The U.S. Small Business Administration provided a record $1.59 billion in growth capital, up 23%, to American small businesses in fiscal 2010, the SBA reported Thursday.

Volume for fiscal 2010 was the highest single-year volume in the 50-year history of the SBA’s Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) debenture program, according to an SBA news release.

SBA Administrator Karen Mills said the growth capital program’s surge in activity came during a period when capital was scarce for small business nationwide. She credited the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009—also known as the federal government’s stimulus bill—for the dramatic rise in volume.

“At a time when access to capital was tight, including from the traditional sources for growth capital, SBA helped fill some of that gap with a record amount of financing through our SBIC program,” Mills said in a statement. “Across the country, there are small business owners and entrepreneurs who are well-positioned to take that next step, grow their business and create good-paying jobs.”

The SBIC program, which was created to supplement the growth of America’s small businesses with long-term debt and private-equity capital, included the following fiscal 2010 results:

  • Record High Financing to Small Businesses: Total financings to the SBA SBIC debenture program grew to a 50-year record high of $1.59 billion, a 23% increase over an average $1.29 billion in the four previous years. Debenture program obligations grew to $1.17 billion from an average $750.6 million.
  • More Licensed SBICs and Faster Processing Times: 21 SBIC licensees were issued in fiscal 2010, a 130% increase over the four-year average of 10 per year. SBIC license processing time improved to 5.8 months in fiscal 2010, a nearly 60% decrease from an average of 14.6 months in 2009.
  • Record High Capital Commitment to Support Small Businesses: SBA capital commitments to new funds broke another 50-year record, increasing to $1.23 billion in fiscal 2010, a 135% jump from an average of $524.3 million in the four previous years. The programs attracted record levels of private capital commitments, increasing to $615 million in 2010 from $262.1 million in previous years.

SBICs are privately owned and managed investment firms licensed and regulated by the SBA. SBICs use a combination of funds raised from private sources and through the use of SBA guarantees to make equity and mezzanine capital investments in small businesses. There are more than 300 SBICs with more than $16 billion in capital under management. The SBIC program was formed in 1958.

Read about the impact of the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act at AdvisorOne.com.