IRVING, Tex. - Associates Corporation of North America is gearing up to offer loans backed by the Small Business Administration through its commercial finance network.

The unit, part of Associates Commercial Corp., is headed by Robert J. Rhinesmith, vice president and manager of small business administration, and will be used to support the company's existing lines of business.

Late last year, Irving-based Associates agreed to buy Emergent Business Capital, a nonbank SBA lender. But the deal fell through at the last minute when the SBA imposed a $500,000 cap on the size of loans it would guarantee.

"Everything had been negotiated, and they had decided from their political contacts that, while there were programs within the SBA that were in trouble, the loan programs would survive," said Deryl Schuster, branch manager of Emergent Business Capital's office in Wichita, Kan. "At the last minute, they decided there was too much instability in the SBA market."

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