Reilly to reps. in Congress: Re-authorize Ex-Im Bank
GE citing bank’s dissolution as reason for moving jobs

By Matt Masterson - Freeman Staff

Oct. 8, 2015

WAUKESHA - Less than a week after GE announced it’s moving hundreds of jobs from its Waukesha facility to Canada, Mayor Shawn Reilly called on Wisconsin’s representatives in Washington to re-authorize the Export-Import Bank to help prevent similar job cuts in the future.

The multinational conglomerate cited the bank’s dissolution as its main reason for pulling 350 jobs from the GE Power & Water building on St. Paul Avenue and moving them into a yet-to-be constructed facility north of the border sometime within the next 18 months.

In a letter sent to the Wisconsin Congressional Delegation last Friday, Reilly called Congress’ inability to re-authorize the bank “infuriating.”

“It is an essential tool that allows American companies to compete on a global scale,” he wrote. “The lack of action is reducing the U.S.’s global competitiveness and hurting communities, like Waukesha, right now.”

The letter was also copied to Gov. Scott Walker, Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow, the Waukesha Common Council and House Speaker John Boehner.

GE says it’s bidding on $11 billion worth of projects that require export financing. The company decided to begin negotiations with Canada - in particular its credit agency, Export Development Canada - following the decision not to re-authorize the Ex-Im bank.

Canada is among about 60 countries globally with export credit agencies that support domestic manufacturing for export.

Reilly said GE’s decision is terrible news for the city, which will soon see one of its longest-standing manufacturers go idle. He believes the problem will continue to grow as businesses that rely on exports from Wisconsin will find more competitive financial conditions in foreign countries.

The mayor pointed to a discharge petition currently being circulated in the House of Representatives as a possible solution to the issue.

“This is not a liberal or conservative issue,” Reilly wrote. “This is a common sense measure that makes America more competitive abroad. The Export-Import Bank supports American companies both large and small, which help provide good jobs to hardworking people.”

If the petition receives enough signatures, the Ex-Im Bank could be brought to the House floor for a vote.

Farrow and Reilly, along with the Waukesha County Business Alliance and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, are expected to meet with GE to discuss the matter later this month.

City Administrator Kevin Lahner highlighted Reilly’s work during Tuesday night’s Common Council meeting, saying the mayor has been striving to coordinate efforts between the city, county and governor’s office in hopes of convincing GE to reverse its decision.

Despite those efforts, GE spokesman Shaun Wiggins said following the company’s announcement last week that “there was no way to reverse the decision,” adding that it could not “be undone once made.”

In his written report to the council, Lahner acknowledged that although it may be too late for Waukesha to save the jobs at GE, “we feel (the Ex-Im Bank) is an important issue that may impact both Waukesha and the state in the near future.”