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Andrew Yarrow, (202) 565-3200

WASHINGTON, D.C: Bluefield Associates Inc., of Ontario, Calif., is to receive the 2004 Small Business Exporter of the Year award from the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) at Ex-Im Bank's 2004 annual conference in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, April 29.

Bluefield Associates is a minority-owned small business manufacturer of skin-care products that exports to 12 nations in West Africa and several European countries. The privately owned company, which was founded in 1991, has added 32 employees and increased the number of its foreign buyers from five to 15 since 1999, when it began using Ex-Im Bank's multi-buyer export credit insurance. Bluefield's small-business insurance policy was last renewed in September 2003, and it has used an Ex-Im Bank working capital guarantee issued to East West Bank, of San Marino, Calif., since 2002.

Given our core market in sub-Saharan Africa, without Ex-Im Bank's programs we couldn't have grown to the size we are now, K.C. Obioha, vice president of Bluefield Associates, said. Having tried for seven years, we otherwise could not have obtained lines of credit from traditional commercial banks. Ex-Im Bank's financing has been our lifeline.

Small businesses will be the great export engine of the U.S. economy in the 21st century, Ex-Im Bank Chairman Philip Merrill said. Companies like Bluefield Associates illustrate the dynamism and diversity of America's nearly $1.1 trillion export business. Ex-Im Bank is pleased to be able to assist this worthy company and to award it our 2004 Small Business Exporter of the Year award.

Ex-Im Bank helped finance a record $700 million in U.S. exports to sub-Saharan Africa during fiscal year 2003. This represents nearly 15 percent of total U.S. exports to the region.
Ex-Im Bank's 29th annual conference on April 29 and 30, at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C., will include speeches by Treasury Secretary John Snow, Commerce Secretary Donald Evans, and others. It will also feature specialized workshops and exhibits on export finance and trade to help U.S. exporters expand their sales to foreign markets. In conjunction with the conference, Ex-Im Bank recognizes several companies each year for their high level of activity to increase U.S. exports through use of Ex-Im Bank programs.

Ex-Im Bank this year marks its 70th year of helping finance the sale of U.S. exports, primarily to emerging markets throughout the world, by providing loan guarantees, export credit insurance, and direct loans. In fiscal year 2003, Ex-Im Bank, an independent federal agency, authorized financing to support $14.3 billion of U.S. exports worldwide. For more information on Ex-Im Bank and its annual conference, visit www.exim.gov.