Seeking World Trade Opportunities / Export Finance Programs Could Give Oklahoma Vitality

Article excerpt

Concern about stagnant investment, high unemployment (7.3 percent) and lack of an industrial base has caused Oklahoma officials to think hard about international trade opportunities for the first time in the 15 years since I've been a state resident.

The fate of Oklahoma not only lies in agriculture and oil, but in the borders beyond our state lines. Several states have already instituted export finance programs to help small businesses sell more products overseas.

With the dollar depreciating almost 30 percent since it started sliding down in early 1985, our local manufacturers and producers are in a better position to start planning and developing strategies to market their products overseas.

Oil and agriculture have served us for a long time, but it is time to embark in a program that will create and help generate new jobs, and retain them in our state.

In more progressive states such as Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana and Louisiana, there are programs already in place to assist small and medium-sized business leaders. There is legislationat this time going through in another 33 states as reported by U.S. Export weekly and Financial Times.

Through the sale of taxable bonds and the creation of an export development authority, the authority could have the capacity to borrow $50 million to 100 million dollars in the bond market to set up a trust fund and help finance export related projects and activities.

Of course, the Oklahoma Legislature would have to approve such an authority first. No one knows how long that will take.

Export financing is a key ingredient to export success, and without it we could never diversify and expand our industrial base.

For example, the state of Illinois has 240,000 small businesses with a productivity rate 10 percent higher than the national average. Through their export authority, 40 percent of those businessesare now exporting.

The authority will have to provide the loans to those businesses that are willing to export their goods. The loans could be for the purchase of fixed assets, plants, machinery and working capital.

The authority should have the power to issue bonds; they could be tax exempt at the state level but not at the federal. The program should emphasize financing or serving those exports or exportersthat do not have access to any other area of financing. …