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Corona, Calif., Small Business to Double Workforce Through Ex-Im Bank-Backed Export to Benin

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE April 13, 2008

Media Contact Name/Phone: 

Marianna Ohe (202-565-3200)

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Combustion Associates, Inc. (CAI), a small Corona, Calif., company, is growing its workforce and its global business through a multi-million-dollar sale of eight 10-megawatt electric power generating systems to Benin, backed by insurance from the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank).

The transaction will be supported through a collaborative effort in which Ecobank, through it subsidiaries in Benin and Nigeria, will provide a letter of credit facility to be confirmed by Citibank N.A.

Benin's Ministry of Mines, Energy and Water will use the generating systems for an 80-megawatt power plant which will primarily burn natural gas. The turnkey contract includes engineering, construction management, installation, training and post-installation service.

This project is going to nearly double our workforce; we have 35 employees now and we're looking to reach 65, said CAI Chief Executive Officer Mukund Kavia. With the economy slowing down and many empty buildings in this region, this project will keep manufacturing jobs here and also support jobs at our supplier locations in California and elsewhere around the country.

Two of Ex-Im Bank's highest priorities are to strengthen support for U.S. small business exports and U.S. exports to sub-Saharan Africa, said Ex-Im Bank Chairman and President James H. Lambright. This entrepreneurial company embodies success in both those areas.

Ecobank remains committed to providing a full range of banking services to all customer groups, including governments across Middle Africa, and as such is delighted to have collaborated on this transaction which is very important to the country of Benin, said Ecobank Group Chief Executive Officer Arnold Ekpe.

Mukund Kavia and his wife, Kusum Kavia, were born in Kenya, grew up in England, and emigrated to the United States with just the clothes on our backs. They founded CAI in Corona 20 years ago. Beginning as environmental consultants, they moved on to manufacturing and installing skid-mounted electrical power producing equipment and auxiliary systems.

We were born in Africa, and so we feel an affinity with the land and people; we're very glad to help Benin obtain the continuous electric power it needs, Mukund Kavia said. We hope this is one of many U.S. projects that are realized in Benin.

Kavia says that the neighboring countries of Togo, Ghana and Burkina Faso are observing how this project is developed and implemented so that they, too, can benefit from the equipment and technology to promote economic growth in the sub-Saharan region.

These are the seeds we want to sow so that future projects come to California. We really want to have a long-term partnership with Africa, Kavia said.

Ecobank is a pan-African banking group operating in 22 countries. It is in active partnership with many local and foreign institutions on initiatives and projects that support development of Africa's economy and markets.

Ex-Im Bank is the official export-credit agency of the United States. The independent, self-sustaining federal agency, now in its 74th year, helps create and maintain U.S. jobs by financing 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 2007, Ex-Im Bank authorized more than $433.5 million to support export of U.S. goods and services to sub-Saharan Africa. Overall for that fiscal year, the Bank authorized $12.6 billion in financing to support an estimated $16 billion of U.S. exports worldwide. The Bank authorized $3.4 billion in direct support of small businesses for the year. The 2,390 transactions in support of small business during 2007 represented 85.6 percent of all Ex-Im Bank transactions. For more information, visit www.exim.gov.