Small business loan program gets high marks

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Surveys of entrepreneurs who applied for state Small Business Express Loans over the past two years indicate more than four out of five have felt the process overall was at least satisfactory, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said as he released the results Friday.

In this year's survey, nearly 200 business owners - both those who won loans and those who did not - gave their overall experience with the program an 83 percent rating as either very satisfactory or somewhat satisfactory. That's up from 80 percent the year before.

"We created EXP (the Small Business Express program) to ensure smaller companies have the support they need to expand, compete and create jobs and to make Connecticut a more attractive place to start and grow a business," Malloy said in a statement. "The results of this survey show that EXP has done just that."

Program details updated Friday indicate that 1,210 companies have been given EXP loans administered by the state Department of Economic and Community Development. And DECD numbers indicate that more than 17,000 jobs were created or retained as a result of nearly $172 million in state small-business investments.

"EXP was perhaps the most impactful component of the 2011 Jobs Bill, because it addressed a serious need in the small business sector, in the aftermath of the Great Recession - private lending had almost completely stopped," DECD Commissioner Catherine Smith said in a statement. "The demand for the program was so great that it was a real challenge to keep up with it. So it is truly gratifying to see the efforts of our staff yielding such great results."

The Connecticut Economic Resource Center conducted the surveys, and all results stayed the same or showed improvement from 2013 to this year, according to a release from Malloy's office. Over the two years, survey respondents were made up of 425 businesses that received funding and 77 that did not.

Perhaps most telling, 86 percent of businesses this year said they would recommend the program to a friend or colleague. That's an 8 percentage point increase from last year.

Highest marks in the loan process went to the length of time it took project managers to contact businesses after the application was complete. Lowest marks were given to the legal process required for a contract to be approved.

l.howard@theday.com

Twitter: @KingstonLeeHow

Key 2014 results

• 83 percent were very or somewhat satisfied with their overall Small Business Express experience (up from 80 percent in 2013).

• 85 percent were very or somewhat satisfied with the level of professionalism/customer service of the project managers and staff involved with the application process (up from 83 percent last year).

• 81 percent were very or somewhat satisfied with the overall experience in dealing with the project managers and staff and with the level of knowledge and expertise of the project managers and staff involved with the application process (up from 80 percent in 2013).

• 86 percent would recommend the program to a friend or colleague (up from 78 percent a year ago).

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