Triangle Bank formed a government-guaranteed lending division and obtained preferred-lender status from the Small Business Administration.

Preferred-lender status allows the North Carolina bank to make its own lending decisions on guaranteed loans, rather than wait for the SBA to determine borrowers' creditworthiness.

"Now we can offer faster service, specifically quicker answers on loans to customers who deserve it," said Triangle vice president Ruby Ward.

The $794 million-asset bank issued 26 SBA loans last year and was named the top community bank for SBA-backed lending in North Carolina.

For the last decade, nonbank lenders have dominated the SBA loan market. Banks, however, increasingly are viewing SBA lending as lucrative and are putting more emphasis on government-guaranteed lending.

Steven Ogburn, Triangle executive vice president for credit administration, said specialization in the paperwork and documentation needed for SBA loans will give the bank a competitive edge.

"We don't find the paperwork too onerous," Mr. Ogburn said.

The bank has begun selling the guaranteed portion of its SBA loans and plans to double its number of government guaranteed loans in 1997. Ms. Ward will oversee the new lending division.

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