More than 2,400 miles away, politicians in Washington, D.C., once again are debating whether to help or hurt the Las Vegas economy. The debate centers on a little-known government agency called the U.S. Export-Import Bank, which helps manufacturers sell goods they make in the U.S. to customers overseas. That means more jobs in the U.S. and here in Nevada.
But all of that is at risk, since Congress forced the bank to stop making new loans last month.
The Ex-Im Bank helps U.S. companies sell more goods overseas by offering loan guarantees to global customers. Nearly 60 other countries, including China and Russia, have similar export credit agencies of their own, all trying to undercut U.S. prices so their businesses win the work. The Ex-Im Bank levels the playing field for our companies, helping us compete on pricing as well as quality.
As plant manager for GE Engine Service's railroad wheel and traction motor remanufacturing facility in North Las Vegas, I clearly see how foreign export sales boost jobs here at home. My plant has 70 employees. Last year, Ex-Im financed more than $720 million in locomotive orders from GE's U.S. factories to railroads in South Africa, Indonesia and Australia. These Ex-Im financed sales help drive GE's continued investment in our North Las Vegas plant, which services the Western U.S. rail network. If exports drop because of a lack of Ex-Im financing, our U.S. customer railroads will see their traffic go down, too. That will mean fewer wheel and traction motors for our plant to rebuild — jeopardizing good manufacturing jobs that our local economy can't afford to lose.
It's not just big companies such as GE that benefit from the Ex-Im Bank. Since 2007, Ex-Im financing of nearly $170 million in export sales has supported more than 1,000 jobs in the Silver State. Across the U.S., the bank's critical customer financing has supported nearly 1.3 million jobs. These are real people — our friends and neighbors — whose livelihoods are at risk because Congress hasn't acted to renew the bank.
I recently traveled to Washington to meet with our representatives and urge them to support Nevada jobs and renew this important economic tool. There is legislation in front of Congress that would keep the bank operating — as well as make some new reforms to ensure the bank runs as efficiently as it should. It is supported by Republicans and Democrats alike, and would pass easily if voted on today.
The problem is that a handful of opponents, urged on by some think tanks philosophically opposed to Ex-Im, want to eliminate the bank. Maybe that counts for something in Washington, but we operate in the real world in Nevada, and that means sticking with programs that support good jobs.
The time has come for Congress to do its job and vote, so that my company and our employees can continue doing our jobs. Every day, we go to work doing everything we can to compete and succeed in our business. But now, every day that passes without the Ex-Im Bank is another day that overseas competition gets a head start on us. In fact, a member of the Chinese government said that closing the Ex-Im Bank would be "a good thing" for China.
We need Congress to renew the Ex-Im Bank now, a move that would be a good thing for Nevada, for our economy and for our country. We need to see leadership in Congress and strong support from our home-state representatives to make sure they're helping workers in Nevada, not in China. I urge everyone to ask their representative to support the Ex-Im Bank.
Mehul R. Mehta is plant manager of the GE Engine Service facility in North Las Vegas.