In an effort to fill the vacuum left by the demise of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, an Atlanta company is actively seeking to provide an alternative to help small business exporters maintain and grow their international sales.
The U.S. Congress failed to renew the bank’s charter before it adjourned for the July 4 recess. An independent agency that acts as the export credit agency for the U.S. government, Ex-Im, as it is commonly known, helps finance the foreign purchases of U.S. goods for private businesses.
NOW Corp., a woman-owned business founded in 2010, is making its NOWaccount Revenue Accelerator Program available to small business exporters.
Lara Hodgson, president and CEO of the company, said in a July 21 news release that funding trade credit for the commercial and government customers of small businesses “can be challenging.”
“When those customers are an ocean away that challenge is exacerbated,” she added. “Payments often take longer and many times the small supplier does not know the customer or their creditworthiness, resulting in increased payment risk.”
According to the release, the NOWaccount provides small businesses, regardless of their size or number of years in business, with access to up to $1 million at any time, or up to $8 million annually through a new funding model that is not a loan or factoring.
The program costs the same or less than accepting a credit card for payment, allowing small suppliers to choose to get paid within days and offload the payment risk of their customers, the release says.
While the manufacturer is paid immediately, the customer also benefits because it continues to receive the invoice with the extended payment terms it requires and pays according to its own schedules, with no late fees or penalties.
Another advantage for the manufacturer is that the NOWaccount is largely invisible to the customer, the release says, because it continues to send payments in the name of its supplier either by check or electronic payment to a new remittance address.
It is up to the manufacturer to determine which customers should be enrolled in the program allowing it to leverage capital from operations rather than debt or equity. In the past, the NOWaccount was available to complement Ex-Im Bank offerings.
Cassius F. Butts, the regional administrator for the Southeast of the U.S. Small Business Administration, told Global Atlanta in an email that “It is important for American small businesses to utilize the resources available to them to increase their customer base overseas.”
Although as a government official he can’t endorse any specific company, he added that the agency collaborates with many community-based institutions that assist small businesses export.
“The SBA has many resources available to assist small businesses in exporting their goods and services globally, and we collaborate with many community resources to assist in making these resources available to all small businesses.”
In recent years Ex-Im has come under increased fire by conservative lawmakers and activists who label it corporate welfare. Among its opponents is House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price of Marietta, a Republican who represents Georgia’s 6th District.
Yet those favoring the bank, including President Obama and corporate CEOs of large corporations such as the Dow Chemical Co., argue that it benefits smaller companies and not just the larger corporations such as Boeing.
“Some critics of the bank argue that it engages in ‘crony capitalism’ — looking after the largest and most powerful conglomerates,” says Andrew Liveris, Dow’s CEO, in a statement.
“But in fact, nearly 90 percent of the authorizations that the bank made in 2014 directly served small businesses. Moreover, large companies like Dow, Boeing, GE and Caterpillar rely on thousands of small-business suppliers to help them produce goods in the United States.”
Congressional supporters say that they will seek to renew the bank’s charter next month.
To learn more about the NOWaccount, click here.