Letter: Ex-Im Bank is vital to U.S. companies

There are 159 companies in Louisiana that have used the U.S. Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank to sell their products abroad in recent years. These companies, the majority of them small businesses, export products such as treated lumber, plastics, oil-based products and a host of other materials stamped with the words “Made in the U.S.A.”

Chances are, Ex-Im is a small government agency that most people aren’t familiar with. But for many companies, it’s a critical part of our ability to reach the 95 percent of global consumers that live outside the United States.

We need the Ex-Im bank for three reasons:

Ex-Im supports jobs. Since 2007, the bank has supported $2 billion in exports from Louisiana. That translates to about 12,700 jobs.

Ex-Im also makes money for America. In 2013, the bank returned about $1 billion to the government. Contrary to the claims of critics, this small government agency actually returned money to the government. And with a default rate of less than 0.02 percent, it has a much better track record than most commercial banks.

Finally, Ex-Im helps American companies compete in the global marketplace. Countries like South Korea and China provide two to three times more assistance to their companies than Ex-Im, and therefore are able to support much greater levels of exports.

However, the future of Ex-Im is uncertain.

If Congress doesn’t reauthorize Ex-Im by September 30, the bank will shut down. While some opponents categorize the bank as “corporate welfare,” its ability to grow our exports, secure our jobs and return money to the budget sounds more like good policy. Critics also argue that if legislators let the Ex-Im Bank expire, the private sector will meet the lending needs of the many small businesses that currently rely on this financing.

But the truth is that after the financial crisis, banks in the private sector are often unable or unwilling to meet the needs of many businesses that rely on Ex-Im financing.

Exports are essential for U.S. companies to expand, grow and hire more workers. I know many business owners would prefer working with the private sector rather than a government bank, but the Ex-Im Bank is there when the private sector isn’t.

I applaud my congressman, U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, for his strong leadership on this issue. Rep. Boustany recently said, “In order to grow the economy, we need to expand export opportunities.” Unlike others in Congress, Rep. Boustany knows that jobs are at stake both within Louisiana and the United States if the bank’s charter is not reauthorized.

Let’s work together to ensure this does not happen. Show your support for U.S. jobs by calling on our lawmakers to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank.

Johnny Chavez

site leader, Dow Chemical Company St. Charles Operations

Hahnville