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Latina of Influence | Maria Contreras-Sweet

Latina of Influence | Maria Contreras-Sweet

Community Servant, Entrepreneur and SBA Administrator Nominee Maria Contreras-Sweet is one of Hispanic Lifestyle’s 2014 Latinas of Influence.  Follow all of our 2014 Latinas of Influence on twitter with the tag #HLTVLC14

Ms. Contreras-Sweet is the founder of ProAmérica Bank, the first Latino-owned business bank in California in over 30 years. Its focus is small and medium-sized businesses in Latino neighborhoods. So not only did she start small businesses, but those have also been her customers, and she understands all too often that the lack of access to capital means a lack of opportunity.

As Secretary of the California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, Maria was the driving force behind major job creation and major public investments in infrastructure and in housing.

As a consultant, she helped companies expand into the Latino market. She’s a champion of women-owned and family-owned businesses.


Our entire list of Hispanic Lifestyle’s 2014 Latinas of Influence are invited to participate in our Latina Conference scheduled for April 2, 2014.


More about Ms. Contreras-Sweet from the web
Maria Contreras-Sweet is the executive chairwoman and founder of ProAmérica Bank, a commercial bank focusing on small to mid-sized businesses with a specialty in the Latino community. Born in GuadalajaraMexico, Contreras-Sweet immigrated to Los Angeles, California and has since had much success in both private enterprise and public service as the California Secretary of Business, Transportation, and Housing under Governor Gray Davis.

California Cabinet Secretary
Contreras-Sweet was appointed by Governor Gray Davis to be Cabinet Secretary of the California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency (BTH), becoming the first Latina to be named Cabinet Secretary in United States history. During her 5-year term, Contreras-Sweet was the longest serving BTHA secretary, overseeing 44,000 employees, a $14 billion budget, and 14 state departments. Her projects included:

  • Creating of the Department of Managed Health Care and its accompanying Office of Patient Advocate
  • Serving as Chairwomen for the Commission on Building for the 21st Century and published the Invest for California Infrastructure Report
  • Securing funding; building consensus among local, state, and federal governments; and commencing the construction of the eastern span of the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge (at the time, the project was considered one of the largest infrastructure projects in the United States)
  • Driving the passage of California Proppsition 46, a $2.1 billion housing bond
  • Creating the first international architectural competition ever undertaken for a state building, which led to the construction of the Caltrans District 7 Headquarters.
  • Serving as Chairwoman of the 2000 United States Census for California.

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