Call it high-powered small business financing with dog tags.

Obtaining business financing has become increasingly challenging due to shakiness in the housing market, the resistance of the Federal Reserve to reduce interest rates and other factors. These national trends threaten the availability of credit that entrepreneurs need to establish and grow businesses. In response, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has launched a timely new business loan program for veterans, active duty military personnel, reservists and their survivors and spouses.

The SBA's Patriot Express Pilot Loan Initiative is a powerful new weapon for entrepreneurs with military backgrounds. Offered in cooperation with a network of specially qualified banks, it is a launching pad for small businesses and an antidote to the negative economic trends that are reducing the availability of credit.

Many veterans returning from current conflicts are simply too young and too recently settled in any one place to have accumulated favorable credit histories that conventional lenders use to qualify borrowers.

As with any business financing initiative, this promising new program cannot compensate for significant factors that may render an applicant a problematical credit risk and unqualified for a business loan. It cannot compensate for a low credit score or a faulty business plan. However, the Patriot Express program can provide business financing that supports the entrepreneurial aspirations of those who have military backgrounds and who also have relatively intact credit.

A sub-set of the SBA 7(a) loan program, the Patriot Express program is offered through a national network of specially qualified commercial banks for rapid response on loan approvals. The program features the fastest turnaround time of any SBA program, as well as the SBA's lowest interest rates for business loans usually 2.25 to 4.75 percent over prime, depending on the size and term of the loan.

Loans are available up to $500,000 with the SBA guaranteeing 85 percent of loans up to $150,000 and 75 percent of loans up to $500,000. For loans of more than $350,000, the SBA requires lenders to place liens on all of borrowers' available collateral. Naturally, the security that this program offers to lenders provides a powerful incentive, encouraging them to make loans to entrepreneurs who qualify under the program because it reduces risk to the lenders.

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