My Turn: Alaska, U.S. small businesses deserve better

  • By RACHAEL PETRO
  • Thursday, November 5, 2015 1:01am
  • Opinion

We all know Washington, D.C. is far away from Alaska, but just because it is far away doesn’t mean that the dysfunction there doesn’t hurt our economy. It does!

Since June, Congressional gridlock has sidelined the federal Export-Import Bank. This small agency helps Alaskan companies sell their goods overseas by offering loans and insurance products when no private sector alternative is available.

Over the past few years, Ex-Im has helped Alaskan companies export over $171 million in goods. It has helped small businesses break into the export market, allowing them to reach new customers and hire new employees. It has helped larger businesses sell more products, which in turn means more businesses for their subcontractors and suppliers.

It has allowed companies such as Salamatof Seafoods of Kenai to sell their salmon and other seafood overseas; it has allowed Lynden Air Cargo of Anchorage to thrive; it has allowed Gunderboom to sell its Alaskan-made Subsurface Oil Control System around the globe; and it has allowed Alaska Brands Group to achieve success selling its Clear Alaskan Glacial water.

In short, Ex-Im has helped create jobs and boosted our economy. Over 65 percent of the Alaska Chamber’s members are small businesses and deserve a chance to compete globally.

A small group in Congress has been blocking an up or down vote on this issue. They are trying to kill the bank just to score political points.

They call the bank “crony capitalism” despite the fact that Ex-Im is open to all American companies that export goods. They say Ex-Im picks “winners and losers in the economy,” but the truth is the only winners Ex-Im picks are American companies — the losers are foreign competitors.

Critics claim the bank only helps large companies, but they ignore how 90 percent of the bank’s transactions are with small businesses. And they say that the bank hurts taxpayers despite the fact that it doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime and helps pay down the deficit. In fact, since the bBank charges the companies using its services interest and fees, it often collects more than it costs to run. Over the past two years, Ex-Im has actually returned $1.7 billion to the U.S. Treasury.

But this wall of obstruction recently cracked, as leaders in the U.S. House, like Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, voted to move forward with Ex-Im reauthorization and stand up for our state. This vote was a brave one that put the opportunity to support Alaska’s economy and boost jobs here and across the nation ahead of political considerations.

We are grateful to Rep. Young and the entire bipartisan majority in the House that stood up to those who favor gridlock and dysfunction.

For decades, Rep. Young has been a fighter for Alaska. For 42 years, he has represented us in Washington by building a record as a fierce advocate for our state. He knows that it takes a special kind of person to thrive in Alaska. He understands that it isn’t easy to build a successful business in our state.

Rep. Young knows Alaskans want polices that ensure Alaska companies can compete across the globe. Thanks to the modest support Ex-Im provides, which helps level the playing field, businesses from Ketchikan to Barrow can do just that.

So we applaud Rep. Young for his leadership on reauthorizing the Ex-Im Bank.

• Rachael Petro serves as the president and CEO of the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce.

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