It can be fairly difficult to navigate the complicated search for small business loans. Taking that into consideration, you may want to consider using the Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Advocacy as a resource, particularly if you're thinking about applying to your lender for an SBA loan it offers.
A brief summary and history of the Office of Advocacy
Since 1976, the SBA has maintained the Office of Advocacy as an organization with a mandate to promote the concerns of small businesses throughout the United States and help ensure their concerns are understood – and acted on – by the federal government. It's headed up by the Chief Counsel for Advocacy, who is appointed by the President.
This organization conducts research efforts that broach the questions of economics and policy that are most pertinent to American small businesses. It also works to promote regulations that benefit such companies and eliminate detrimental or extraneous regulatory measures.
Helpful Office of Advocacy research data
The organization's website features statistics on the performance of small businesses in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, quarterly data on which SBA loans are in the highest and lowest demand, data on the size and employment dynamics of companies and a number of frequently asked questions addressing common financing issues.
The most helpful of these will likely be the Frequently Asked Questions about Small Business Finance section and the quarterly indicators. The former provides comprehensive but easy-to-understand information about loan sources, which loans are the most popular for which borrowers, interest rates and much more (covering much of the past decade), while the latter covers quarterly data in a considerably more summarized fashion.
Receiving assistance from SBA regional advocates
The Office of Advocacy is headquartered in Washington, D.C., but represented throughout the country by 10 Regional Advocate offices. If you had any reason to directly contact the Office of Advocacy for a matter related to a business loan, it would most likely be through one of these channels rather than through the central organization.
The regional branches occasionally conduct roundtable discussions where local entrepreneurs are welcome to gather and discuss pertinent issues in the small business world. The most recent of these focused on the various difficulties and triumphs inherent in businesses owned and operated by women.