Dozens of companies in the Capital Region that send their products abroad would be hurt if the Export-Import Bank charter is not renewed before it expires this September, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said on Monday.
Products like the steam turbines and generators manufactured at General Electric’s Schenectady plant are easier for foreign companies to purchase because of the Ex-Im Bank, he said before a crowd of GE officials and media on the floor of the plant Monday afternoon.
The bank was created by President Franklin Roosevelt as part of the New Deal in 1934. It provides loans and guarantees to facilitate U.S. exports. Last year, it supported $37 billion worth of exports and generated a $1 billion surplus for the U.S. Treasury. European companies receive similar support from their own governments.
Though it’s operated for 80 years without much controversy, America’s Ex-Im Bank has new critics in a key group of Republican representatives who have recently come out against renewing its charter. The bank, they say, is an example of the government lavishing money on business where it shouldn’t and interfering with the free market.
“The reason some people — a small, narrow group — are opposing this is they’re ideologues,” said Schumer. “They don’t believe the government should be involved in anything. They’re the same people who don’t want the government to fund highway programs, to fund cancer research at the [National Institutes of Health], to help middle-class families get loans and grants to help their kids pay for college, and it just doesn’t make sense.”
Though its existence is largely unnoticed by those not in the import-export business, the bank has been key to supporting the growth of manufacturing in the Capital Region and the rest of New York, he said.
“Dozens of companies throughout the Capital Region — small, medium and large — directly or indirectly benefit from the Ex-Im Bank and employ thousands of people as a result,” he said. “Extending the Ex-Im Bank’s charter will reassure these businesses that the federal government is on their side and make it clear that we will do all we can to help level the playing field for doing business abroad so these companies can support manufacturing jobs back home.”
$1 billion impact
Of the 270 businesses in New York that directly benefit from the bank, 15 are in the Capital Region and seven of those are small businesses. The bank has supported $6 billion in New York exports over the past five years, including $1 billion in the Capital Region. Outside of New York City, the bank supports more exports in this region than anywhere else in the state.
“Many people in the Capital Region have never even heard of the Ex-Im Bank, but it is vitally important to companies from General Electric to Ross Valve [of Troy] and even to Imperial Pools [of Latham],” said Center for Economic Growth President and CEO F. Michael Tucker. “So many of the companies that we know and rely on to provide jobs here in the region depend on the Ex-Im Bank, so I truly appreciate Sen. Schumer’s efforts to re-authorize it, because failure to do so would put Capital Region businesses at a competitive disadvantage with companies across the globe.”
General Electric customers frequently insist upon export credit financing in their requests for proposals from manufacturers like GE and its competitors, said Vic Abate, president and CEO of GE Power & Water’s Power Generation Products division.
Regular power generation customers and developers all have access to the foreign equivalent of an Ex-Im Bank when they buy equipment manufactured in places like Germany, France and Japan, to name a few, he said.
“Accordingly, Ex-Im has a significant impact on our business and our employees,” Abate said. “By extension, Ex-Im also generates work for our local and national suppliers. It enables us to create jobs — high quality jobs in areas such as research, engineering and manufacturing — and to invest in the communities where we reside, such as here in Schenectady.”
GE suppliers and subcontractors that would be affected include Gexpro, of Albany; Met Weld International, of Altamont; Ushers Machine & Tool, of Round Lake; and Atlas Copco, of Voorheesville.