YAKIMA, Wash. — When Calvin Goings first visited small business owners in late 2009, they were pessimistic.

Over the last six months, those visits had a different vibe.

“Now, generally, (business owners) feel they’ve turned a corner and that the economy is on the rebound,” said Goings, who oversees the SBA’s Pacific Northwest region, which covers Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska.

Since taking on the position in late 2009, Goings has visited cities throughout the region to see first hand how small businesses are doing and how his agency can help.

During Goings’ visit to Yakima Monday — his third — business owners were upbeat.

They confirmed what he had seen on paper back at his office in Seattle: The amount of SBA loans given to small businesses in Yakima County increased from just over $4 million in 2009 to $13.2 million in 2012, an indication that businesses are expanding.

“Numbers on a spreadsheet are one thing,” he said during an interview. “Talking to, seeing a business on the rebound makes it tangible.”

The key thing is keeping that momentum going, Goings said. “The question is, what do we do now to continue that growth?”

SBA, he hoped, could provide some answers. At the Greater Yakima Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon, Goings talked about different programs that can advance small businesses.

Most people, Goings said, know of the SBA-backed bank loans that are applied toward business capital. But the agency offers a host of other programs including the Small Business Innovation Research program, which provides research and development funds to business owners via other federal agencies; the Small Business Technology Transfer Program, where businesses work with research institutions to bring new inventions to the marketplace; and the State Trade and Export Promotion grant program, which provides grants for export assistance.

“Small businesses are really the driver of innovation and growth,” Goings said.

• Mai Hoang can be reached at 509-759-7851 or at maihoang@yakimaherald.com.