Obama Selects New Head of SBA

The newly nominated chief of the Small Business Administration is a business founder, a community bank chairwoman and a Latina.

On Wednesday, President Obama nominated Maria Contreras-Sweet, the executive chairwoman and founder of a ProAmérica Bank, as the new head of the Small Business Administration. ProAmérica Bank focuses on small and midsize businesses in Latino neighborhoods.

President Barack Obama announces the nomination of Maria Contreras-Sweet at SBA administrator. Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy

President Barack Obama announces the nomination of Maria Contreras-Sweet as SBA administrator.

If confirmed by the Senate, Contreras-Sweet will replace Jeanne Hulit, the acting administrator for the SBA, who took over after Karen Mills stepped down in August 2013.

In his remarks, the president highlighted Contreras-Sweet’s first-hand experience starting a business, including her understanding of “the grueling hours, the stress, the occasional self-doubt” that face new business owners. As the chairwoman of ProAmérica, she also understands the importance of capital access to growing firms, the president pointed out. Contreras-Sweet is also a “champion of women-owned and family owned businesses,” and as a Mexican immigrant, she understands the challenges that immigrants face, he said.

It remains to be seen, of course, what her appointment will mean for the SBA. But Contreras-Sweet appears to be “well-suited for the role, Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council President and CEO Karen Kerrigan said in a statement. Kerrigan stressed that it is crucial that the new SBA administrator serve as a champion for small businesses and convey his or her concerns to the White House about the Affordable Care Act, regulatory overreach and access to capital.

Kerrigan also said it would be “interesting” to learn Contreras-Sweet’s opinions on the potential consolidation of the SBA, which would combine the SBA with the Labor and Commerce Departments. North Carolina Republican senator Richard Burr recently introduced a bill that outlines the proposed change.

Contreras-Sweet would become the second Latino in Obama’s Cabinet during his second term. The other is Labor Secretary Thomas Perez. The L.A. Times had a useful summary of Contreras-Sweet’s career, including more reactions to her nomination.

Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy

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