National, regional SBA lending hits new high

Loans totaled $30 billion for fiscal year; $308M lent out in Portland area

By Gordon Oliver, Columbian Business Editor



Small business loans backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration hit a new high in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, with over $30 billion in loans issued with SBA backing during the fiscal year.

Some $308 million of those loans were in the metropolitan Portland region, including $42 million in Southwest Washington, the SBA reported. Those loan totals for the Portland-Vancouver area set a new record. SBA backed $211 million in Portland-Vancouver loans in fiscal year 2010 and $203 million in 2009, the agency said.

The agency’s Portland office participated in 873 loans during the fiscal year, including 308 in Southwest Washington’s Clark, Cowlitz, Skamania and Wahkiakum counties.

The loan boom seems surprising, given frequent business complaints about a shortage of capital for business start-ups and expansions. One big factor in the loan burst was a stimulus-related bill that temporarily eliminated fees and broadened guarantees to cover 90 percent of loan value, instead of the usual 75 percent. That measure, called the Small Business Jobs Act, expired at the end of 2010 or the end of the first quarter in the federal fiscal year. The SBA backed $12 billion in loans in that single quarter, about 30 percent of the year’s total. That quarterly amount was more than four times the dollar volume of the same quarter in 2009.

Locally, about one-third of loans were issued in that October to December time period. Russ Hooker, lender relations specialist in the Portland office, said loan volumes were very lean in the January-to-March quarter but have been climbing since then. Some 84 lenders and third-party loan brokers participate in the Portland area loan programs, Hooker said.

Nationally, this year’s $30 billion in SBA-backed loans surpassed the previous record of $28.5 billion established in 2007, the agency reported. About two-thirds of this year’s loan money went into some 53,000 loans offered under the SBA’s 7(a) general business loan program. Another 8,000 small business loans, with $10 billion in value, were approved under SBA’s 504 program. In that program, borrowers obtain 50 percent financing from a private lender, 40 percent from an SBA-certified lender, and cover 10 percent of costs themselves.

The 2011 total included approximately $5.8 billion in loans to more than 16,000 startup small businesses, the most since 2008, the SBA said.

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