Here are some of the people who help to make dreams come true for North Bay businesses through U.S. Small Business Administration loans.

The information is provided by the subjects. They are listed alphabetically by last name.

Randall Behrens

Senior loan officer, Live Oak Bank

100 B St., Ste. 100, Santa Rosa, 95401; 707-921-1099; randall.behrens@liveoakbank.com; www.liveoakbank.com

Year assumed position: 2014

Significant news at your company in the past year?

Live Oak Bank reached another record year in 2016, topping $1.5 billion in loan volume. We’ve grown our staff by 20 percent and are showing no signs of slowing down.

Any big changes you see coming in the next year?

We saw a fairly significant increase in the prime rate recently. This is the base index that most SBA Lenders use when pricing their loans so I suspect that this will eventually start to have an impact.

Biggest challenge in the industry you’ve encountered?

In the Wine and Craft Beverage space our biggest challenge locally has been a lack of real estate inventory for our qualified borrowers who are in need of vineyard, hospitality and production space. Overall, the industry is still doing very well and the price of capital is still relatively inexpensive. We’re expecting another record year in 2017.

John Collins

Vice president and senior business development officer, Bank of America Merrill Lynch

555 California St., 11th floor, San Francisco 94104; 415-913-4747; john.w.collins@baml.com; www.bofaml.com

Year assumed position: 2006

Significant news at your company in the past year?

At Bank of America, we’re proud to be a leading provider of SBA loans to small businesses throughout the North Bay. We’ve invested significantly in our SBA lending business over the past year, expanding the types of SBA loans we provide as well as hiring more loan officers to serve even more small businesses.

We’re expanding our presence to help deliver a wider range of solutions and all of the benefits of SBA loans to help local business grow and achieve their goals.

In 2016, we originated more than $278 million in new first- and second-trust deed loans with long-term, fixed-rate financing as well as $100 million in SBA 7(a) loans nationwide. (Based on 2016 gross loan approval as provided by the SBA in fiscal year ending Sept. 30.)

Any big changes you see coming in the next year?

For business owners, tax reform, health care and immigration are top concerns. The uncertainty has many putting their plans for hiring or expansion on hold. With the widely-anticipated hikes in interest rates by the Federal Reserve later this year, we’re also seeing owners moving to lock in rates sooner, rather than later.

Biggest challenge in the industry you’ve encountered?

The biggest challenge we encounter is some small business owners hesitate to approach us. They worry they might get lost in a large bank. I can understand that.

But we’re also a local bank with bankers who have deep roots in San Francisco and throughout the North Bay. After all, this is where it all started for Bank of America over 100 years ago. Most of our bankers here grew up in the Bay Area, many with families that go back generations.

Being a larger bank simply means we can offer a wider range of solutions tailored to small businesses — from credit, cash management and foreign exchange to equipment finance, merchant services, and international banking.

As one of the most active SBA lenders in the North Bay and across the country, we’re honored to be one of the SBA’s preferred lenders.

We want every customer to feel special, which is why we constantly ask for their feedback.

Each customer has a small business specialist, or a relationship banker, who serves as single point of contact to connect them with the vast resources of Bank of America for their specific situation.

Small business owners want, and deserve, immediate access to a local banker dedicated to their needs. Someone who knows them, understands their business, their industry, and importantly, appreciates their goals and priorities. That’s important.

Jason Ehn

SBA and commercial lending manager, Redwood Credit Union

3033 Cleveland Ave., Ste. 100, Santa Rosa 95403, 707-545-4000; jehn@redwoodcu.org; www.redwoodcu.org

Year assumed position: 2008

Significant news at your company in the past year?

Our Member businesses are prospering, and our strong loan growth over the last year is indicative of the solid local economy. We continue to be one of the top five healthiest credit unions in the nation according to Glatt Consulting’s Credit Union HealthScore, and we are the only credit union in the nation to be consistently in the top 5 for the last three years. It is an exciting testament to our business model that we can help our Members find success while also maintaining our safety and soundness as one of the healthiest CU’s in the nation.

Any big changes you see coming in the next year?

American business owners continue to show optimism, and our region is no exception. We expect to see many more businesses in our communities execute growth plans that will help our local economy grow and succeed, and we will be there to assist with their financing needs.

Biggest challenge in the industry you’ve encountered?

Many business owners are still surprised to learn that RCU offers business banking and commercial and SBA lending. In fact, RCU has consistently ranked among the top SBA lenders in the North Bay since we introduced SBA lending in 2008. Working with a local institution keeps money in the local economy to help local businesses grow and create jobs in our community. All our business lending decisions are made locally under one roof which means we can make decisions faster by people who understand the unique benefits and challenges of owning a business in the North Bay. We are also an SBA preferred lender, which helps us to expedite SBA loans. So educating our business community about how RCU can serve and benefit their business continues to be a focus.

David Kaneda

SBA lending area manager, Wells Fargo

333 Market St., 25th floor, San Francisco 94105; 415-537-8283; kanedad@wellsfargo.com; www.wellsfargo.com

Year assumed position: 2010

Significant news at your company in the past year?

As the economy continued to improve last year, many North Bay small business owners saw positive trends in their businesses. It’s reflected in the national Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index survey that we conduct quarterly, which showed increasing optimism among business owners.

Over the last year, Wells Fargo team members continued to meet with more business owners who are seeing opportunities to strengthen and grow their businesses in today’s economy, and pursued SBA loans for a wide range of financing needs — from lines of credit for working capital to fixed-rate loans for commercial real estate and equipment purchases.

Any big changes you see coming in the next year?

In SBA Lending, we share the optimism of the customers we serve for the year ahead. As they see more positive trends in their business and the economy, more business owners report plans to increase their capital spending and apply for credit to pursue growth opportunities for their businesses.

Our focus in the next year will remain on helping North Bay small business owners succeed financially and making every responsible loan we can to creditworthy business owners who are seeking financing, including SBA loans of all sizes — big and small.

Biggest challenge in the industry you’ve encountered?

An important area of focus for Wells Fargo and our industry is to help more businesses become credit ready. When a business is not ready for a loan the best thing Wells Fargo can do is provide support to the owner on how to improve the financial condition of the business to get a “yes” on a credit application at a later date.

We want to help more business owners get credit-ready. Through Wells Fargo Works for Small Business we’ve expanded the resources, guidance and services we offer small business owners, including introducing the Business Credit Center on WellsFargoWorks.com.

Wells Fargo also supports numerous community-based organizations, Community Development Financial Institutions, or CDFIs, and micro lenders that help people obtain financing to start or expand a business and guide small business owners facing challenges.

For our communities to prosper, we need small businesses to succeed financially, grow and add jobs. We want to do our part to help more small businesses start, run, grow and succeed.

David Griffis

Senior vice president for business development, TMC Financing

1720 Broadway, 3rd floor Oakland 94612; 415-505-5023; david@tmcfinancing.com; www.tmcfinancing.com

Year assumed position: 2004

Significant news at your company in the past year?

TMC has had an amazing year. According to the SBA, TMC provided more than $98.4 million in SBA 504 financing to 101 Bay Area small businesses for the 2016 fiscal year. TMC is the largest CDC in Northern California and the second largest in the United States. Last year, TMC said it funded $15.74 million toward SBA 504 loans for commercial real estate projects in the North Bay. TMC projects the North Bay loans will create or retain 176 jobs in the next two years, up from 168 projected from 2015 lending of $13.96 million.

Any big changes you see coming in the next year?

Over the past few years, rents throughout the Bay Area have been on the rise, especially in San Francisco and the North Bay. The rising rents are causing many small businesses to get priced out of the neighborhoods they helped establish.

Biggest challenge in the industry you’ve encountered?

Additionally, finding a building to purchase is not always an easy task. With so much competition and low inventory, I have seen many clients struggle to find a building and getting outbid when they do.

The journey of securing a home for your business is not always easy, but it is worth it in the long run. With building ownership, you will gain stability, lower your occupancy costs, and build equity that can provide a comfortable retirement.

Art Martinez

Vice president and SBA business development officer, Umpqua Bank

225 W. Santa Clara St., Ste. 250, San Jose 95113; 408-612-7634; artmartinez@umpquabank.com; www.umpquabank.com

Year assumed position: 2016

Significant news at your company in the past year?

In 2016, we continued to see growth of Umpqua Bank’s SBA bookings, a trend continuing into the first quarter of 2017. Umpqua Bank added two new SBA business development officers, Dan Eger and Susan Jensen, to serve the North Bay Market and continued to make improvements in loan underwriting and processing to streamline the process and improve turnaround.

Any big changes you see coming in the next year?

Umpqua Bank looks forward to adding several more SBA Business Development officers to support an expansion of the SBA-504 program and small 7(a) loans ($10,000 to $100,000).

Biggest challenge in the industry you’ve encountered?

Having limited store (branch) exposure in every SBA market has prevented Umpqua Bank from maximizing the banking relationship solutions for our SBA borrowers.

This year, we’re teaming up with our Treasury Management Officers to develop remote and automated solutions allowing us to provide a comprehensive banking relationship, leveraging the Umpqua business banking products.

Don Mercer

Senior vice president and SBA national sales manager, Bank of the West

20 Petaluma Blvd. South, Petaluma 94952; 707-778-3313; dmercer@bankofthewest.com; www.bankofthewest.com

Year assumed position: 2007

Significant news at your company in the past year?

For the past four years we have been the No. 1 SBA 504 lender in California and ranked No. 3 in the nation.

Any big changes you see coming in the next year?

A lot depends upon what happens in Washington, D.C. The Trump administration’s promise to simplify the tax code and cut taxes spur strong economic growth and consumer spending.

However, the Fed rate increases could create headwinds for small business lending later this year.

Biggest challenge in the industry you’ve encountered?

Education; some in the small business community continue to few SBA lending as an option of last resort for financing.

While that number shrinks every year, we still have a good portion of small business owners who do not understand the benefits of SBA financing; longer terms, smaller down payments and historically lower rates. So our ongoing challenge it to educate borrowers, bankers and the community that SBA lending helps create and retain U.S. jobs.

Michael Rice

Senior vice president and business development officer, SBA Lending Division, California Bank of Commerce

1300 Clay St., Ste. 500, Oakland 94612; 510-809-8837; mrice@bankcbc.com; www.californiabankofcommerce.com

Year assumed position: 2017

Significant news at your company in the past year?

California Bank of Commerce, successfully entered the SBA lending market as a preferred lender in 2016 to augment the bank’s expertise in commercial and industrial lending, asset-based lending and commercial real estate financing in the SF Bay Area.

We achieved record 2016 profitability with net income more than doubling to $5.2 million fueled by strong organic growth and the expansion of our loan products.

We saw an increased demand for our customized commercial banking, treasury management and lending solutions offered by our experienced business bankers.

With the addition of SBA and Asset based lending, we are now are able to assist more entrepreneurs as they incubate, grow and mature through various stages of development.

Any big changes you see coming in the next year?

I see a continued reduction in the number of retail bank branches in the North Bay as our industry matures and adapts to the evolving habits of the customer.

I believe business clients will be looking more for advisory based banking, from known, flexible and results oriented decision makers who they will more likely meet at their place of business and less likely at a bank location that is the closest to them.

Biggest challenge in the industry you’ve encountered?

Meeting increased client expectations around speed of delivery at all touch points, while strictly adhering to the increased regulatory compliance required in our industry.

Brandy Seppi

Executive vice president and chief lending officer, Summit State Bank

500 Bicentennial Way, Ste. 250, Santa Rosa 95403; 707-569-4927; bseppi@summitstatebank.com; www.summitstatebank.com

Year assumed position: 2015

Significant news at your company in the past year?

The Sonoma County economy is continuing to improve, thus we are seeing more demand from clients and prospective clients to grow their businesses, acquire new equipment, expand facilities and add employees. Our focus this year on lending local is in full-swing. Summit State Bank is committed to helping Sonoma County thrive.

Favorite SBA lending story?

Anytime we can help someone build their business — whether it is their maiden voyage as a startup or helping with expansion of an existing business — is rewarding for the borrower and all of us involved in granting the loan.

There is not one particularly favorite story, but many. As a local community bank, we take great pride in assisting businesses to grow.

The loan programs offered through the Small Business Administration continue to support local businesses, making our Sonoma County community economically stable and business friendly.

Our experienced team is knowledgeable about the SBA programs and assists customers through every step of the process.

Most-inspiring leader?

My mother. An immigrant from Spain, she came to California with her family and grew up on a dairy in California’s Central Valley.

She worked hard to learn English, earn her college degree and later her master’s degree in education.

She set firm but fair rules as a mother and always instilled in her children the benefits of curiosity, continued education, hard work and giving back to the community.

Robert Thompson

Vice president, Bay Area Development Company

1801 Oakland Blvd., Ste. 100, Walnut Creek 94596; 925-472-5603; bob@baydevco.com; www.baydevco.com

Year assumed position: 1995

Significant news at your company in the past year?

The biggest change at the company this past year is really an industry development; the re-introduction, on a permanent basis, of the SBA 504 refinance program, which includes the potential to refinance not only commercial mortgages for small business owner-user properties, but also past and future business expenses, too.

While demand for this product hasn’t been as strong as it was when previously introduced in 2011 on a temporary/trial basis, I do expect this aspect of the 504 program to be a significant resource to small business owner’s looking to improve cash flow and tap into equity in their owner occupied commercial real property.

Any big changes you see coming in the next year?

I don’t anticipate any big changes coming in the next year, though I do foresee 504 fixed rate financing to become an even more attractive financing vehicle as variable based prime rate financing continues to increase in cost as the Federal Reserve continues to raise rates in the face of potential inflation.

Also, at a time when rents for businesses are increasing and many companies are being displaced, 504 financing, with its 20 year fixed rates, offers a way for a company to lock in their occupancy costs at an affordable level for decades.

Biggest challenge in the industry you’ve encountered?

One of the biggest challenges remains that of educating the marketplace about the benefits of SBA financing, and SBA 504 loans, in particular, as it relates to conventional financing.

Joe N. Smith

Senior vice president and SBA manager, Exchange Bank

545 Fourth St., Santa Rosa 95401; 707-541-1493; joe.smith@exchangebank.com; www.exchangebank.com

Year assumed position: 2016

Significant news at your company in the past year?

Exchange Bank renewed its commitment to become the local Small Business Administration market leader. The bank revitalized its SBA lending program and set significant goals for growth going forward. With a background as a seasoned career SBA expert, I was hired in 2016 to head the SBA program.

The bank is designated a Preferred Lender Provider and operates as a full service bank throughout the entire Bay Area. Exchange Bank continues to expand its portfolio of SBA loans, which include express lines of credit, start-up projection based loans, business acquisitions, construction and real estate loans. We work with loan brokers to broaden our outreach and use extensive branch and commercial banker network to meet the local small business needs of the community.

Exchange Bank is proud of its local heritage and celebrates its 127th year anniversary this year.

Biggest challenge in the industry you’ve encountered?

The banking industry faces many of the same issues that other businesses face. One challenge is finding and placing the right people in the right jobs. Exchange Bank seeks not only to provide quality service to its customers, but to add value as a partner.

We refer to this as relationship banking. Exchange Bank strives to develop a relationship with each of our customers and business clients. This relationship allows us to provide customized financial services that are tailored to the specific needs of the individual or business customer. Exchange Bank is invested in our customers and our community, and is prepared to be a quality partner.