Gov. Cooper Names Machelle Sanders Commerce Secretary

Machelle Sanders
Machelle Sanders

Veteran pharmaceutical company executive Machelle Sanders, a North Carolina native and former board member of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, was named Secretary of the Department of Commerce today by Governor Roy Cooper.

Sanders, who has been serving in the Cooper administration as Secretary of the NC Department of Administration, becomes the first Black woman to lead the state’s Commerce Department. She replaces Tony Copeland, who stepped down from the helm of Commerce at the end of January. 

“Machelle has been an outstanding leader in this administration, and I am grateful that she is willing to take on this new role and continue to serve our great state,” said Cooper. “Her strong background as a business leader and her extensive knowledge of what it takes to build a globally competitive workforce will serve North Carolina well as we attract better-paying jobs, help small businesses and stimulate our innovation and entrepreneurial economy.”

Sanders, a native of the Beaufort County community of Belhaven, in Eastern North Carolina, said, “I am humbled and excited about leading the NC Department of Commerce at this critical time in our state’s history. In this role, I plan to execute on a bold vision for economic restoration and progress for our state and its people in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My top priority is to marry innovation and strong leadership to create promising conditions for economic recovery and opportunity. Expanding workforce development initiatives is essential to helping North Carolina attract and keep jobs that not only help people fulfill basic needs, but also provide them with the ability to start and sustain businesses of their own. Collaboration with economic development partners, community stakeholders, higher education networks, and affinity groups will help to transform the enormous economic possibilities for rural areas and groups marginalized from enjoying in the promise of economic growth and prosperity. Building a strong team of dedicated public servants and experts, and creating a culture of equity, inclusion, and excellence will ensure that the agency remains committed to these goals. I look forward to leading with purpose to achieve results consistent with Governor Cooper’s promise to make this a state that works for everyone.”

Cooper appointed Sanders to serve as Secretary of the Department of Administration on January 12, 2017. 

A graduate of North Carolina State University, Sanders holds a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry and a Master of Health Administration from Pfeiffer University. She was vice president of manufacturing and general manager of Biogen’s largest manufacturing facility in Research Triangle Park. She also held leadership positions overseeing manufacturing, global quality assurance and quality control functions at Biogen and Diosynth-Akzo Nobel. While at Biogen, Sanders created a Women’s Innovation Network.

“Machelle Sanders will be a superb Secretary of Commerce for North Carolina,” said Doug Edgeton, president and CEO of NCBiotech. “She has a deep understanding of the all-important life sciences sector, of course, but she also has uncanny wisdom, overall business savvy and people skills. These traits are essential to be successful in economic development and will serve her well in her new role. In turn, that will serve all North Carolinians well.”

She is a strong supporter of diversity and inclusion and serves as the chair of the North Carolina Commission on Inclusion, the North Carolina Complete Count Commission and the Andrea Harris Social, Economic, Environmental, and Health Equity Task Force. Additionally, she serves on the Interagency Council for Coordinating Homeless Programs, Commission of Indian Affairs and the NC State University Board of Visitors. 

Deputy Secretary Mark Edwards will serve as interim Secretary of the NC Department of Administration.

For questions or more information, contact:
Jim Shamp
Director of Public Relations

Corporate Communications

919-549-8889 |

Fri, 02/12/2021 - 14:20