Wells Fargo (WFC) has set itself an ambitious target as it seeks to raise its profile among small-business customers.

Wells said Thursday that it would extend $100 billion in new loans to small businesses in the next five years, a goal that would significantly expand the San Francisco bank's lending in the sector.

Wells has averaged $15.6 billion in such loans in each of the past three years, spokesman Jim Seitz says.

The figure has been ticking up, however. Last year, Wells made $18.9 billion in new small business loans, which it defines as loans to companies with $20 million or less in annual revenue.

The $100 billion target is "a pretty aggressive goal" given the generally weak economy, says Lisa Stevens, Wells' head of small business. "Optimism among small business owners is improving, but it's not at the level that it was prerecession."

Wells hopes new products and better prospecting will help it reach the goal. The bank is giving "second looks" to would-be borrowers who don't meet traditional lending standards, Stevens said. It also introduced a secured card and line-of-credit product for small businesses last year.

While Wells is better known for being the biggest mortgage lender in the country, it has also been among the largest small business lenders by volume over the past decade. Wells was the largest provider of Small Business Administration 7(a) loans in the first quarter, at $267 million, according to the SBA.

The announcement of the loan target coincided with the launch of a website that provides resources for small businesses. The site, named "Wells Fargo Works for Small Business," provides information about subjects such as managing payroll, applying for loans and buying or selling a small business. It will allow small business owners to submit questions on financial topics.

The site will also feature a video series documenting five real-life Wells small-business customers, and will offer business owners a chance to compete in a contest to win cash and mentoring advice.

Sarah Todd and Maria Aspan contributed to this article.

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