LA bank founder confirmed to head Small Business Administration

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The Senate has approved Los Angeles bank founder Maria Contreras-Sweet to head the federal Small Business Administration, the agency confirmed Thursday.

Contreras-Sweet is a former California cabinet secretary and the founder and chair of ProAmérica Bank, which opened in 2007 and caters to a Latino clientele with a focus on small- and mid-sized businesses.

She was born in Guadalajara, Mexico and arrived in the U.S. at age 5, according to the Associated Press.

She becomes the second Hispanic in Obama's second-term Cabinet, after Labor Secretary Thomas Perez. Contreras-Sweet was the first Latina to serve as a Cabinet secretary in California, when she presided over the state's Business, Transportation and Housing Agency between 1999 to 2003.

The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, which supported Contreras-Sweet's nomination, praised her in a statement Thursday as "a dedicated public servant" with "firsthand understanding of the unique needs of the small business community."

A spokesman for the SBA said Contreras-Sweet, who was nominated by President Barack Obama in January, was confirmed for the post but has yet to be sworn in. She fills the SBA administrator's position formerly occupied by Karen Mills, who left last August.    

Note: Maria Contreras-Sweet is a former member of Southern California Public Radio's board.

Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly said that Maria Contreras-Sweet was a current member of Southern California Public Radio's board.

With contributions from AP

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