Dick Rogovin, a self-described conservative Republican and chairman of U.S. Bridge, a fourth-generation manufacturer of steel truss bridges in Ohio with 140 employees, is working with the U.S. Export-Import Bank for the first time. He fears that if it isn’t reauthorized by the end of September, he’ll lose a large bridge contract in Africa to a Chinese company.
Mr. Rogovin says he wants hard evidence from opponents that Ex-Im is damaging the U.S. economy. “This is not your typical bureaucratic boondoggle,” he said. “With Ex-Im, we have credibility. Without it, we don’t. Closing Ex-Im would be the modern equivalent of Smoot-Hawley. It would signal the withdrawal of the United States from Africa and other world markets. In a world of turmoil, this is not the time to send such signals.”
“Ex-Im opponents argue that government programs cannot function as well as private industry,” he said. “I can agree with that in principle, but show me a commercial substitute for Ex-Im, another valid source willing to guaranty loans for exports from small companies like ours, before you kill it.”
“If it becomes obvious that Ex-Im will not be renewed, I expect we’ll lose our contract to the Chinese,” he said. “They are the most intense competition we have in Africa as well as in Latin America and all of their exports to third world countries are supported by their own export-import bank.
In all of their exports, U.S. Bridge uses galvanized steel, which can last about twice as long as concrete in adverse climates. A few years ago the Tanzania Port Authority purchased a kilometer-long U.S. Bridge to be installed over seawater as a pier for unloading freight to Mafia Island. “All their concrete exposed to seawater had rotted away and they wanted to protect their investment,” he said.
U.S. Bridge, and the thousands of other small and mid-sized business across the country that rely on the Ex-Im Bank, are certain that their business and employees will suffer if Congress doesn’t vote to reauthorize the bank.
These companies face intense competition from companies that have strong backing from their own governments. Mr. Rogovin said he sees no alternative to using the Ex-Im Bank, especially when operating in places such as Africa. He said if the Ex-Im Bank isn’t reauthorized “you’ll have people lose their jobs … you’ll severally damage exports and industrial production. Show me a good reason to do that.”