(Businessweek) — Small business investment companies provided $1.59 billion to small businesses in 2010, the highest single-year volume in the program’s 52-year history, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. SBICs are for-profit venture capital firms, privately owned and managed but licensed and regulated by the SBA. The SBIC program was started in 1958 to make capital investments in U.S.-based small businesses. Companies with tangible net worth of $18 million or less and average net profits of less than $6 million over the previous two years are eligible for SBIC investment. Funding from SBICs boomed in fiscal year 2010, increasing 23 percent over the previous four years.