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January 16, 2012 | last updated January 16, 2012 1:57 pm

Mainer Mills now holds Cabinet-level post as head of the U.S. SBA

President Obama on Friday made the position of head of the Small Business Administration a Cabinet-level post, elevating Maine resident Karen Mills, who currently holds the job.

In announcing the move, Obama praised Mills for the "outstanding job" she's done as SBA administrator over the past two and a half years, the Washington Post reported. Prior to her nomination as SBA head, she founded a venture capital firm named Solera Capital and served as president of private equity firm MMP Group. She's also been an advocate for growing regional innovation clusters.

In February 2009, Mainebiz venture capital columnist Michael Gurau highlighted the benefits business owners could see with Mill as head of the SBA, including a push to develop industry clusters and urban markets and the revival of the SBA's equity programs to fill the early-stage capital gap. At that time, some officials, including U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, were already advocating for the SBA administrator position to be given Cabinet status, Gurau wrote.

In a press release, Snowe praised Obama's decision and called Mills "the one person in the administration who knows how to save and create jobs."

The change is part of the president's proposal to combine several agencies with overlapping responsibilities in commerce and trade, a move that would require Congress to grant Obama increased authority. Obama wants to merge the Commerce Department, the Small Business Administration, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corp. and the Trade and Development Agency. The merger would cut more than 1,000 jobs and save an estimated $3 billion over the next decade. Obama said combining the agencies would create a single department to serve entrepreneurs, according to the paper.

Mills lives in Brunswick, where her husband, Barry, is president of Bowdoin College.

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