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.