The Export-Import Bank is Virginia’s economic growth engine

With the Port of Virginia in Hampton Roads being the third-busiest port on the East Coast, Virginia plays an integral role in our country’s exporting economy. Our Virginia ports are valuable assets that enable exporters in a variety of industries from across the commonwealth and Mid-Atlantic to ship goods to overseas buyers competing in the global marketplace. Just as our ports facilitate the physical transfer of goods from the United States abroad, the U.S. Export-Import Bank facilitates the financing necessary for domestic and Virginia firms to succeed abroad.

For our commonwealth, the Ex-Im Bank has facilitated nearly $1.4 billion in export sales since 2007, according to publicly available data from the bank; sustaining close to 8,900 jobs and bolstering Virginia’s economic growth. The agency’s positive effects are felt far and wide in our state. However, if Congress fails to reauthorize the bank’s charter by Sept. 30, the employees of Virginia exporters who have used the Bank — like Bristol Compressors International Inc. and Orbital Sciences Corp., as well as their supply chain partners — stand to lose future opportunities in overseas markets.

As a longtime champion of Virginia’s economy, I can attest to the value the Ex-Im Bank provides to our business owners and their capable working men and women. Every day, firms and suppliers — both small and large — across Virginia use the bank’s financing tools to compete and thrive in the global arena and sell their products into some of the fastest-growing economies in the world.

With more than 60 other foreign Ex-Im Banks around the world supporting their own domestic industries, it’s vital that our home-grown companies be able to turn to our Ex-Im Bank when they need financing support. Otherwise, they will find themselves at a disadvantage, competing in a world with one hand tied behind their back.

Exports are crucial to Virginia’s economy and were a vital part of our recovery from the recent recession. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, from 2009 to 2013, manufactured exports in Virginia grew 28 percent. Why would our public servants paralyze a tool that supports exports, competitiveness and jobs?

Virginia’s elected officials have a long history of working in a bipartisan manner to promote jobs and economic growth. Both U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine have shown this commitment to Virginia and both co-sponsored much-needed bipartisan legislation that would reauthorize the bank for five years before the charter’s expiration.

As a society, we shouldn’t let political infighting jeopardize the competitiveness of American business and our economic growth. The fact is, every Congress has supported the bank during its 80 year existence and the bank was most recently reauthorized with more than 75 percent of Congressional support in 2012.

The divisive politics surrounding the 2014 election should not be the catalyst to shuttering an agency that has withstood the test of decades of leadership changes and is supporting jobs in our neighborhoods. Indeed, last year after paying its own operating expenses, the Ex-Im Bank returned a $1 billion profit for the U.S. Treasury from fees and interest.

The future of the Export-Import Bank does not deserve to be fought along the lines of political ploys or entrenched into the political gamesmanship that accompanies the campaign seasons.

Running out the clock on the charter of the Ex-Im Bank hurts our businesses and jobs at home, and provides no benefit to the U.S. taxpayers. The stakes are too high and too serious.

If public servants truly care about American jobs and competitiveness, then stop posturing and dawdling: Reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank. It’s just common sense.

George Allen served as Virginia’s governor from 1994-98 and in the U.S. Senate from 2001-07. He is co-chairman of the National Association of Manufacturers’ Manufacturing Competitiveness Initiative.

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