Local Bank Offers Import/Export Financing

by RaeAnne Marsh

Businesses are increasingly involved in export commerce, but loans on their foreign receivables are not as readily available as on domestic receivables. “That restricts the amount a business can leverage,” says Greg Lehmann, managing director of Biltmore Bank of Arizona, explaining the decision is made from a risk standpoint. Helping to fill that void, Biltmore Bank recently went through the certification process to become a designated lender in the Export-Import Bank of the United States’ financing program — one of only a handful of lending institutions in the state. The Ex-Im Bank, which does not compete with private-sector lenders, is the United States’ official export credit agency.

“To be a government-guaranteed delegated authority is an investment on the part of the bank,” says Leticia Scearce, Biltmore Bank’s vice president of government guaranteed lending, who spearheaded the process. Because export financing is an insurance product, she explains, the designation requires the bank’s officer involved in it to be intensively trained in “the ins and outs of how it works.” According to Lehmann, plans call for the bank to focus on small to mid-sized businesses in Arizona seeking financing. The
Ex-Im Bank requires its participating banks to be well capitalized, and places no limit on the amount of their lending.

“Exports are an increasingly important part of Arizona’s economic recovery as local businesses both big and small start to look beyond our borders to increase their customer base,” says Francisco Sánchez, under secretary at U.S. Commerce for International Trade.

“According to newly released data for fiscal year ending 2012, the Ex-Im Bank achieved a fourth consecutive record-breaking year with over 35.8 billion in loan authorizations nationally. For Arizona, there were a total of $63.9 million in loan disbursements resulting in $113.1 million in supported export sales for 2012,” says Scearce. According to the latest data compiled for Metro Phoenix, merchandise exports increased to $10.9 billion in 2011 from $9.3 billion the previous year — a 16.8-percent bump.

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