Back in October, Jim Harris was waiting for Congress to do what both political parties say is vital to the nation: create jobs.
Harris’ Ridgefield company, Burke Industrial Coatings, was ready to sell its antibacterial coatings to an eager customer in Saudi Arabia. It was a big order for a small seven-employee company: 40,000 gallons of Burke’s Silver Bullet coating for air ventilation equipment at a huge airplane maintenance facility in Saudi Arabia.
But Harris wasn’t sure he could close the deal without the security of insurance offered as one of many services of the federal Export-Import Bank, commonly known as the Ex-Im Bank. And the bank couldn’t take on any new business, because Congress had allowed its charter to expire in July.
The controversy over the bank was baffling to most: the bank makes enough money not only to pay its own way, but to return a profit to the U.S. Treasury. Some politicians in the Republican Party’s most conservative wing had attacked Ex-Im as a form of corporate welfare, citing the fact that Boeing was one of the bank’s largest users. Rarely mentioned in news coverage was the fact that the politically powerful Delta Air Lines for years campaigned against Ex-Im, arguing that Ex-Im Bank’s role in backing loans helped Delta’s foreign overseas competitors buy planes from Boeing.
The Columbian wrote about Harris’ dilemma in the fall, when bank supporters were mounting yet another effort to get the bank going. Finally, in December, the Senate attached a four-year reauthorization to a giant transportation funding bill. Harris is working on qualifying his customers in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Peru for Ex-Im credit insurance for future sales.