President Bush this week appointed a Commerce Department official with a background in corporate consulting to lead the Small Business Administration.

Sandy Baruah, who is currently an assistant secretary of commerce, has served in the Bush Administration since 2001, including terms as a deputy assistant secretary of program operations and chief of staff at the Economic Development Administration.

If confirmed by the Senate, Baruah will replace the acting administrator, Jovita Carranza, who was widely expected to head the agency until the end of Bush's term in office.

Steven Preston, who took over the SBA in July 2006, was recently appointed as secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Preston has been praised for turning the agency around after charges of mishandling Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts, along with sagging staff morale.

"The SBA needs strong leadership to fill the shoes left by Steven Preston," Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, said in a statement. "We'll review Sandy Baruah's record carefully to make sure that he is the right person for the job," Kerry said.

He said the agency's new administrator will have to find creative solutions for helping small-business owners deal with tighter credit and a slower economy.

Before joining the Bush Administration, Baruah spent seven years as a business consultant at the Performance Consulting Group, a Portland, Ore.-based corporate management firm. His clients included Walt Disney World, Intel and Key Bank, among others.