Women-owned businesses need to export to grow, and the Export Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) is a valuable financing tool to support them, Ex-Im Bank Vice Chair April Foley told attendees at an Aug. 19 Cleveland conference on “Capitalizing on Global Opportunities for Women Business Enterprises.”

The conference was sponsored by the US Department of Commerce’s US Commercial Services Global Diversity Initiative. Local co-sponsors and supporters included: Women in International Trade—Northeast Ohio; National Association of Women Business Owners—Cleveland; the Cleveland chapter of the National Association of Female Executives; eWomen Network; Business & Professional Women/Ohio; Minority Contractors Business Assistance Program—State of Ohio; and In the KNOW (Knowledgeable Network of Women)—Greater Akron Chamber.

“Exporting is no longer optional. It is the future,” Foley told the gathering. “If your company doesn’t export, you may need to give some serious thought to determining how to get started. If you export a little bit, there are probably ways that your business can grow through expanded trade.” She added that Ex-Im Bank “has financing options that let you increase exports without increasing risk.”

Ex-Im Bank helped 163 Ohio companies in 82 communities export more than $192 million in goods and services last year. A high Bank priority is to reach more women-owned businesses.

Among Cleveland companies benefiting from Ex-Im Bank support is World Shipping, a Cleveland provider of cargo transportation and logistical services, which used an Ex-Im Bank working capital guarantee to cover export- related costs on a project to link US ports and rail lines with Mexico, Foley said. She added that Q-Panel Lab Products Corporation, a family-owned business in Cleveland, sold environmental test equipment to South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia and Hong Kong using Ex-Im Bank’s multi-buyer insurance policy to protect it against unconfirmed letters of credit.

Ex-Im Bank this year marks its 70th year of helping finance the sale of US exports, primarily to emerging markets throughout the world, by providing loan guarantees, export credit insurance, and direct loans. In fiscal year 2003, Ex-Im Bank, an independent federal agency, authorized financing to support $14.3 billion of US exports worldwide.