By Max Sullivan
Hampton Union, August 28, 2015
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., tours Mikrolar, a high-tech hexapod robot company in Hampton ,with company president Michael Fortier on Thursday. Sen. Ayotte continues her efforts to promote innovation, STEM education, and advanced manufacturing. [Rich Beauchesne photo]
HAMPTON – Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., visited a Hampton robotics company Thursday, speaking in support of the re-authorization of a federal bank that indirectly impacts small businesses like theirs across the country.
Ayotte visited Mikrolar, a company that manufactures “innovative” robots for clients like Boeing and Osram Sylvania. These robots are capable of moving extremely heavy equipment with precision, such as airplane parts that can weigh in excess of 100,000 pounds.
Ayotte told Mikrolar President Michael Fortier and owner Larry Flood that she’s supporting the re-authorization of the Export Import Bank, a government financing mechanism that gives loans to businesses in other countries that want to purchase goods from American companies like Boeing and Osram Sylvania.
The Ex-Im Bank was made an independent agency by Congress in 1945 to help European companies deal with post-World War II reconstruction. In recent years, the bank has been criticized by some in Congress as a form of corporate welfare. Opponents include those from within the Republican Party, Ayotte said.
“There have been some, within mostly my party, who philosophically don’t think this is the kind of financing that should be provided by the government,” Ayotte said.
The bank’s authorization expired July 31, and Congress has yet to pass an extension. Without the extension, an $85 million contract with a foreign satellite company fell through for Boeing, the Wall Street Journal reported. The failure of such contracts is of concern to Mikrolar officials and Ayotte.
Fortier said Mikrolar is the only company in the United States that creates robots for moving massive industrial parts, and it’s only competition is in Japan. The company has also worked with NASA, he said.
While Mikrolar has its niche, Fortier said the bank’s reauthorization means one less problem for Boeing and other American companies that generate business for it, Fortier said.
“If you’re dealing with a company like Boeing, you want the company not to be impeded in business,” Fortier said.
Ayotte said it’s important locally to keep businesses like Mikrolar thriving. Fortier said many of the 10 engineers who work there are New Hampshire residents, some having gone to the University of New Hampshire.
Ayotte said she understands why opponents feel strongly about keeping federal agencies out of the private sector, but what’s different about the Ex-Im Bank is that many other nations have a similar agency. Airbus, a French aircraft manufacturer and Boeing’s biggest competitor, has access to many financing options for exports in European countries. Ayotte said that's one example of a foreign company getting an edge over an American one where the Ex-Im Bank is not currently operational.
“If no (other countries) had it, I think that would be a different issue,” Ayotte said. “But I think it’s important that this too is in place, especially as we’re looking at additional trade agreements and things like that. We need to make sure the tools are there.”