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Blog Entries from September 26, 2011

Spotlight on Commerce: Alejandra Castillo, Deputy Director of the Minority Business Development Agency

Alejandra Y. Castillo is the National Deputy Director of the Minority Business Development Agency

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of winning the future through their work.

Alejandra Y. Castillo is the National Deputy Director of the Minority Business Development Agency.

Since joining the Minority Business Development Agency in April 2010, I serve as the principal advisor to the MBDA National Director and manage the day-to-day activities of the Agency’s 5 Regional Offices and 48 Minority Business Centers. These Offices and Business Centers are vital centers of economic growth and job creation. Under the Obama Administration, MBDA has assisted minority-owned firms in obtaining nearly $7 billion in contracts and capital, creating nearly 11,000 during the last two years.  As the National Deputy Director, I am also responsible for executing the Agency’s mission to help Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs) grow and succeed through access to capital, access to contract and access to business opportunities both domestically and abroad.

Prior to MBDA, I served as Special Advisor to the Under Secretary for the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA) where I was responsible for business outreach and development of policy initiatives geared at trade promotion and enforcement of U.S. trade laws. Before coming to the Department of Commerce, I was a practicing attorney for several years, working in the private, government and non-profit sector.  I also served as the Interim Executive Director of the Hispanic National Bar Association working with the White House and non-profit organization, such as the Latinos for a Fair Judiciary, in support of the nomination and confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor to the United States Supreme Court.

Accurate Measures: Foundation for a Strong Economy

NIST logo [outdated]

Every day we consciously buy products whose performance depends on one or more measured quantities — the wattage and lumens of light bulbs, that 12-ounce cup of coffee, the fill up at the gas station. Many of us take for granted that we are getting our money’s worth, and in large part we are, because the accuracy of these measurements traces back to calibrations and standards from the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). 

But measurement and other precise specifications also play a much broader, largely invisible economic role. All the sophisticated technologies we depend on daily require equally sophisticated measurement capabilities to ensure performance, quality, and safety. The diameters of optical fibers as thin human hair must match up perfectly to carry telecommunications data and video over thousands of miles. CAT scan machines must deliver the minimum X-ray dose for clear images while protecting patients from unnecessary radiation. The frequencies of cell phone systems must be finely tuned so that you receive clear reception of your calls, and only your calls, without crosstalk from stray signals.

Moreover, virtually every product or service one buys today is a complex technology system (computers, automobiles, even clothes washers). The components of these “systems” can only work together if the physical and functional dimensions of the interfaces between them are precisely specified.

NIST provides the precision measurement and interoperability tools industry needs now while pushing the boundaries of the underlying science to create the enabling infrastructure for the technologies of tomorrow.