Maria Contreras-Sweet, the recently appointed new head of the Small Business Administration, doesn’t waste much time getting stuff done. After roughly a month in her new post, she’s taken President Obama’s challenge to take the SBA to the next level seriously—and is taking Congressional leaders along with her kicking and screaming. They don’t like the idea of Contreras-Sweet creating new programs they didn’t authorize.
Fortunately for small business owners, she’s not convinced the SBA can afford to do the same things they’ve always done.
Since the SBA removed fees on small business loans of $150,000 or less last fall, those loans are up by 15 percent—but she’s not satisfied. “Thinking about entrepreneurship has to evolve a little bit. We can’t be a stagnant department,” she says.
I couldn’t agree more and am happy to see an aggressive push by the SBA to help the smallest small businesses. She wants to see SBA lenders make more small dollar loans. This is a move that will positively impact Main Street and minority business owners—business owners who are typically looking for loans of $40,000 or $50,000 instead of the whopping $380,000 average loan size for SBA loans last year. “I want to work toward a day when SBA lending is in the DNA of every business bank in America, she told SBA lenders in Florida not long ago. “I want to make it simpler and cheaper to work with us. I want to create a climate in which no loan application is turned down until it is first screened by your risk managers and loan officers as a possible 7(a) candidate.”
Roughly 59 percent of the small business borrowers that visit Lendio are looking for loans of $50,000 or less. This push by Contreras-Sweet will definitely fill a need in the small business loan market and has the potential to put participating community banks back in the thick of small business lending on Main Street. Of course, successfully doing that would require traditional financial institutions to look at small business lending with a different paradigm.
I can’t wait to see what Contreras-Sweet does with the SBA over the next couple of years.