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SBA Head Mills To Depart; Led Through Hard Times

By JOYCE M. ROSENBERG

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Karen Mills, the head of the Small Business Administration as it focused on helping small companies recover from the Great Recession, is stepping down.

Under her leadership, the SBA brought more than 1,000 community banks to its lending programs and it won a commitment from 13 big banks to increase their lending to small businesses over three years. The agency also regained its status as a Cabinet-level agency with Mills at the helm â¿¿ a status it had lost during the Bush administration. Mills says she will remain in her position until a successor is appointed by President Obama. She joins a number of officials â¿¿ including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton â¿¿ to leave the administration. Many high-level officials leave the government after a president's first term.

Mills has served as SBA administrator since April 2009. Mills says she will remain in her position until a successor is appointed by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate.

Mills joined the SBA during a challenging time. The U.S. was in recession and suffering from the consequences brought on by the financial crisis. Bank lending was nearly frozen and many businesses were suffering from slower sales as people and other companies spent less. In 2008, before the financial crisis, the SBA guaranteed $12.7 billion of its most common loans, 7(a) loans. That amount plunged in 2009 to $9.2 billion, and in the year ended last Sept. 30, had recovered to $15.1 billion. The 7(a) loan program includes money for starting a business or operating or expanding an existing company.

"While there still are many items on the to-do list for America's small businesses, including meaningful regulatory reform, tax simplification and capital availability, Administrator Mills stepped into the position in a turbulent time and pushed the agency forward on these and other small-business priorities," said. Todd McCracken, CEO of the National Small Business Association.

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