Penny Pritzker served as the 38th U.S. Secretary of Commerce from June 26, 2013 to January 20, 2017. As Secretary of Commerce, she was focused on providing American businesses and entrepreneurs with the tools they need to grow and hire.
Secretary Pritzker was a key member of President Obama’s economic team, with 27 years of private sector experience. After taking office, she worked closely with the business community and helped advance the President’s priorities of expanding growth and opportunity for all Americans. Guided by conversations with more than 2,100 CEOs and business leaders, Secretary Pritzker developed the “Open for Business Agenda.” This bold strategic plan and policy blueprint for the Commerce Department is comprised of five pillars that guide the diverse activities of our 12 bureaus: trade and investment, innovation, environment, data, and operational excellence..
As the country’s chief commercial advocate, Secretary Pritzker led the Administration’s trade and investment promotion efforts. Secretary Pritzker traveled to more than 38 countries and is the first Commerce Secretary to visit Burma. She led successful trade missions to Mexico, UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Ghana, Japan, and Korea, as well as a joint trade mission with Department of Energy to China focused on clean energy technologies and commercial diplomacy missions to Turkey, Poland, Ukraine, Tunisia, and ASEAN. A prominent advocate for America’s economic growth, Secretary Pritzker initiated the United States High Level Economic Dialogue with Mexico, expanded our Foreign Commercial Service presence around the world, and worked with the American business community on urgent issues, such as the crisis in the Ukraine.
The Department played a leading role in the Administration’s efforts to secure congressional passage of Trade Promotion Authority and completion of the Trans Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement that not only encompasses more than 40 percent of the world’s GDP but also reflects the highest standards on labor and the environment ever to be included in a trade deal. The deal eliminates tariffs on more than 18,000 Made in America goods, giving U.S. businesses and workers better access to some of the fastest-growing markets in the world.
Outbound exports and inbound investment are both necessary for U.S. economic competitiveness. As such, the Department has expanded and institutionalized the SelectUSA initiative, the first federal program focused on attracting foreign direct investment to the U.S. The Department has hosted three major SelectUSA Summits. The 2016 Summit, which sold out, featured President Obama, seven Cabinet officials, and more than 2,500 participants from 70 international markets. To date, SelectUSA has facilitated more than $22.5 billion in investment in the U.S.
Making the United States a magnet for investment requires maintaining our global edge in talent, innovation, manufacturing, and entrepreneurial risk-taking. Secretary Pritzker has advanced the resurgence of American manufacturing by supporting President Obama’s proposed National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, a public-private partnership model that would foster regional “innovation ecosystems.” This network of regional centers connect connect industry, economic development organizations and academic and research institutions to drive breakthrough technological advances that benefit a region’s manufacturing base. Other manufacturing initiatives led by Secretary Pritzker include the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership and the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership. She has also helped bring the Patent and Trademark Office closer to its customers—America’s innovators and entrepreneurs—by overseeing the opening of satellite offices in Denver, Silicon Valley, and Dallas.
America’s entrepreneurial spirit is both a source of domestic competitiveness and one of our greatest exports. President Obama asked Secretary Pritzker to chair the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE) program, an initiative that deploys 21 of America’s most successful entrepreneurs to inspire and cultivate the next generation of entrepreneurs around the world. Secretary Pritzker and members of the PAGE initiative have engaged in entrepreneurship promotion events all over the country and the world, from Ohio to Arizona, and from Saudi Arabia to the Philippines to Ghana.
In addition to traditional Commerce priorities like trade and manufacturing, Secretary Pritzker expanded the Department’s focus to include, for the first time, skills and workforce development. Through the “Skills for Business” agenda, the Department is bringing employers and job creators to the table to define precisely what they are looking for in prospective employees. The Department is also working with educators and trainers to ensure they provide the skills demanded and joining forces with labor and social service organizations to strengthen the safety net for workers.
Before joining the Administration, Secretary Pritzker founded and served as advisory board chairman of Skills for America's Future, a national initiative that works directly with employers to develop training mechanisms to prepare workers with in-demand skills. In 2012, she also helped launch Skills for Chicagoland's Future, the first city model of Skills for America's Future. Secretary Pritzker is past chair of the Chicago Public Education Fund and a former member of the Chicago Board of Education. In recognition of her commitment to education and skills development, Secretary Pritzker in 2014 received the Harry S. Truman award from the American Association of Community Colleges.
Data are the fuel that powers the 21st century economy, and Secretary Pritzker committed to unleash more of the power and potential of Commerce data than ever before to boost private sector growth. The data collection performed daily by the 12 agencies of the Department literally reaches from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun – producing vast amounts of data on trade, technology, economic development, the environment and other areas. Through a number of public-private partnerships, Secretary Pritzker also worked to make more of the terabytes of data collected each day more easily accessible to the public and businesses, specifically through the creation of application programming interfaces (APIs), which will improve the dissemination of data to developers and data entrepreneurs.
During Secretary Pritzker’s tenure, the Commerce Department took a leading role in federal government efforts to engage the business community and other stakeholders through technology and social media. She is the first U.S. Cabinet Secretary to use Instagram, holds regular online dialogues, and created the Department’s first-ever Office of Digital Engagement, a platform that allows the agency to share more information about its resources to businesses of all sizes, and other customers.
Before joining the Obama Administration, Secretary Pritzker started five companies and led dozens of businesses. She served as CEO of PSP Capital Partners and previously developed companies in diverse sectors such as luxury living for older adults, off-site airport parking, and financial information services. She has also served on the boards of a number of major corporations, such as Hyatt Hotels, LaSalle National Bank, the William Wrigley Company, and was non-executive Chairman of TransUnion.
While this was Secretary Pritzker’s first government position, public service has been her lifelong passion. She was honored as the inaugural recipient of the “Commercial Diplomat of the Year Award” at the 2015 Foreign Policy Diplomat of the Year Dinner. In 2012, Secretary Pritzker received the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service, an honor given to individuals who have served with distinction in public life and have shown a special commitment to seeking out informed opinions and thoughtful views.
Secretary Pritzker earned her bachelor's degree in economics from Harvard University and J.D. and M.B.A. degrees from Stanford University. She and her husband Dr. Bryan Traubert have two children.