Alejandra Y. Castillo
Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development
Alejandra Y. Castillo’s first lessons about business came as a child. She rose at 4 a.m. to help her father run his bodega in the Bronx and refined her math skills by calculating sales tax for her mother’s Avon business.
Throughout her career and life, Castillo has sought to build bridges and help others. She was the first in her family to learn English, which she did with the help of PBS shows like Sesame Street and The Electric Company. Like many immigrant children, she was tapped to help her family and community navigate life in America. She accompanied non-English speakers to appointments and helped neighbors translate letters from their landlords or the Social Security Administration.
As an adolescent, she was always trying to help others. Her father died when she was 13, which thrust her further into a “problem solver” role. Castillo is a relentless visionary and change maker dedicated to building community-based solutions that advance individual empowerment.
The eldest child of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, Castillo is the first woman of color to be appointed Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development. In this role, she leads the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) and is responsible for fulfilling the bureau’s mission of leading the federal economic development agenda.
The New York City native has served in leadership positions under three presidential administrations – Presidents Biden, Obama, and Clinton. Castillo’s professional career spans two decades in Washington, D.C. Her work has focused on creating equitable and inclusive opportunities for all Americans.
Castillo considers herself an embodiment of the American Dream. Her personal experiences of helping her parents run small businesses to support her family have given her a unique perspective and fuels her determination to create transformative change.
When she was 11-years old, she moved from New York to the Dominican Republic – just after Category 5 storm Hurricane David hit in 1979. Her family set up an import-export business, and once again, she got a first-hand glimpse at entrepreneurial grit through trips to the ports with her father where products were shipped to the U.S.
After briefly living in Portugal, Castillo returned to the United States. She earned her bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, becoming the first in her family to complete a university degree. Her 1992 college graduation occurred against the backdrop of tectonic shifts in American civil rights, highlighted by that year’s landmark decision in Kentucky v. Wasson, and the shooting of Yoshihiro Hattori. Drawing inspiration from the achievements and setbacks of that year, Castillo committed to a life of public service, joining the Senate Labor and Resources Committee staff where she worked under Senator Ted Kennedy before leaving to earn a master’s degree in public policy at the University of Texas.
During the Clinton Administration, she served as a Senior Policy Analyst to the Deputy Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, where she was responsible for developing and analyzing White House initiatives on anti-drug trafficking and interdiction, anti-money laundering policies, and drug prevention and treatment programs.
In 2001, Castillo left government employment but not public service. Continuing her lifelong commitment to transformative change, she applied – and was accepted – to American University’s Washington College of Law, receiving her Juris Doctor in 2004. She went on to serve as the executive director of the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA), where she was instrumental in working with the White House and non-profit organizations like Latinos for a Fair Judiciary in support of the nomination and confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
Her current role with EDA brings her back to the Department of Commerce, an agency she first joined in 2008 as a Special Advisor to the Under Secretary for the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA). In this capacity, she was responsible for business outreach and intergovernmental affairs and assisting in the development of policy initiatives geared at trade promotion and enforcement of U.S. trade laws.
In 2014, Castillo was appointed by President Obama to serve as the national director of the Commerce Department’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), becoming the first Hispanic woman to lead the agency. Her work at MBDA was tremendously rewarding and close to her heart, as her father was a minority business owner.
During her tenure, she led MBDA’s efforts to boost the growth and global competitiveness of minority business enterprises (MBEs). Under her leadership, MBDA expanded its effort to help MBEs gain access to capital, contracts, and business opportunities. Before her appointment as director, she served as MBDA’s national deputy director, managing day-to-day operations and its network of 44 business centers.
Immediately prior to President Biden appointing her to lead the EDA, Castillo was the Chief Executive Officer of YWCA USA, where she championed the 163-year-old organization and its 204 associations serving over 2.3 million women and families across 1,300 communities in the United States. YWCA’s mission is to eliminate racism and empower women.
Castillo is an active member in various civic and professional organizations, including the Hispanic National Bar Association, Hispanic Bar Association of the District of Columbia, American Bar Association, and American Jewish Committee. She also serves as a Board Trustee for the University of the District of Columbia. In 2010, Hispanic Business Magazine recognized Castillo among the Top 100 Influential Latinos in the U.S. She received the 2010 Rising Star Award by the Hispanic Bar Association of the District of Columbia.
Castillo has ten nieces and nephews, two of whom she is raising, leading the next generation of trailblazing entrepreneurs. She believes the economy does not function without women fully participating in the workforce and, through hard work and perseverance, continues to advocate as a strong Hispanic female role model.
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Development and Chief Operating Officer
Dennis Alvord serves as EDA’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Development and Chief Operating Officer and is responsible for enterprise-wide operations and program execution. Mr. Alvord performed the duties of the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development from April 2017 through March 2019 and, again, from January through August 2021.
Active in the Department, he was elected as Co-Chair of the Department Management Council, comprised of senior executives from all of Commerce’s principal operating units. Previously, as Senior Advisor to the Deputy Secretary, he worked on a broad portfolio of department-wide management, operations, program and policy issues and co-chaired the Department of Commerce's 2016-17 Presidential Transition, coordinating efforts across the Department and with the White House and President Elect's Transition Team.
Preceding his Senior Advisor role, he led start-ups as Executive Director of BusinessUSA, a government-wide, multiagency customer service initiative that promoted and improved access to business assistance resources, and as Executive Director of the Department of Commerce’s CommerceConnect initiative, which simplified access to the Department’s business solutions.
Before joining the federal government, Mr. Alvord worked as a manager in the infrastructure finance group of an environmental and transportation consulting practice. Mr. Alvord holds a Master of Public Administration from George Washington University, and a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the State University of New York College at Cortland. He is a recipient of the 2015 President’s Award for Customer Service.
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Regional Affairs
Craig Buerstatte is an entrepreneurial public servant who is passionate about building teams, businesses, and communities for the future. He first honed his innovation skills in remote areas of Iraq as an Army Officer, developing new supply chain solutions and infrastructure when resources were strained. Craig leveraged this experience to jump into entrepreneurship, founding a technology firm and investing in startups in Austin, Texas, before returning to public service to help the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) grow its Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship (OIE). As Director for OIE, he led new policy initiatives and grant programs that promoted technology innovation and talent development as tools for economic development—growing the portfolio nearly 400% and scaling its impacts to over $1.6 billion in private investment capital and 14,000 jobs.
Today, Craig serves as EDA’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Regional Affairs, responsible for the implementation, growth, and evaluation of EDA’s economic development programs and policies. This work brings together the tools and expertise across EDA’s six regional offices, national program teams, and performance division to create more robust and resilient regional economies across America.
Craig also serves as a member of the Federal Innovation Council, a team of civil servant leaders advising the Partnership for Public Service on strategies to move the Federal Government into a modern, 21st Century enterprise. When not trying to push government forward, he can be found digging in his evergreen garden on Capitol Hill or kayak fishing somewhere around the DMV.
Craig’s foundation in economic development can be traced through his education. He earned a B.S. in Economics from the United States Military Academy at West Point, and an MBA from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Policy
Michele Chang is a seasoned executive with nearly 20 years of experience in the private, public and nonprofit sectors. She joins the Economic Development Administration as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Policy. She most recently was the Executive Director of the Rework America Business Network at the Markle Foundation, where she worked with Fortune 500 companies to help American workers without four-year degrees get the skills they need and access quality jobs.
Ms. Chang served in the Obama Administration as Acting Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff at the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), where she managed the day-to-day operations of the 3,000+ person agency. She also served as the agency’s point person on policy issues with the White House’s National Economic Council; coordinated cross-agency initiatives; and launched and ran new federal programs.
Prior to joining the Administration, Ms. Chang worked at McKinsey & Company, where she helped local governments, public school systems and Fortune 500 companies alike tackle some of their most challenging and urgent issues. She has also held roles at PricewaterhouseCoopers; and Hope Street Group, a national nonprofit where she led their national workforce development programs.
Ms. Chang earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, in Mathematics/Applied Sciences and her MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. She was born and raised in San Jose, California, and currently lives in Maryland with her husband and three children.
Chief Financial Officer/Chief Administrative Officer
Greg Brown is EDA's Chief Financial Officer and Chief Administrative Officer. As CFO/CAO, Mr. Brown provides senior executive leadership in the strategic planning and management of all financial, budget and administrative activities and related financial systems at EDA.
Mr. Brown came to EDA from the U.S. Department of Transportation after serving on a Senior Executive Service career appointment as the Deputy Director of the Office of Budget & Program Performance. He provided leadership, advice and guidance to the Office of the Secretary in the development, implementation, and administration of Department's budget, financial management and performance management.
Mr. Brown is the former Chief Administrative Officer for the Maryland Transportation Authority. In this capacity, he directed all agency administrative functions including information technology, procurement, human resources, and inventory control. Prior to joining the Authority, Mr. Brown served as Chief Financial Officer and Deputy Chief Financial Officer for the District of Columbia's Department of Corrections. Previously, he was Branch Chief for Public Education and Community Services with the District's Office of Budget and Planning and also held fiscal oversight positions with Baltimore City Community College, the National Association of State Budget Officers, and the Maryland General Assembly.
Mr. Brown holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in economics from Morgan State University.
EDA Division Leaders and Regional Directors
Director, Office of External Affairs
Director, Legislative and
Director, Public Affairs
Regional Office Directors: