Last year, the federal Export-Import Bank helped Boeing finance $8 billion in commercial jet sales to foreign companies.
It aided the much smaller Fort Lawn-based Morrison Textile Machinery Co. with funding for overseas equipment purchases by firms in Turkey, Egypt and Bangladesh.
And it stepped in for Columbia-based Bridge to Life as it reached out to foreign firms to help them buy the chemical solution the company provides for organ transplants.
But funding from the bank could dry up soon.
Unless Congress acts to reauthorize the 80-year-old institution by Sept. 30, the Export-Import Bank, which provides loans and loan guarantees when other financing is not available, will see its charter lapse.
Some Republican congressmen and several conservative groups oppose the agency because they believe it distorts the free market to benefit a few connected corporations.
The bank's opponents have forged an alliance with some American airlines, which say the bank's guarantees give an unfair cost advantage to foreign rivals, particularly carriers from the Persian Gulf that have been aggressively building up their fleets with jets such as the Boeing 787 and 777. Domestic airlines, among them some of Boeing's largest customers, are not eligible for such subsidies.
During the Farnborough Airshow in England this week, Boeing commercial airlines executive Ray Conner argued that eliminating U.S. loan guarantees would do little to protect American carriers from foreign competition, since those competitors would simply turn to European agencies for help buying Airbus planes.
Failure to keep the bank running would risk American jobs and place Boeing at an unbeatable disadvantage to rival Airbus, which receives similar support from European governments, he said.
"For us to not have the Ex-Im Bank would put us at a huge disadvantage in the marketplace for sure," Conner said.
He's optimistic Congress will act to renew the bank.
"I think we've put together a pretty good coalition of businesses with solid support," Conner said.
That group includes the Washington, D.C.-based Coalition for Employment through Exports and the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce.
"The benefits that the Export-Import Bank provides for businesses in South Carolina are vital for maintaining competitiveness and expanding opportunities for growth," said Bryan Derreberry, president and CEO of the Charleston Metro Chamber.
"For these companies, especially small businesses, to be able to compete globally, they need Ex-Im's help to reach foreign markets and customers," he said. "If Congress fails to reauthorize Ex-Im, American companies would be put at a disadvantage in global markets, resulting in lost sales and lost jobs."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.
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