Fear of the unknown.
That's the primary reason U.S. businesses hesitate to sell goods and services overseas, said Fred P. Hochberg, president of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, during a visit to Port Washington Monday.
He said companies often worry that they won't get paid if they export or that their ideas will be stolen. Some don't have employees conversant in foreign languages. And others are concerned about a process they aren't familiar with.
Ex-Im Bank, through export credit insurance and financing, can provide peace of mind, Hochberg said. "With us, you are as safe and secure to sell in the Middle East as you are to sell in New Jersey. If your customer doesn't pay, we will," said the official, who once owned a home in Fire Island Pines.
Since 2007 the bank, which is a federal agency, has provided $278.5 million in financing to 38 exporters headquartered on Long Island.
One of those is Kiss Products Inc., the Port Washington-based seller of do-it-yourself nail kits, eyelashes and cosmetics that hosted Monday's exporting workshop for about 60 local companies.
Richard K. Kim, chief financial officer at Kiss, said exports have climbed in recent years from 5 percent of total sales to 20 percent. He said Ex-Im Bank insurance gives foreign customers more time to pay for orders and increases the number of Kiss products sold overseas.
To accommodate its rapid growth, Kim said Kiss plans to build an 80,000-square-foot warehouse near its two existing buildings in Port Washington. It is seeking tax breaks for the project from Nassau County. About 350 people work for Kiss.
J.C. Ryan EBCO/H&G LLC, a Farmingdale-based distributor of doors, frames and hardware for commercial buildings, derives about 10 percent of its sales from foreign countries.
Company president Dana F. Schnipper said Ex-Im Bank is "fairly simple" to work with and "takes the risk out of exporting." He employs 35 workers.
Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington), who organized Monday's event, said it was critical that local businesses export their goods and services. He added, "We need to reduce the barriers to exporting so companies can grow and create more jobs."