SBA Taps Banker to Improve Disaster-Loan Program

In the wake of heavy attacks for its handling of disaster loans in the Gulf Coast, the Small Business Administration has named a former brigadier general to revamp the program, the agency announced last week.

Patrick Rea, a Midwestern banker who once served in the Army Reserves, on Thursday was named chief of the SBA's new Accelerated Disaster Response Initiative.

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The initiative was launched to speed up the process of getting federal low-interest loans in the hands of small business owners after a disaster.

The SBA came under fire following last year's hurricane season, when small-business owners in the Gulf Coast complained of lengthy delays in loan applications.

To date, the agency has approved some 22,000 loans worth more than $2.5 billion for local small businesses, according to SBA figures. However, agency officials say only about half of the loans have been disbursed.

Closing those loans will be a primary goal of the initiative, the agency said.

"Pat's take-charge style and extensive banking experience is exactly what is needed to lead this initiative," SBA Administrator Steven Preston said in a statement.

Rea, who is also a former executive director of the Illinois Development Finance Authority, will lead a team of process experts and analysts at the agency's Office of Disaster Assistance "in a coordinated effort to drive our capabilities to the next level," Preston said.

In another recent move at the agency, President Bush on Friday nominated Jovita Carranza, a former executive at UPS, as the SBA's new deputy administrator. Two years ago, Carranza was named Hispanic Woman of the Year by Hispanic Business magazine.

Preston, who officially took over the agency in July, said the nominee brings "great sensitivity to the issues small businesses face as well as the sophistication of being part of an organization with complex operations."

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