WASHINGTON, D.C. ( TheStreet) -- Fewer small-business owners sought out credit last year amid a persistently challenging economic environment.According to the National Federation of Independent Business' latest credit report, the Washington-based organization found that 48% of businesses polled in October had applied for credit during the year, whether it was a bank loan, a business credit card or other line of credit, versus 55% of the participants in 2009. Of the 52% of owners who did not borrow money, most did not want to take on more credit, the survey said. But some -- 15% -- were discouraged borrowers, while 24% pared down their credit request for fear of being rejected. On a positive note, approximately 41% of small employers that did obtain credit got the full financing amount requested. In contrast, 16% of applicants were rejected, the survey found. Over the past year, many large and regional banks have turned to courting small businesses as a way to grow revenue. When economic conditions improve enough that weaker prospects look to seek credit, though, it is possible credit access for the overall small-business population will deteriorate before improving, the NFIB cautioned. "Unfortunately, the economic atmosphere for small businesses did not improve much in 2010," said Denny Dennis, NFIB Research Foundation senior fellow and report author.