SBA also stands for smart, bold and accessible

Government might be historically slow to adapt, but adapt we must. So, we’ve rebranded the U.S. Small Business Administration to stand for smart, bold and accessible.

By smart, we’re harnessing the power of technology to bring the SBA fully into the 21st century. On the debt financing side, we’ve implemented LINC, an online SBA platform that connects lenders with small businesses and entrepreneurs. We’ve established a predictive credit scoring for our underwriters, and we’ll soon fully automate our loan applications under SBA One. The private sector implemented smart systems years ago. Now, it’s our turn to catch up and look forward for America’s 28 million small businesses and potential entrepreneurs.

America’s bankers have responded positively to what we’re doing. Hundreds of new lenders have started issuing SBA-backed loans. As SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet approaches the end of her first year on the job, SBA lending is up to underserved borrowers across the board. Our lending is up 36 percent to African Americans, 20 percent to Hispanic Americans, 12 percent to Native Americans, 9 percent to Asian Americans and 23 percent up to women entrepreneurs.

Now the B in SBA stands for bold. That means we’re redoubling our efforts to fill gaps in capital markets. We’ve called on Congress to raise the SBIC family funds limit, and we’ll continue to make the case the leverage available to licensees under common control should be $350 million — not $225 million. That’s what being bold is all about: pushing back on laws and limits that are outdated and stand in the way of progress. Additionally, we’re helping small businesses reach global markets through a suite of export services. In fiscal year 2014, SBA guaranteed loans to exporters for a total value of $1.34 billion, an increase of 12.6 percent year over year.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the A in SBA stands for accessible. We’re actively seeking diverse fund managers committed to making investments where capital gaps are widest. One of the ways we’re working towards this is through our Impact Investment Fund. Impact SBICs deliver financial and social returns, such as improving the health of our planet and its people.

Under the leadership of Contreras-Sweet, we’ve tripled our number of Impact SBICs. They’re focusing on areas where gaps in capital formation are widest. Last year, our SBIC investments in women-owned businesses went from $38 million to $173 million. That’s a nearly 500 percent jump. But it still amounts to a little more than 3 percent of our total dollars invested.

As I travel across the Rocky Mountain West, the hunger among America’s small business owners to take the next big step is limitless. Too often, they’re cold-calling and door-knocking their way to a lucky break. It shouldn’t be this way. Together, we’ll help you embrace smart, bold and accessible ways of doing business for the betterment of your community and our nation.