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Commerce Honor Awards Ceremony

“Every new idea is an impossibility until it is born.”

Honorable Penny Pritzker, Secretary of Commerce (2nd left), Honorable Bruce H. Andrews, Deputy Secretary of Commerce (left); (left to right), Avi Bender, Logan T. Powell, Tyrone Grandison, Jeffrey A. Meisel, Director of the United States Census Bureau John H. Thompson, Alex Cohen, Counselor Justin AntonipillaiThat timeless insight, from the late former Secretary of Commerce, Ron Brown, captures the spirit of the Department’s 68th Annual Honor Awards Ceremony on Sept. 28.

It was inspiring to be on hand as Secretary Penny Pritzker recognized 286 employees with Gold and Silver medals for their valuable contributions to the Department’s mission.

I was especially thrilled that four ESA/Census Bureau groups – 36 people altogether – received the gold and silver for leadership and customer service.  Congrats to:

  • The CitySDK team, awarded the gold for their leadership and entrepreneurship in delivering its unique open-source federal data service powered by Census and other public data, and focused on cities and communities.  With two major awards already under its belt (2016 API World Award, and FedScoop 50 “Innovator of the Year” award), this groundbreaking software development kit has already empowered civic innovators to create a wide range of applications, including: an accessible housing locator, a model for faster disaster response, a shared economy app to tackle food deserts and a parks’ equity analysis.
  • Another ESA team got the gold for improving the export process for US businesses by harnessing new tools and an innovative software development approach. Specifically, they migrated the Automated Export System (AESDirect) into the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE), advancing the “single-window”/government-wide approach for managing the collection of trade information for statistical and export control.
  • A third ESA team won the silver by slashing the already brief lag time between the official release of economic data and when it’s publicly accessible down to less than five seconds, and in some cases, just one second.  Their design, development and deployment of this improved solution for more quickly disseminating our economic indicator data – often breathlessly awaited in our lightening-speed economy – included building partnerships and coalitions across organizations and agencies.
  • The fourth team also took home the silver by collaborating across government and improving programs and processes to speed critical public data to market – in this case, providing global trade statistics sooner to maximize US competitiveness; keeping data users better informed at a time when earlier access is a driving force behind critical decisions by policymakers; and, improving the accuracy of early GDP estimates.

At one point, all these achievements were impossible.  Now they’re born. See the individual team members and a fuller write-up of their work.

On a closing note, topping off the awards celebration was Secretary Pritzker’s special presentation of the first-ever Ron Brown “Excellence in Innovation Award” to four NIST team members – Drs. Michael Boss, Kathryn Keenan, Stephen Russek, and Karl Stupic

These extraordinary colleagues overcame years of research challenges to create new MRI measurement tools to ensure quality control in comparing Magnetic Resonance Imaging results within and between medical research studies. 

The result: The medical community can better diagnose and treat traumatic brain injury, cancer, and other diseases.  

See the story about the awards ceremony that features the NIST Ron Brown awardees.

“Politics, life and business are not spectator sports,” Secretary Brown said. “You have to get involved to get ahead.”

Thanks to all the Commerce Honors Award winners, and everyone who’s getting involved to drive our mission to democratize our data forward. And thanks for reading.


Justin Antonipillai - Counselor to Secretary Penny Pritzker, with the Delegated Duties of the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs


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