The Small Business Administration (SBA)

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How The Small Business Administration Helps Entrepreneurs

In the United States, one of the most popular and widely used organizations for entrepreneurs is the Small Business Administration. This administration exists for the sole purpose of helping people start their own small business by offering resources and financial assistance to entrepreneurs.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) has the mission to maintain and strengthen the nation’s economy by enabling the establishment and viability of small businesses and by assisting in the economic recovery of communities after disasters. While the SBA does not make loans directly to small businesses, they do help to educate and prepare an entrepreneur to apply for a loan through a financial institution. In addition, they will also serve as the guarantor for the loan with the bank. The administration will also help get government contracts for small businesses following natural disasters.

Since its creation, the SBA has directly or indirectly helped over 20 million businesses get off the ground, and in 2008 alone they had a loan portfolio of 219,000 loans, worth more than $84 billion, making them the largest single financial backer of business in the entire country.

The SBA was created in 1953 through the passing of the Small Business Act by congress. It was created to aid, counsel, assist and protect small business concerns. It was also stipulated that the SBA would provide fair proportion of government contracts and sales of surplus property to small businesses. Sadly, while the Small Business Administration has proven to be essential for millions of businesses, it has been nearly dismantled several times in its existence. In 1996, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives planned to end the agency but it survived and had a record budget in 2000. Four years later, the Bush Administration tried to end the loan program of the BA but was not able to, so the budget was cut and certain expenditures were frozen.

The SBA has several programs in place, with the most visible programs being the loan programs. Many believe that SBA loan programs are for those with bad credit who cannot get bank loans and need the SBA to effectively co-sign, but this is not the case. The primary uses of the loan programs are to make loans easier to pay, with less interest. Typically, the most common use of the SBA loan is for commercial mortgages on buildings that small businesses would like to build, or to move into.

The loan programs that the SBA helps to finance include:

  1. Loan Guarantee Program: The 7(a) Loan Guarantee Program is designed to help a small business owner start and expand their business. It does this by making money available to the small business through the bank, or non-bank lending institutions. This is the most popular loan program administered through the Small Business Administration.
  2. 504-Fixed Asset Financing Program: This program provides funding for the purchase and construction of real estate, or the purchase of machinery for a business. With this program, the lender will provide half the financing, while a Certified Development Company will provide 40 per cent of the financing through a SBA-guaranteed debenture. The last 10 per cent of the financing is provided by the applicant and due to the high amount of capital that is needed, this type of loan is much harder to get and aggressive vetting of any property purchased is done.
  3. MicroLoan Program: This is a loan program that is provided through non-profit, microloan intermediaries to small businesses who have less than perfect credit. These loans are only up to $35,000 and can have a term length of no longer than eight years in total.
  4. Economic Development Program: This program offers free counseling and low-cost financial training to small businesses.
  5. 8(a) Businesses Development Program: This program offers assistance to the development of a small business that is owned/operated by someone who is classified as socially and economically disadvantaged. This typically means women and minorities.
  6. Disaster Loan Program: Homeowners can receive long-term and low-interest loans to rebuild or repair a damaged property to pre-disaster conditions. The SBA will determine the cost of repairing or rebuilding the property structure, the ability of the applicant to repay the loan and whether or not the applicant can get credit elsewhere.

The SBA loan industry can be split up into three categories, which are:

  1. The largest banks in the United States, which is typically the Bank of America and Wells Fargo, generate most of the SBA loans. These banks use computer systems that make the process much quicker to allow people to get loans through the SBA that they would not have been able to receive elsewhere.
  2. SBA loans are used quite often by banks of all sizes to finance the purchase or construction of business owner-occupied real estate. Banks will offer loans through the SBA only for this purpose and only for properties and business owners that the bank would have found too risky to give money to on credit without the backing of the Small Business Administration. These often include gas stations, car washes and motels.
  3. SBA loans are used to allow a person to buy a business. Commercial lenders will get a referral fee to business brokers who help someone buy or sell a business and for this reason, the funds for this typically come from smaller banks and finance companies that operate for this purpose specifically.

The Small Business Administration exists to help people start or continue to operate their business. In tough economic climates, the SBA can be one of the most beneficial and highly sought after organizations in the country for entrepreneurs. Anyone in the United States who is thinking about starting a business should seriously look to the Small Business Administration for assistance.

First Published: Oct 16, 2010