President-elect Barack Obama has named venture capitalist Karen Mills to lead the Small Business Administration, drawing fire from one small business group.

Mills, founding partner of the equity firm Solera Capital, has advised Maine Governor John Baldacci about economic issues and is president of the MMP Group, another private equity firm in Brunswick, Maine. Obama has advocated for more assistance to start-up technology companies, particularly in the renewable energy area.

"President-elect Obama's decision to name an SBA administrator so early in the transition is a good sign for small businesses," said House Small Business Committee Chairwoman Nydia M. Velázquez, D-N.Y., in a statement. "This appointment shows that his economic team recognizes the key role that small firms play in job creation and the need to take quick steps to revitalize the agency's role in spurring growth. Through budgets cuts and mismanagement during the last eight years, the SBA has become nothing more than a shell of the agency it used to be. Reversing this course is essential, and I look forward to working with the new administrator to accomplish this during the next four years."

However, the leader of an advocacy group for small businesses objected to the selection of a venture capitalist to run the agency.

"It has sent the signal that Barack Obama is going to try to sell America's small business programs to the venture capitalists," said American Small Business League president Lloyd Chapman. "What Obama is going to do is to create a loophole that will allow venture capitalists to participate in small-business contracting programs. He has completely sold out small business America."

Chapman noted that the National Venture Capital Association has been a heavy campaign contributor to Obama and other congressional leaders, and he took exception to Mills's background. "This woman has never done anything for small businesses in her life," said Chapman. "Ninety-nine percent of small businesses in America don't have anything to do with venture capitalists. What Obama is attempting to do is change the definition of a small business to include the nation's wealthiest investors. It's very disappointing."

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