The U.S. Census Bureau released preliminary estimates from its 2002 Survey of Business Owners, indicating that women are increasing business ownership at a much faster rate than the national average.

The SBA's flagship 7(a) loan program has registered sharp increases in loans to women and minority-owned businesses during the first three quarters of FY 2005. Loans to minorities have increased by 27 percent, compared to the same period in FY 2004, and loans to women have shown an increase of almost 50 percent. SBA loans to start-up companies have increased by 76 percent over last year.

"These newly released census estimates and our own loan figures validate what I see in the communities I've visited all across the country," said SBA Administrator Hector V. Barreto. "Minority and women entrepreneurs are leading the way in business growth and are making important contributions to our nation's economic strength."

More information on SBA loan programs is at (www.sba.gov/financing/index.html).

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