Carlson: Defending the Export-Import Bank

Glen A. Carlson III

As a fourth-generation family-owned business that has called Michigan home for more than 105 years, Acme Manufacturing Co. is proud of our role supporting the Michigan economy.

We not only offer valuable services to customers around the world, but we are also an active member of the community, providing jobs for more than 70 workers as well as hundreds of additional workers who are employed by the 60 Michigan companies that rely on Acme’s export business. It’s a track record we have maintained through thick and thin, including the recent recession that hit manufacturers — especially those in Michigan — so hard. Acme’s ability to have weathered those recent difficult economic times can be directly attributed to its significant export business.

Unfortunately, that record is now at risk. A group of so-called conservatives in Congress want to eliminate a critical tool that helps businesses like ours compete in the global economy: the Export-Import Bank.

The Ex-Im Bank is designed to help American companies like ours sell the goods we make at home to customers overseas. It provides loan guarantees and working capital when commercial banks can’t or won’t, giving U.S. companies the ability to level the playing field when we’re competing against countries like Germany, Italy and Spain for business around the world. But Congress must vote to let the bank continue its operations by the end of June, or it will disappear, along with the help it offers businesses like mine.

Exports are a big part of our business here at Acme. On an annual basis, exports account for 50 to 70 percent of our overall revenue. When Acme is competing for foreign contracts, many times the terms of payment do not allow us to borrow from our local bank.

If the Ex-Im Bank wasn’t available, Acme would have to turn away these good business opportunities. This would greatly reduce the size of our company, our work force, our global presence, and would eliminate the requirement for hiring more Michigan workers.

This isn’t just about us — the importance of the Ex-Im Bank stretches far beyond Acme and Michigan. The bank has supported some 1.3 million jobs across the U.S. over the past six years, including nearly 60,000 jobs in Michigan right now as a result of more than $9.3 billion in export sales from the state. The bank did all this without costing the taxpayers a dime. In fact, the bank actually returned $2.7 billion to the U.S. Treasury over the last six years.

In short, the Ex-Im Bank lets American businesses around the country do what we do best: produce cutting-edge products that people overseas want to buy, with no cost to the taxpayers. That’s why I call the bank’s critics “so-called conservatives,” because the conservatives I know would welcome a program that creates jobs and pays down the deficit, not try to end it.

Last Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R- Zeeland, participated in a Congressional hearing on the bank, where he alleged that “many fear that these taxpayer backed loan guarantees put taxpayer dollars at significant risk.”

Huizenga should know better: Not only has the Ex-Im Bank returned money to taxpayers, but its default rate is less than 2 percent over its entire history — a better record than most commercial lenders can claim. It’s misinformation like this that’s putting the Ex-Im Bank — and Michigan jobs — at risk.

There’s legislation already introduced in the House of Representatives that requires some reforms of the Ex-Im Bank to ensure it runs as efficiently as it should. It also keeps the bank operating. Huizenga and others should think about Michigan jobs and Michigan businesses that rely on the bank. Leadership should allow a vote on the bank before it expires at the end of June.

At a time when our economy is finally rebounding and American manufacturing is undergoing a long overdue revitalization, Congress needs to remember the people who sent them to Washington in the first place.

Reauthorizing the Ex-Im Bank is something that is good for Michigan, good for our economy, and good for our country. Unless Congress acts, the future of many U.S. manufacturing companies — Acme included — will remain up in the air. We need leadership in Congress and support from our hometown representatives to make this happen.

Glen A. Carlson III is president of Acme Manufacturing.