The Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im) is a vital tool to promote economic growth through exports and level the playing field for manufacturers in the United States in the face of aggressive foreign export credit agencies. With 95 percent of consumers living outside of the United States and fierce global competition, we must continue to use every tool available to grow exports in order to create jobs and grow our economy.

The Ex-Im Bank is making a real difference in supporting jobs and helping manufacturers compete. Last year the Ex-Im Bank supported more than 255,000 American jobs and authorized $35 billion in financing that supported $50 billion in exports.  Ex-Im has increased its efforts and programs to lend to small businesses, including partnering with the National Association of Manufacturers and other groups on the Global Access for Small Businesses program. Of the 3,400 companies with which Ex-Im worked last year, more than 85 percent are small businesses. Ex-IM's transactions with large companies also have an impact throughout the entire manufacturing supply chain, which can include tens of thousands of small manufacturing companies.

Let us also not forget that the Ex-Im Bank returns money to the Treasury. Last year the fees generated offset the Bank's costs and contributed more than $1 billion in surplus to the Treasury. Not many government agencies can make the same claim.

Today the Senate Banking Committee is holding a confirmation hearing on Ex-Im Chairman Fred Hochberg's nomination. The Senate must act quickly on his nomination, or the Bank's Board of Directors will fail to have a quorum and future transactions will be halted - threatening export sales of thousands of manufacturers in the United States and the hundreds of thousands of American jobs that depend on the Bank's financing.

If the Ex-Im Bank's activities are halted, it would have a devastating impact on our exports as manufacturers would lose vital access to this important "lender of last resort." Manufacturers in the United States would be facing an even steeper uphill battle to compete globally. The 59 other nations with export credit agencies would be waiting in line to take business away from manufacturers in America. Just China and Brazil provide nearly half of all official export financing, which makes the role of the Ex-Im Bank that much more important for our manufacturers.

Our economy and jobs depend on exports. Export growth is slowing, which is why we need stable leadership for the Ex-Im Bank to ensure manufacturers in the United States have the tools they need to compete in the global marketplace.
Linda Dempsey is vice president of international economic affairs, National Association of Manufacturers.