Small business community eagerly awaits Mills' successor

Small businesses have experienced stable growth since the aftermath of the financial crisis and have emerged as critical drivers of the American economy, largely attributed to the ingenuity demonstrated by the SBA.  While lending has yet to fully return to pre-2008 levels, data over the past five years has shown a steady increase in the number of small business loans provided through SBA 7(a) lending--loans that serve as the foundation for many businesses in their infancies. Continued growth of 7(a) lending is essential to keeping credit flowing to small businesses because the program fills a critical gap for those businesses, particularly startup and early stage companies that need access to longer-term loans.  SBA, through its private sector lending partners, is the single largest provider of long-term capital to U.S. small businesses, providing an outlet for entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams of small business ownership.

Since Mills assumed the helm in 2009, the SBA has provided more than $106 billion in loans to small businesses, with more than $30 billion worth of loan guarantees approved in each of the last two fiscal years. Mills has served as a confident visionary to the small business community during a fragile economic climate, driving job creation and successfully reinvigorating the entrepreneurship and innovation that have long been hallmarks of the American dream.

It’s no surprise that Mills’ successor has a large void to fill and immediate challenges to face upon appointment. Recent modernizing changes to small business provisions have expanded the scope of the SBA and have allowed more businesses to qualify for the agency’s programs. The next leader of the SBA must encourage more owners to take advantage of these opportunities, continuing a focus on access to capital for women, minorities, and veterans, while simultaneously ensuring that small business growth remains at the forefront of the Executive Office's policy agenda.

There is great opportunity for a new administrator to lead the small business community through these changes with a comprehensive and well-defined vision for the future. The installment of a strong, effective leader will continue to amplify Mills' legacy and showcase the resilience and vitality of the small business community, and allow this sector to continue its valuable contributions to our economic revival.

Wilkinson is president and CEO of the National Association of Guaranteed Government Lenders (NAGGL), which serves members of the small business community who utilize the SBA's 7(a) lending initiative.

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