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One year after M&T Bank Corp. and 12 other major U.S. banks pledged to increase small-business lending nationwide in a public commitment with Vice President Biden, the Buffalo-based bank said that it had exceeded its own commitment four-fold with nearly $200 million in new loans in the past year.
M&T said it had increased its small-business lending tally by $196 million since last year, nearly quadrupling its pledge from September 2011 that it would boost loans by $50 million above 2010 levels for each of the next three years. In 2010, it made 8,250 small business loans nationwide, both directly and through the Small Business Administration.
"Small businesses are vitally important to the creation of new jobs and economic recovery. By partnering with small businesses today, we move more confidently toward economic success tomorrow," said M&T Chairman and CEO Robert G. Wilmers in a statement released Tuesday. Wilmers personally made the bank's commitment to Biden at a White House small business lender forum last year.
"While we've exceeded our goal to lend to small businesses this year, our commitment is unwavering, and we will continue to seek out partnerships with businesses that will help drive the economy forward."
In Western New York alone, M&T made 210 loans for $24.3 million between October 2011 and the end of August.
Mark and Tim Woodcock are among the beneficiaries of M&T's expanded lending. The brothers, who own a Niagara County electric construction contracting company called Ricmar Electric, are starting a new microbrewery in Wilson called Woodcock Brothers Brewing Co. They plan to open in late October or early November, with 15 employees.
"I'm in my mid-50s, and it sounded like something more fun than construction," Mark Woodcock joked. "And it's a desire to make a product instead of a service. There aren't any breweries in Niagara County."
The brothers bought an old stone and timber building, which a century ago was a cold-storage facility for apples, for $70,000 and have spent $1.5 million to renovate it and convert it for their purposes. They were turned down for a loan by several banks before obtaining a $710,000 SBA loan from M&T for renovation and equipment.
The brewery will occupy about half of the 45,000-square-foot building, while a retail plaza with an olive oil store, a salon, a gift shop and a distillery to make apple vodka will take up the rest of the space.
M&T is the nation's No. 6 SBA lender, providing government-guaranteed loans to small businesses to support growth, investment and new jobs through working capital or fixed investment loans. It's also the third-largest SBA lender east of the Mississippi River, and it ranks No. 1 in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Philadelphia, Wilmington, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
All told, the 13 major banks have increased small-business lending by more than $11 billion from 2010 levels, which puts them more than halfway to the goal in just the first year of the three-year commitment.
The total commitment, announced last September, called for the participating banks to boost lending by $20 billion over three years.
Besides M&T, the other participating banks are KeyCorp of Cleveland; Wells Fargo & Co. of San Francisco; Regions Financial Corp. of Birmingham; Huntington Bancshares of Columbus; JPMorgan Chase & Co. of New York; Citizens Financial Group of Providence, R.I.; Citigroup; Bank of America Corp. of Charlotte, N.C.; TD Bank of Portland, Maine; U.S. Bancorp of Minneapolis; PNC Financial Services Group of Pittsburgh; and SunTrust Banks of Atlanta.
"The continued success of this commitment serves as an important example of what is possible when the public and private sectors work together to assist America's small-business owners and entrepreneurs," said Karen Mills, administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, who joined with Biden a year ago to press the banks to sharply raise their lending game and then announced the pledges while visiting a small manufacturer in Solon, Ohio, that had benefited from an SBA loan.
More than half of all working Americans own or work for a small business, and such firms have created two out of every three net new jobs in the country over the past 20 years, Mills noted.
"Behind the $11 billion is the incredible impact that this lending, and the small businesses who received it, are having on our economy and our communities," she said. "Financing under this commitment has helped small businesses all over the country to do what they do best: grow, expand and hire."

email: jepstein@buffnews.com