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Schumer Tours Manufacturing Plant In Plattsburgh To Highlight Importance Of Export-Import Bank

WAMC/Pat Bradley

New York Senator Charles Schumer visited a manufacturing plant in Plattsburgh Wednesday to highlight the importance a the federal Export-Import Bank. The agency faces reauthorization when Congress returns to Washington and the Senator is urging support of what he calls one of the country’s most important job creation and retention programs.

Senator Charles Schumer was in Plattsburgh to tour the Swarovski Lighting plant.

The tour was part of the Democrat’s review of companies in New York that utilize the Export-Import Bank. Reauthorization of the agency is one of his top priorities when the Senate returns next week.

The senator was joined by local officials, manufacturers and businesses that support the bank. The small federal agency faces an uncertain future as some on the right question the need for the bank.  Senator Schumer noted that the plant he had just toured exports about 50 percent of its products and that is a similar situation with many businesses throughout the region and the state.  “One of the main objectives of the Export-Import Bank is to foster job growth and reduce the deficit at the same time. It provides financing to foreign companies that help them purchase American-made goods and manufacturing products. It always had bipartisan support. But now there’s a group in the Senate and in the House in particular who say we shouldn’t do this anymore. The Export-Import Bank is crucial to the success of local industry and many New York State companies.”

Swarovski Lighting employs about 400 people, 350 in Plattsburgh.  The company is owned by Swarovski Crystal, which is headquartered in Austria and Switzerland. The company has sales offices in Austria and Dubai and does significant business in Russia according to Senior Vice President for Global Lighting Peter Pelletier. He says they have increased export sales over the past couple of years, and if the Export-Import Bank is not reauthorized, sales could be lost.  “The bank provides financing to our customers who can’t get local financing. We insure our products with the bank too. So we get insurance coverage and we get financing for our customers to enhance our sales. Now if the bank were to go away, could our customers get financing somewhere else?  It’s possible.  They create a market for us in a country that otherwise we wouldn’t be able to sell to.”

Plattco Corporation makes airlock valves and slide gates for industrial machinery. Inside Sales Manager Danielle Howard-Ross says the company survives on the export sales obtained through the Export-Import Bank.  “Thirty percent of our business, so a third of our workforce, depends on the jobs that are as a result of getting these export sales.  Our company’s seen significant growth over the last five years and we anticipate more growth over the next five years. The only way we’d be able to absorb the risk that we’d incur to deal with foreign customers would be through utilizing this bank.  If we don’t have this bank available to us it’ll stifle our growth potential.”  

Plattsburgh North Country Chamber of Commerce Vice President for Economic Development Susan Matton noted that the Export-Import Bank could be a good tool for many of the region’s businesses but is not a well-known government resource.  “To counteract that the Export-Import Bank as just signed an agreement with the Development Authority of the North Country to help to raise awareness of their services here in the North Country. We have businesses here that make so many things that can be, and are, sold worldwide.  All of these kinds of products are helping to bring new money into our economy here.”

The Export-Import bank authorization expires on September 30th. According to Schumer, the bank supported $6 billion in New York State exports over the last five years, including $26 million in Plattsburgh. Some 270 New York businesses directly benefitted from the bank between 2007 and 2014.

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