SANTA ROSA -- The U.S. Small Business Administration has approved the inclusion of AltaPacific Bank (OTCBB: ABNK) in its Preferred Lenders Program, a designation that streamlines the process for awarding SBA-backed loans.

With the designation, AltaPacific is allowed to have final credit decision and most servicing authority when administering the federally-backed loan, speeding the pipeline of lending to small businesses through the program. The SBA awards the designation to institutions that have proven their proficiency in the program, though it calculates final eligibility.

"We are very pleased to achieve the PLP designation," wrote Charles Hall, bank president and CEO, in a release. "The PLP designation expands our lending abilities, increases our response time and provides overall greater efficiency for our customers' loan requests."

AltaPacific Bancorp, the parent company of the bank, added a dedicated SBA department after the company completed a merger with Covina-based Stellar Business Bank in February. The move nearly doubled the business-focused bank’s assets to a total of $202 million.

The SBA department at AltaPacific Bank is lead by Alden Macabales, who is also a senior vice president. Mr. Macabales has more than 25 years of experience as a commercial lender.