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SBA Administrator, Del. senators spotlight small-biz start-up financing

Delaware Public Media/Karl Malgiero
US SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet is flanked by Sens. Tom Carper (l) and Chris Coons outside Wilmington's La Fia Bistro on Market St.

Looking to raise awareness of financing options available to women looking to start a small business – Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons were joined by Small Business Administration chief Maria Contreras-Sweet on Wilmington’s Market Street to check in on businesses there that received start-up help from the SBA

Loan guaranty programs from the SBA reduce the risk to lenders who make credit available for viable small businesses whose owners do not otherwise qualify for the financing.

The group pointed to those low-cost loans and other funding solutions that are available to assist women looking to start a businesses in the city’s downtown area.

Conteras-Sweet says those options can help create the ecosystem small businesses need to grow and create jobs.

“Some people have a rich uncle, and in SBA you have Uncle Sam that stands in for you as a guarantor, to make sure you have the counseling, the capital and contracting opportunities that small businesses so desperately need.”

Coons says a stronger commitment is needed to connect banks with potentially successful small business owners in need of capital.

“To be more engaged and more effective at taking advantage of the financial services community here in Delaware and urging them to get more involved in lending to the small, the start-up, the entrepreneur and the women-owned businesses that are possible for us to grow here in our community.”

Traditionally, female entrepreneurs have struggled to obtain financing – and since bank capital available for loans must be spent – officials hope the SBA can direct some of that funding to under-served sectors of the community.

Delaware District Director for the SBA John Fleming says the revitalized economy is spurring more lending lately, but the key is educating the community on the specifics of available funding.

"Lenders are more willing to lend now and even during the tough times, they can't sit on capital. They have to lend. it's inventory to them, so they have to get it out. And hopefully our programs and others will help them to accomplish that."

Sen. Carper noted that more SBA loans have been given out in the first 8 months of the fiscal year than in the twelve months that preceded them, adding that the government's role in buying down the lending risk creates more opportunity for more people.

"We help create a nurturing environment for job creation and job preservation. One of the key ingredients in that is access to capital: the ability to raise money to start a business."

Following the tour, the group met with area bankers to get their input on how to further strengthen small business lending.

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