WisBusiness: Bucyrus CEO credits White House for helping with bank deal

By WisBusiness Staff

Bucyrus President and CEO Tim Sullivan said the White House was instrumental in getting a deal done to clear the way for the U.S. Import-Export Bank to fund an Indian company’s purchase of mining equipment from Wisconsin-based Bucyrus.

Sullivan said the fact Obama had a visit planned for Wisconsin Wednesday played a significant role in pressuring the Ex-Im Bank to change course.

“The last thing they wanted was for the president to arrive in Racine today and basically be met with a firestorm of criticism for a bad decision that was made by the Ex-Im Bank,” Sullivan said, adding he believed the president would still be waiting for the standing ovation to die down if he had announced the deal to today’s crowd.

“He was very much involved in getting this thing turned around, but he completely ignored the subject. I’m sure he had his reasons. I think I would have played it a lot differently if I were president of the United States.”

Sullivan said once the Ex-Im Bank formally approves the loan guarantee, the Indian utility will rescind the cancellation of its order for the Bucyrus mining equipment. Sullivan said the full order could be worth as much as $600 million. If the deal fell through, it could have impacted 1,000 jobs across 13 states between Bucyrus and its various suppliers.

While this deal has gone through, Sullivan says he’s worried about three others the company has pending before the Ex-Im Bank.

They are not the size of the Indian deal, but the value of the two additional orders for India, one for Turkey and one in South Africa are “not insignificant dollars.”

The Ex-Im Bank originally turned down the $600 million Indian deal over environmental concerns about the proposed coal-fired power plant that is part of the project. Sullivan that has him worried because that project was “the best of the best” in terms of its potential environmental impact. If the Ex-Im Bank applies the same environmental standard that it did in its original decision last week to the other projects, they may not go through.

Still, Sullivan said he’s planning a trip to Washington, D.C. to join manufacturing groups and various lawmakers to discuss potential changes to the Ex-Im Bank.

“It’s now about politics,” Sullivan said of the original decision. “I think what’s happened here is some of the agenda at the Ex-Im Bank has slid more into a political agenda instead of strictly a business agenda. “We’ve got to rebalance what we’re supposed to be trying to do at the Ex-Im Bank.”

Wisconsin officials lauded the Import-Export Bank’s decision to reconsider its loan guarantee for Bucyrus.

“Today’s agreement will support good manufacturing jobs at Bucyrus and clean energy jobs both of which are critical to driving our economic recovery,” said Gov. Jim Doyle in a statement. “I really appreciate that our concerns were heard as we all continue to make job creation the top priority.”

Dem U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold called the decision “very good news for the manufacturing base in the state that has been hit so hard over the last decade and more,” while Barrett thanked bank chairman Fred Hochberg, as well as President Obama for his attention to the controversy and his “continuing work to strengthen our economy.”

Republicans also hailed the decision, but chided the Obama administration for taking Bucyrus to the brink.

“As governor I won’t just find ways to sweep in at the last hour to protect Wisconsin jobs when a media firestorm breaks loose,” charged Milwaukee Co. Exec. Scott Walker in a statement.

GOP Senate candidate Ron Johnson responded, “This decision served as a wake-up call: extreme environmental policies have a real impact on Wisconsin jobs.”