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The latest small business haven: Loudoun County

Tuesday - 8/27/2013, 5:41pm  ET

New lending data suggests Loudoun County has emerged as a major growth area for small businesses.

The data, which track commercial loans of less than $1 million and the jurisdiction in which they were made, show that Loudoun's loan growth blew by every other major county in Greater Washington last year, with the number of loans granted up 20 percent to 7,311 and the amount lent up 27 percent to $290 million.

Even in actual dollars, Loudoun's growth far outpaced that of Fairfax and Montgomery counties — which each have more than three times as many small businesses as Loudoun, according to 2011 Census estimates.

I pulled the lending figures out of recently published reports from the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council. The data, which all banks with at least $1 billion in assets must report as part of the Community Reinvestment Act, include commercial credit card loans.

Why do Loudoun small businesses seem to be having better luck capitalizing on the economic recovery than others? It didn't happen by accident.

"We have made a real concerted effort to bolster the infrastructure on which entrepreneurs can start and grow," says Buddy Rizer, acting director of the Loudoun County Department of Economic Development, pointing to efforts to help businesses improve their odds of getting a bank loan.

How much of this is driven by the massive influx of residential developments, and all the construction, retail and services jobs created to serve the new residents?

"That's a small part of the story," Rizer told me. "The real story is that 29 percent of our workforce — which is an extremely high number — works in the tech field."

"Loudoun, especially over the last decade, has become a destination for technology companies. We're seeing growth across all of the technology sectors, and businesses are starting up in that arena faster and more often than any other," Rizer said.

In 2011, Loudoun also posted big gains in small business lending. Even with two years of strong growth, lending remains anemic compared to pre-recession levels, when banks made more than twice as many loans to Loudoun businesses for nearly 50 percent more dollars. While Loudoun's lending recovery is further along than that of the D.C.-area overall, it still has a long way to go.

© 2013 American City Business Journals, Inc.