The U.S. Small Business Administration said Tuesday that it approved 1,729 loan guarantees in Minnesota worth about $626 million during the government's 2012 fiscal year.

That's down from 2011 when it approved about 1,948 loan guarantees worth $713 million, according to the Minnesota district office, which announced the local totals Tuesday.

In an interview, Minnesota district director Nancy Libersky attributed the decline to a temporary boost the SBA got in the first quarter of 2011 from the Small Business Jobs Act, which loosened the rules for borrowers to qualify. That change has expired.

Despite that, 2012 totals for Minnesota were very high, Libersky said, adding that, nationally, 2012 was the SBA's second-largest annual loan volume after a record 2011.

"It just shows how those incentives really helped small businesses obtain their financing," Libersky said.

More than 200 Minnesota lenders tapped the SBA guaranty loan program. The most active institutions were Wells Fargo Bank, U.S. Bank, Minnesota Business Finance Corp., Twin Cities Metro Certified Development Co., SPEDCO, Anchor Bank, Bremer Bank, Prairieland Economic Development Corp., Venture Bank and Stearns Bank.

The loan totals included both 504 Certified Development Company loans and loans made through the SBA's 7(a) Lender Guaranty Program.

Jennifer Bjorhus • 612-673-4683