EVERETT, Wash. - Before a backdrop of the newest American-made Boeing passenger jets, President Obama Friday will announce a series of steps aimed at boosting U.S. manufacturers, while harnessing their momentum for political gain.
Obama, on the final stop of his three-day swing through California and Washington, will tour a Boeing production facility and speak to a crowd of several hundred workers inside the final assembly building for the company's new 787 Dreamliner.
Boeing has become a poster child for a thriving manufacturing sector and American export business, and one Obama will use to highlight a battery of steps he believes will help nudge large and small businesses to achieve similar success.
Obama is directing the Export-Import Bank, which helps finance U.S. companies that want to sell their goods abroad, to more aggressively support firms that face competition from foreign businesses unfairly subsidized by their governments in violation of "international disciplines."
As part of that effort the Bank will also launch a new pilot program for small businesses, providing 6-12 month loans of up to $500,000 to help them grow their exports, officials said Thursday night.
Short-term financing is "the most critical spot and where commercial banks frequently don't want to lend," said Fred Hochberg, chairman and president of the Export-Import Bank, explaining why the financing will help.
Some of Obama's "announcements" are less substantive, including a rhetorical push to reauthorize financing for the Export-Import Bank, which expires in May or sooner, a plan to streamline paperwork for companies seeking to take advantage of foreign trade zones to reduce their tax burdens, and a new website that will serve as a clearinghouse for government resources for exporters.
Manufacturing, which Obama underscored in his State of the Union Address last month, is increasingly part of his pitch for a second term. And thanks in part to Boeing, the sector is undergoing a revitalization that is helping him make the case.
In 2010, Obama set a goal of doubling American exports in five years - a goal his administration says the country is on track to meet two years in.
"We keep hitting this target month after month, consistently," said Hochberg. "We keep hitting a new high for exports."
Last month alone, Boeing announced the single largest airplane order ever from any airline, a $21 billion deal for 230 737-aircraft by Indonesia's Lion Air. It's expected to support thousands of American jobs.