some critics are wary of government financing for private enterprise, but Ex-Im has proved not only to be an effective tool for economic growth and job creation — but also a pretty good deal for U.S. taxpayers. Over its 80 years of lending history, Ex-Im financing has exposed U.S. taxpayers to very little risk, boasting a default rate lower than commercial banks. And taxpayers actually see a return on investment. Since 1990, the bank has returned $7 billion more to U.S. coffers than it has received in government funding.

To keep this vital resource for export growth and job creation available, Congress has to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank before its funding runs out at the end of September. Failure to do so would limit opportunity for small and medium businesses to expand and hire.

Worse still, it would unilaterally disarm the United States in the global economy. Many of our global competitors have much more aggressive trade finance programs. If we close down the Ex-Im Bank, we’ll put billions of dollars in U.S. exports and tens of thousands of American jobs at risk while our competitors continue to heavily invest in financing.

Leaders from both sides of the aisle repeatedly — and rightly — call for a bold trade agenda. By reauthorizing the Ex-Im Bank, they’ll put their money where their mouth is — and keep an important tool in the hands of America’s job creators.

— Tom Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The opinions expressed are his own.

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