Smaller businesses like General Rubber need the Export-Import Bank to be competitive on the global stage.
A specialized manufacturing company that makes rubber expansion joints in a plant on Tucson’s south side, General Rubber does a significant proportion of its business internationally.
With credit insurance from the Export-Import Bank of the United States, the official export credit agency of the U.S. government, it can reduce its risk when it sends its products around the world.
But the future of the bank isn’t a sure thing.
The bank, also known as the Ex-Im Bank, is facing Congressional reauthorization this year amid some resistance from conservatives that it amounts to corporate welfare. The 81-year-old bank’s charter expires June 30.
Ex-Im President and Chairman Fred Hochberg stopped in Tucson last week for a tour of General Rubber, part of a slate of visits he had planned for specialized manufacturers in the Southwest.
He said he was optimistic that Congress would find a resolution, between two bills in the House and two in the Senate.
General Rubber Vice President Amy Hammarstrom said the Ex-Im Bank makes her company more flexible. Without its services, the company would have to purchase credit insurance commercially at a much higher price or simply go without.
General Rubber employs about 80 people and has sales of between $9 million and $15 million, with up to 70 percent of them international.
“By having Ex-Im insure it we can give (buyers) open terms within the parameters of our policy, we can negotiate with them freely on all of our other terms and ship to them with net payment terms, and that way it doesn’t inhibit them from wanting to buy from us and just go onto the next guy who’s willing to take the risk or has some other kind of insurance,” Hammarstrom said.
The Ex-Im Bank touts economic development figures that strongly favor small businesses: In 2014, 90 percent of the more than 3,700 authorizations directly served small businesses.
More than 164,000 U.S. jobs were supported last year by these authorizations, and the value of the U.S. exports supported by the bank tallied $27.5 billion.
Last year it generated a surplus of $675 million; over the last two decades, it has wired $6.9 billion to the U.S. Treasury to reduce the deficit.
With transactions in progress and contractual obligations in place, Hammarstrom said she is going on faith that the reauthorization will go through.
Hammarstrom said some governments are heavy with bureaucracy, making payment a challenge— some government structures require dozens of signatures on an invoice.
Qatar and Saudi Arabia, for example, require the crown prince or one of his brothers to sign invoices. But the stamp of the U.S. government is helpful in convincing international clients to pay in a timely manner, Hochberg said.
He said smart companies see the Ex-Im Bank not just as a way to mitigate risk, but also as a sales tool, as the agency saves them time.