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SBA Nominee Lauded at Senate Small Business Committee Confirmation Hearing

posted Feb 12, 2014, 2:42 PM by Ann Sullivan   [ updated Apr 22, 2014, 10:43 AM ]
February 12, 2014
by Martin Feeney

The Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship met one last time under Senator Mary L. Landrieu’s (D-LA) chairmanship to consider the President’s nomination of Maria Contreras-Sweet to serve as Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

Prior to her nomination, Ms. Contreras-Sweet served as CEO of ProAmerica Bank in Los Angeles, CA.  But she was quick to note that, “I am a small business owner whose small business helps small businesses every day,” during her opening remarks. 

Ms. Contreras-Sweet touched on a number of issues important to the microbusiness community during the hearing.  For example, she acknowledged that SBA’s lending programs continue to be plagued by red tape – which ultimately burdens borrowers – despite recent efforts to streamline those programs.  Ms. Contreras-Sweet said she would make access to capital a focus, highlighting the California Association for Micro Enterprise Opportunity (CAMEO) – an AEO member – as an example of how effective and efficient SBA partners can be.

She said she would work with her counterparts at other agencies to identify opportunities to enhance contracting opportunities for small businesses and actively seek to un-bundle contracts and make them available to small businesses.  She noted she is no stranger to government contracting, having served previously as California’s Cabinet Secretary of Business, Transportation, and Housing.

Ms. Contreras-Sweet was widely praised by Senators from both parties for her willingness to get in the weeds and understand what is working and what is not at the SBA.  “If there are any gaps in service to small businesses, I’ll work on filling those,” she said.  She said she will make sure small businesses know “this is not your grandfather’s SBA,” drawing laughter from Senators and members of the audience alike. 

There were not enough Senators present for a Committee vote to advance Ms. Contreras-Sweet to the full Senate for consideration. A Committee vote should come soon.

The confirmation hearing was the last for Senator Landrieu as Chair of the Committee, before she hands the gavel over to Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) later this week.  Senator Landrieu proved to be a friend to AEO, and a stalwart champion of small businesses everywhere – she will be missed. 

A webcast of the hearing is available here.