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RISMEDIA, April 21, 2009-Many states within the country, including Arizona and Florida have released figures showing continued decline in SBA backed lending to the state’s small businesses, despite recent government stimulus to bolster SBA backed loans. Lenders blame the government strings attached to the program, while small businesses blame stingy lenders. No matter who’s to blame, there are ways to improve the chances of your business getting an SBA backed loan.

As the Phoenix Business Journal reports, for the fiscal quarter that ended March 31, 2009, SBA backed loans were down 67% in number and 65% in amount from the previous year. The Orlando Sentinel reported on recent attempts to open dialogue between small businesses and lenders in Northern Florida, where the rate of lending has plummeted.

Lenders blame the conditions attached by the federal government (such as capped interest rates) while would-be borrowers accuse lenders with money of cherry-picking only the most risk-free applicants.

So, what are the criteria for getting an SBA backed loan? According to the SBA, the primary consideration in obtaining an SBA backed loan is repayment ability with future cash flow from the business. Other important factors include management capability, good character, collateral and owner investment in the business.

With these factors in mind, here are 5 tips to keep in mind when applying for an SBA backed loan:

1. Choose your lender carefully. SBA backed loans are made by private lenders. Banks have differing levels of experience with, and automation to quicken SBA loan processing. The SBA has a “Preferred” Lender Program, based on lenders’ histories in processing SBA backed loans. Using one can speed up your application.

2. Have a strong business plan ready. Have past financial statements and projections of future sales ready. You’ll need to credibly demonstrate how the business will be able to pay back the loan.

3. Know exactly how much you are asking for and when you would be repaying. This will help demonstrate a solid grasp on what you’ll do with the loan and an understanding of exactly how you’ll pay it back.

4. Highlight your experience in this particular business, and the industry in general. You want to communicate that the business has management capable of effectively utilizing the loan funds. Also, have your personal tax returns from the past 3 years ready to show.

5. Be prepared to put up collateral such as real estate. The SBA does not back 100% of the loan. Private lenders will want collateral to secure the portion not backed by the SBA.

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