The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Iowa District Office reports it approved loans to more than 450 small businesses in the past fiscal year, supporting $195-million in total lending.

SBA spokesman Dave Lentell says that’s down from the previous fiscal year, which saw more than 480 loans exceeding $261-million. The drop isn’t a big concern, he says, to the contrary.

“Our loan program is there to help banks make loans that they might not otherwise make,” Lentell says. “When we look around at what’s going on in Iowa right now, we feel pretty good about the economy. Unemployment is very low so a lot of people are feeling pretty good about the jobs they have right now.”

When the economy is ailing, that’s when people more often look to start their own businesses, so the decline in loan numbers and amounts can be interpreted as a positive.

The agency says the loans approved in the fiscal year that ended September 30th created nearly 2,000 jobs in Iowa and retained another 2,100 jobs.

“When a new big business comes in and the jobs that they’re creating are announced, everybody gets pretty excited about that, but we feel sometimes those pale in comparison to the impact that small businesses have,” Lentell says. “Over 98% of all businesses in the state of Iowa are small and it’s truly the engine that drives our economy.”

Overall, the SBA made loans to 455 small businesses in Iowa during the past year.

“Two-hundred-forty-four of those loans went to existing businesses, 211 went to new businesses,” Lentell says. “It runs the gamut. We’re helping day care centers, dog grooming, veterinary, restaurants, bars, breweries, farm implements, you name it. If it’s a small business, we’re able to help out with that.”

In a release from the SBA, Iowa District Office director Jayne Armstrong says: “Access to capital is one of the biggest challenges facing small business. SBA’s partnership with the Iowa lending community is critical to helping entrepreneurs start, build and grow their businesses and we’ll continue to work to break down the barriers to capital opportunities for Iowa small businesses.”