SBA Chief Calls Transition Experience 'Exceptional'

Agency review teams for the incoming Obama administration are swarming dozens of government offices, report Post staffers Shailagh Murray and Carol D. Leonnig in today's front-page article Obama Teams Are Scrutinizing Federal Agencies. And that includes the Small Business Administration.

"We're having a really exceptional transition experience," said SBA Acting Administrator Sandy Baruah. The transition team began meetings with the agency about a week or so after Election Day and are paying a visit to Baruah this afternoon, he told the Small Business Blog.

The SBA three-person review team includes two former agency officials. Here's a look at each of their backgrounds:

Fred Hochberg was deputy and acting administrator from 1998 through 2001. He's now a member of the board of commissioners of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and a former business school dean. He also has served as president and COO of the Lillian Vernon Corp.

Ginger Lew is CEO of the Czech Slovak American Enterprise Fund. She is also an adviser with Amplifier Venture Partners. She was deputy administrator and COO of the SBA and served in various administrative positions during the Carter administration. Lew has been a member of the NASDAQ Listing Council since 1999. In 2006, she founded the Association of Asian American Investment Managers, a national trade association for Asian American investment professionals.

Karen Mills is president of MMP Group, a private equity investor and adviser since 1993. From 1999 to 2007 she was founding partner and managing director of Solera Capital, a New York based venture capital firm. She is lead director of Scotts Miracle-Gro. She spends a lot of time commuting between Manhattan and Maine, where her husband is president of Bowdoin College.

"I don't care who you voted for. Mr. Obama and his team won, and it's our job as government employees to make the transition the most successful ever," said Baruah. "There are a lot of challenges, and it's my responsibility to help set the table for him and his team."

UPDATE: Kathleen Maher is also a team member. The Obama transition Web site identifies Lew and Hochberg as team leads and lists Mills and Maher as SBA transition team members.

Baruah said the transition team has been talking to senior level, mid-level and many Washington-based SBA personnel. "My conversations with the team have been equal parts policy and equal parts management administration - talking about the nuts and bolts of running the agency."

They've also been talking about "what kind of folks" the transition team should be considering for various posts within the agency, said Baruah, adding that there's been a lot of discussion about "what worked for us, what didn't work for us."

Baruah declined to elaborate on specifics, saying the conversations are private to encourage a free flow of dialogue and information.

"From my end of the discussion I'm looking at what are the things that we can do to be more relevant to the entrepreneurial class of America," he said.

The transition team also paid a visit to the agency's Office of Advocacy, where Acting General Counsel Shawn Carter McGibbon offered a 354-page transition plan for the incoming administration.

By Sharon McLoone |  December 3, 2008; 3:35 PM ET Election 2008
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FYI, There are FOUR SBA Review Team members. Verify on member is named Kathleen Maher. Please correct:

Kathleen A. Maher is a graduate student at Milano, The New School for Management and Urban Policy in New York City. For the last year, she has worked for Fred P. Hochberg, former Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA) and Dean of Milano, the New School for Management and Urban Policy, as a researcher and analyst on small business policy issues. Ms. Maher assisted in the development and production of a chapter for the Center for American Progress New Democracy Project's "Change for America: A Progressive Blueprint for the 44th President." The chapter provides a framework for recommended reforms to SBA. For the last few months, her work has focused on the small business policy agenda for the Obama Campaign and the preliminary work of the Obama transition team. Prior to entering graduate school in 2007, Ms. Maher worked for seven years as a community organizer and legislative policy analyst with a focus on social service and health care policy.

Posted by: kathleenmaher | December 3, 2008 5:54 PM

As a small business owner who has recent experience with the SBA, I can say that the transition team and the in-coming Administration have their work cut out for them.

This is an agency, from a process point-of-view, that doesn't do its job either effectively or efficiently. From an outsider's vantage, they don't seem to have a clue that undue delay to a small business is a virtual death sentence.

If the new Administration is serious about helping small business, it needs to take a long, hard look at pumping dollars into SBA to get temporary staff and consultants on-board quickly.

A leisurely approach will not do.

Posted by: mlefcowitz | December 6, 2008 6:32 AM

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