Portrait of Machelle Baker Sanders

In February 2021, Governor Cooper appointed Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders to lead the North Carolina Department of Commerce, enlisting her experience as former Administration Secretary (appointed by Gov. Cooper in 2017), her strong background as a business leader, and her extensive knowledge of what it takes to build a globally competitive workforce. Secretary Sanders’ vision for North Carolina’s post-pandemic economic restoration is to work with partners to attract better paying jobs, support small businesses, and stimulate our state’s innovation and entrepreneurial economy. Her bold and purposeful leadership aims to ensure North Carolina’s diverse state is an inclusive one that works for all people.

Sanders brings to state government, more than 30 years of strong management and leadership experience as a seasoned pharmaceutical and biotechnology executive, previously serving as vice president of manufacturing and general manager of Biogen’s largest manufacturing facility in Research Triangle Park. She’s also held leadership positions overseeing manufacturing, global quality assurance and quality control functions at Biogen, Purdue Pharmaceuticals, and Diosynth-Akzo Nobel.

A graduate of North Carolina State University, Sanders holds a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and a Master of Health Administration from Pfeiffer University. As a native eastern North Carolinian and mother of twin daughters, she is passionate about improving the status of women in our state. She is a member of the International Women’s Forum and OnBoard NC. Some of her work includes creating a Women’s Innovation Network at Biogen and the Lady Cardinals STEM Program for High School students while at North Carolina Department of Administration. After all, as Sanders puts it, “Improving the status of women in North Carolina is not just a woman’s issue — it is a family, poverty, and economic issue.”

Sanders also is a strong supporter of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). At Commerce, she established the first DEI office in the department’s history. Under Sanders’ leadership, Commerce actively supports DEI-related business practices, advises on DEI programs for NC businesses, and sponsors DEI initiatives including re-entry programs and neurodiverse internships.

She previously served as the Chair of the North Carolina Commission on Inclusion, 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 (ICCHP), Commission of Indian Affairs, and the North Carolina State University Board of Visitors.

As North Carolina’s Commerce Secretary, Sanders serves on many boards, commissions, committees, and task forces, including the Economic Investment Committee, Rural Infrastructure Authority, the board of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, the NCWorks Commission, and the state’s Travel & Tourism Board. She served as co-chair of the Carolinas Pandemic Preparedness Task Force as well as the Caregiving Workforce Strategic Leadership Council.

Sanders also serves on the Board of Directors for two public life science companies based in the Research Triangle Park, Fortrea and BioCryst Pharmacaceuticals.

Secretary Sanders’ experience and passion to improve the lives of North Carolinians uniquely positions her to lead North Carolina's portfolio of work in economic, community, and workforce development.


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