Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby Holds Key to Ex-Im Bank’s Survival (Opinion)
Political and business leaders are urging U.S. Senator Richard Shelby to back reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank of the United States after a Senate committee hearing next month that could determine the fate of the vital overseas trading tool and continue helping manufactures like Michael McSweeney.
Senator Shelby, R-Ala., is chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. His committee is expected to hold Ex-Im reauthorization hearings in May.
The hearings are now docketed for the first week in June which is crucial because unless Congress reauthorizes the bank’s charter by June 30, it will cease to exist and American exporters will have lost a vital tool in their business toolbox.
Alabama manufacturers need the Ex-Im Bank to provide necessary financing for overseas trading. In my opinion, a vote against the Ex-Im Bank is a vote to support sending manufacturing and jobs overseas instead of here at home. It’s that basic.
Alabama business leaders, major employers, and small mom-and-pop industries will be giving Shelby their undivided attention when he convenes reauthorization hearings on the bank known as Ex-Im.
The Ex-Im Bank is the official credit agency of the United States. It provides various, low-interest financing options that allow large-, medium-, and small-sized companies to export goods and compete internationally. Most trading nations have similar financing organizations.
Michael McSweeney is managing partner and owner of McSweeney Holdings, a specialized carmaker in Trussville that uses the Ex-Im Bank.
“The Ex-Im Bank allows us to offer better payment terms to our buyers and give them a longer grace period to pay for our products,” McSweeney said. “Ex-Im lets us sell our products to places that private lenders won’t go alone.”
The Ex-Im Bank charges fees and interest to its users just like a private bank but it’s one of the only federal agencies that earn a profit. Over the past two decades it has sent about $7 billion to the U.S. Treasury.
On April 14, Governor Robert Bentley, in partnership with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and a bipartisan majority of the nation’s governors, sent a letter to congressional leaders to urge the long-term reauthorization of the bank.
Over the past several months, representatives from the BCA, state industrial developers, and Alabama companies that use the bank have met with Shelby and the entire Alabama congressional delegation to highlight Ex-Im’s effect on Alabama’s economy and to push for its continued operation.
Bank supporters, which include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, point out that other countries, notably China, offer generous financing terms to their businesses. Access to Ex-Im financing allows U.S.-based companies to remain competitive and focus on quality instead of where the money is coming from when trading overseas.
The Ex-Im Bank plays a significant role in Alabama’s job creation efforts. More than 80 Alabama-based exporters in various industries including forest products, chemicals, transportation and fabricated metal products have used the agency when private-sector banks could not help. And, hundreds more Alabama companies – first-, second-, and third-tier suppliers – are indirectly supported by the bank.
According to data supplied by the bank, Ex-Im has helped support more than 5,000 jobs in Alabama and 1.5 million across the county. Ex-Im also supports significant volumes of shipments through the Port of Mobile.
The business coalition endorsing Ex-Im also pointed to recent reports showing that Alabama exports climbed to a near-record level of $19.5 billion, and unemployment in the state has dropped to its lowest point in seven years. Both positive trends could reverse direction if Ex-Im is allowed to expire, according to its advocates.
The BCA is a non-partisan statewide business association representing the interests and concerns of nearly one million working Alabamians through its member companies. The exclusive Alabama affiliate to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, the Business Council of Alabama is the “foremost voice for business” in the state.