If the first quarter of 2016 is any indication of the year ahead, then it looks like it’s going to be a banner year for small businesses. Lending through the Small Business Administration is up 72 percent during first quarter 2016 compared to first quarter 2015.

Shannon Degiglio

“The uptick in the economy has lead to 23 more SBA 7A-backed loans already this year in the Lehigh Valley,” said Shannon Degiglio, Lender Relations and Economic Development Specialist for the Eastern PA District Office. “And that increase is also due in large part to several new programs that the SBA has rolled out in the past six months that are helping borrowers access the funds they need to start, grow and expand their business.”

SBAOne – anyone who has applied for an SBA loan knows that the process wasn’t perfect. “Technology has been a struggle for us. Old computers and an old system made it hard for borrowers to communicate with lenders,” said Degiglio. “There was lots of paperwork and lots of steps that slowed things down.”

A new centralized system called SBAOne that was rolled out last fall puts everything lenders need in one platform. The online application streamlines the process, leaving less room for errors and thereby fewer mistakes.

“Lenders love it!” Degiglio continued. “The feedback we’re receiving is that they find it easier to use, and we’re seeing more loan applications as a result. SBAOne allows lenders to verify all the pieces of an application online and in real time. Plus if a lender encounters a problem with an application, SBA representatives can go into it online to assist.”

SBA LINC – this new online referral tool allows small business borrowers to connect directly with SBA-approved lenders.

“A borrower fills out a short online questionnaire with a summary of the terms of financing, loan type, and amount which is then sent out to all lenders in the immediate area,” explained Degiglio. “If a lender is interested in the referral, the borrower’s contact information is then provided. It’s more efficient and takes a lot of guesswork out of the process.”

SBA Business Smart Toolkit – Similar to the existing “Start Your Business” classes, this three-module course for small business owners and entrepreneurs delves deeper into important topics such as how to write a business plan, financing options, preparing a loan application, and resources available in the community.

The three 60-90 minute modules focus on:
1. Ready – Basics of Business startup
2. Set – Essentials of becoming credit-ready
3. Go – How and where to find additional small business support and educational resources.

Two courses have already been scheduled in the Lehigh Valley:
• Tuesday, April 19 from 9 am – noon at the Lehighton Area Chamber of Commerce office
• Wednesday, April 20 from 9 am – noon at the Nazareth Center for the Arts