Because of the bank's current limited authority to make larger loans, it's financing less, but a greater percentage of its capital is flowing to small businesses. In fiscal 2016, the bank authorized $5 billion in deals to support $8 billion in U.S. exports, and more than 50 percent of the financing went to small businesses. In fiscal 2015, about a quarter of the bank's authorized deals — $12.3 billion to support $17 billion in U.S. exports — went to smaller companies. After a battle over its reauthorization, the Ex-Im Bank is now approved to transact business through fiscal year 2019.
"Ex-Im provides financial solutions that help small businesses increase their competitiveness abroad, unlock working capital, and grow foreign sales, all the while helping to mitigate the risks of international business. About 90 percent of Ex-Im's transactions directly benefit American small businesses," said Lawton King, a spokesman for the bank.
Smaller companies are a powerful force in exporting, but major barriers exist for some in entering the international arena, including a lack of knowledge of how to get started and concerns over payment, according to a 2016 survey from the National Small Business Association, a nonpartisan advocacy group. In 2015, preliminary figures show 293,000 companies in the U.S. exported goods, of which, 98 percent were small and medium-sized exporters with fewer than 500 workers, according to the International Trade Administration. Overall, using figures from 2014, about 4 percent of all U.S. companies export goods, according to the organization.
"Ex-Im Bank is critical to small- and mid-sized exporters. The prospect of getting financing as an average small business is very difficult and exponentially more so when you're dealing with foreign buyers as an exporter," said Molly Day, vice president for public affairs at the National Small Business Association. "Ex-Im Bank fills a financing gap that enables small exporting firms to sell internationally, and ought to be strongly supported in any plan to bolster American competitiveness."
CORRECTION: The National Small Business Association is a nonpartisan advocacy group. The name was misstated in an earlier version of this article.