Bank of America is going on a hiring spree, with plans to add more than 1,000 small-business bankers across the U.S. by early 2012.
 
The Charlotte-based bank will start by beefing up its small business departments in Dallas, Los Angeles, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. this quarter, it said in a statement Thursday. The new hires won't just be loan officers -- they'll specialize in developing relationships with mom-and-pop shops and managing products for them such as bank accounts, payroll systems, pension plans, and credit cards (and of course, loans).

"Small businesses play a critical role in driving innovation and growth in our economy," Brian Moynihan, the bank's president and chief executive, said in a statement. The bank announced its plans during meetings with business leaders in Boston.
 
Bank of America also said it is on track to "blow away" its goal of increasing lending to small businesses by $5 billion this year. It currently has about 4 million small-business customers, or 12 percent of the market. (It's not the only bank courting small businesses: J.P. Morgan Chase has promised to increase its lending to small firms by $4 billion, and in June began offering discounts to companies that hire.) 

The Obama administration has called multiple times for extending aid to small businesses to boost economic recovery and jump-start hiring. But lending to small businesses dipped 1.8 percent during the third quarter compared with a year ago, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. 
 
Last month, Congress passed a bill – now signed into law – aimed at providing small businesses with easier access to credit. The aid package includes a $30 billion lending fund to be distributed by the Treasury Department to qualified small banks that promise to extend new loans to small business.