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Utah small businesses set loan record in '04

Utah small businesses received a record-setting number of government-backed loans in 2004, the U.S. Small Business Administration said Friday.

The administration's Utah district office reported that it approved the guaranty of 1,820 loans during fiscal year 2004, a 55 percent increase over fiscal year 2003. The loans totaled $198.3 million.

"I don't ever recall a time where we've experienced this kind of demand for SBA loans," said Stan Nakano, SBA district director for Utah. "This has been an incredible year, and I think it does send out the message that people are optimistic about the economy in Utah."

The Utah SBA office ranked first in the nation (as a percent of goal) in 7(a) loans, its most popular loan product, the SBA reported.

In addition, the administration said loan approvals to minority-owned businesses increased 34 percent over fiscal 2003 and approvals to women-owned businesses increased 51 percent.

Veteran-owned businesses received 20 percent more loans than last year.

Participants in its 8(a) Business Development Procurement Program, which provides assistance to socially and economically disadvantaged businesses, received $94 million in contracts in fiscal 2004. And the SBA reported that it and its community partners — the Small Business Development Centers, the Service Corps of Retired Executives, the Women's Business Center at the Salt Lake Chamber and the Business Information Center — counseled and trained 25,097 clients during the last year.

"We think (Friday's announcements) mean that the economy is getting better," Nakano said. "We think that a lot of business owners and start-ups are saying that this is a good time to expand their business. It's a significant increase."