Obama Elevates Head of the SBA

President Obama announced Friday that he’s elevating the top of the tiny Business Administration to a Cabinet-level position, part of a more substantial proposal to merge the agency with five others in a bid to create government better.

Karen Mills, the top of SBA, "will make sure small-business owners have their own seat at the table inside our Cabinet meetings," Obama said.

The largely symbolic gesture is a nod by the NATIONAL GOVERNMENT to the important role that smaller businesses play in the economic recovery. The president doesn’t need Congressional approval for the move.

The president, however, needs Congress to sign off on his broader intend to streamline agencies, which he referred to as an effort to diminish government bureaucracy. Specifically, the president asked lawmakers to reinstate the authority of the president to reorganize government. From the 1930s to the first 1980s, the vast majority of the nation’s presidents had such authority, according to a statement from the White House.

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The authority that the president is requesting could have a caveat, however. All the reorganizations that Obama could have the power to create must either decrease the number of existing government agencies or save taxpayer dollars.

Were Congress to grant him such authority, the president said his first move is always to consolidate the SBA and other commerce and trade agencies into a unitary agency — with one internet site and one contact number. The other agencies will be the U.S. Department of Commerce’s core business and trade functions, any office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.

Burdensome regulation and overly bureaucratic government are normal complaints of small-business owners. “We spoke with businesses — including a huge selection of small businesses — to listen to what works and what doesn’t when you cope with the federal government,” said President Obama. “The majority of the complaints weren’t about an unresponsive federal worker; these were in regards to a system that was an excessive amount of a maze.”

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Whether or not Congress approves his authority to restructure the federal government, the president announced Friday that in the coming weeks, his administration would unveil an individual web site that may consolidate information for small-business owners and exporters.

As the small-business community digested the announcements from the president, the reactions were cautious.

The announcement serves as a "stamp of approval" for Mills’ efforts, especially improving usage of credit throughout a still challenging economic environment, Steve Caldeira, president and CEO of the International Franchise Association, said in a statement.

But he expressed worried about how SBA services will be affected if the merger is approved. “Within any proposed reorganization, it might be essential that SBA loan programs remain intact and at their current funding levels,” he said.

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