PORTLAND — President-elect Barack Obama’s nomination of Karen Gordon Mills of Brunswick as administrator of the U.S. Small Business
Administration is expected to bring more attention to an agency program that is relatively unknown to both the general public and the banking industry.
U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, wrote a letter to Obama earlier this month recommending Mills for the position and urging him to reinstate the
director of the SBA to cabinet-level status, which it had in the
Clinton administration. The position was demoted from the Cabinet under
President Bush and underwent sharp budget cuts.
Political analysts suggested Obama’s appointment of Mills so
early in the transition process was an indication that the SBA will be a
higher priority under the new administration.
Sandy Blitz, SBA New England regional administrator, said he
hopes that elevating the SBA administrator to the Cabinet will put more public focus on under-utilized SBA financial assistance programs,
like the SBA guaranteed loan program.
“These guaranteed loans make lenders confident that the loan will
be repaid and make them more willing to loan money to small
business owners,” Blitz said.
“More banks should be using SBA guaranteed loans. I’ve spent
a lot of time traveling around New England meeting with lenders and
business owners just trying to get the word out about our programs.”
“It’s not that the money isn’t there,” he said. “We are trying to help people access it in the right way.”
The U.S. SBA was created in 1953 as an independent agency of the
federal government to aid small businesses through financial and
technical assistance and disaster recovery.
Mills’ background in venture capital and lending to businesses was believed to be a factor in her nomination. She has served as the president of MMP Group, a private equity
investment firm based in Brunswick since 1993. Until recently,
she served as the managing director of Solera Capital, a venture
capital firm based in New York.
In addition to her background Mills has also been a key advisor on Maine economic matters to Gov. John Baldacci.
She has chaired the Governor’s Council on Competitiveness and the Economy and is a member of the Governor’s Council for the Redevelopment of the Brunswick Naval Air Station.
“Karen Mills is a close advisor and friend,” Baldacci said in a press release on Dec. 19. He lauded her entrepreneurial skills and dedication to public service, saying “(Mills)will be a strong voice for small businesses in Maine and around the country. I know that she will do a great job.”
While she will now split her time between Brunswick and Washington, D.C., Mills plans to maintain her strong ties to the Mid-Coast community, her husband, Barry Mills, said. Mills is president of Bowdoin College in Brunswick. Together they have three sons, the youngest attending Brunswick High School.
Mills said he was “thrilled” for his wife, and echoed Baldacci’s sentiments.
“Karen is devoted to the state of Maine,” he said. “Her appointment will have enormous impact on Maine as well as the rest of the country.”
Heather Gunther can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 115 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Karen Gordon Mills, President-elect Barack Obama’s choice for director of the U.S. Small Business Administration, talks about cluster development with Gov. John Baldacci in this February 2007 photo. Karen Gordon Mills, right, President-elect Barack Obama’s choice for director of the U.S. Small Business Administration, in Orono with Gov. John Baldacci.Karen Gordon Mills, President-elect Barack Obama’s choice for director of the U.S. Small Business Administration, in Augusta with Gov. John Baldacci in this November 2007 photo. Karen Gordon Mills, center, President-elect Barack Obama’s choice for director of the U.S. Small Business Administration, with Gov. John Baldacci in October 2007.