5Q: John Fleming, director of U.S. Small Business Administration Delaware Office

Can you talk about the SBA lending trends you’ve noted in the past several years in terms of volume?

The past several years have been record-setting for SBA lending in Delaware and nationwide. Loan volume decreased slightly in 2016, but it was still one our best years. Demand for SBA lending remains strong as the economy continues to improve. We have also improved our loan programs by making them easier for lenders and borrowers to access.

What does this suggest about the overall economic health of Delaware businesses?

It suggests an overall improving economy where small business and consumer confidence are on the rise. Many people in the state, including our partners at the Delaware Economic Development Office (DEDO), Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), Women’s Business Center (WBC), and our lenders, have worked hard to improve Delaware’s small business ecosystem, and we are seeing the results.

What are some of the things happening with the SBA that people might not know?

Since 2011 SBA’s largest loan program has operated without a budget subsidy, meaning that we do not use taxpayer dollars for most SBA loans.

We also have a government-contracting program that many people do not know about. We have experts on our staff, and the Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) can assist small business through the process of bidding on a government contract.

Small business owners should also know that they do not always have to hire a high-priced consultant for technical assistance. The SBA and our partners provide business basics, but we also can assist with website design, cyber security, succession planning, exporting, and many other areas.

What are some of your expectations for this year?

Former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon was appointed as our administrator this year, and there are always expectations with new leadership in Washington, D.C. She is a dynamic leader, and a highly successful entrepreneur. I expect that Mrs. McMahon will bring some of her ideas on how to improve our already successful programs.

In Delaware, we expect the demand for our programs and services to increase as the economy continues to expand, especially in the areas of technology, agriculture, tourism, and hospitality.

Aside from lending, what are some of the unique needs of small business owners?

Small business owners obviously need revenue and capital to succeed, but they also need relevant experience. We can teach small business owners to read financial statements and secure financing, but they need to be an expert in their field. Small business owners can’t compete with the big box stores on pricing. In order to succeed, they need to know how to provide higher quality products and superior customer service.
Small-business owners also need to be honest about their strengths, weaknesses, and when to ask for assistance. Sometimes they need the advice of a supportive accountant, lender, attorney, insurance professional, or even a mentor/coach to guide them.

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