NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- What's happening in small business today? 1. Large banks are taking on small-business lending again. Bank of America ( BAC)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 ( FITB) 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 ( DD) locations - primarily in New York and New England. Branca, who owns 60 units himself, recently told Franchising.com 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 Franchising.com.