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Blog Category: Spotlight on Commerce

Spotlight on Commerce: Michael Phelps, Director of the Office of Budget

Michael Phelps, Director of the Office of Budget

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 an America Built to Last.

I am currently Director of the Office of Budget at the Department of Commerce. That means I am the principal adviser to the Chief Financial Officer and Assistant Secretary for Administration and other Department officials on all things related to the planning, formulation, execution and defense of the Department’s budget.

I understand that not everyone is a numbers person, but I love this position because of public debates associated with supporting the president’s agenda and, more important, the roles and mission this Department plays in executing those objectives in helping to create an America built to last!

My entire professional career has been in public service. Prior to joining Commerce in March of 2011, I served 33 years in the United States Air Force. My last assignment was Director of Financial Management and Comptroller for Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base, Hampton, Virginia. As Chief Financial Officer for the largest operational command in the Air Force and the principal financial adviser to the Air Combat Command Commander, I led a 67-person financial management staff that supported a financial network of more than 1,100 people supporting 25 air wings, 1,100 aircraft and approximately 105,000 personnel. I retired from active duty as a colonel in February of 2011 and was given an opportunity to continue my service to the nation here at the Department of Commerce.

Spotlight On Commerce: Cedric Grant, Director of the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Portrait of Cedric Grant

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 an America Built to Last.

I have dedicated the majority of my professional career to guiding faith-based and non-profit organizations toward positive social and economic change. I attended Howard University (GO BISON!!), graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Finance, and earned a Master of Divinity Degree from Princeton Theological Seminary. Additionally, I received a Master of Public Administration from the School of International & Public Affairs at Columbia University.

In June 2009, I was appointed by the White House as the Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the Department of Commerce. As a member of Secretary John Bryson’s senior advisory team, I seek to forge and enhance partnerships with secular and faith-based organizations, particularly in policy areas of census, economic development and minority business development.

At Commerce, we are working hard to create an America built to last. One of the ways my office approaches this goal is to strengthen and increase capacity of the non-profit organizations by encouraging cross-sector partnerships to stimulate local economies, create jobs and attract private investments in communities with high unemployment and low per capita income. In 2010, non-profits alone accounted for $779 billion of our country’s gross domestic product (5.4 percent). As we work to improve our economy, it’s important to know that non-profits employ and create jobs locally; in 2009, nine percent of the economy’s wages, and over 10 percent of jobs in 2009.

Spotlight on Commerce: Dee Alexander, Program Analyst, U.S. Census Bureau

Dee Alexander with an Alaskan Husky during the Census Enumeration on January 25, 2010 in Noorvik, Alaska.

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.

Guest blog by Dee Alexander, Program Analyst, Decennial Management Division’s Outreach and Promotion Branch, U.S. Census Bureau

As an employee in the U.S. Census Bureau, I serve as a program analyst in the Decennial Management Division’s Outreach and Promotion Branch. My key responsibilities include responding to internal and external stakeholders, and the planning implementation and evaluation of assigned American Indian and Alaska Native and decennial communication program activities and products related to the 2010 Census. 

My journey into this profession started many years ago. I grew up in a suburb of Del City, Oklahoma. Both of my parents were government employees and they worked at the Tinker Air Force Base in Midwest City, Oklahoma until they retired. After high school, I attended Rose State College on a basketball scholarship and graduated with an Associate’s Degree in Travel and Tourism. Later, I received my Masters Degree in Project Management from George Washington University in 2007. 

In 1998, the Oklahoma Department of Commerce recommended me to the Census Bureau’s Kansas City Regional Office for a Partnership and Data Services Specialist.  This position was responsible for developing partnerships primarily with federal, state, local and tribal governments for pre-census and Census 2000 promotion activities.  This position allowed me to develop partnerships with the 39 Federally-recognized tribes in the state of Oklahoma for pre-census and post Census 2000 activities.  I also felt that being a member of the Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribe was instrumental in forming these partnerships.  These partnerships helped in producing and creating a new geographic delineation now known as an Oklahoma Tribal Statistical Area, (OTSA).   This delineation is documented on the Census 2000 and current 2010 AIAN Wall map.  The AIAN wall map is the product most requested from the AIAN population.  The work accomplished for Census 2000 helped in my employment to the Census Bureau Headquarters office.

Spotlight on Commerce: Pete Garrison, Official In Charge, Bethel Alaska, National Weather Service

Pete Garrison, Official In Charge, Bethel  Alaska, National Weather Service

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.

Guest blog by Harold "Pete" Garrison, Official In Charge, National Weather Service, Bethel Alaska

As a NOAA employee, I am in charge of the weather service office in Bethel, Alaska, a hub for more than 50 communities and villages with about 25,000 native residents. It is located in the delta regions of the mighty Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers. The office has a number of responsibilities that include upper-air and aviation observations, climate data collection, and the dissemination of weather products.

I am Inupiat Eskimo with some Russian, from the early explorers, on my mother’s side. After my father died in the US Air Force, My mother, three younger siblings and I moved to Unalakleet. I attended BIA school in Unalakleet and then went to a Native boarding school in Sitka until my high school graduation in 1968. Afterwards, I went to college in Fairbanks, Sitka, and Anchorage; however, I did not complete a degree because I decided I wanted to stay with NWS long-term.

Spotlight on Commerce: Jan Jacobs, Tribal Intergovernmental Affairs Specialist, U.S. Census Bureau

Jan Jacobs at the I’n-lon-shka dances with her granddaughter

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.

Guest blog by Jan Jacobs, Tribal Intergovernmental Affairs Specialists, Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs, U.S. Census Bureau

As Tribal Intergovernmental Affairs Specialist in the Census Bureau’s Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs, I work with Tribal, state, county and local governments directly or through our partner advocate groups. More specifically, I’m the Subject Matter Specialist on American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) programs and policy for Census – as part of that role, I offer guidance and support to the bureau’s divisions, branch offices and regional offices. 

My journey to this role began as a child growing up in the deer clan of the Osage Nation of Oklahoma. My father served for more than four decades as the high school’s band director near the Osage reservation. My mother made traditional Osage clothes to wear at the I’n-lon-shka dances, our traditional annual gathering. She made exquisite Osage ribbon work and won national recognition for her skill. I remember her being active in tribal affairs – both regionally and nationally – and she often took me with her to meetings and events. These experiences gave me an opportunity to travel around the country learning from a host of Indian people. I still return home every June with my family for my ceremonial dances, a time to reconnect with family and my Osage culture.  I am Osage every day, but the dances help to revitalize and re-energize me for the coming year.  

My upbringing differed from many others who grew up in and around the reservation. My father worked his way through college and my mother attended college at a time when most American Indian women were not able to do so. It was important for me to continue this tradition of valuing learning and so after I graduated with my Master’s degree, I taught for nine years in the Bureau of Indian Affairs system and I’m proud to say that all four of my children graduated from college and are active in their local Native community.

Spotlight on Commerce: Francisco J. Sánchez, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade

Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Francisco J. SÁnchez Cutting a Ribbon at Trade Show in 2011

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.

Francisco J. Sánchez is the Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade.

I consider myself a lucky guy. 

Every day, I have the privilege of serving the American people as the Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade.  It is a tremendous honor to be able to give back to a country that has given so much to me.

My story is the American story.  My grandparents and father were immigrants from Spain; they believed in the American Dream, and worked hard to achieve it. 

We lived in Tampa, Florida.  Growing up, I learned a lot of lessons that serve me well today.  Through my father, who used to run a candy factory in Spain, I was able to learn how important small- and medium-sized businesses are to a community’s development.  My mother worked as the Director of one of the first Head Start programs in the country.  She wanted all children to get the best possible start in life and dedicated her time to helping others.  That’s why she is my hero.

Spotlight on Commerce: Angela M. Manso, Chief of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs, U.S. Census Bureau

Portrait of Angela Manso

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.

Angela M. Manso is Chief of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs at the U.S. Census Bureau

As Chief of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs at the U.S. Census Bureau, I serve as the primary advisor to the Director of the Bureau regarding congressional and intergovernmental matters. 

I am one of three political appointees at the Census Bureau and one of nearly 15 Hispanic appointees at the U.S. Department of Commerce.  Growing up in the working class neighborhood of Villa Palmeras in Santurce, Puerto Rico, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would work for the President of the United States. 

While living with my grandmother, who read the paper and watched the evening news daily, I developed a healthy interest in current and foreign affairs.  The news reported about civil wars, dictatorships and coups happening all over Latin America and the Caribbean, and I couldn’t get enough of it.  I wanted to understand why these things were occurring and I haven’t stopped since. 

Spotlight on Commerce: Anna M. Gomez, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and Deputy Administrator, NTIA

Photo of two outside

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.

Anna Gomez is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and the Deputy Administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

As Deputy Administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, I serve essentially as the Chief Operating Officer of the agency. Though much of my time is spent on management, I also work on public policy, especially the challenges of expanding broadband Internet use in underserved communities and improving communications for the nation’s first responders. I am honored to play a role in addressing issues that are so vital to our nation’s safety and economic future. 

My career path began early. I was born in the United States but spent most of my childhood in Bogota, Colombia, where my father’s family lives. I knew since childhood that I would one day become a lawyer because my mother always told me so. (I would like to think that she recognized in me a precocious talent for logic and deduction, but she was actually commenting on my willingness to argue a point!) I returned to the United States as a teen and did indeed go to law school. I am glad that I did because the law is a good foundation for a career in public service, though it is certainly not mandatory.

Spotlight on Commerce: William A. Ramos, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs

Spotlight on Commerce: William A. Ramos, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs

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.

William A. Ramos is the Director of Intergovernmental Affairs

As Director of Intergovernmental Affairs in the Office of the Secretary, I have the privilege to serve President Obama and the Department of Commerce Secretary promoting their policies, programs and initiatives with state and local elected officials as it relates to the 12 bureaus within the department.  In a city where politics and government looks inward toward Capitol Hill, I have the unique opportunity to look toward the 50 states and five territorial capitals, the 3,068 counties, and thousands of cities, townships and villages and their governmental associations.  From the 2010 Decennial Census, promoting the National Export Initiative, to NOAA’s work with governors and mayors and everything in between, the work with these elected and appointed officials is important to the President, the Secretary and to our nation. 

I do this work with the assistance and collaboration of 12 very dedicated Bureau Directors of Intergovernmental Affairs, who stand ready to assist state/local and territorial officials and their staffs to improve the understanding of the Department of Commerce’s critical work across the country and around the world by conducting outreach and education activities.

Prior to my appointment to the Obama Administration, I was Director of the Washington, DC office of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund, leading a team that represented NALEO’s mission of empowering Latinos to fully participate in the American political process by advocating on Capitol Hill and the Administration on policy issues related to immigration, naturalization, the Census, voting rights protection and representation in the administration.  I began my career at ASPIRA of Florida, a youth leadership development organization, and have worked in governmental relations with America’s Promise – The Alliance for Youth and the YMCA of the USA here in Washington, DC.  I was also the Director of Policy and Legislation for a Miami-Dade County Commissioner.

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.