One of the chief architects of the Obama administration's bottom-up innovation strategies, U.S. Department of Commerce Assistant Secretary for Economic Development John R. Fernandez to return to private sector to promote innovation, job creation and global competitiveness.
U.S. Commerce Department Assistant Secretary for Economic Development John R. Fernandez has spent the last two and a half years–amid the most severe economic downturn in generations–successfully guiding the Economic Development Administration  (EDA). In this role, he has led the Federal economic development agenda by promoting innovation and helping America’s communities build the foundation for long-term growth. He announced his decision today to return to the private sector, where he will continue to foster innovation, job creation and global competitiveness.
“The Obama administration has been fortunate to have a passionate leader like John who understands the president’s economic agenda and who has worked tirelessly to spur innovation, create jobs and an support an economy that's built to last,” U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson said. “John will be missed, but he has positioned EDA to continue to leverage private-public investments, support bottom-up strategies, and build 21st century infrastructure. We wish him success in his new role.”
With extensive experience leading private and public enterprises, John brought together practical management experience and public policy knowledge to create a vision for a 21st century EDA built on two key pillars: innovation and regional collaboration. Under John's leadership, EDA is playing a bigger role than it has in decades supporting innovative initiatives, driving the commercialization of research and technology and promoting a smarter use of existing Federal resources to accelerate economic recovery and ensure that government is a stronger partner.
Launching multi-agency initiatives, such as the i6 Challenge, the Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, the U.S. Cluster Mapping project and the Regional Innovation Accelerator Network, EDA has transformed its programs and services for 21st century economic development practices. With an emphasis on better customer service, the agency also radically improved its business processes, reducing grant-making decision cycles from 128 business days to less than 20.
Those changes built on a record of success. Over its long history, EDA has worked with a well-established network of local and regional partners, including Economic Development Districts, to provide strategic planning and innovative solutions to distressed areas across the nation.
A former Mayor of Bloomington, Ind., John has a strong commitment to public service, a commitment that was at the heart of his tenure at EDA. His new endeavor is with a global enterprise headquartered in Washington, DC. He will leave the Department of Commerce effective March 2, 2012.
After Fernandez’s departure, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Development Matthew Erskine will assume the role of Acting Assistant Secretary.