U.S. loan offer boosts Ellicott Machine hopes

March 01, 1994|By Ross Hetrick | Ross Hetrick,Sun Staff Writer

Boosting the chances of Ellicott Machine Corp. getting the largest contract in its 109-year history, the U.S. Export-Import Bank announced yesterday that it is offering a $34.3 million loan to finance a possible Indonesian job.

The loan -- meant to counter a similar Norwegian offer to a competing dredge maker -- signals more aggressive support of U.S. exports, according to the head of the U.S. Export-Import Bank.

"The Clinton administration has come to Washington with a completely different agenda than we had in the past," said Kenneth D. Brody, president and chairman of the Export-Import Bank. "That agenda is to help to create and maintain American jobs."

Mr. Brody made his remarks yesterday to about 100 workers at the Baltimore-based dredge manufacturer's plant on Bush Street in South Baltimore. Also present was U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, D-Md., who has pressed for a more activist export policy.

The $34.3 million loan, which has a 25-year term and 3.3 percent interest rate, would go to Indonesia's state-owned dredging company P. T. Rukinso, if it decides to buy five specially designed dredge-barges, a tugboat and other equipment.

Peter A. Bowe, president of Ellicott Machine Corp., said the Clinton administration's support of his company's efforts to win the contract stands in marked contrast to the Reagan and Bush years, when officials "would wring their hands" over financial support of exports.

"It's a phenomenal difference," Mr. Bowe said. "It's a great change."

Mr. Brody said loans like these have been rare. "But, it won't be rare going forward," he said.

One reason for the policy shift is the passage of the Export Enhancement Act of 1992, which authorized the Export-Import Bank to match financial-aid packages offered by other countries.

The legislation also authorized the creation of a series of U.S. Export Assistance Centers, which will serve as one-stop shops for exports. One of the first centers in the country opened at the World Trade Center in Baltimore on Jan. 31.

Both Mr. Brody and Mr. Sarbanes stressed that the loan was only being made because of Norway's offering a similar loan for Singanor, a Norwegian shipbuilder competing for the Indonesian contract. "We're fighting fire with fire," Mr. Sarbanes told Ellicott Machine workers.

The Indonesians are expected to make a decision on the contract in May or June, according to Mr. Bowe.

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