Despite the ailing national economy, a federal official says the past year has been stellar for start-ups and expanding small businesses in Iowa. Joe Folsom, district director for the U-S Small Business Administration, says the agency’s fiscal year ended September 30th and wrapped up as one of the best ever.

“We did have an exceptional year this year,” Folsom says. “In fact, from our perspective, we believe it’s a record both in loan numbers and in dollar amounts.” The SBA reports it made 944 loans to Iowa businesses during the year, up from 852 the previous year. Folsom says the loan amounts totaled more than $261-million for the year, up from $210-million a year ago.

“We give a lot of credit to our lending partners who’ve been out there working with the small businesses in their communities, providing them needed credit,” Folsom says. “That’s what we’re seeing in these numbers where they’ve really stepped up to the plate and used the full array of SBA’s lending tools to serve their customers.” He says one particular lending program saw a very healthy boost during the year for long-term investments in land, buildings, equipment and real estate.

“Those loan numbers were up significantly over 2008 and 2009 and the size of those projects were up significantly,” Folsom says. “We went from $34-million in that program to 55 (-million) and that’s investment capital that’s going in. To me, that bodes well when you’re seeing that kind of a trend in investment capital and small businesses.” Small businesses are the backbone of the state and nation, he notes, as better than nine of every ten businesses in Iowa are classified as small businesses. The SBA has offices in Cedar Rapids and Des Moines.