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Small Businesses Access to Capital

Small Businesses Access to Capital

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Excerpt from Small Businesses Access to Capital: The Role of Banks in Small Business Financing; Hearing Before the Committee on Small Business, House of Representatives, One Hundred Fourth Congress, Second Session, Washington, DC, May 1, 1996

The Committee met, pursuant to notice, at 10:05 a.m., in room 2359, Raybum House Office Building, the Honorable Jan Meyers (Chair of the Committee), presiding.

Chair Meyers. Good morning. The Committee will come to order. Our hearing this morning is the second in a series that this Committee is holding on small businesses access to capital. At the first hearing on February 28, we asked witnesses representing five prominent small business advocacy groups to address the current conditions and availability of capital for small business. We wanted to know what specific obstacles and opportunities small businessmen and women face in this area.

Those of you who attended that hearing will no doubt remember that much of the witness testimony and an even greater amount of the discussion focussed on bank lending to small business. In general, the witnesses pointed to the difficulties of securing small business bank loans and the demise of community bankers, which has led to weakening relationships between bankers and borrowers, as well as a decline in so-called character loans.

The witnesses also noted that the high collateral and paperwork requirements that banks demand from borrowers as well as various other regulatory barriers present significant obstacles for small businesses seeking bank loans.

Our witnesses statements were underscored by a recent article in the March 14 edition of American Banker Magazine which cites a Federal Reserve paper claiming that between 1989 and 1994 bank lending to small business dropped by 34 percent. The paper also predicts a 32 percent drop over the next 5 years.

According to our witnesses, as a result of the declining role that banks are playing in small business financing, many small businesses are turning to nonbank lenders and credit cards for their capital needs. While these sources of capital are generally more expensive, they are also frequently more accessible.

As has been the case throughout this series of hearings, today we will examine the private market rather than government-sponsored sources of capital. There are indeed differing opinions with respect to how best to increase small businesses access to capital.

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