Let me start by recognizing Marie Johns, our fabulous Deputy Administrator. She is doing amazing work for small businesses around the country. She is a proven leader, a change agent and a tireless advocate for your businesses.

National Small Business Week is one of my favorite times of the year. I love hearing your stories. Learning about your businesses. It truly is inspiring.

Some of the SBA’s most crucial partners are the thousands of lenders who underwrite billions of dollars in SBA loans every year. Together, we are helping America’s small businesses keep their doors open while growing and creating jobs.

Health care is the number one concern for small businesses today. The current health care system places a heavy burden on many small business owners because it does not provide access to affordable coverage for them and their employees. Small businesses pay up to 18 percent more for insurance coverage for their workers compared with large firms. These higher insurance costs mean lower profits for the firm and lower take-home wages for employees.

In the 1980s and 1990s, I worked with a number of manufacturing businesses, from a plastic injection molding company in Ohio to a sub-fractional motor company in Arkansas. I was on the factory floor when we had to weather a recession, and I gained a deep appreciation for how small businesses adapt and survive in difficult times.

Today, we know that America’s small businesses are again facing tough times, but the SBA is playing a stronger role than ever to help them both survive and grow to create 21st century jobs while increasing America’s global competitiveness.

Over the last 15 years, small businesses have created nearly 65 percent of the nation’s net new private sector jobs. However, their ability to continue to be this vital engine for job growth is being jeopardized by the fact that they still face challenges when it comes to getting the capital they need.

Over the last year, since coming to the SBA, I have had the chance to travel the country and meet with a good number of our lending partners. These partnerships with more than 5,000 lenders across the country, including many of you, have been critical in turning around SBA lending in the wake of the recession, and we are grateful for these collaborations that have meant so much to small businesses all across America.

In my last column, I discussed the reasons why more and more banks are becoming SBA lenders. From mitigating risk to expanding your reach as a lender, SBA products fill a variety of needs for lenders.

This month, let’s dive in to the different products that are available to you.

Across the country, entrepreneurs and small business owners play a critical role in guiding our nation toward a new, clean energy future.

It's their innovation and ideas that develop next-generation technologies, create new green jobs, and drive economic growth while positioning the United States as a leader in this emerging industry.

Here in Maine, more than 700 businesses are finding new ways to harness the power of solar, wind, hydro, biomass and other renewable forms of energy.

Recently, I went to Pizzeria Paradiso and had the chance to talk to Ruth Gresser, the chef who owns the two locations of this small business here in Washington. She talked about how -- in the midst of the credit freeze in late 2008 -- a loan from a bank that worked with the U.S. Small Business Administration helped her move her P Street location to a larger space to meet increased demand from her long lines of customers.

In my last column, I discussed some of the advantages of becoming an SBA lender and how we make it easier to take your lending to the next level. But what if your bank is not an SBA lender yet? And what about making that first loan?

The first thing you should know is that SBA lenders come in all shapes and sizes. We have small community banks that only make a few SBA loans a year. We have large lenders with extensive expertise on SBA loans that take advantage of our delegated lending products, like the Preferred Lenders Program. And we have everything in between.


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