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The Utah economy fared better than in other parts of the country in the federal government's fiscal year ending Sept. 30, according to the Small Business Administration's Utah office.

This means good growth and development in the small-business community, saidStan Nakano, director of the agency's Utah office, who talked about his office's activities over the past 12 months.

He said SBA guaranteed 331 loans worth $60.7 million in the 12-month period, an average of $183,000, to further the agency's mission of aiding small business. Nakano said the loans made by banks and guaranteed by SBA, went for a variety of businesses.

The agency also made $20.9 million in 504 loans, named after Section 504 of the Small Business Act. The Weber Economic Development Corp. and the Deseret Certified Development Corp. are the two agencies licensed in Utah to make 504 loans.

When turned down for conventional financing, those asking for 504 loans put up 10 percent of the money needed for their business, banks put up 50 percent and SBA sells debentures to raise the remaining 40 percent. Under this plan, the company must create one job for every $35,000 the SBA provides, Nakano said.

During the fiscal year, Nakano's office approved 293 applications in a surety bonding program that allows them to obtain bonds so they can bid on contracts. In this program, Nakano said SBA focuses on a company's management and ability to repay and puts collateral second.

Nakano said Utah ranks seventh in the country on the amount of SBA loan volume in relation to the number of businesses. Even with the high loan volume, the default rate is 7 percent, and that is reduced to 3.4 percent when a defaulted company's assets are sold.

The SBA also has an active minority small-business section that uses a nine-year program in which the first four years are spent developing minority-owned companies and the last five years are the transition stage. He said participants must be socially and economically disadvantaged.

Nakano said the SBA acts as a subcontractor and invites minority-owned companies to bid on contracts. The companies try to develop themselves in the workplace and expand into the private sector. In the last fiscal year, SBA provided $26 million under the program.

In addition to money, Nakano said SBA is heavily involved in business education, trying to help existing businesses and providing help to people wanting to get in business. In the past fiscal year, SBA held one-on-one counseling sessions for 1,896 people through the Service Corps of Retired Executives and participated in seminars with the Small Business Development Center, the Small Business Institute and others attended by 4,000 people.

During the fiscal year, SBA got a new administrator, Patricia Saiki, former congresswoman from Hawaii, who is deeply committed to the agency. She has improved morale within SBA and also improved the way outsiders look at SBA, Nakano said.