Small businesses benefit as lending loosens

Scott Nishimura

Small Business Administration loans rocketed up 50 percent in fiscal 2013 in Tarrant County, and 32 percent across the 72-county Northeast Texas region that includes Fort Worth, the SBA’s district director said.

Fueling the increase, according to director Herbert Austin: the economic recovery, banks’ “relaxed” posture toward small business lending, and more aggressive marketing by the SBA .

“The climate is better, the banks are more relaxed, a lot of new banks are coming into the program,” Austin said. “It has been a good year.”

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In Tarrant County, loans rose to $174 million for the year that ended in September, up from $116.2 million in 2012, Austin said.

In the 72-county region, SBA loans rose to $813.2 million from $617 million in 2012, Austin said.

The 2012 numbers marked a steep drop from 2011, when permanent and temporary measures triggered by the recession led to $891 million in SBA loans in the 72-county region.

Growth has been strongest in hospitality, Austin said, including loans to businesses such as gas station, hotels and small motels, and retailers.

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Health care is the second best segment, with increased lending to doctors, dentists and other providers, Austin said.

Manufacturing has also seen loan growth, he said.

The SBA is trying to make it easier for borrowers, Austin said. As of Oct. 1, the SBA has eliminated the fees customers and banks must pay on loans of $150,000 or less.

Fees that veterans paid on loans of up to $350,000 were eliminated Jan. 1.