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Remarks by Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross at the Baldrige National Quality Award Ceremony


Thank you, Dr. Benson, for that kind introduction. It’s great to be here again with the Baldrige community.

Yesterday, the United States lost an important and venerable national figure who helped shape the program we are celebrating today. Sen. Fritz Hollings from South Carolina was an instrumental force behind the success of NIST, and he was a good friend of many of the old-timers in this room.

He was a steadfast supporter of all that you are doing at NIST to assure the continued prosperity of the United States. The Manufacturing Extension Partnership is named in his honor, for Fritz was instrumental in the program's creation, and in his unwavering support of American manufacturing. He was erudite, respected, and was one of the few Senators who actively addressed the economic challenges facing our country. We at Commerce honor him for all that he did, and we mourn his death.

That said, we are here to welcome to the five new winners of the prestigious Baldrige National Quality Award:

•    The Alamo Colleges District;
•    Donor Alliance;
•    Integrated Project Management Company;
•    Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center; and
•    Tri County Tech.

Congratulations — from everyone at NIST, at the Commerce Department, President Trump, and the American public — on your devotion and unwavering commitment to quality and excellence within your organizations.

Winning this award is a big accomplishment, and it was my pleasure to be the one to notify you back in November about your success. It means that you have gone through a rigorous evaluation by a cadre of specialists who know a great deal about organizational excellence. You are held in the highest esteem in your communities and, now, in our nation.

By winning this award, you have made the ultimate commitment of leading by example, and of sharing your best practices and processes with hundreds of other companies and organizations that can benefit from them. Thank you for devoting your time to this worthy cause. 

Our thanks to Dr. Benson and the Baldrige Foundation for your tireless support of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program. You have stood by the program through many lean years, and I am very glad that there is funding in the budget this year for the Baldrige Award. It says a lot about the dedication of the Foundation and the staff at NIST that this award continues to function so effectively more than three decades after being established. It has changed a lot over the years but remains the nation’s highest presidential award for performance excellence.

Thanks also to Walt Copan for your leadership at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. We really appreciate all that you are doing, Walt, to rebuild our industrial base and the competitiveness of the American economy.

Thank you also to Bob Fangmeyer, director of the NIST Baldrige program, for being so adept at streamlining your operations and creatively adopting to changing times and budgets.

And a very special thank you to the hundreds of private-sector volunteers who contribute generously of your time and expertise as Baldrige examiners, overseers, judges, and board directors. Your civic participation is greatly appreciated. You are making a direct and noble contribution to the health and prosperity of the 328 million citizens of our country. It is people like you who should be receiving an award for all that you do for our nation.

I also would like to recognize Representative Kevin Hern from Oklahoma who is here to celebrate with Tri County Tech. Welcome Congressman. Thank you for showing your support for such a fine enterprise.

“Mac” — Baldrige was one of the longest serving Secretaries of Commerce and was a champion of American industry, of American workers, and of American-made products and services. Like me, Mac Baldrige came to the role of Commerce Secretary from a long career in business.

He knew first-hand how important quality and productivity were not only to an organization’s success but to the nation’s success. Having spent my career in industry working with dozens of companies, I understand why it is essential to have a dedicated CEO and a leadership team that is devoted to continuous improvement, employee empowerment, and the relentless pursuit of excellence.

The Baldrige Performance Excellence Program keeps Mac Baldrige’s legacy alive by promoting these core business principles. The impact of the program has been amazing.  The Baldrige Award process alone generates an estimated one-billion dollars in benefits each year to the applicants of the award and their customers. It does this through cost savings for companies that use the criteria; gains to U.S. consumers who have access to higher-quality products and services; and gains from the improved use of valuable resources.

We see such benefits in the five organizations we are celebrating this evening. 

Alamo Colleges District is a system of five, two-year colleges in southern Texas. Your four-year graduation rate for students is the best in the state. The rate and number of degrees and certificates awarded doubled from 2013 to 2017. And you achieved a AAA bond rating from Standard and Poor’s, one of only 11 community college districts in the nation to do so.

Donor Alliance saves lives in Colorado and Wyoming through organ and tissue donation and transplants. You consistently rank in the top 10 of donation organizations because you successfully receive organs or tissues from over 80 percent of eligible donors. Your revenue nearly doubled from 2014 to 2018, and you achieved cost savings of more than 65 percent.

Our third honoree is Integrated Project Management Company, Inc., located in Burr Ridge, Illinois. The firm is a private consulting business with seven locations around the country. Your revenues increased 62 percent from 2013 to 2017 and are 50 percent higher per consultant than the national average for project management firms. Your total on the Net Promoter Score of customer engagement was more than 10 points higher than the excellent ratings achieved by successful companies such as Disney, and Harley-Davidson.

The fourth winner is Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center of Jasper, Indiana. It is a community hospital with 32 outpatient care clinics and medical practices. The hospital received a five-star rating for inpatient care from Medicare and Medicaid. You maintain a dominant share of your primary market in southern Indiana, delivering more than 70 percent of inpatient and more than 80 percent of outpatient care in the area. Your turnover rate for registered nurses is less than 2 percent. This is well below the 8 percent average turnover rate for top-tier hospitals at the national level. There are a lot of hospitals in the country with unhappy nurses who can learn a lot from you.

Last, but not least, is Baldrige Award winner Tri County Tech, a center that provides customized business technology training to students and adults in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Your training completion and employment placement rates are regularly the best in the state for full-time students, and you rank in the top 25 percent nationally. Tri County Tech strives to have students graduate without debt by having low tuition costs and providing lots of scholarships. Your highest-priced tuition is $4,500, compared with $36,000 for equivalent training at other regional training centers.

For more than 30 years, the Baldrige process has helped thousands of organizations enhance their competitiveness for the benefit of their employees, customers, communities, and for our country. It has changed with the times and continues to change as the nation confronts new challenges associated with cyber threats and a shortage of skilled workers.

I would love to see more manufacturing firms engaged in the Baldrige process, and hope that NIST and the Foundation can redouble its efforts to help that important sector of our economy become more successful in domestic and global markets.

Congratulations, again, to our 2018 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award recipients. Thank you for all that you have done to keep the American economic resurgence going, and our nation competitive. Thank you for being such great role models to so many other companies and organizations in your industries and beyond. And thank you — everyone — for traveling to Washington and joining us in this celebration.