The chairman of the U.S. Export-Import Bank will visit Atlanta, the hometown of the embattled agency’s fiercest corporate critic, for a series of small business-focused speeches Wednseday.
Bank president Fred Hochberg will join Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson for a tour of Opportunity Hub, an Atlanta startup nursery, and TOMCO2, a Loganville carbon dioxide systems manufacturer that received a taxpayer-backed ExIm loan last year for $236,000.
In both stops Hochberg is expected to stress ExIm’s utility to small business, part of a larger rebranding campaign the agency has undertaken as it again fights for congressional reauthorization.
But the bank’s critics, including Atlanta-based Delta Airlines, criticize the bank as a slush fund for the well-connected—primarily Boeing, which won $10.8 billion in long-term loan guarantees from ExIm last year.
By subsidizing loan and loan guarantees for foreign air carriers who buy Boeing’s planes, US-based airlines, of which Delta is the loudest, say the government is harming the domestic airline industry while giving a leg-up to oversees competitors by reducing borrowing costs courtesy of the American taxpayer. (By one industry estimate, ExIm’s lending policies have eliminated 7,500 US airline jobs.)
Even as Delta lost a court battle last week against the agency, whose operating charter will expire June 30 if not reauthorized, the company says the real battleground isn’t the courts but Congress.
“We pursued all our options in court, but we’ve known all along this is going to be won or lost in Congress,” Delta spokesperson Trebor Banstetter told the New York Times Tuesday.
On that count, Delta has the support of most of the state’s congressional Republican lawmakers. Last year, all of the state’s nine (now ten) Republican congressmen voted to allow the agency’s charter to expire, but both senators wanted instead to see it reformed.