Ex-Im Bank supports US manufacturing

America’s manufacturing sector is on the way back—and not a second too soon.

There is a global scramble for jobs as countries across the world are jockeying for position to sell to the ever-expanding global middle class.

Manufacturing is growing stronger thanks to superior products, our energy revolution, growing demand overseas and renewed lending by global banks. Just this week, the Institute for Supply Management reported that manufacturing in the United States grew in November at the fastest pace in two and a half years.

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Overall for fiscal year 2013—in numbers just released—the Export Import (Ex-Im) Bank supported $37 billion worth of exports and approximately 205,000 good-paying American jobs.

The Ex-Im Bank is ready to help manufacturers in the United States seize this important moment. As a backstop to the financial sector, the Ex-Im Bank is there to step in when needed to ensure that a lack of financing won’t stand in the way of closing a sale.

For small businesses, this support is often essential. The Ex-Im Bank in 2013 served more American small exporters than ever before. It also had all-time highs in lending to women and minority-owned businesses.

Thanks to exports, manufacturers—particularly small and medium-sized enterprises—are producing great results as well. BTE Technologies almost doubled the size of its workforce as it expanded into markets abroad. Today, the Maryland maker of physical therapy and sports medicine equipment exports to 40 countries.

Ellicott Dredges, a 125-year-old manufacturer of dredging equipment, sends its products to markets in Asia, Latin America and Africa with the assistance of financing facilitated by the Ex-Im Bank.

Air Tractor is another Ex-Im Bank success story. This manufacturer of agricultural and forest-firefighting aircraft for use in Brazil and Argentina has utilized Ex-Im programs to generate substantial growth in exports and sustain jobs in a small town in Texas.

And manufacturers are poised for continued export growth. Demand for advanced goods and services in the developing world is exploding to meet the needs of a middle class that is growing by approximately 200 million consumers a year. 

Their need for infrastructure—electricity, clean water, highways, railroads, airports and more—is especially strong. Infrastructure will require nearly $60 trillion of investment just to keep up with GDP growth, according to the McKinsey Global Institute.

It’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity for American companies and their workers. In fact, the Ex-Im Bank supported more global infrastructure projects in the past three years than in the previous 17 years combined.

But we’re not the only country fighting to get a slice of this $60 trillion pie.

Every nation is in a race to create jobs through increased exports. Fifty-nine other export credit agencies around the world are trying to increase their countries’ share of the global market. That makes for a brutally competitive landscape.

There is no reason why those roads, bridges, rivets and ball bearings should not be made in America. The heavy equipment used to build roads and bridges can be exported from right here. We produce the world’s highest-quality goods and services, but that may not be enough when U.S. companies are up against government-owned and government-subsidized competitors.

Indeed, our manufacturers are not just competing against other privately-owned companies—we must go head to head with foreign governments ready to do whatever it takes to close a deal for their national champions.  

So far, America is holding our own. We now export $2.2 trillion of U.S.-made goods and services—that’s 14 percent of our GDP—both all-time highs. 

But the competition is unrelenting and always looking to increase its share of export markets at our expense. We have to continue to take every opportunity to out-innovate and out-produce the rest of the world. And the Ex-Im Bank is there to help level the playing field and make sure each company gets a fair shot.

Hochberg is the chairman and president of the Export-Import Bank of the United States. Timmons is the president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers.