Small businesses in New Jersey are having more success getting loans backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration, according to new data released by the agency's New Jersey district office.
Loan approvals for the first five months of the year shot up 41 percent in 2012 versus 2011, according to the SBA. A total of 499 SBA loans were granted through May 31, up from 354 by that time last year. The total dollar amount of those SBA-backed loans is up 32 percent, to $224.8 million.
Alfred Titone, director of the New Jersey office, said the numbers were a pleasant surprise.
"We're kind of bucking the national trend a bit, to be honest with you," he said.
Titone said he believes the data show both lenders and borrowers are becoming more confident in the economic recovery.
He said banks also appear to be following through on their pledges to help out small businesses.
"Of course they've been telling us for a long time they're really trying to lend to small businesses, but I've actually had a number of folks coming in saying they want to have a sit-down (meeting), and saying they have a commitment to do it," he said.
Titone believes much of the rise in lending can be attributed to the SBA's temporary 504 loan refinancing program, which lets small businesses refinance certain fixed assets without requiring them to expand. That loan program expires in late September.
JP Morgan Chase Bank was the top SBA lender during that period, approving 68 loans worth $7.8 million. TD Bank also issued $7.8 million worth of loans, though that cash was spread out over only 56 loans. Bergen County had the highest number of loans (89), totaling more than $32 million. Fourteen of the state's 21 counties saw increases.
However, Titone said there's still room for improvement. The agency recently hired a marketing and lending relations staffer to focus on South Jersey. Titone said that position has been vacant since the previous job-holder retired, before Titone took over as state director last year.