By David Ickert
The Dallas Morning News
Published: June 8, 2014
The Dallas Morning News recently editorialized about the increasingly fierce debate about the Export-Import Bank, which encourages U.S. exports by facilitating financing for foreign buyers of American-made products. The fight against the bank has been focused on big companies, and among those leading the charge is Dallas Republican Rep. Jeb Hensarling, who is making headlines by working to eliminate one of the nation’s most productive tools for generating exports.
The conflict as cast misses the point: Critics of the Ex-Im Bank who suggest it benefits only large corporations are just flat-out wrong. Our company, Air Tractor, has manufactured agriculture aircraft in the West Texas town of Olney for more than 40 years, and we export our products to scores of countries on six continents. The Ex-Im Bank is critical to our business and our ability to create and sustain jobs. Air Tractor is owned by its 265 employees, who would suffer dramatically if Congress fails to re-authorize the Ex-Im Bank.
Air Tractor is one of more than 1,000 companies of all sizes in Texas that benefit from the Ex-Im Bank, which bolsters domestic exports without costing taxpayers a dime. Last year the bank set a new record by approving more than 3,400 small business transactions, which amounted to 90 percent of the bank’s total transactions.
Since the nation’s financial crisis, the Ex-Im Bank has helped Texas companies finance $19 billion in exports. More than half of these exporters were small businesses. On top of that, the Ex-Im Bank reduced our national deficit by generating about $1.1 billion for taxpayers in 2013 from fees and services.
U.S. exports matter — a lot. Since 2009, exports have added 1.6 million jobs to the economy, and exports grew faster during the last quarter of 2013 than any time in the last three years. Texas accounts for nearly 18 percent of the nation’s exports and has been the top exporting state for 12 consecutive years. Roughly one quarter of Texas manufacturing jobs depends on exports, and Texas had $279.7 billion in exports last year, outpacing national export growth. Export credit has never been more important to Texas.
The Ex-Im Bank provides secure government-backed transactions so job-creating sales can move forward. Nationwide, the Ex-Im Bank supported $37.4 billion in U.S. exports and 205,000 jobs in 2013. Texas companies, large and small, that manufacture everything from food products to fabricated metal and commercial aircraft to high-tech and energy-related equipment, all benefit from the Ex-Im Bank.
Some have raised concerns that the Ex-Im Bank “picks winners and losers” because it supports exports, not domestic sales. But critics ignore the fact that all other major exporting countries have their own export credit agencies to finance export transactions, with some governments providing significantly more export credit than the United States to encourage their country’s exports. With regard to “winners and losers,” without the Ex-Im Bank, foreign companies will win and American companies will lose.
Opposition to theEx-Im Bank is out of touch with the critical role the bank plays for companies like Air Tractor. The bank operates under strict rules and congressional oversight, never competing with commercial lenders and never approving financing without safeguards that ensure taxpayer money is protected. As a result, the bank has a lower default rate than most commercial banks.
Congress’ top priorities should be expanding trade opportunities, creating jobs and balancing our books. Restricting the Ex-Im Bank would hurt our country on all three fronts. I take exception to the notion that opponents of the Ex-Im Bank are somehow standing up for “the little guy.” With all due respect, Air Tractor is no Ford, no GE, no Boeing. We are Main Street in Olney, Texas. Without the Ex-Im Bank, our ability to compete globally will diminish, alongside many other Texas companies just like us.
David Ickert is Vice President of finance for Air Tractor Inc., based in Olney and a member of the North Texas District Export Council.