CB&T President Gary Markle (left) and Vice President Tony Leveque.

In the latest indication that Central Bank & Trust continues to dominate the local Small Business Administration loan market, the bank has received the SBA’s statewide “Small Lender Award for 2013.”

So far this year, CB&T has completed 16 SBA-backed loans in El Paso County, totaling $9.2 million, far more than any other locally based bank, most of which have completed two or three worth a total of a couple hundred thousand dollars.

Only San Francisco-based Wells Fargo has claimed more SBA loans in the county this year with 24, though those only add up to about $6 million.

CB&T looks bound to break last year’s SBA-loan record of 20. And it’s all according to plan.

“When we opened this bank, we made a conscious decision to focus on small-business lending, and awards like this are proof that our model is working,” said CB&T Market President Gary Markle. And when asked what the secret to the bank’s SBA success is, Markle’s answer came without any hesitation.

“It’s Tony,” he said.

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That would be Tony Leveque, CB&T executive vice president and senior business development officer, who coordinates the bank’s SBA loans.

“Tony has been doing this for 17 years,” Markle said. “He knows this market and has tremendous brand awareness. His mantra is that if a loan is worthy of being done, then we’ll find a way to make it happen.”

Leveque has been with the bank since it opened in 2009 and previously worked at Wells Fargo, where he also coordinated SBA loans. He said the years of experience have paid off because knowing the SBA ropes is crucial to expediting the process, which can be mired in federal bureaucracy.

Leveque said SBA loans can take between 45 and 60 days to be approved. So, the fact that the bank has logged 16 loans during the first six months of 2013 offers some insight into its pace.

“We’re aggressive,” Leveque said. “We go out and get those loans. We don’t wait for them to come to us.”

CB&T’s ability to expedite SBA loans was also boosted last year when the bank was certified as an SBA Preferred Lender, a designation available to only the most experienced lenders, according to the SBA.

It allows the bank to compete in the same arena as the banking giants, like Wells Fargo and Chase.

Still, Leveque contends that CB&T has a leg up on the big banks because their loan approvals must be shuffled between offices around the country, whereas CB&T’s all happen under its one roof, at 1 S. Nevada Ave.

Markle said the real worth of the most recent SBA award is that it validates a service to the market.

“It proves that we’re providing service to the community,” he said.

Leveque agreed, saying, “It’s just a big vote of confidence from the SBA. It’s good to know we’ve got people up in Denver who care about what’s going on down here.”