Campus News

Watch Online: Karen Mills Named SBA Administrator

Story posted December 19, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama has named Karen Mills, wife of President Barry Mills, Administrator of the Small Business Administration.

Karen Mills145.jpg
Karen Mills

Obama made the announcement Friday, December 19, 2008, at a news conference in Chicago, saying with Mills at the helm, "America's small businesses will have a partner in Washington."

In Chicago for the announcement, which was televised on various news channels, Mills delivered remarks focusing on the importance of building and growing small business in America.

"The Small Business Administration provides an opportunity for the federal government to serve as a partner with small business — to help these businesses access capital and counseling, and to provide aid in times of natural disasters," Mills said.

"Small business will be at the table as we work our way through these difficult economic times — and as we grow the economy in the future.

"America’s spirit of entrepreneurship is one of our greatest assets as we compete in this global economy. I am very pleased to be joining the Obama Administration in a role that fosters this entrepreneurial spirit."

Mills has been reviewing the SBA as part of Obama's transition team.

The SBA's mission is to counsel, 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 Brunswick, President Barry Mills said it was an exciting day for Karen and their family, and expressed gratitude to his wife's many supporters.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for Karen, and our sons and I could not be more proud of her or more excited about what lies ahead," said President Mills.

"Karen is a talented leader and a powerful advocate for small business, as she has demonstrated throughout her professional life and through her work here in the State of Maine with Governor Baldacci.

"Many of you will wonder what this means for our family since, after all, Karen's new job will be in Washington, D.C. Since coming to Maine in 2001, Karen has maintained her business career and has routinely commuted between Brunswick and New York City. Beginning in January, that commute will be just another short plane ride away. As I continue in my job leading Bowdoin, Karen will continue her wonderful involvement in the life of the College with her usual energy and enthusiasm."

Mills has been a principal in the private equity and venture capital industry since 1983. She has invested in and taken a leadership role in the growth of more than 20 companies in the consumer products, food, distribution, textile and industrial component sectors.

Mills was a co-founder and managing director of Solera Capital which raised $250 million in its 2000 fund, and chief operating officer of E.S. Jacobs and Company, a private equity firm where she had operating control of businesses with sales of nearly $600 million, 4,100 employees and 32 plants.

In 2007 Mills was appointed by Maine Gov. John Baldacci to chair the Council on Competitiveness and the Economy. In 2006 she led the initiative for a $50 million competitive research and development bond that passed the legislature with strong bipartisan support, and was approved by public referendum.

She also sits on the Governor's Council for the Redevelopment of the Brunswick Naval Air Station, which recently went on the BRAC closure list, and serves on the board of the Maine Technology Institute and the Maine chapter of the Nature Conservancy.

For several years Ms. Mills has been national voice in the U.S. competitiveness discussion and is the author of a soon-to-be-released paper from Brookings on the federal role in regional economic development clusters.

Mills is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and has been vice chairman of the Harvard Overseers. Other Harvard activities have included the visiting committees to Engineering, Chemistry, Information Technology and the Harvard Business School.

Mills has an A.B. in economics from Harvard University, and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School where she was a Baker Scholar. Her background includes consulting in the U.S. and Europe for McKinsey and Co. and product management for General Foods. Mills is the lead director of Scotts Miracle-Gro and a director of Arrow Electronics, a $15 billion semiconductor distributor.

Mills and her husband have three boys. She has recently begun competing in sprint and Olympic distance triathlons.

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