AlphonsoJackson

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When making the announcement Bush pointed to Preston'smanagement of the SBA's loan guarantee programs, which is "similarin structure to those run by the Federal Housing Administration."Preston streamlined the agency's efforts to disburse loans to smallbusinesses and homeowners devastated by Hurricane Katrina. "Withinmonths of Steve's reforms, the backlog of loans fell 80% andresponse times improved by 90%," Bush said. "Today more than $6billion in SBA loans are helping more than 160,000 Gulf Coastfamilies rebuild their homes, their businesses and theirlives."

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Preston indicated his experience with inner-city smallbusinesses as another reason for him to assume the helm at HUD. "SoI certainly hope to bring that spirit to the Department of Housingand Urban Development," he said during Bush's announcement of hisnomination. Prior to SBA, Preston was executive vice president ofStrategic Services at the ServiceMaster Co. and senior vicepresident and treasurer of First Data Corp.

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Normally an uncontroversial agency, HUD has been in the public'sand Congress' spotlight since the start of the subprime crisis.That, coupled with the fact that it is an election year, makes itdifficult to predict with certainty the fate of Preston'snomination.

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Early indications from both the Democrats and the real estateindustry, though, suggest Preston may indeed be the next HUDSecretary. Sen. John Kerry [D-MA], chairman of the Committee onSmall Business and Entrepreneurship, says he will be sorry to seePreston leave his current position. "Mr. Preston inherited anagency in disarray and he's worked hard to right its course and toimprove relationships with Congress," Kerry says in a statement."We may have some differences on policy, but he's always beenprofessional, responsive, and dedicated to the mission."

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The National Association of Realtors likes the new HUD pick aswell. "NAR has had a positive experience working with AdministratorSteve Preston in his role with the US Small Business Administrationand we believe he will do a fine job representing HUD, and helpingthe nation navigate through the housing downturn and the mortgagecrisis," NAR President Richard Gaylord says in a press release."Mr. Preston's past experience, both as CEO of ServiceMaster and asSBA Administrator, gives him good insight into the needs of smallbusinesses that serve the real estate and housing industries."

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