Small Business Administration loan volume in New Jersey rose 23 percent in the fiscal first quarter ended Dec. 31, to $151 million from $122.7 million, while the number of loans declined 2 percent, to 249 from 254.
Al Titone, SBA New Jersey district director, said the quarter extended the growth trend from the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2012, which at $605 million was the third-highest year on record for SBA lending to New Jersey businesses.
More than 90 banks and other lenders make SBA loans to New Jersey businesses, with repayment partially guaranteed by the federal government.
Titone said the first quarter "saw a continued trend of investing –businesses buying (facilities) instead of renting, and updating their equipment." Economic uncertainty had been keeping some business investment on the sidelines, "but it was just a matter of how long can you wait before you do something to stay competitive, and I think that is what we are seeing," Titone said.
In 2010 the maximum SBA loan was raised from $2 million to $5 million, which Titone said was especially helpful in relatively high-cost states like New Jersey. "It makes the SBA loan more accessible," Titone said. "Going up to $5 million enables businesses looking for manufacturing or storage (space) to get a decent-sized building and property."
Titone said he was pleasantly surprised by the numbers. Given that the quarter included superstorm Sandy, "I really thought the (number of) loans would be down more than 2 percent."
Titone said he focuses on the number of loans because "that means more money is getting into more people's hands. The higher the number of loans, the more people getting money to help grow their business."