ABA Voices Support for Karen Gordon Mills to Head SBA

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Karen Gordon Mills

On Tuesday, March 31, the American Booksellers Association wrote to Sen. Mary Landrieu, chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, in support of Karen Gordon Mills, President Obama's nominee to head the Small Business Administration (SBA). ABA's letter was sent in advance of Mills' April 1 confirmation hearing before the Senate committee. Following the hearing, the Senate committee approved her appointment as Administrator, and Sen. Landrieu called on the full Senate to confirm Mills before it recesses at the end of this week.

In ABA's letter to Sen. Landrieu, COO Oren Teicher wrote: "Considering Ms. Mills' extensive business credentials and entrepreneurial background, we believe she is the best choice to lead SBA in meeting the needs of small business owners....

"Ms. Mills' background clearly shows she understands the role that small businesses play in our nation's economy. With experience in both manufacturing and venture capital, she has had firsthand knowledge in helping to shape and rebuild various businesses."

Small Business Committee Chair Mary Landrieu (right) greets Karen Mills (left) prior to her confirmation hearing. Photo: U.S. Senate Photographer

During the confirmation hearing, the committee and Mills touched on a number of subjects critical to the success of small businesses, including the idea of moving SBA to a cabinet-level status, freeing up credit for small businesses, and providing affordable healthcare.

"Building and growing small business has been the defining tradition for America," Mills stated and added: "Small businesses are the heart of the American economy: There are over 26 million small businesses in this country and they create 70 percent of the new jobs. This means that to find our way out of the current economic crisis, we have to find ways to help small businesses stay in operation and even expand."

Mills is the founding partner and managing director of New York-based Solera Capital and the chair of Maine's Council on Competitiveness and the Economy, according to SBA's Gateway E-Gazette. Mills also worked as a consultant for McKinsey & Co. and as a product manager for General Foods. She 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.

In responding to the senators' questions, 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.