On Wednesday this week President Barack Obama is expected to announce the appointment of Maria Contreras-Sweet as the 24th permanent administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA).
Obama has been keen to raise the profile of the SBA, with small businesses featuring strongly in his plan for the nation’s financial recovery.
Although the appointment is expected this week, there have been many rumors in recent weeks that the SBA will not remain in its current form for much longer. In 2012 Obama proposed merging the SBA with the Commerce department rather than keeping it as a stand-alone agency, and a new bill introduced by Senator Richard Burr last month will see the SBA merge with other government departments.
If the bill is passed the SBA would merge with the U.S. Commerce and Labor departments to become part of a new Department of Commerce and the Workforce, with the merger aimed at streamlining areas of multiple agency overlap while continuing to provide finance and business equipment loans.
Contreras-Sweet will be replacing Karen Mills who announced she would be leaving the post last February, with the position hav8inbg been vacant since August. Mills brought a wealth of experience to the position having previously been heavily involved the in management small manufacturing businesses in addition to being president of the MMP Group; a company heavily involved in small business loans and investment in the food, textile and industrial sectors.
However; during her term Mills failed to address the issue of contracts intended for small businesses being issued to large corporations, and the challenge of directing funds to the right place remains for the new incoming administrator. Mills appeared to favor larger corporations, with her definition of “small business” expanded to include many companies employing 100-500 employees. However, she was responsible for increasing small business lending during her term, with 30 billion dollars in loans issued in each of the previous three years, representing a significant increase of lending before she took the position.
Maria Contreras-Sweet has gained valuable experience as chairwoman and founder of ProAmerica Bank; a major lender of small business loans in Southern California, in particular to Latin-owned companies. Previous to this position she co-founded Fortius Holding’s LLC with the aim of investing in Latin and female-owned small businesses. Contreras-Sweet has also worked with 7-Up, her own market research firm Contreras-Sweet, and has held public positions in the U.S Census bureau and as was the first Latin woman to be appointed California Cabinet secretary by the California State Government.
It is hoped that she will oversee an increase in small business financing and will take steps to prevent contracts from being awarded to large corporations, making sure that more government funding is properly channeled and small business owners get the financial assistance they need to thrive.