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Mexican born María Contreras-Sweet, New Chief of SBA

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With the heated and apparently interminable debate on whether immigration is good or bad for the future of the United States, there are some news that can help the general public reach the right decision, such as the recent appointment of Mexican born entrepreneur María Contreras-Sweet as head of the Small Business Administration.

María Contreras-Sweet is not only an elegant and beautiful woman (more along the lines of Venezuelan designer Carolina Herrera). She is also an effective public speaker, and a shrewd businesswoman with a long and successful career, who knows how to manage on a massive scale -- a vital attribute to the position of head of SBA.

María is the founder and board chairwoman of PROAMERICA Bank, a Latino owned community institution in California specialized in granting credits to small Hispanic owned businesses. She is also a board member for the Children´s Hospital in Los Angeles, CA, and co-founder of “Hispanics Organized for Political Equality” (HOPE), an organization that aims to help young Hispanic women get involved in local politics.

“[María] is articulate and passionate about helping small businesses”, said Gary Toebben, president and chief executive of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

María Contreras-Sweet has held other key positions in the past. Between 1999 and 2003, she served as Secretary of the California Business, Transportation, and Housing Agency, and before that, she was a board member of California Blue Cross, and President and Co-founder of Fortius Holdings, a private-equity and venture capital firm that specializes in providing small businesses access to loans and financial services.

María has a history of helping and inspiring Latinos to succeed in the United States. In 2013, she was the Women of ALPFA Scholarship Luncheon Moderator at the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting Annual Convention in Washington, D.C.

Similar to many other Hispanic immigrants, María came in the United States from Guadalajara, one of Mexico´s largest cities, when she was only five years old. She and her five siblings arrived in California with their mother, who worked for a chicken packaging plant in order to support her family.

María Contreras-Sweet is an example to follow for the new generations of Hispanics in the United States, and she has been described as a “fierce champion” by President Obama. She has fought hard to make sure that immigrant-owned businesses are not simply ignored by traditional banks and other lending institutions, and that hard working, progressive immigrants receive the necessary attention in order to succeed and become an asset to the United States’ economy.

According to the Washington Post, “[María]…pledged to use her authority atop the agency to ‘make sure the Small Business Administration is an even more significant force in expanding opportunities for all Americans, ensuring the economic strength of our country and global economy’”.

According to John Arensmeyer, founder and president of Small Business Majority, an advocacy group “´[María´s] diverse background… will be an asset in her new role as SBA Administrator."

The Latino Coalition, ALPFA, small business advocates, and numerous Hispanic organizations have applauded Contreras-Sweet´s appointment.

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