Entering the final year of his term, President Barack Obama appointed Karen Mills, wife of President Barry Mills, to his cabinet.
On January 13, Obama elevated her position as head of the Small Business Association (SBA) to a cabinet-level agency.
"It's a great honor to be a part of the President's cabinet and to be recognized," said Mills in a phone interview with the Orient. "I think this elevation represents a continuation of the focus that the President has had on small business since day one."
Mills will take a seat at Obama's cabinet table alongside John Bryson, the secretary of Commerce, and Ron Kirk, the U.S. Trade Representative.
Mills' elevation to the cabinet is a recognition of her success at the helm of the SBA. In 2011, the organization provided more loan guarantees to small businesses and entrepreneurs than it had in any previous year.
"The SBA advises and counsels entrepreneurs and small business owners in 900 small business development centers," said Mills. "It's not just capital that businesses need; they need help with their business plans and advice on how to grow their business."
While the administrator of the SBA was not a cabinet position under President Bush, it was under the Clinton administration.
President Obama's elevation of the SBA administrator to the cabinet table comes alongside plans to reshuffle and consolidate the federal government's commerce and trade departments.
The President has requested permission from Congress to merge the SBA with the Department of Commerce, the Office of U.S. Trade Representative, the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.
Critics of the reorganization suggest that attention to small business owners would be overshadowed by Fortune 500 companies. Mills, however, remains adamant that such streamlining could only bring positive change to small businesses.
"This authority would allow him to do things like bring all the activities that happen all across government that relate to small business into one coordinated place," Mills said. "That would be very, very good for small businesses because they would be able to navigate more easily."
The future of Mills' cabinet position is uncertain in the event of such radical rearranging the federal trade agencies. Mills' noted, however, that "the specific details remain to be decided."
Looking ahead to 2012, Mills' stated that the SBA is shifting its attention towards counseling and encouraging entrepreneurship.
"This year...we are focusing on our entrepreneurs and training and educating and promoting entrepreneurs so that they can go and start to create more businesses," said Mills.
"If we can have more entrepreneurs and interest more young people in entrepreneurship, either right now or some point in their careers and lives, I think we will continue to have a vibrant job-creating economy," she added.