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Blog Category: Spotlight on Commerce

Spotlight on Commerce: Nancy Potok, Associate Director for Demographic Programs

Nancy Potok, Associate Director for Demographic Programs

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 direct the Demographic programs at the Census Bureau. We calculate annual population estimates for each area of the US, calculate the official poverty rate numbers, and work with data from the decennial census and the American Community Survey to create numerous reports and products that inform our nation about the changing characteristics of our growing population. We also conduct surveys on behalf of other Federal agencies such as the National Crime Victims Survey, which the Bureau of Justice Statistics uses to calculate the crime rate, the Current Population Survey, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics uses to calculate the unemployment rate each month, and many others.  One unsung area of the Census is our strong international program. That group, in cooperation with USAID and other agencies, offers technical assistance to countries on how to set up their own scientific and objective statistical activities and conduct censuses and surveys of their population.

The President has laid out a vision to build an America that lasts, and the Census Bureau contributes to that future. Much of the data that we produce is used by state and local Economic Development Authorities to bring businesses to their area.  Businesses use the information to make relocation decisions and to target their marketing appropriately.  We also report, at various geographic levels such as states, counties, cities, and small towns, on educational attainment, income, poverty, how people make various use of government assistance programs, and other critical information needed to inform our communities on how we as a nation are doing and where we need to invest our resources to strengthen our future.  Without the data collected by the Census Bureau, we would not have the information we need to grow our economy, create jobs, improve our schools, build roads, and other activities critical to our civil society.

I grew up in Detroit, but have been living in the Washington, DC area for many years now. I earned my Masters in Administrative Science from the University of Alabama and then became a Presidential Management Fellow at the US Department of Transportation. I went on to earn my Ph.D. in Public Policy and Public Administration from the George Washington University. Since I enjoy school and learning so much, I’ve returned as an adjunct professor there, teaching in the Trachtenberg School of Public policy and Public Administration.

Spotlight on Commerce: Teresa Rea, Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property (USPTO)

Teresa Rea on podium

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.

As Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property, I work alongside David Kappos in advising the President of the United States, and other members of the Obama administration, on matters relating to Intellectual Property (IP) policy. When wearing my Deputy Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) hat, I help oversee the process by which our nation grants IP rights for cutting-edge innovations and technological breakthroughs. By protecting brands and ideas through trademarks and patents, companies are more readily able to attract investments, hire more employees, spur additional research & development, distribute their products in the marketplace and spawn new growth in new industries.

Spotlight on Commerce: Tyra Dent Smith, Deputy Director, Office of Human Resources Management

Photo: Tyra Dent Smith

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.

As a native Washingtonian, and having earned a B.A in Psychology from Hampton Institute and a Master of Public Administration from Howard University, I knew early on that I wanted my life work to center around individual and organizational success. To this end, I decided to dedicate my career to public service. Over twenty years of my career has been spent in the Department of Commerce.

Since February 2011, I have had the privilege to serve as Deputy Director, Office of Human Resources Management (OHRM). My primary responsibility is to lead and direct the development and implementation of government-wide and departmental policies, employee programs and activities in all aspects of human resources management and administration. Additionally, this includes coordinating and overseeing HR operations at each of the department's seven bureau level HR service centers. This role has given me an opportunity to serve the department’s workforce at each stage of the employee lifecycle (planning, recruitment, hiring, training and development, retention and retirement/separation).

In partnership with the Director of OHRM, William “Bill” Fleming, our vision is to deliver optimal HR services and products that support and enable mission accomplishment and create a workplace environment that fosters excellence and innovation. This vision is rooted in the policies, processes and practices that support and sustain a strong and capable organizational workforce built to serve the American people.

Spotlight on Commerce: Dr. James Turner, Director of the Office of International Affairs

Dr. James Turner, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for International Affairs and Director of NOAA Office of International 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 an America Built to Last.

I am a native of Washington, DC and had the benefit of growing up in a home with loving parents who stressed family, integrity, achievement, service, and education.The values I learned at home were reinforced by those I was taught by the Jesuits at Gonzaga High School.  This strong foundation led me to receive degrees in Physics from MIT (Ph.D.) and Johns Hopkins (B.A.). 

Physics is simultaneously empowering and humbling.  It is empowering in the knowledge and understanding that helps others and humbling in that often the more we learn the more we realize we do not know.  When I was in school, it was disturbing that so few minorities and women were considering Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) career fields.  So, after finishing at MIT, I applied for positions at universities in Africa and at Historically Black Colleges in the U.S.  My first two positions were on the Physics Faculties at Southern University (Baton Rouge) and Morehouse College.  I am very proud that, among the students I taught while at Morehouse, two are now NOAA scientists.

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.