A wish list for Trump's SBA

  • January 18 2017, 12:11pm EST
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A wish list for Trump's SBA

President-elect Trump has nominated Linda McMahon, a co-founder of the World Wrestling Federation, to run the Small Business Administration for the next four years. If confirmed, McMahon, a Republican, will inherit an agency that has supported record loan volume lately, but that many bankers still view as too bureaucratic and inefficient. We asked bankers and small-business advocates what is working well at the SBA, what they would like to see improved, and what else the Trump administration could do to stimulate small-business growth. Here's what they had to say.

James Sills III

President and CEO
M&F Bancorp, Durham, N.C.
Assets: $310 million

Continue and expand the SBA's Partnership for Lending in Underserved Markets (PLUM) Initiative.

I would like to see the administrator continue to create innovative programs to provide access to capital in urban communities to facilitate growth and self-empowerment. The SBA started the Partnership for Lending in Underserved Markets, or PLUM, initiative in September 2016 in collaboration with the Milken Institute. It is designed to support collaborative efforts to more effectively provide capital to minority-owned businesses in the U.S. It was launched in Baltimore and Los Angeles. The goal is to increase the capacity of local lenders to address specific challenges faced by small businesses in accessing capital in their regions. We think this initiative is transferable and can be adapted in other cities. Our community bank is located in the five largest urban areas in North Carolina, and bankers need the SBA to make a concerted effort to push this of type innovative program all across the U.S.

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Evan Westlake

Vice president of commercial lending
Illinois National Bank, Springfield, Ill.
Assets: $861 million

SBA offerings should complement bank loan offerings and provide a bridge between what a business owner requires and what a bank can do with a conventional loan. Community banks are experts in conventional loan offerings and their customers' businesses.

Community bank loan officers now wear so many hats they are unable to become experts in SBA programs. It would be great if the SBA could have more staff dedicated to SBA products and clarify who should be contacted with questions on applications. The SBA application process has become more streamlined in recent years, but as products change assistance is still needed from SBA experts.

Ken Karels

President and CEO
Great Western Bancorp, Sioux Falls, S.D.
Assets: $12 billion

Keep it simple. Streamline the process so it's not hard to do an SBA loan. Improve where you can and cut back on restrictive regulations. This goes for all regulatory agencies, not just the SBA.

Eric Weaver

Founder and CEO
Opportunity Fund, San Jose, Calif.

Expand referral partnerships between the SBA and mission-based lenders like Opportunity Fund to insure more American business owners can access responsible financing.

Update the SBA microloan program to make it more responsive to lender practices and to increase utilization. Improve turnaround times on all SBA financing.

Use the power of the SBA to educate business owners about the opportunities and risks associated with various alternative financing options, including the responsible practices outlined in the Small Business Borrower's Bill of Rights.

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Todd Hollander

Managing director and head of business banking
MUFG Union Bank, Los Angeles
Assets: $117 billion

We support changes that would make life easier for business owners. Some of the changes that would encourage small businesses to invest and potentially borrow more would be: a more streamlined SBA loan process; more flexibility with regard to the Affordable Care Act provisions for small business with 50+ employees; tax reform for small-business owners; and a revision of Dodd Frank Act Section 1071, a measure that requires lenders to gather information about applicants for commercial loans.

If Dodd Frank Act Section 1071 is implemented as currently defined, the measure will create hard to manage and nebulous burdens for small businesses and lenders that may curtail the ability to put capital in the hands of our small-business owners.

Ron Samuels

Vice chairman
Pinnacle Financial Partners, Nashville
Assets: $11 billion

The incoming administration could help by making the SBA experience more efficient and extending terms available to small businesses. For example, smaller banks like us who don't have the resources to run a full "preferred lender" shop typically wait a couple weeks for loan decisions or modifications to be made by SBA underwriters. The wait time directly affects small businesses.

In addition, small businesses will see a boost if the administration lessens bank regulations because we would be able to approve loans more freely.

Keith Mestrich

President and CEO
Amalgamated Bank, New York
Assets: $4 billion

Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and the engines that keep our country moving at full throttle. For small businesses to continue to succeed, we must provide them with the incentives and tax relief programs to allow them to thrive. We need to continue with programs like the Small Business Jobs Act, which since 2010 has approved over 300,000 loans that help these businesses get off their feet. We need to continue to bring to scale initiatives like Startup America, which provided incentives for the private sector to invest in businesses in low-income communities. When we provide businesses an opportunity to succeed, especially in underserved areas, we don't just change that business owner, we help to change a community — that is the beauty of small businesses that we need to preserve.