Government may be historically slow to adapt, but adapt we must. We’ve rebranded the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to stand for “Smart, Bold and Accessible.” The private sector implemented smart systems years ago. Now it’s our turn to catch up; America’s 28 million small businesses and many more potential entrepreneurs are counting on us.
We are working smarter and 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 connecting lenders with small businesses and entrepreneurs. We’ve established a predictive credit scoring method for our underwriters. And soon we’ll fully automate our loan application process under a program called SBA One.
America’s bankers have responded very positively to what we’re doing. Hundreds of new lenders have started issuing SBA-backed loans. SBA lending is up to the underserved: 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.
The “B” in SBA stands for “bold.” That means we’re redoubling our efforts to fill gaps in the capital markets. We’ve called on Congress to raise the SBIC family funds limit and we’ll continue to go to Capitol Hill and make the case that the leverage available to licensees under common control should be $350 million – not $225 million currently. That’s what being bold is about: pushing back on laws and limits that are outdated and impede progress. Additionally, we’re helping small businesses reach global markets through SBA’s suite of export services. In FY 2014, SBA guaranteed loans to exporters for a total loan value of $1.34 billion, an increase of 12.6% year-over-year.
Finally, 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 toward 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.
We’ve tripled the number of Impact SBICs. They’re putting a magnifying glass on the 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 nearly a 500 percent jump.
As I travel across Region 10, I witness that America’s small businesses are eager to take the next big step. Let the SBA help you achieve your goals. Visit our website at sba.gov to see what resources are available to you. Together, we’ll help you embrace smart, bold and accessible ways of doing business.