Small Businesses Urged To Help U.S. Double Exports

The Obama administration wants to double U.S. exports by 2015, and it wants small businesses to get their share of the pie. The Export-Import Bank is taking the lead in a program that hopes to identify 5,000 small businesses and turn them into exporters.

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

Today the Obama administration is rolling out a plan to help small companies export more. It's part of the administration's plan to double American exports by 2015.

NPR's Brett Neely reports.

BRETT NEELY: One of the key players in this plan is a little-known government agency. The Export-Import Bank of the United States - that's Exim Bank for short - gives loan guarantees to American companies selling their goods abroad. The Exim Bank plans to double its support for small businesses to $9 billion by 2015. With the help of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and several large banks, including HSBC and Wells Fargo, the Exim Bank will promote its loan guarantees to small businesses across the country.

Exim Bank president Fred Hochberg says the program pays for itself.

FRED HOCHBERG: We charge a fee for the loans and the fees cover all of our administrative costs, all of our loan losses, so this is done at absolutely no cost to the taxpayer whatsoever. We are totally and completely self-sustaining.

NEELY: The bank helped small businesses get $4.5 billion worth of loans in 2009. But that's less than a quarter of the $21 billion the bank supported that year.

Georgetown economist Michael Czinkota says the bank traditionally supports big companies.

MICHALE CZINKOTA: It's easier to finance the sale of an airplane, let's say a Boeing jet, as a one transaction than financing 50 transactions with smaller sized firms.

NEELY: With unemployment still high, the administration hopes more exports by U.S. firms will also translate into more jobs.

Brett Neely, NPR News, Washington.

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