The U.S. Small Business Administration is renewing a popular loan program for small business owners who are veterans.

Patriot Express offers a lower interest rate and an enhanced guaranty to small businesses owned by veterans, reservists and their spouses for start-up or expansion. The pilot program, in operation for three and a half years, has provided more than $560 million in loan guarantees to nearly 7,000 veterans in that time, according to the SBA.

The SBA will now continue the program for the next three years..

America's veterans have the leadership skills and experience to become successful entrepreneurs and small business owners, said SBA Administrator Karen Mills. The impact of this program over the last three-and-a-half years has meant thousands of veterans and their families have had the resources to pursue their dreams as entrepreneurs, and at the same time create jobs and drive economic growth at a critical time for our country. Renewing it means we can continue to fulfill our sacred commitment to the men and women who serve our country by giving them every opportunity for success.

Patriot Express was launched June 28, 2007, to expand upon the more than $1 billion in loans SBA guarantees annually for veteran-owned businesses across all its loan programs. SBA also offers counseling assistance and procurement support each year to more than 200,000 veterans, service-disabled veterans, reservists and members of the National Guard and their spouses.

Patriot Express loans are offered by SBA's network of participating lenders nationwide and feature one of SBA's fastest turnaround times for loan approvals. Patriot Express loans are available for up to $500,000.

The loan can be used for most business purposes, including start-up, expansion, equipment purchases, working capital, inventory or business-occupied real-estate purchases. Local SBA district offices can provide lists of Patriot Express lenders in their areas. Details on the initiative can be found at www.sba.gov/patriotexpress.