Jun 26, 2014 - 2:45pm

Denied: Small Business Loses Deal Over Ex-Im Uncertainty


FirmGreen relies on Ex-Im for its' Brazilian project.
Steve Wilburn (left) and Jeff Cook, P.E. (right) carefully review plans at the Brazil Biogas plant (Photo: Courtesy of FirmGreen)

The uncertainty over reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank has caused one California small business owner to lose out on a $57 million project in the Phillipines.

Steve Wilburn of FirmGreen told the House Financial Services Committee:

We had initially won the deal in April after hard-fought negations, lasting almost a year. But we lost it in May. I received a letter from my client explaining to me that I lost the order as a direct result of the uncertainty created by the public comments made by members of Congress against reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank. The negative comments against the Bank by key congressional leaders have allowed my competitors to play the “Don’t Count on U.S. Ex-Im Support” card to steal business away from FirmGreen….They still prefer our technology, but require certainty about financing terms equal to that being offered my Korean competitor backed by the Korean Ex-Im Bank.

Wilburn is a long-time user and supporter of Ex-Im’s financing. Wilburn’s small renewable energy company has created 165 jobs in California and at suppliers in seven other states since he began partnering with Ex-Im in June 2011.

A $48 million loan from Ex-Im empowered FirmGreen to bring their innovative ideas, equipment, and services to Brazil. The Novo Gramacho biogas project will convert dirty methane gas into clean, compressed biomethane gas.

Wilburn also addressed Ex-Im’s small, but vocal, legion of opponents:

The only companies that I believe are “harmed” by the US EX-IM Bank are my foreign competitors. Unlike other ECA’s, the US Ex-Im Bank financing is tied directly to US domestic content, meaning that the Ex-Im can only finance the portion of a product that is manufactured in the U.S. This ensures that Ex-Im financing is directly linked to the preservation and creation of U.S. jobs.

… I am a firm believer in free trade and limited government, but I do not share -- nor do I understand -- the rabid anti-government animus that seems to be motivating the current attacks on the Ex-Im Bank. Government, in my view, is simply people working collectively to accomplish things for the greater good that can’t be done by individuals acting alone. I have come to realize over the past several years that trading on the world stage is a complex undertaking for small businesses like FirmGreen.

I used to believe that the eight most feared words in the English language were, “We’re the government, we’re here to help you!” Thank God for the folks at the US Department of Commerce, the USTDA, the SBA, and the Ex-Im Bank. They have effective outreach programs that make navigating the pathways to international markets understandable and attainable for small Main Street Businesses like FirmGreen. 

Learn more about the Chamber's efforts to reauthorize Ex-Im here, support Ex-Im by using the hashtag#ExIm4Jobs on Twitter, or send a letter to your Members of Congress.


About the Author

About the Author

Sheryll Poe is a former senior writer at the U.S. Chamber, who covered public policies affecting businesses including the three "T's" - transportation, trade and taxes.