Franchisees in search of financing have had it rough the past few years. But it’s not all gloom and doom on the lending front. Recent numbers for SBA franchise loans–issued by banks but guaranteed up to 85 percent by Uncle Sam–are encouraging. In the 2011 fiscal year, the agency approved a record-setting $19.6 billion in 7(a) loans, the most common type of loan it offers. More than $1.5 billion of those were for franchise businesses, up from approximately $826 million the previous fiscal year.

For a closer look at the franchise loan landscape, we spoke to Steve Smits, associate administrator for the Office of Capital Access at the SBA. Smits oversees the agency’s loan programs.

What’s the outlook for SBA franchise loans in 2012? Read on.