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For more than a century, Peter Darley’s company has built products to support the men and women who run into burning buildings to put out fires and save lives. In the process, Illinois-based W.S. Darley and Company has created hundreds upon hundreds of jobs for hardworking Americans.
Sadly, some of those jobs are about to go up in flames.
In a recent interview with Bloomberg, Darley, one of the family-run company’s top executives, explained that a large share of his firm’s revenue comes from exports. In order to even bid on contracts to sell the fire trucks, fire pumps and other firefighting equipment his company makes, many nations require contractors to secure financing from their home country’s official export credit agency.
That’s not a problem for companies in most countries, as every major trading nation except for one has such an agency. Unfortunately for Darley, as of three weeks ago, the lone exception is the United States.
“It’s going to hurt us,” Daly said of Congress’ decision to let the U.S. Export-Import Bank’s (Ex-Im) charter expire last month. “We simply will not be able to compete for certain projects in certain markets.”
W.S. Darley is now among the more than 3,000 American small businesses that depended on Ex-Im to help them export and now find themselves at a disadvantage when pitted against their international competitors. In turn, those Ex-Im-backed sales supported more than 200,000 jobs - jobs that, as Darley pointed out, Congress has now put in jeopardy.
“If Ex-Im goes away, companies like us are going to be in trouble” Darley said, later noting that “all of a sudden, work is going overseas somewhere else because we cannot have a level playing field.”
As a direct result, he said, “employees will lose their jobs.”
It’s not merely his business that will suffer the consequences, either.
“We have quite a supply chain and we work with a lot of other companies in America that supply goods to us,” Darley said. “So it would affect more than just us.”
What makes matters even more frustrating is that the agency lawmakers have now shuttered wasn’t costing the country a dime to operate. In fact, Ex-Im has over the past 25 years returned more than $7 billion to the Treasury, due in part to the agency boasting a very low default rate on its loans.
“To us, it doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Darley told Bloomberg. “It seems like some of the politicians are simply barking up the wrong tree. It’s misguided thinking.”
Congress is currently considering whether to renew the bank’s charter, with momentum starting to build in both chambers on Capitol Hill. However, a number of political hurdles stand in the way.
“Hopefully, politics doesn’t get in the way at the end of the day,” Darley said.
If it does, and lawmakers fail to revive the agency, the U.S. will lose some of its edge in global markets, the federal government will lose much-needed revenue, and companies like W.S. Darley will lose jobs.
“How do you explain that to an employee who has a family and needs a job, and who has worked with us for years?” he asked, later adding: “It’s going to be tough.”