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WASHINGTON — This year marked the fifth anniversary that the Small Business Administration expanded its loan programs to all credit unions regardless of their charter.CUNA celebrated the milestone with SBA officials in February, setting the tone for what some considered to be a more urgent push to get more credit unions involved in the agency’s programs. Nearly 370 banks dropped out of the agency’s programs over the past two years, SBA said. There are currently more than 430 credit union SBA lenders. In related news, former SBA administrator Steven Preston left his post when President Bush tapped him to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Sandy Baruah is now the acting administrator.Meanwhile, a number of credit unions linked up with the SBA this year for the first time, including Philadelphia FCU, Mid-Atlantic FCU, California CU, GFA CU and Redwood CU.Others started offering or expanded business services either through CUSOs or on their own. Among them were Pacific Community Credit Union, Desert Schools FCU and Charlotte Metro FCU. In North Carolina, Local Government FCU’s new commercial lending CUSO got off to a strong start, exceeding its five-year projection goal and earmarking $50 million in municipal bonds to encourage institutional investors to return to local investing.On the deposit side, services such as remote deposit capture slowly continued to make gains within the industry. Advocates called on credit unions to shift their focus toward business deposits, cash management and credit cards to build their programs.Looking ahead to 2009, some in the industry have expressed excitement over the role credit unions could potentially play under President-elect Barack Obama’s small business plan, which touts a private and public incubator network, micro lending and tax credits to entrepreneurs. While lending at banks floundered, at year-end credit unions were poised to seen an uptick in requests from small businesses seeking access to capital. That trend is expected to continue in the New Year, experts predicted.–[email protected]

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