Fri, Mar 13, 2015 - Page 9 News List

Users fight to save Export-Import Bank

While there is a Republican schism over the fate of an 81-year-old banking institution, small-business leaders have been waging a counteroffensive to try to save it

By Jonathan Weisman  /  NY Times News Service, WASHINGTON

Acrow Corp of America makes the modular, prefabricated bridges that helped win World War II and now proliferate in developing nations. However, customers in countries like Cameroon and Zambia cannot readily get private bank loans to finance large infrastructure projects without backup. European and Chinese competitors have their own government-backed export credit agencies. Acrow, which is based in Parsippany, New Jersey, has the Export-Import Bank, said Paul Sullivan, the company’s director of international business development.

“We are already hearing from customers that our competitors are in their offices saying, ‘You cannot rely on an Acrow bridge deal because their financing mechanism is not likely to stay alive,’” Sullivan said.

He suggested that the death of the bank would cost 200 jobs, many at Acrow’s manufacturing plant in Pennsylvania.

“For us to pull another arrow out of our quiver, it’s irrational, it’s terrifying and it’s inappropriate when one considers the reality of the global marketplace today,” he said.

Barsalou uses the Export-Import Bank differently. To finance lumber exports, his company needs upfront cash that customers in Greece and Egypt will not provide, nor will his Wells Fargo Bank, without the Export-Import Bank’s guarantee.

“They say banks should do that,” he said, referring to opponents of the Export-Import Bank. “Well, banks don’t do that, and that’s the reality.”

To the bank’s opponents, such opinions are almost beside the point. Supporters might trot out small-business owners like Barsalou, but the bank’s big efforts are on behalf of big companies. It is, after all, derisively called the Bank of Boeing.

“I have no doubt Boeing, GE and Caterpillar will continue to thrive as great American companies if Ex-Im goes away,” Needham said.

Hensarling has taken to posting the “Egregious Ex-Im Bank Deal of the Day,” like one aiding mining projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which he said one human rights group had labeled the “rape capital of the world.”

Russell said: “Sometimes when you’re the beneficiary of something that’s helping your business, you personally, it’s hard to look at something objectively.”

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