HEDGER: Time to finish the job, for jobs

America's economy is changing -- in good ways and bad. It's a globalized world -- where even the smallest companies have great new opportunities to reach far flung customers and markets, either by selling directly into foreign markets or supplyin...

Kristin Hedger

America's economy is changing - in good ways and bad. It's a globalized world - where even the smallest companies have great new opportunities to reach far flung customers and markets, either by selling directly into foreign markets or supplying parts U.S. exports.
Last year I was in Washington to meet my representatives and make sure they understand just what's happening. While I was there Sen. Heidi Heitkamp was fighting for companies like mine as she led the effort to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, which helps U.S. businesses sell their products overseas.
At the time, the Bank was shut down as some in Washington attempted to make it into a partisan lighting rod. Sen. Heitkamp however knew that Ex-Im wasn't a Democratic issue or a Republican one. She knew that the Bank was simply the right thing to do to strengthen America's communities and let companies like mine create jobs.
She saw firsthand that for workers in small towns and rural areas, economic disruption and volatility can be especially severe. After all, when a shop closes down in New York City it hurts, but there will always be plenty of jobs and businesses nearby. Here in North Dakota however, many people still live in "one shop" towns, where a single plant or ranch is the only real employer for dozens of miles. My business, Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing, has five factory locations. One of them employs 350 people in a town with a population of 751.
For communities like Killdeer, and thousands like it around the country, a steady manufacturing base is the cornerstone of stability and economic health. While manufacturing is less prone to the volatility and upswings that plague energy and agriculture, it isn't easy in today's globalized world economy.
But for the last 80 years, American manufacturers had one strong ally in their corner - the Ex-Im Bank which steps in to offer market rate financing and insurance to help close foreign export deals when no commercial bank can do the job. Ex-Im has always been a prudent lender, that protects American taxpayers with lending standing standards so careful that its default rate is just 0.175%, five times lower than most ordinary private banks. The Bank has been so successful that it pays the cost of its own operations out of interest and fees it charges for its services, and most years turns a modest profit that goes back to taxpayer accounts as well.
That is how Ex-Im has been able to support billions of dollars' worth of American exports every year. Since 2012, over 6,000 U.S. businesses have worked with the Bank on over $182 billion worth of deals, creating over 1.3 million American jobs during one of the roughest patches our economy has ever seen.
Those who temporarily shut down the Bank called it a creature of big business - a "corporate welfare" slush fund that no one would really miss. But my business is living proof that's not true. We sell wiring and cable that is incorporated into large complex machinery like airplanes. So when Boeing works with the Ex-Im Bank to sell more airplanes overseas, those transactions roll on down the supply chain and keep workers on the job at our facilities - and at thousands of other subcontractors and small suppliers nationwide.
Sen. Heitkamp understood the pain that Ex-Im's closure was causing to businesses in North Dakota and around the nation. She heard from companies losing contracts. She saw headlines about jobs being needlessly shipped overseas because of Congressional gridlock.
And she demanded action from Congress when others simply threw up their hands ready to give up. She worked with Democrats and Republicans to actually get things done.
Today, thanks to her leadership, a supermajority in Congress passed Sen. Heitkamp's a long-term reauthorization of the bank. But there is still more work to be done - since some in Congress are still waging a last gasp struggle to limit the Bank's authority and block it from approving the deals that boost the American economy the most.
Thankfully, leaders like Sen. Heitkamp - as well as Sen. Hoeven and Congressman Cramer, who have also played important roles in both the House and Senate to support a long-term reauthorization of the Bank - continue to fight for a fully operational Bank. While the issue remains unresolved, she has kept the issue front and center and taken every opportunity possible to try to fix the situation - and she's continuing that fight. Most recently she opposed a short term government funding bill because it didn't address the bank fix. Sen. Heitkamp's continued and critical role in this fight for North Dakota workers deserves to be honored.
Today, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) will honor our Senator for her work. They will present her with the NAM Award for Manufacturing Legislative Excellence, based on her solid support for a strong manufacturing economy and a forward-thinking manufacturing agenda at an event in Fargo.
Then, after the event, we will get back to work fighting to make Ex-Im fully operational once again because it is time to finish the job once and for all.

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