Small Business Administration lending in New Jersey rose 5 percent last year, to $637 million from $605 million, while the number of loans declined to 1,162 loans from 1,172 loans.
The average SBA loan, which is made by banks and other lenders and partially guaranteed by the federal government, was $548,000 in fiscal year 2013, which ended Sept. 30, up from $516,000 the prior year.
Al Titone, SBA district director for New Jersey, pointed out that the agency's largest program, 7(a), rose 18 percent to $542.2 million. He said the overall decline in the number of loans reflects changes in the SBA's 504 program, which finances large real estate and equipment investment. In 2013, businesses could no longer use the 504 program to refinance existing loans, which was allowed in fiscal year 2012.
Titone said he was encouraged by the growth in the 7(a) program last year.
"I was surprised because, with Sandy, I thought we would be down, but that has not happened, and we have seen an increased interest in borrowing," he said.
And while the uncertain economy makes some businesses hesitant to borrow and invest, "they can only wait so long," Titone said. "If they want to grow, they have to spend to continue growing."
According to the agency, approvals to women-owned businesses and Hispanic-owned businesses showed significant gains in 2013. There were 226 loan approvals for $91.3 million to women-owned business in 2013, up from 170 loans for $74.4 million in fiscal year 2012.
Hispanic-owned businesses received 87 loans for $19.6 million during fiscal year 2013, up from 66 loans and $23.2 million in 2012.
According to the SBA, lending increased in eight of New Jersey's 21 counties, while 11 counties saw a decrease and two remained flat.
Chase made the largest number of New Jersey SBA loans last year, with 123 loans totaling $16 million, followed by TD Bank, which had 107 loans for $24.7 million.