The attention could not have come soon enough since 2009 will probably go down in history as one of the most tumultuous times for small business owners as banks turned off the spigot on credit and loan access. Meanwhile, many credit unions positioned themselves to court businesses looking for alternatives to keep them running as the nation underwent a sluggish economic recovery.
According to Callahan & Associates, member business loans posted the fastest year-over-year growth rate, up 14.4% since June 2008. The increase in real estate lending, combined with double-digit growth in the member business loan portfolio, increased the average loan balance to $12,649 in June, the data showed. As of third quarter, 1,924 credit unions reported that they offer business loans. The average business loan balance was about $193,000. As of June, 93.0% of credit union member business loans were commercial real estate loans, a piece of the portfolio that is expected to take huge hits in 2010.
Some relief came via the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act's SBA initiatives. The agency received $730 million in ARRA to support economic recovery programs for small businesses. Included in the appropriation was $375 million to support raising the government guarantee to 90% on SBA's 7(a) loans and reducing some lender and borrower fees on its 7(a) and 504 loans, the agency's two largest lending programs. Additionally, among other provisions, the appropriation included $255 million for the creation of the SBA's America's Recovery Capital loan program and $30 million to expand its microloan program.
Credit unions across the country spearheaded marketing campaigns with messages of "we have money to lend." Some reported an increase in former bank customers who had moved their accounts over to the cooperatives. Those outreaches are expected to continue into the New Year. Others were flush with business deposits. At year's end, a flurry of letters reached the Congress and the White House encouraging President Obama to increase the member business lending cap. Meanwhile, the industry is keeping a keen eye on how commercial real estate will play out in 2010.