Maria Contreras-Sweet, President Obama’s nominee to head the Small Business Administration, laid out her vision to the Senate’s Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship in her nomination hearing last week.
Unlike previous SBA administrator Karen Mills—a venture capitalist who emphasized the value of promoting high-growth entrepreneurs—Contreras-Sweet suggested that she would like to see the SBA get back to basics and focus on core initiatives such as its lending programs.
Contreras-Sweet wasn’t confirmed last week due to a lack of a quorum at her hearing. However, both Democrat and Republicans on the committee members praised her nomination, suggesting there will be no hurdles to her approval.
Here are three goals Contreras-Sweet has expressed for her new role:
1. “De-bundling” government contracts. Congress has set a goal that 23 percent of federal contracts should go to small businesses. However, federal agencies have continually missed that goal. Contreras-Sweet said she would promote unbundling contracts to help shift contracting dollars away from large companies and into the hands of smaller firms. She would also like to see the SBA better train business owners on how to pursue federal contracts.
2. Expanding SBA Lending Programs. Contreras-Sweet said the SBA needs to do a better job of communicating the benefits of its loan guarantee programs to banks and business owners. She said she would help revive a program allowing businesses to use the SBA's 504 loan program to refinance commercial real estate loans. She also pledged to improve the SBA's disaster loan program, which was highly criticized after its slow response to Hurricane Sandy.
3. Supporting women- and minority-owned businesses. Contreras-Sweet founded ProAmerica Bank, a Los Angeles-based bank focused on the Latino business community. As SBA chief, Contreras-Sweet has suggested that she would like to help increase access to capital for women- and minority-owned businesses.
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