SBA-LogoThe Iowa office of the U.S. Small Business Administration reports a slight increase in the number of loans to new and expanding businesses in the state compared to last year, though there was a drop in the overall dollar amount.

Jayne Armstrong took over as director of the state SBA office’s operations earlier this year and says she’s making a few course corrections.

“We’re changing some of the ways we do business, particularly our marketing and outreach,” Armstrong says. “We’re trying to be much more visible within the community and to market ourselves more to the small business community in addition to the banking community.”

The SBA’s fiscal year ended at the end of September and during the year, loans were made to 444 Iowa businesses. That’s up from 440 loans the previous year. The total value of this year’s loans to Iowa businesses was nearly $135 million, down from almost $150 million a year ago.

“Our overall lending, the dollar volume dropped this past fiscal year,” Armstrong says. “You’re going to have fluctuations of some years bigger loans and smaller loans other years. You have no control over that. It’s really what the small business community, what the demand is.” The dollar amounts aren’t a big concern, she says, but the number of loans is more significant. Other important figures are that this year’s SBA loans created more than 1,500 jobs in Iowa and retained another 3,000. Loans were made in 65 of Iowa’s 99 counties.

By far, the most loans were made during the year in Polk County, the home of Des Moines and the state’s most populous metro area. Polk County had 106 loans, followed by Linn County with 56 loans, Black Hawk County with 29 and Scott County with 25. “We feel there’s some untapped potential for SBA in the Sioux City, Davenport and Dubuque markets in particular,” Armstrong says. “You’re going to have a much stronger presence in those areas as we move forward.”

During the fiscal year, loans to minority- and women-owned businesses in Iowa rose compared to the previous year, while the number of loans to veterans fell slightly. Access to capital is one of the biggest challenges facing small business, according to Armstrong. She adds, more than 95-percent of Iowa’s businesses are small businesses.