DETROIT — For the first time, Detroit business owners will have a unique advantage entering the global marketplace as the result of a newly established partnership between TechTown and the Export-Import Bank of the United States. Local entrepreneurs can access the services and financial assistance products of Ex-Im Bank, as well as a variety of educational opportunities intended to cultivate knowledge about exporting.

TechTown has joined the roster of Ex-Im Bank’s City-State Partners to increase local export activity and create jobs. For companies that qualify, Ex-Im Bank will also offer financial assistance programs to ease their transition into the international marketplace.

America’s growing trade deficit and high unemployment rate have raised the export issue to the top of America’s national agenda. According to Ex-Im Bank Chairman Fred P. Hochberg, less than 1 percent of businesses in the United States export their products. Although Michigan is one of the more active export states due to the automotive industry, small companies rarely export their goods and services abroad, contributing to Michigan’s high unemployment rate.

Since its inception in 2004, TechTown has embraced a global export and foreign business attraction strategy. By acting as an international Soft Landings site, TechTown enables foreign companies to expeditiously set up a Detroit base of North American operations. TechBA, for example, a business accelerator established at TechTown by the Mexican Ministry of the Economy, has been incubating Mexican automotive companies since 2008. The Soft Landings designation has given TechTown the ability to harness the talent and economic potential of companies that already do business internationally, thereby creating a foundation upon which the TechTown/Ex-Im Bank partnership can build.

“We are focusing on job creation,” said TechTown general manager Leslie Smith. “Our goal is to nurture startup companies through our Thrive program so they are in a position to benefit from Ex-Im’s financial assistance products. This program, in particular, will help our client companies open new markets and obtain the financial support they need to leverage those market opportunities.”

TechTown currently coaches client companies in doing business internationally. TechTown’s Mirafit, for example, is a startup exporting its weight loss supplement to Canada, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Singapore and South Korea, and are exploring the United Kingdom and Africa. Smith noted, however, that TechTown’s partnership with Ex-Im Bank will expand the scope of TechTown’s reach beyond the startup companies with which it is affiliated.

“TechTown is being charged with educating the broader Michigan business community, including established companies,” said Smith. “Eventually, we hope to offer export support services to companies throughout the region.”

That is where the Ex-Im Bank can help. In the federal government’s 2010 fiscal year, the bank authorized more than $457 million to help Michigan businesses export. This figure included more than $128 million in small business authorizations. As we approach the end of FY 2011, 69 percent of Michigan authorizations supported small businesses. The Ex-Im Bank is able to provide exporters the financing they need through a variety of products.

Ex-Im Bank’s working capital financing enables U.S. exporters to obtain loans that facilitate the export of goods or services. These working capital loans, made by commercial lenders and backed by an Ex-Im Bank guarantee, provide the liquidity to accept new business, grow international sales and gain a competitive edge in the global marketplace.

Ex-Im Bank’s export credit insurance allows exporters to increase their export sales by limiting international risk, offering credit to international buyers, and enabling access to working capital funds.

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