We Have A New SBA Administrator: Senate Confirms Maria Contreras Sweet

contreras sweet

The U.S. Senate has confirmed Maria Contreras-Sweet as new head of the Small Business Administration.

Contreras-Sweet was nominated by President Obama back in January (pictured above).  Her confirmation hearing was held before the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship in February.

Today’s action makes it official.  The SBA Twitter account was one of the first to announce the news:

The nomination and voting on Contreras-Sweet was widely supported by both sides of the political aisle.  The voting was done by voice, and the entire voting session was completed in roughly three minutes in the Senate this afternoon. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash), Chair of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, brought the nomination to the Senate floor saying:

“The SBA has been without an Administrator for eight months, and it’s critical that we get this position filled today. We can’t forget that small businesses create two out of three new jobs in our country…. Every single day we need to think about small businesses in our community, and how much we need to help and support them. Everything from Chobani yogurt to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Federal Express… have all been small businesses benefiting from the SBA program and to have somebody like Maria Contreras-Sweet to be this person is critical to us.”

Contreras-Sweet was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 5.  She served as secretary of the California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency from 1999 to 2003.  She founded the Latino-owned ProAmérica Bank with family and friends in Los Angeles in 2006.

Contreras-Sweet may be coming to the helm of a Small Business Administration with somewhat reduced resources. The U.S. House Small Business Committee has recommended the agency’s requested $865 million budget be trimmed by $50 million. That money comes from entrepreneurial development programs meant to encourage innovation.  That budget has not been finally decided, however.


Shawn Hessinger Shawn Hessinger is the Executive Editor for Small Business Trends and a professional journalist with more than 20 years experience in traditional and digital media for trade publications and news sites. He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and has served as a beat reporter, columnist, editorial writer, bureau chief and managing editor for the Berks Mont Newspapers.

9 Reactions
  1. Congrats to her. Now it is time to see what she can do. I hope that she puts the needs of small businesses first so that she ends up helping more small business owners.

  2. Maria Contreras-Sweet is a top professional and a fine person. It is already a great success for small business to have her lead the SBA.

  3. This is great news, Shawn.

    The small business community needs the SBA to have a rudder…a leader in place, and we now have one.

    Let’s hope she works out-and benefits all of us!

    The Franchise King®

  4. Douglas Crawford

    I’m sure she is a pleasant person. She was a government worker and now a political appointee. Has she ever had to meet a payroll? Take risks with her own money? Will she advocate for less regulation and lower taxes? Does she understand that the small business owner is an endangered species under current economic policy? OR will she just pick winners and losers as she passes out taxpayer money at her discretion? That we didn’t build it and should be beholding to the government? Very skeptical that this President would appoint anyone contrary to his point of view.

    • Douglas,

      Unlike the President, she actually has met a payroll a number of times. And with the help of some extremely well-healed partners, she even started a couple things – unheard of among the top 120 people in the SBA. On the potentially negative side, she has spent a lot of time as a venture capitalist and mucking around with them. The vc’s are very focused on turning the SBA into a funding arm for venture capitalists.

      She is also swimming upstream against Karen Mills’ legacy as the SBA Administrator. It was easily the most injurious tenure in their 60 year history, and it will take some herculean efforts by Contreras-Sweet to save the SBA. Since 2008 the SBA has been aggressively working to expand the definition of small in every category. This has resulted in 66,000 giant businesses with 500+ employees and $30+million in revenue to be reclassified as small. As a result, the banks are now lending largely to these giants. The average SBA loan has gone from $180,000 in 2008 to $485,000 in 2013. And loans under $100k have gone from 24% to under 9% in the same time frame.

      The SBA is still working on expanding their already absurd definition of small. There are a lot of SICs they haven’t touched yet. Will Contreras-Sweet stop this nonsense? Will she work to reverse the damage? How she responds to this issue will tell us right away if she is the advocate of small business or, like Karen Mills, an advocate of giant corporations. Stay tuned.

  5. Martha Gonzales

    That’s a well awaited move and I expect Maria Contreras-Sweet will do a fairly good job in helping the small businesses grow and create more jobs, which will ultimately help the economy to grow. We all know that small businesses are the real employment generators in economies. Therefore, I hope she will try to create conducive environment for us to grow and in turn create more jobs.