Make Larger Loans To Small Businesses - AZ Business Magazine Sept/Oct 2010

Arizona’s Credit Unions Want To Make Larger Loans To Small Businesses

As lending opportunities for small businesses throughout Arizona continue to tighten, legislation has been moving through Congress that would enable Arizona’s credit unions to make more loans to small businesses. The media is filled with reports about how small businesses are having trouble gaining access to affordable credit. Credit unions did not take TARP money during the financial crisis, and they can help small businesses create jobs and jumpstart the economy, all at no cost to the taxpayer. This is inconsistent with additional proposals that would give added TARP money to the for-profit banks in order to stimulate small-business lending.

Many local credit unions stand ready to help. But unlike banks, credit unions are constrained by an arbitrary cap that, under current law, limits the amount of small business loans they can make to 12.25 percent of total assets. The Senate is currently debating legislation introduced in the House, the Small Business Lending Fund Act, and Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) has offered a proposed bipartisan amendment to the bill that would raise the business lending cap on credit unions from 12.25 percent of assets to 27.5 percent.

Upholding credit unions’ history of prudent and responsible lending, the credit union would need to meet certain criteria and be approved by the National Credit Union Administration to lend in excess of the current 12.25 percent cap. A credit union would have to be well capitalized (above 7 percent); at or above 80 percent of the current business lending cap for one year before applying; have five or more years of business-lending experience; have a history of strong underwriting and servicing of business loans; and have strong management, an adequate capacity to lend and policies to manage increased business loans. This amendment also includes provisions that would protect the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund. The Treasury Department also sent a similar proposal to Congress earlier this year.

If the credit union member business lending cap were raised from 12.25 percent to 27.5 percent of assets, the estimated increase of small business loans would be $10 billion in the first year, leading to the creation of 108,000 new jobs, according to estimates from the Credit Union National Association. More than 1,600 of those jobs would be created here in Arizona. Just as important, this arbitrary lending cap increase would come at no cost to the U.S. taxpayer.

Small business is the cornerstone of our community and the key to increasing jobs and economic recovery. The additional lending authority would enable credit unions to do more of what they do best — make safe-and-sound loans to members. In this case, to members who are looking to start or expand a small business in Arizona.

As member-owned, not-for-profit, cooperative financial institutions, supporting local business is natural, and oftentimes, members are seeking a business loan that is too small for banks. The average size of a credit union small business loan in Arizona is only about $240,000, and Arizona credit unions maintain only about 2.6 percent of the local business lending market share.

A well-run member business lending program has the potential to bring a great amount of success to the community. First and foremost, the member businesses have another lending option, allowing them a chance to succeed with the right loan. However, a member business lending program requires personnel and resources. With a cap that is as low as 12.25 percent, many credit unions find the cap too restrictive to offer business loans.

With more capacity to make small business loans, credit unions throughout Arizona can do more to help spur the creation of new jobs, and help accelerate our nation’s economic recovery.

Arizona Credit Unions
Currently Offering Member Business Loans

  • Arizona Federal
  • Arizona Heritage Credit Union
  • Arizona State Credit Union
  • AEA Federal Credit Union
  • Continental Federal Credit Union
  • Credit Union West
  • Arizona Central Credit Union
  • First Credit Union
  • Tempe School Credit Union
  • Tombstone Federal Credit Union
  • Desert Schools Federal Credit Union
  • Vantage West Credit Union
  • TruWest Credit Union
  • Tucson Federal Credit Union

Austin De Bey also contributed to this article.  He is vice president of governmental affairs for the Arizona Credit Union League & Affiliates, www.azcreditunions.coop.

Arizona Business Magazine Sept/Oct 2010