By MIKE RILEY
This past June, Congress abruptly chose not to reauthorize funding for the (U.S.) Export-Import Bank, a decision with far-reaching implications for manufacturers across the country and right here in Southwestern Illinois.
In 2014, the little-known Export-Import Bank supported $27.5 billion in U.S. exports, which the U.S. Chamber indicates supported 164,000 American jobs. In addition to positively impacting American jobs, and unlike most other federal agencies, the Export-Import Bank created a surplus for American taxpayers of $674.7 million last year. The Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois, which represents a region built on manufacturing jobs and today a hot spot for related distribution industries, wholeheartedly supports reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank by Congress at its very earliest opportunity. We encourage all who live and work in the region to contact your Congressman and ask that they represent this critical regional perspective and work to pass the reauthorization as quickly as possible.
Southwestern Illinois’ manufacturing sector has seen some losses over time, but many large and small companies are prospering right here. Continued growth of our manufacturing jobs has been a focus of recent efforts, as the Leadership Council and county Workforce Investment Boards just launched a campaign to entice new entrants into manufacturing and the trades, so local manufacturing companies have the entry level workers needed to grow. These local efforts matter, but we also need strong, competitive programs at the federal level to ensure a level playing field as our manufacturers compete in a global market. With 95 percent of the world’s customers living outside of the United States, exports are a key to our future prosperity and jobs.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt started the Export-Import Bank in 1934 as a New Deal program to boost exports. It provides loan guarantees, loans and insurance to help foreign companies buy U.S. goods, particularly when private banks can’t or won’t make loans. The Export-Import Bank was utilized by 366 Illinois companies in 2014, for a total of $7.3 billion in sales. Southwestern Illinois employers, including large companies like Boeing and ADM and smaller companies such as Progressive Recovery, Inc., Turner Electric and Red Bud Industries, export as a part of their business strategy; and they utilized the Export-Import Bank to help them be competitive.
Nearly 60 other countries have similar credit agencies around the world working to win jobs for their countries. “Made in America” is still the best brand in the world, and the Export-Import Bank was one tool U.S. companies could use to not lose out on a sale because of attractive financing from foreign governments.
The Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois urges reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank to give our manufacturers, large and small, every tool possible to compete so that their businesses can grow and create more jobs in the region. Southwestern Illinois manufacturers that export now, or may export in the future, need a program such as the Export-Import Bank to level the playing field with foreign competition. It worked for 80 years. Let’s bring it back so our manufactures can count on it again.
Mike Riley is president of the Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois, a member-based, economic development corporation representing Madison and St. Clair counties.