By Marianne Markowitz
Throughout my travels in Indiana and the Midwest, I see the challenges that small businesses face — finding ways and resources to meet the day-to-day operations.
I can assure you that many of these challenges are being met thanks to the small business provisions in the Jobs Act, which was signed by President Barack Obama into law last September. These provisions will help small businesses succeed in today's current marketplace and create jobs.
But first, it is important to remember that after the Recovery Act passed in February of 2009, the SBA was able to help about 70,000 small businesses get our Recovery loans by reducing the loan fees and increasing the government-backed guarantee to 90 percent.
It was a good investment. We turned $680 million in taxpayer dollars into more than $30 billion in lending support. Also, while many lenders were pulling back from small business lending, more than 1,300 banks and credit unions came back to SBA to make loans. This provided more points of access to capital in their communities at a critical time. Borrowers report saving/creating hundreds of thousands of jobs.
The Small Business Jobs Act builds on our success. First, there are about $12 billion in tax cuts. These are targeted to small business owners so that they can focus more on investing in their business and creating jobs.
We are pleased to note that several of our clients in Indiana are already benefiting from the Jobs Act. Companies like Midwest Rentals Inc. of Lafayette took advantage of SBA's 504 program to expand and relocate storage space for its retail party supply company. The financing also helped the company add more employees.
The Jobs Act has a number of other provisions aimed at expanding access to capital. Some are permanent and some are temporary, including several the president has called for.
First, we have already permanently increased the maximum loan sizes in our top two programs from $2 million to $5 million. We know this will help folks who need more capital to quickly create jobs, including manufacturers, exporters, contractors, franchisees, and others.
Second, we permanently increased the maximum size of our microloans from $35,000 to $50,000. This is important because our data shows that microloans often benefit entrepreneurs who need startup capital and business owners in underserved communities who often find it harder to get loans.
These two changes are currently in place. In addition, there are two important temporary changes that will help small business owners.
First, we increased the maximum amount of our SBA Express loans from $350,000 to $1 million. Express loans use a streamlined application process. They usually take just a few days to turn around. With this higher cap, we will be able to put even more working capital in the hands of small business owners very quickly. That will help them take that next order, buy inventory, and, in many cases, hire new workers.
Second, we'll allow some small businesses to refinance their owner-occupied commercial real estate mortgages into our 504 program. Many of their mortgages will mature in the next few years, and face balloon payments as a result. With real estate values having taken a hit, many of these business owners will have trouble getting a bank to refinance them.
Allowing small businesses to refinance into 504 will provide the business owner with more stable financing. And, for the lenders who hold those mortgages, it will free up capital to make more small business loans.
We expect to roll out 504 refinancing after we've implemented the larger loan sizes I mentioned earlier. We know that many small business owners looking to refinance will need those bigger loans. After we complete the regulations and program guidance for this brand new program in a few months, we know it will be an important tool for thousands of small business owners across the country.
We look forward to putting these tools in the hands of the Midwest's small businesses in the weeks, months and years ahead.
Marianne Markowitz is SBA Region V Administrator. Region V serves Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin.