PORTLAND — Loan guarantees, payroll tax cuts, access to advisers and investment in infrastructure are among the tools that the federal government is working to provide small businesses so they can grow, U.S. Small Business Administrator Karen Mills said this morning.

Mills, a Maine resident, spoke to an audience of more than 200 people at the Portland Regional Chamber’s Eggs & Issues breakfast.

This month, President Barack Obama elevated Mills’ job to a Cabinet-level position. Mills said this morning that that move reflects the president’s thinking about small businesses.

“From the very first moment, he understood the role small businesses play in driving the economy,” she said.

Mills noted that the role of small businesses is particularly important in Maine, where 97 percent of businesses are small.

Mills has held the SBA administrator’s post since 2009. She had led Maine’s Council on Competitiveness and the Economy under Gov. John Baldacci.

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