Columbia Machine: Save Export-Import Bank

Vancouver firm's CEO joins in White House event

By Gordon Oliver, Columbian Business Editor



Rick Goode, CEO of the Vancouver-based concrete products company Columbia Machine Inc., showed up at the White House Tuesday morning to lend his support to the federal Export-Import Bank and to discuss other initiatives that assist U.S. companies in building export markets.

Goode was a participant in a roundtable hosted by U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and Jeffrey Zients, director of the National Economic Council. He was invited by Sen. Maria Cantwell, who also attended the roundtable along with Rep. Denny Heck, D-Wash., and two other members of Congress. Cantwell, a Democrat, had visited Columbia Machine in June to show her support for the Export-Import, or Ex-Im, Bank that offers services used by some Columbia Machine overseas customers. His family-owned company has some 500 employees, including about 400 in Vancouver.

The government-chartered Export-Import Bank provides credit to customers of U.S. companies that sell products overseas. Its charter expires Sept. 30 and some congressional conservatives are hoping to block reauthorization. A coalition led by the group Americans for Prosperity opposes reauthorization, saying the bank “subsidizes loans to foreign companies to encourage them to buy American exports.” And last week, environmental groups Friends of the Earth, the Sierra Club, and Greenpeace stated their opposition to reauthorization as part of a fight over a provision that would reverse bank policy limiting the financing of overseas coal projects, according to the Bloomberg BNA blog.

Cantwell said the bank’s services benefit more than 180 Washington exporters. Boeing, based in Chicago but a major employer in Washington, is one of the top users of Export-Import Bank.

Goode said Tuesday following the White House meeting that he had the opportunity at the meeting to discuss the importance of the Ex-Im Bank and government support services in competing for overseas customers. He thanked Cantwell for her support of the bank and added his thanks to Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, who also favors reauthorizing the bank’s charter.

Goode said that in his statement at the White House, he noted that the Ex-Im Bank allows Columbia Machine and other manufacturers a better chance to compete against foreign companies. Some 60 countries have programs similar to the Ex-Im Bank, he noted. While prospective customers may not end up using Ex-Im loans, Goode said he believes many foreign prospects would walk away from negotiations if U.S. companies could not offer such loans during negotiations.

“It’s a tool to keep you at the table,” he said in an interview.

Goode said he fails to grasp reasons for opposition in Congress to the Ex-Im Bank, which has existed for 80 years. “I don’t understand why we’re looking at discontinuing this after so many years, at a time when the country wants to see the economy grow and exports grow,” he said.

Also Tuesday, Gov. Jay Inslee joined Robert Bentley, Republican governor of Alabama, in sending a letter urging congressional leaders to take swift action to reauthorize the bank. The letter was supported by 31 governors. Six other governors have publicly called for reauthorization, they said.

“In fiscal year 2013, Ex-Im provided more than $27.3 billion in financing, which enabled $34.7 billion in exports,” Inslee and Bentley wrote. “These exports supported about 205,000 American jobs in states across the country.”