A key Small Business Administration lending program in the Buffalo-Rochester region continues to lag last year's results.
Through the first nine months of the fiscal year, participating lenders made 668 loans under the program, down 22 percent from a year ago. Their combined volume of $109 million fell about 3.5 percent from $113 million a year ago.
The SBA's 7(a) program targets borrowers who might otherwise have difficulty obtaining loans to start up or expand. The SBA can guarantee as much as 85 percent of the amount of a loan in the program, limiting lenders' risk.
Franklin J. Sciortino, the SBA's Buffalo district director, said he felt the combined dollars weren't too far off last year's pace. "To me, that's important, because it's the dollars that go into the economy that really drive it," he said.
In the SBA's current fiscal year, which runs through September, 38 lenders have participated in the program in the Buffalo-Rochester region, compared to 33 last year. Both years' totals included out-of-town institutions with one or two big loans.
M&T Bank continued to lead in both loans and volume for the region, by a wide margin. Its loan total dropped 38 percent, to 179, but its dollar volume was down 4.6 percent, to $22 million.
Evans Bank was No. 2 in loan volume, at $10.1 million, based on 38 loans. That translated to an average of about $266,000 per loan. "We're competing above our weight class, in terms of our activity," said Kevin Brady, Evans' vice president of marketing.
ESL Federal Credit Union, based in Rochester, was No. 2 in the number of loans, with 92, a big jump from its total of 54 last year.
First Niagara Bank's absence remained a factor in the year-over-year comparison. At this time last year, First Niagara ranked fourth in 7(a) loans.
"I'm hopeful in the last three months [of the fiscal year], we can bound back to where we were," Sciortino said.