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With just one month to go in the federal agency's fiscal year, the U.S. Small Business Administration is approaching $100 million in government-guaranteed loans for the Buffalo and Rochester areas.

According to new figures from the SBA, 29 lenders have issued 564 loans in the last 11 months, totaling $90.37 million. Of the loan tally, 37 percent, or 210 loans, came from Buffalo-based M&T Bank Corp., which extended $24.31 million from Oct. 1, 2011, through Aug. 31.

M&T is the sixth-largest SBA lender nationwide and the third-largest lender east of the Mississippi, even though it operates primarily in just six states and Washington, D.C. The bank is the No. 1 SBA lender in Buffalo; Rochester; Syracuse; Binghamton; Philadelphia; Wilmington, Del.; Baltimore; and Washington.

Five Star Bank, the primary subsidiary of Warsaw-based Financial Institutions, came in a distant second in number of loans, with 77, followed by Buffalo-based First Niagara Financial Group with 68, Evans Bancorp of Hamburg with 36, and Cleveland-based KeyCorp with 34. Ten banks had made at least 10 loans.

By dollars, Evans was second with $11.21 million, followed by Five Star with $10.63 million and First Niagara with $10.23 million. Bank of Castile came in fifth, with $6.51 million. Only six banks issued more than $5 million in loans, and only 15 exceeded $1 million.

For third-party certified development loans, used for purchases of real estate or other fixed assets, 12 banks made 34 loans for $20.21 million. They were led by M&T, with 10 loans for $5.12 million. Evans was second in number, with six loans for $1.9 million, but ESL Federal Credit Union was second in dollars, with $2.65 million.

Also, 14 loans for $4.6 million were made to exporters, led by six loans for $1.43 million from Evans Bank, and lenders originated 32 loans for $6.24 million to veteran-owned businesses, led by First Niagara with eight loans and Five Star with $2.36 million.

Meanwhile, the National Federation of Independent Business, a national trade group for small firms, said its Small Business Optimism Index increased slightly in August, despite a disappointing jobs report, as employment indicators improved for the fourth quarter along with plans for capital spending and expectations for business conditions.

Even so, few employers are confident about expansion, and loan demand remained low, with a record number of owners saying they have no interest in borrowing money to finance new projects or hiring.

The monthly report was based on responses from 736 randomly sampled small businesses within NFIB's membership.

"Small-business owners continue to show their resilience," NFIB Chief Economist William Dunkelberg said in a release. "However, nothing happened in August to really improve their outlook."





email: jepstein@buffnews.com