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

1. Big banks are lending to small businesses.

A year ago, the Small Business Administration along with 13 of the nation's largest banks announced a commitment by the banks to lend a combined $20 billion to small businesses over the next three years. On Monday, Karen Mills, head of the

Small Business Administration,

said that to date more than $11 billion of that commitment had been allocated.

Banks participating in the commitment are:

Wells Fargo

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Key Corp

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Regions Financial

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Huntington Bancshares

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M&T Bank

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JPMorgan Chase

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Royal Bank of Scotland's

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Citizens Financial,


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Bank of America

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TD Bank

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US Bancorp

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SunTrust Banks

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2. There is a growing trend to foster women and minority entrepreneurism.


Wall Street Journal

names a handful of resources and incubators, including


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, that are helping women and minority entrepreneurs get funded.


in San Francisco focuses on women, African-American and Latino entrepreneurs.


is a New York-based initiative sponsored by Silicon Valley investors and companies that is targeting 100 companies that are founded or co-founded by black women to raise funding or get acquired by 2015.

The efforts are coming amid the shortage of African-American and Latino entrepreneurs and investors. Observers say some investors are "squeamish" about investing in minority-owned tech companies, the article notes.

Still, the article suggests that access to capital is getting better for these demographic groups.

3. How to expand wisely.

It's a good time to expand if you're a small business, but that doesn't mean a business owner should blindly choose a second (or third or fourth) location. The good news is that in many parts of the country rates for office, retail or restaurant space are still depressed or just starting to rise again. However, cost shouldn't be your only consideration in choosing a location for your restaurant, spa, retail store or accounting office, says



Business owners should also consider making a list of attributes or concessions that worked -- or didn't work -- when you got your first location, such as lease terms or whether the location's traffic patterns were conducive to your business. Get help from a commercial real estate agent who is experienced with finding locations for your type of business, the article adds.

It also helps to review data such as market demographics, past history of the space, etc., to help you in your search. Finally, don't be afraid to negotiate, whether that's a move-in discount or a shorter lease, the article says.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

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