ABA Requests Meeting With New SBA Administrator

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Late last week, the American Booksellers Association sent congratulations to Karen Gordon Mills on her confirmation as Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and requested a meeting to discuss issues specifically affecting independent bookstores. Mills' appointment was confirmed unanimously by the Senate on Thursday evening, April 2.

Karen Gordon Mills

On behalf of the entire ABA membership, COO Oren Teicher wrote: "Our stores range in size from those employing one or two people to bookstores grossing millions of dollars per year and employing hundreds. While each of our members is unique, they all have one common bond: They are independently owned, and, in the present economic crisis, they face formidable challenges.

"Among their many concerns, the most pressing is access to capital," Teicher continued. "In February, ABA's President, Gayle Shanks of Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, Arizona, wrote the Congressional leadership urging them to support small businesses in crafting the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and we were very pleased to hear in your remarks to the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship your clear commitment to executing the plans in the Recovery Act to get capital flowing again through the core SBA loan programs. As you well know, helping locally owned, independent businesses stay in operation and, we hope, grow, is important for many reasons, including the viability and health of America's cities and towns. Small businesses have a far greater economic impact on communities than larger, chain businesses, and they are largely responsible for our villages, towns, and cities retaining their unique characteristics."

Mills is founding partner and managing director of New York-based Solera Capital and chair of Maine's Council on Competitiveness and the Economy. She has also worked as a consultant for McKinsey & Co. and as a product manager for General Foods. Mills has an A.B. in Economics from Radcliff College (Magna Cum Laude) and an MBA from Harvard Business School. She is the daughter of Melvin and Ellen Gordon, the husband-and-wife team who control and run Chicago-based Tootsie Roll Industries.

Prior to Mills' confirmation, ABA wrote to Sen. Mary Landrieu, chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, in support of her appointment.

At her confirmation hearing, Mills said as SBA head she would focus on three important fronts: executing the plans in the Recovery Act; reinvigorating the agency by attracting a strong and passionate leadership team and investing in the information technology the agency needs to operate; and acting as an advocate for small business across the administration. She also noted that access to affordable health care is "always the number-one or [number-] two issue in every small business survey ... we need to provide this benefit. The costs are just not affordable. The President has made this a priority of his administration." She listed "pooling [health care] among small businesses," or "some sort of tax relief" among the possible solutions. --David Grogan