Accion receives loan authority from SBA

Accion Louisiana has begun offering U.S. Small Business Administration 7a Community Advantage loans with the “delegated authority” to cut approval times for applicants from up to four weeks to within four days.

The SBA 7a Community Advantage program offers qualifying businesses with small business loans up to $250,000 to start or expand a business.

Accion Louisiana is an extension of Accion Texas Inc., a major nonprofit, small business microlender.

Accion Texas started participating in the 7a Community Advantage loan program in July 2011, after the SBA started the pilot program in February that year. Since then, Accion Texas has approved 20 loans totaling more than $2.9 million to small businesses in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee and Texas.

The SBA gives the designation of “delegated authority” to community-based lenders that serve low-income communities, based on the organization’s loan volume and loan quality.

Accion Texas received an award in the spring from the National Association of Development Companies for being one of the top 10 SBA 7a Community Advantage lenders in the nation. Accion Texas placed fifth among several dozen lenders participating in the SBA program.

“We’re excited that we can help small business owners achieve their dreams through the SBA 7a Community Advantage loan program,” said Dan Lawless, chief lending officer at Accion Texas. “Our goal this year is to double our approvals for the 7a program to $2.2 million. Being given delegated authority will help us achieve this goal.”

The product is a term loan with an interest rate range from 7.25 to 9.25 percent.

To qualify, businesses must meet one of the following requirements: located in a low- to moderate-income community, in an Empowerment Zone, Enterprise Community or HUB Zone. The business must be considered a “small business” according to SBA standards or be owned by a veteran.

More information is available at www.acciontexas.org.

Investar acquires site for Lafayette branch

Baton Rouge-based Investar Bank has purchased property at 1510 Kaliste Saloom Road for its second banking location in the Lafayette area.

It has 10 branches in southeast Louisiana: two each in Baton Rouge and Mandeville and one each in Lafayette, Port Allen, Prairieville, Denham Springs, Metairie and Hammond.

Subject to approval by the bank regulators, the new location near River Ranch in Lafayette will feature three drive-up lanes, a drive-up ATM, three teller windows and private facilities for customer consultatons.

Investar Bank had total assets of $673 million as of March 31.

National retailer selling Lafayette apparel

Southern Apparel in Lafayette has launched its products with national retailer Country Outfitter.

Southern Apparel produces designer wear for young adults. Its collections are sold in local south Louisiana boutiques. Joel Hebert is the owner of Southern Apparel. Its website is www.southern-apparel.com.

Based in Fayetteville, Arkansas, Country Outfitter is a leading country lifestyle apparel retailer. Among the major brands it carries are Wrangler, Dickies and Timberland.

Cheesecake Factory open in Lakeside center

The Cheesecake Factory has opened its first Louisiana location in the Lakeside Shopping Center in Metairie.

The 9,300-square-foot restaurant can seat 245 people and features French limestone floors, decorative columns and hand-painted murals. The menu has more than 200 selections.

Cheesecake Factory has 170 locations nationwide, and its restaurants reportedly average $10 million a year in sales.