SBA-backed lending volume hits new heights

Spurred in part by a first-quarter surge in activity, financing under loan programs backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration rose to a record level for the 2011 fiscal year.

The federal agency reported backing 61,689 loans worth a combined $30.5 billion through its two largest programs during FY 2011, which ended Sept. 30.

The dollar volume of loans was the most ever for the SBA during a single fiscal year, surpassing the $28.5 billion mark established in FY 2007.

Statistics for SBA financing activity in Colorado and Mesa County weren’t available as of the Oct. 11 press time for the Business Times.

During the first quarter of FY 2011, loan volume for SBA-backed programs nationally topped $12 billion, the most ever for a quarter and double the volume of any quarter over the past four years.

SBA Administrator Karen Mills attributed the increase in part to provisions of federal legislation that allowed the SBA to raise its guarantee level to 90 percent on loans issued through its 7(a) program; waive fees for the 7 (a) and 504 loan programs and permanently increase the maximum loan sizes to $5 million for the 7 (a) program and $5.5 million for the 504 program.

“SBA-backed lending continued the upward trend we saw last year,” Mills said. “Due to the Small Business Jobs Act and a return to pre-recession lending levels, over 61,000 businesses had access to capital.”

Although the SBA does not make direct loans, the agency’s guarantee authority enables commercial lenders to extend loans to small businesses they wouldn’t offer under traditional terms. The SBA backs most of its loans through its 7 (a) general lending program and 504 program to finance real estate and equipment purchases.

The SBA guaranteed 53,706 loans worth a total of $19.63 billion through the 7 (a) program. That compares to 52,938 loans worth $12.46 billion issued in FY 2010.

The SBA guaranteed another 7,983 loans worth a total of $10.34 billion through the 504 program. That compares to 7,833 loans worth a collective $9.97 billion issued in FY 2010.

The total for FY 2011 included about $5.8 billion in loans to more than 16,000 startup ventures, the most since FY 2008.