BETHESDA, Md. (2/4/10)--Mid-Atlantic FCU (MAFCU) loaned $32 million to local businesses in 2009--its first year in an expanded business lending program. This year, the credit union is expecting to loan $45 million to 75 small businesses. MAFCU provided a loan to Hossain Mohebbi, a franchise operator for the Denny’s restaurant chain. He wanted to open another location, but could not find an institution with capital to lend until he visited MAFCU. Mohebbi’s story illustrates how MAFCU is positioning itself to be a small business lender and a top lender of Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, according to Steven Smits, MAFCU vice president of operations. One reason large national banks are no longer lending is they cannot rapidly churn out business loans. Offering the loans is only a sustainable business practice if the lending institution intimately understands the business it is lending to, or if the business has an ongoing relationship with the lender, MAFCU said. Credit unions like MAFCU can lend to small businesses because they have a substantial amount of market deposits and they don’t compete with each other for geographic turf. They often partner with each other to share investment risk, MAFCU added. “The SBA is trying to change the makeup of who its uses--and to make it more local,” Smits said. “Prior to 2009, in its entire history, MAFCU made only a handful of SBA loans. We’ve already had five SBA loans approved this year--and we’re only a month into 2010.” MAFCU has $243 million in assets.