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Karen G. Mills Tabbed for SBA Director

For those of you who were handicapping the potential pick for who would lead the U.S. Small Business Administration, the race is over and Karen G. Mills from Maine is the winner. Here is some information on Ms. Mills as submitted in a Portland Press-Herald article.

President-elect Barack Obama on Friday officially named a Maine venture capitalist to lead the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Karen G. Mills of Brunswick is a founding partner of the New York-based equity firm Solera Capital. She chairs Maine Gov. John Baldacci’s Council on Competitiveness and the Economy. In 2006, she led the successful referendum campaign for a $50 million research and development bond.

Mills was one of several appointees whose nomination was announced by Obama at a news conference in Chicago. She is one of three people with Maine ties to be selected for high-level posts in the Obama administration.

All of the nominees must be confirmed by the Senate.
As Small Business Administration director, Mills would oversee a federal agency whose mission is to assist and protect the interests of small businesses. It guarantees loans to them and provides direct loans for homeowners and businesses recovering from natural disasters.
In announcing his selection of Mills, Obama said the nation must strengthen small businesses to strengthen its economy, and he could think of no one better to lead the effort.
“With Karen at the helm, America’s small businesses will have a partner in Washington, helping them create jobs and spur growth in communities across this country,” Obama said.
“With a background in the private sector and experience helping Maine’s governor promote growth across the state, I am confident that Karen will lead an SBA that will not only help small business owners realize their dreams, but help our nation rebuild our economy.”

In a brief interview with the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, Mills called small business “the lifeblood of America and a state like Maine.”
“Really, as we grow the economy and try to create jobs, we hope to have an important seat at the table at the federal level,” she said. “The more we encourage small business, the more competitive we are globally.”
Maine’s top elected officials Friday released statements supporting Obama’s nomination of Mills.
“Karen will be a strong voice for small businesses in Maine and around the country,” said Baldacci. “I know that she will do a great job.”
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is a former regional director of the Small Business Administration. She said Mills will bring “exactly the experience and financial skills that are needed to help our small businesses start up, grow and prosper.”
Betsy Biemann, president of the Maine Technology Institute, where Mills is a member of the board of directors, said Mills understands the challenges facing rural states like Maine in growing small businesses.
“She’s an out-of-the-box thinker,” Biemann said. “She brings her strong analytical mind and her focus on results to solving whatever the problem is at hand.”
Biemann noted that Mills co-wrote a report earlier this year for the Brookings Institute that outlined the role the federal government could play in developing economic clusters – loosely defined areas where companies with similarities operate and succeed in part because of their proximity.

The report addressed the lack of effort on the federal level to develop such clusters. Maine has worked to enhance cluster development through investment and policies.
“I’m sure she will bring what she learned and the recommendations from that report to the SBA with her,” said Biemann.
Mills, a mother of three whose husband is Bowdoin College President Barry Mills, also sits on Baldacci’s Council for the Redevelopment of the Brunswick Naval Air Station and serves on the board of Maine’s chapter of the Nature Conservancy.

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