Recent news from Wells Fargo could mean a funding opportunity for your dealership. The company has set a goal of at least $100 billion in new loans to small businesses by 2018.

Wells Fargo says the lending goal was announced to help more small businesses succeed financially as business owner optimism is rising. The Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index recently rose to 47 from 45 in a survey taken in April. The gain was in line with other recent signs of small business confidence, including an increase in hiring and a pickup in borrowing. The index is still well below the high of 114 it reached in December 2006, before the recession.

“We’ve seen an increase in 6 of the last 7 quarters and the future expectations are higher than any point since the start of 2008,” says Jim Seitz of Wells Fargo’s corporate communications department. Seitz says Wells Fargo is the #1 ag lender among commercial banks in North America, based on FDIC data.

The lending goal is for businesses with less than $20 million in annual revenue. Seitz says before extending credit, Wells Fargo looks for a business to show it generates a steady cash flow, has resources to repay the loan, current debt load is manageable and maintains a good repayment history. He adds, “We want to make every responsible loan we can.”

The loan goal is part of the new Wells Fargo Works for Small Business initiative, which includes a new online portal, The site offers information about applying for loans and resources for starting and growing small businesses. An added incentive to check out the site now: Wells Fargo is offering a chance for small businesses to win $25,000. To enter, you need to submit a video or essay about your business and complete the entry form by June 30.

If you do enter the contest, send your submission our way, too, as part of your nomination for our 2015 Dealership of the Year. The nominations for the 2014 Dealership of the Year are being evaluated now, but it’s never too early to enter for 2015.

We’ve been sharing our own signs of optimism in this column and in our magazine with our 2014 Dealer Business Trends & Outlook report. Take a look and see if your outlook and plans for 2014 match those of other dealers across the U.S. and Canada.

Here are some positive numbers on the customer side that Tractor Supply Co. recently released. The company says that hobby farmer income growth is projected to be 3.5% in 2014 vs. the median U.S. household of 2.2%. It estimates the median hobby farmer income to be $81,811 vs. the U.S. median income of $52,058.

The numbers back up what you and our team at Rural Lifestyle Dealer already know. The rural lifestyle equipment market is the place to be for dealers who want to grow.

What do you think? Share the opportunities — and potential obstacles — you see now that we’re almost midway through 2014. Comment below or call or write me anytime.