LA Times Features FirmGreen in Ex-Im Bank Story

Steve Wilburn is the chairman and CEO of FirmGreen, Inc., a renewable energy company in Newport Beach that is having trouble
getting funding from the U.S. Export-Import Bank for a project in the Philippines. Photo: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

Businesses say they need the Export-Import Bank to sell goods abroad. Will Trump fix it?

by Jim Puzzanghera

FirmGreen Inc., a Newport Beach renewable energy company, is preparing to start construction on a solar project in the Philippines. The job could have yielded about $180 million in contracts to U.S. manufacturers to supply most of the equipment — but the work most likely will be done in China instead.

When FirmGreen was unable to get the necessary loan guarantees from the U.S. Export-Import Bank, it had to seek them from China’s version of the federal export-credit agency, Chief Executive Steve Wilburn said. And that financial assistance is available only if FirmGreen promises to manufacture the project’s equipment in China.

“I’m a patriot. I’m a former Marine, a 100% disabled Vietnam vet, and for me to have to go to China and other overseas sources for manufacturing goes against my grain,” Wilburn said. “But I have to survive as a businessman.”

Now exporters such as Wilburn, along with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups, are urging President Trump to help fix the Ex-Im Bank — a move they said would boost the White House’s efforts to increase U.S. manufacturing jobs and reduce the nation’s trade deficit.

Two administration Cabinet secretaries have indicated they support the bank. But it’s unclear whether Trump will take action, adding to the uncertainty that has plagued the controversial agency in recent years.

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Photo credit: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times