Obama's Small Business Administration Pick, Karen Gordon Mills, Hints At Agenda

Obama selects private equity investor Mills to be administrator of the SBA.

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After Obama solidified his victory over John McCain, I wrote that promoting "green jobs" would be one of the major thrusts of his policies as they pertain to the entrepreneurial sector--for good or bad. Friday's announcement that venture capitalist Karen Gordon Mills will head the SBA makes it more clear where Obama's priorities are.

Mills does not come from the "mom n' pop" small-business world. As Dawn Rivers Baker wrote on her blog, she represents the "high-growth gazelles." She co-founded New York's Solera Capital LLC, which makes late-stage investments in companies, and was there until 2007. As explained in one profile,

"Our operating philosophy is to invest about $15–20 million in each deal and take a controlling interest," notes Mills. "We like to be the capital that comes in to grow the business to the next level — build the next plant, make an acquisition, or expand the brand."

What companies has Solera been interested in? Yahoo identifies three standouts in its portfolio: The Little Clinic, which provides neighborhood-based physician assistants and advanced registered nurse practitioners, the organic food store Annie's, and Latina Media Ventures, publisher of Latina magazine.

Obama's pick of Mills might be intended as a play to tie his economic stimulus plan to the entrepreneurial sector of the economy. Mills comes from the world of high-growth, cutting-edge companies that Obama wants to be seen as benefiting from the "green economy" he wants to promote through infrastructure spending. Mills even mentioned "green start-ups" at the Friday press conference.

Does that mean a shift away from the concerns that entrepreneurs have about taxes and regulations and toward a more industrial-policy-like approach? Stay tuned.

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