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Entrepreneurs found an extra $1.5 billion worth of SBA financing in 2000 . . . and experts say that's a bad thing?

By C.J. Prince

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Ok, so the gradual increase in SBA lending might not show thekind of stellar growth the financial community has come to know anddemand. Given the current market, however, it should be comfortingjust to know Uncle Sam is still around. The numbers for 2000 showan upward trend, with total SBA-backed financing, including loansand venture capital, reaching $17.96 billion in the fiscal year.That's an increase of more than $1.5 billion over 1999. Of thatfigure, SBA-approved loans accounted for $12.37 billion.

Those are respectable numbers, considering how much money wasavailable to small businesses from other sources in 2000. But eventhe SBA's Mike Stamler characterizes the growth as"small," particularly when compared with the jumpswitnessed in the early '90s, when there were fewer commercialinstitutions making loans to small businesses. Today, commercialbanks are adjusting their loan standards to increase small-businesslending, and entrepreneurs are enjoying more borrowing options andtend to go to the SBA only when they can't qualify for anonguaranteed conventional loan, says Stamler. He calls the SBA thelender of next, if not last, resort.

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