Get Started: Citi lending up; SBA bill introduced


Citi's small business lending rose 21 percent to $9.6 billion in 2012, surpassing the bank's $8 billion goal.

Citigroup Inc. has pledged to loan a total of $24 billion to small businesses over a three-year period. It promised the money in 2010, alongside the Small Business Administration, as part of a push to improve access to lending for smaller companies and help the economy recover from the recession.

With $17.5 billion already lent to small businesses, Citi is likely to lend more than its goal of $24 billion in the three years through December, said Jerome Byers, the bank's head of small business.

Citi's efforts to educate its bankers about what small businesses need and how to provide them the right kind of funding is helping increase lending, Byers said.

The bank's small-business financing last year ranged from loans to lines of credit and credit cards.

"I think you will see us do unique things," Byers said of the bank's plans for 2013. "I wouldn't call it lending, it's more tools and education. That's what small businesses want."

Byers added that the bank will continue to work with community partners to help small businesses this year, pointing to a new program focused on spurring small business growth in lower-income neighborhoods of New York and Boston.



People between the ages of 30 and 49 with significant work experience made up a large proportion of new entrepreneurs last year, according to a new report.

The Startup Environment Index, compiled by the Kauffman Foundation and LegalZoom, found that nearly half of the people who started businesses last year fell into that age group, a higher rate than any other age group. In addition, 57 percent of those surveyed had at least six years of experience in their industry.

The report surveyed 1,431 people who formed businesses through LegalZoom over the past year. The Kauffman Foundation studies entrepreneurship trends, while LegalZoom provides online legal advice to individuals and businesses.

The businesses started last year spanned a wide variety of industries. Consulting accounted for 11.6 percent of new businesses, the largest piece of the pie. Service-related businesses, Internet technology, real estate, business services and retail stores all accounted for at least 5 percent each.

Of those surveyed, two-thirds said they used their own money to start their businesses, while 10 percent used credit cards and another 6 percent tapped into retirement funds. Only 6 percent received funding from outside investors and 5 percent received loans from family members.

Thirty-one percent of those surveyed were women. Kauffman and LegalZoom said that while that may seem low in comparison to women's share of the overall population, it's in line with similar previous studies.



Two U.S. senators have introduced a bill that they say will make it easier for small businesses to get the help they need in times of disaster.

The Small Business Disaster Recovery Act, introduced by Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu and Mississippi Republican Thad Cochran, is designed to help Small Business Administration disaster programs better respond to small business needs.

Landrieu, who serves as chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, said the longer small businesses have to wait for help, the less likely it is they will recover. The legislation would help cut through the red tape for businesses seeking smaller amounts of disaster funding, speeding up the process, she said.

The bill also says that for disaster business loans of less than $200,000, the SBA cannot use a business owner's home as collateral if their business has enough assets to secure the loan, helping to protect those homes in case of default.

It would also allow out-of-state small business development centers to help out in areas struck by disaster — areas that previously had been outside their geographic reach.

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