The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has unveiled a new online resource that connects aspiring entrepreneurs with potential lenders within 48 hours and without the hassle of going from bank to bank trying to secure capital.
Leveraging Information and Networks to access Capital, or LINC, also will provide borrowers with information about training and business consulting services available through local Small Business Development Centers.
Small business owners will be asked to complete a 20-question form online, which will be distributed automatically to SBA-approved lenders in the applicant’s county of residence, plus lenders with regional or national reach. There is no fee to use LINC and it does not constitute a commitment on the applicant’s part.
In a February 2015 announcement, the SBA said LINC will “untether entrepreneurs from the one neighborhood bank, using technology to get their foot in the door at any number of institutions.”
Initially, 124 lenders have signed up to participate, representing all 50 states as well as Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Those lenders have issued about 42,000 SBA loans totaling more than $17 billion since 2009, the agency reported.
According to the SBA, small businesses create two-thirds of private-sector jobs nationwide.
The initial rollout of LINC will connect small business owners with nonprofit lenders that specialize in micro-lending, Community Advantage program loans and real estate financing. The online tool may expand eventually to include larger lenders that offer a greater selection of financial products, the agency said.
The Small Business Administration’s 7(a) Loan Program gives small business owners access to funding for short- and long-term working capital, as well as for expenses related to exports and debt refinancing.
In fiscal year 2014, the SBA approved more than 52,000 loans totaling nearly $19.2 billion through its 7(a) program. That represented a 12% jump in the number of loans and a 7.4% increase in the dollar amount over the previous fiscal year.