Banking leader shares the business and community benefits of SBA loans

Library | 9/25/2019
By Garrett Voneye
Vice President
Business development officer & team lead


When a local Tampa eye care company wanted to expand their business, they took sort of an “unconventional” route to financing. They chose an SBA 7(a) loan.

­U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) loans are designed to help entrepreneurs and small business owners meet their financial goals. With the financing from an SBA 7(a) loan, the eye care company was able to lease the property next door, expand their space, buy new equipment and, most importantly, increase revenue by 41%.

The client used the SBA lending team at Valley Bank, headed by Chris Kneer. Valley’s SBA lending team has been one of the top SBA lenders in Tampa Bay for many years. For more than 20 years, Kneer has been an advocate for SBA lending in the Tampa Bay area, and has helped hundreds of local business owners start and expand their businesses – from coffee shops and breweries to trampoline parks and, of course, eye care companies.

Kneer recently shared some insights from his career as an SBA lender and how SBA loans help build businesses and strengthen communities.

Q: Why should a business owner consider an SBA loan?

There are a lot of loan requests that do not fit conventional guidelines. This causes an access to capital issue for many good companies. SBA lending allows a bank to fill that void and help local businesses grow. An SBA 7(a) loan, for example, is a great way for a small business to fund growth. A business owner can use the loan to open or expand facilities, buy new equipment, enter new markets, and capitalize on opportunities that come their way.

Q: How do SBA loans benefit local communities?

When local businesses grow, they hire more employees and purchase more equipment or inventory. It is a cycle that benefits the whole economy, but often starts with an SBA loan.     

Q: How has your career led you to leading the SBA team at Valley Bank?

I have been involved with SBA lending for over 20 years both as a lender and a manager. As a lender at a small community bank, it was my responsibility to learn all aspects of the program from calling on customers, to underwriting the deal, to presenting to the loan committee and, finally, processing the loan through the SBA and working with an attorney to close the loan.

This experience has been incredibly valuable to me as I have done every step in the process and understand what each teammate does. In addition to SBA lending, I have been a conventional lender most of my career, which has helped me clearly distinguish between the two types of loans. I have a clear philosophy on what makes a good SBA loan and try to consistently communicate it to the sales team.     

Q: What’s the best way for a business owner to learn more about SBA loans?

A good resource for information, of course, is, the website of the U.S. Small Business Administration. But at the end of the day, you can’t beat experience, especially with SBA loans, which do not go through the same process as a conventional loan. The best way to learn more is to talk with an experienced lender who has helped businesses through the SBA process. A good lender should also be able to give you easy access to helpful information. For instance, on our website, you’ll find a lot information about SBA loans, including a short educational video. And we make it easy for businessowners to request more information and connect with one of our SBA Business Development Officers.

Finding a trusted lending partner who knows your business, knows your local market, knows how to navigate the SBA process, and understands your business goals, is key to successfully using an SBA loan to start or grow your business.
Valley Bank is celebrating small businesses by designating September SBA Month. To learn more about Valley Bank’s SBA lending program and their special SBA Month offer, go to