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) -- What's happening in small business today?

1. Large banks are taking on small-business lending again.

Bank of America


and other banks seem to be putting more strength behind their lending efforts for small businesses these days.

For the Charlotte, N.C.-based behemoth, new loans to businesses with less than $20 million in revenue increased 20% in 2011 to $6.4 billion. BofA's lending to businesses with less than $5 million in revenue rose by two-thirds, according to the

Chicago Tribune

. The article says BofA has hired about 750 new business bankers to target small companies.

Other large banks like

Fifth Third


are also focusing their efforts on small business clients.

FDIC data shows that lending to small businesses with up to $1 million in revenue rose slightly in the fourth quarter - the first time in nearly two years that those loan balances did so, the article says.

Still, loans by the big banks to the smallest of businesses are minimal - but that could also be a factor of the economy and businesses not wanting to take on any more debt.

2. A quick chat with one of Dunkin' Donuts' biggest franchisees.

Robert Branca Jr. and his extended family collectively own more than 700

Dunkin' Donuts


locations - primarily in New York and New England. Branca, who owns 60 units himself, recently told

that he is looking for opportunities to expand the brand west of the Mississippi. A small franchisee can learn from Branca's family efforts. With that many units to oversee, Branca has systems and resources in place to maximize efficiency and profits (even above and beyond what is already provided by Dunkin' Donuts).

The franchisee attributes better technology to control costs and respond to changing market conditions got them through the downturn in the economy. In terms of sales, his franchises have been relatively unaffected. However, rising commodity prices have eaten into margins, but they have chosen to absorb the higher costs.

"Our absorbing the costs has largely been rewarded by our loyal guests with continued patronage and sales growth. We clearly communicate that we are part of the community and experience the same effects our guests do. We believe that this has resonated in the communities in which we do business," he told


In terms of capital, Branca says access is starting to ease. He sticks with regional and national banks for financing "because of their predictability and consistency with requirements."

3. Small business owners are nervous over planned U.S. Postal Service closings.


reports that jitters are spreading across some small business hubs that fear their businesses will suffer from the expected 250 postal offices and distribution centers that are set to close next month.

This is particularly the case in geographic areas that are more spread out. A 100-year-old post office in Pass-a-Grille, Fla., closed last June, forcing the beach community to use a post office that is located about four miles away and is always crowded, the article says. Business owners say this eats up precious time in their day.

Barbara Calicotte, an employee at a local boutique called Bamboozle, is a good example of the potential problems of U.S. postal closings. She told


that she has had to wait on line at the farther post office for 30 minutes in some cases.

The closings also mean that packages will take longer to arrive at their destination. Packages must now sit in the store a day or two longer until another employee is able to take the trip to the post office, she says. Calicotte can't do it herself because she would then have to close the store for that trip and that could mean lost sales.

Towns and cities from Huntsville, Ala., to Tulsa, Okla., are scheduled to have their local USPS centers closed and moved 100 miles away in some cases. That means a longer delay for

package delivery


-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

To contact Laurie Kulikowski, send an email to:


To follow Laurie Kulikowski on Twitter, go to:!/LKulikowski

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