You know best what it takes to grow your business and create jobs. That's why Congress needs to know what you think are the top business priorities they should take up before the end of the year.

Congress was back in session for two short weeks and addressed only a few time-sensitive matters before breaking for the elections. They will make plans quickly after the election for the lame duck session, so we need to tell them soon where we hope they focus their efforts.

Take our quick 2-question survey about the business priorities you think Congress should focus on.

We have yet to see action on a host of issues business leaders tell us are critical to creating the certainty and investment businesses need to grow and create jobs, and we’re more likely to see action if Members of Congress hear from you.

We’ll share your responses (anonymously if you wish) with members of Congress. They could inform legislation and may even become law to help other business leaders like you across the country.

Whether it’s healthcare, trade, transportation infrastructure, or something else, let us know what issues matter most to you and your business’s bottom line.

| Michael Cavanaugh

Op/Ed: Ex-Im Bank is big ally for small business

Michael Cavanaugh is co-owner and executive vice president of Floratine Products Group in Collierville.

This op-ed was originally published in The Commercial Appeal.

As a local business owner, my goals are similar to those of other small-business owners, chief among them ensuring we can grow our business and provide steady paychecks for our employees.

Floratine, which I co-own with my brother, Kevin, and other shareholders, develops and manufactures specialty fertilizer products for high-performance turf surfaces on golf courses and sports stadiums around the world.

Such products are seasonal by nature; our customers buy them much less frequently during colder months, which could prove challenging to a production company like ours. 

Fortunately, through our global distribution network we’ve developed a customer base in more than 30 countries around the world. Because of that, we have seen fewer highs and lows with our production runs and sales.

When snow hits the northeast part of the United States or ice storms strike Tennessee in a few months, for example, our customers in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region still will be ordering and using our products. Selling into these regions and keeping our operations going year-round is key to keeping more employees at our company working full time throughout the year.

Selling into regions such as the European Union and the Asia Pacific creates myriad challenges and risks for a company of our size, including local regulatory issues that vary from country to country, and different cultural ways of doing business.

Some of these rules can change at any point. We might have a shipping container on a freighter stuck outside of a foreign country, unable to make it through its customs process. The risk of losing $40,000 worth of product becomes a real issue. We’re not a large company, so such a loss could severely hurt our business.

Fortunately, the Export-Import Bank protects my company, and thousands of others in the United States, against risks like these. Its credit insurance means that if customers in another country are suddenly unable to purchase our products, we don’t lose the value of that shipment.

It’s a great shock absorber for risk and it helps us focus on other parts of our business. It’s also helpful to have the federal government backing our products, because international customers see that and have more trust that we will come through for them.

Given the success we have had with the Export-Import Bank, it is disconcerting to see members of Congress threatening to close it. 

Based on my personal experience, closing the Export-Import Bank would create a real disadvantage for American companies. More than 60 other countries have similar export-credit agencies supporting their companies abroad, and for U.S. companies the closure of the Export-Import Bank would add one more barrier to fruitful trade.

It is worth noting that the support the United States provides through the bank is relatively small compared to other countries’ support, and the bank operates at no cost to taxpayers, generating a $1.5 billion profit.

Right now, business is tough enough as it is. I hope politicians in Washington will consider the positive impact the Export-Import Bank has on companies of all sizes and types, and unite to continue supporting it before its charter expires at the end of September.

My employees, distributors and customers depend on a stable business environment. Ultimately such stability leads to growth, more jobs and more job security for thousands of workers across the United States. 

| Erik Roos, Policy Analyst

Making Use of Federal “Big Data” in Your Business

Insights from government data generate billions of dollars for the private sector. However, many more business leaders could be using this valuable resource. Yesterday, Mark Doms, the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs at the Commerce Department, explained in a call how companies are using federal data and what the department is doing to make the data more accessible and easy to use.

According to Doms, the Commerce Department’s data covers three broad topics:

  • Demographics: Companies can use Census data to find out where potential customers are located and different characteristics about them. Income distribution, age, veteran status, and racial makeup are a few examples of demographic information that can improve targeted marketing or inform the placement of factories and stores.
  • Economy: Bureau of Economic Analysis and other Commerce Department data show what parts of the economy are doing well and what parts are not, across different industries and states. Since federal data is comprehensive, accurate, and objective, it is often used as a benchmark to which private sector data can be compared.
  • Weather: The National Weather Service generates 20 terabytes of data every day on the weather conditions across the country. It also produces weather projections that can guide decision-making. Some businesses have used NWS weather forecasts to guide inventory decisions, like how many weather-related products like sunscreen or ice cream to carry.

Federal data is generated by many different agencies, which is one of the challenges the Commerce Department is trying to address in its Big Data initiative. Doms directed attendees to the Economics and Statistics Administration’s webpage for a release schedule of economic indicators. He said the agency could also be helpful in answering questions about the data.

One attendee asked Doms if the Commerce Department provided forecasted economic data. Doms explained that economic forecasting is as much of an art as it is a science and that those projections would be subjective. For that reason, forecasting is left to the private sector, which is better equipped for it. However, federal economic data provides an objective benchmark against which to measure these forecasts. Given the different advantages and disadvantages the federal government and the private sector have in producing data, expanding and improving partnerships may provide substantial benefits in the future. 

Listen to full audio of the call:

You’re invited to a conference call with Export-Import Bank Chief of Staff Scott Schloegel on MondaySeptember 15, at 2 p.m. to discuss the future of the Bank and how American exports shape our economy.

The U.S Export-Import Bank provides financing to businesses to help them sell their goods to foreign customers. Last year alone, Ex-Im supported more than 200,000 American jobs at no cost to taxpayers. In fact, it made over $1 billion for taxpayers.

Legislation is currently under consideration to extend the banks charter, but some in Congress seek to eliminate the bank altogether. Without action, the Export-Import Bank’s authorization will expire on October 1, putting American exporters at a disadvantage compared to their foreign competitors. 

What: Conference call with the Export-Import Bank
Featuring: Chief of Staff Scott Schloegel
When: Monday, September 15, at 2 p.m. ET
Where: You will receive a unique dial-in and password when you register

If you have a question in advance of Monday, you can email it to info@businessfwd.org.

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There will be time for you to ask questions, and you can submit them in advance by emailing info@businessFWD.org.

Posted In: Business Forward Events
| Allison Jones, Digital Associate

Business Leaders Brief Administration on International Trade Policy

As Congress debates reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank and negotiations for two important international trade agreements continue, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, and other senior administration officials met with business leaders on Thursday to gather input on how international trade policy affects individual businesses.

“I was very honored to have been asked to brief the Obama Administration on ways they can support export commerce and international trade,” said Maryland Port Administration Executive Director James J. White after the event.  “Public and private U.S. marine terminals should continue to help and encourage both large and small U.S. companies to export their goods and develop relationships with other nations.” 

The roundtable focused on the importance of exporting for economic growth and discussed ways that the government and businesses can work together to expand the international reach of American companies. 

“Boosting American exports is critical to economic growth,” said Secretary Pritzker. “As purchasing power grows in other countries, U.S. companies must leverage the opportunity to sell goods and services to foreign consumers. The Obama Administration is committed to working with American companies to realize the benefits of engaging in the global economy.” The Obama Administration has been supporting exporting activities through the National Export Initiative (NEI) and the latest phase of the Initiative, NEI/NEXT. 

Currently, less than 5 percent of U.S. businesses export their goods and services to international markets. Businesses that export grow faster, and are 8 percent less likely to declare bankruptcy than those that do not.

The group also discussed two broad trade agreements that the Administration is currently negotiating: The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with countries in the Asia-Pacific region and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) with members of European Union. Administration officials spoke about how the agreements would boost competitiveness and help U.S. businesses access new markets in Asia and Europe.

Check out photos from the event below. And if you’re interested in attending a fly-in at the White House or similar event in your area, sign up to receive event invitations from Business Forward.

Posted In: Business Forward Events