Oct. 21, 2004--The Small Business Administration last week reported record lending results in 2004, surpassing previous marks in two of its major loan programs and lending record amounts to women, minorities, and veterans.

According to its results for fiscal year 2004, which ended on Sept. 30, the SBA backed 74,825 7(a) loans totaling $12.5 billion to small businesses, and 8,168 loans worth $3.9 billion under its 504, or Certified Development Company, program. The SBA reported that the number of loans made under each program represented a new high, as did the combined total of the two programs, which was more than double the 41,552 loans the SBA backed in 2001.

The SBA claimed that the record demand for capital was a sign of a strengthening economy.

"Small business is the economic engine that drives our economy," SBA Administrator Hector Barreto said in the report. "Our record year is proof that the economy is expanding and creating new jobs, evident by the low unemployment rate of 5.4%."

The SBA reported that nearly a third of SBA-backed loans went to minorities. It said that the number of loans to African Americans rose 32% from 2003, while the number of loans to Hispanics went up 31.7% and number going to Asian Americans increased 33.7%. The SBA also reported that the number of loans to women rose 27.3% while loans to veterans were up by 21%.