Karen G. Mills was sworn in April 6, 2009, as the 23rd Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration. Appointed by President Barack Obama and confirmed unanimously by the Senate, Ms. Mills directs a federal agency with more than 2,000 full-time employees, and a leading role helping small business owners and entrepreneurs secure financing, technical assistance, training and federal contracts. SBA also plays a leading role in disaster recovery by making low interest loans for businesses and residents. With a portfolio of direct and guaranteed business loans and disaster loans worth more than $90 billion, SBA is the nation’s largest single financial backer of small business.
Since 1983, Ms. Mills has been an active hands-on investor in and successful manager of small businesses. Ms. Mills also has distinguished herself as a passionate advocate for small business policy that encourages innovation, economic development and job creation.
Most recently, as the president of MMP Group, Ms. Mills invested in and took a leading role in companies involved in the consumer products, food, distribution, textile and industrial components sectors. Ms. Mills has spent much of her career working with small manufacturing firms, including producers of hardwood flooring, refrigerator motors and plastic injection molding. During the recession of the early 1990s, her hands-on management and commitment to innovation is credited with helping several small manufacturers increase efficiency and competitiveness, and ultimately survive in a tough economy. Her background also includes consulting in the U.S. and Europe for the management consulting firm McKinsey and Co. and product management for General Foods. In 2007, she was appointed by Maine Gov. John Baldacci as chair of the state’s Council on Competitiveness and the Economy, where she focused on attracting investment in rural and regional development initiatives. She also served on the Governor’s Council for the Redevelopment of the Brunswick Naval Air Station.
For several years Ms. Mills has been a leading voice in the U.S. competitiveness discussion and is author of an influential Brookings Institution paper on the federal role in regional economic development clusters – geographic concentrations of interconnected businesses that share knowledge and resources to spur innovation, economic growth and higher wage employment. Ms. Mills’s work with boat builders in Maine in using composite materials to increase global competitiveness is one of the leading examples of the success of economic development clusters.
She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and has been vice chairman of the Harvard Overseers. Ms. 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. Mills and her husband, Barry Mills, president of Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, have three sons.