Export Experts

A number of financial programs are positioned to assist companies looking to enter export markets.
By Lisa Gibson | May 23, 2011

President Obama’s 2010 National Export Initiative seems to be taking off by leaps and bounds in its efforts to create American jobs through increased exports. Not the least of its accomplishments is the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Export Initiative (RE4I), designed to identify key federal government export promotion programs and highlight opportunities related to the export of biomass feedstock and equipment.

The RE4I has 23 commitments from eight different federal agencies and seeks to recommit the U.S. government to address trade barriers in the sector; increase the amount of trade promotion activities for renewable energy and energy efficiency companies; and improve the delivery of U.S. government export promotion services for renewable energy and energy efficiency companies.
But one major factor that can make or break exporting success is, of course, money. It is essential in getting an export business off the ground—or on the boat, as the case may be. Luckily, there are a number of agencies that exist to help exporters clear hurdles, including the Small Business Administration.

With its premier export financing offering, the Export Working Capital Program, the SBA aims to improve the number of small business exporters and increase the market to more countries, according to Richard Ginsburg, the SBA’s senior international trade specialist. Proceeds from the Export Working Capital Program are authorized for use in insurance, fees, collateral and interest rates.

Speaking during an April 18 export-focused webinar co-hosted by the Biomass Thermal Energy Council and the U.S. Department of Commerce, Ginsburg also highlighted another program, Export Express, designating it as his favorite. It has a minimum turnaround time, under the right conditions, of about six seconds, he says. On the high end, it can take eight or nine days. “We think it’s pretty quick relative to the due diligence that goes into examining a transaction,” he says. The program offers loans and insurance for credit and the proceeds can go toward a number of transaction-specific areas. “It can be used to make you export ready,” he says.

Interestingly, Ginsburg says 97 percent of all U.S. exporters are small businesses, and companies with 20 employees or fewer account for almost 70 percent of all U.S. exporters.

But if yours is not considered a small business, the official export credit agency of the U.S. government, the Export-Import Bank, is a primary option for financing an entry into foreign markets. The bank recently opened an office specifically for renewable energy and currently has two biomass cases in the works, according to Hannelene Beillard, director of the bank’s environmental group. It provides export credit insurance, working capital guarantees, loan guarantees and direct loans. Beillard says eligibility is heavily dictated by the three c’s, which are cover policy: the Export-Import Bank must be open in the buyer’s country; content: the U.S. export must have significant U.S. content; and creditworthiness: the transaction must have a reasonable assurance of repayment.

Both Ginsburg and Beillard make clear their openness and willingness to assist in efforts of U.S. companies to expand their markets and, in fact, it is necessary in order to meet ambitious export enhancement goals. “We are here to help with any project you may be pursuing,” Beillard says.

—Lisa Gibson


Contacts for Financial Assistance in Exports
• Export-Import Bank (www.exim.gov):
Craig O’Connor: (202) 565-3556 or craig.oconnor@exim.gov
Hannelene Beillard: (202) 565-3652 or hannelene.beillard@exim.gov
Rob Guthrie (562) 243-8625 or rob.guthrie@exim.gov
• Small Business Administration (www.sba.gov/
Richard Ginsburg: richard.ginsburg@sba.gov