By Karen Mills, SBA Administrator
As Administrator of the SBA, I have the opportunity to travel around the country meeting with small business owners and entrepreneurs. As you talk to these men and women, and walk the shop floor of their facilities, you understand exactly why America’s small businesses are the economic engine of our economy and the backbone of our communities.
Our goal at the SBA, and across the Administration, is making sure that more of these businesses have the tools they need to start, build and grow their operations. Over the last three years, SBA stepped up in a difficult commercial lending environment to support more than $93 billion in lending to over 170,000 small businesses. And we had a record year in 2011, supporting more than $30 billion in lending to over 60,000 small businesses.
Today, commercial lending markets are improving and the economy is growing stronger. However, we know gaps and challenges remain. Small-dollar loans in underserved communities are still not back to the levels we need them to be.
To address this, we’ve focused on what we call a More Doors, More Dollars approach. This allows us to open up product lines to qualified community development financial institutions and we are streamlining and simplifying existing loan processes to increase small loan volume.
For example, we created a simpler application process for our Small Loan Advantage program, the flagship 7(a) product for loans under $350,000, which we are calling SLA 2.0. We’ve eliminated more than 100 pages of paperwork that lenders and borrowers previously had to review and fill out. These changes have resulted in a more than 140 percent increase in SLA loans and an over 200 percent increase in the number of lenders using the program. We also are in the process of streamlining and enhancing our Community Advantage program to better serve both lenders and borrowers.
In addition, in June, we simplified our disaster loan application. We streamlined the electronic loan application from 80 screen shots to just 20 screen shots. The screen shots consist of a simplified 3 to 4 page application, plus program background, privacy information and two-factor authentication. This streamlining has reduced the electronic loan application paperwork by 70% and the turn-around time for disaster loans to an average of 10 days.
And we reengineered our CAPLines Program, a product designed to help small businesses meet their short-term and cyclical working-capital needs. To strengthen the program, we talked to lenders and small business owners about how to make CAPLines more efficient and effective. As a result, we streamlined the paperwork, allowed banks to use more of their own processes, and we are now seeing volumes up more than 300 percent.
For high growth businesses looking for long-term patient capital, we’ve reduced the processing times to license new Small Business Investment Company funds to just 5.5 months from about 15 months in 2009. Today, SBIC funds that are eligible for SBA’s new fast track process often get licensed in as little as 2 months. This streamlining helped fuel a record year in 2011, with our SBIC funds getting out more than $2.6 billion in patient capital to high growth businesses.
All of these efforts to streamline and simplify our programs are focused on increasing access and opportunity for America’s small businesses and entrepreneurs. And the goal is to build a more inclusive and resilient economy, one that expands the entrepreneurial playing field to more regions, more players and more industries. Because we know that’s how you create good middle class jobs and an economy built to last.