The Senate has confirmed Penny S. Pritzker, a prominent businesswoman and major fund-raiser for President Obama, to lead the Dept. of Commerce. Pritzker’s nomination was approved on June 25, by a 97-1 tally, with Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) casting the lone “no” vote.

Pritzker, who was sworn in to her new post on June 26, will lead a sprawling department of more than 40,000 workers. Among its wide range of agencies are the International Trade Administration, which sponsors overseas trade missions for U.S. companies in construction and other industries; and the Bureau of Economic Analysis, which compiles data on monthly construction spending and many other topics.

Pritzker also will be deeply involved in working to help meet Obama’s goal, announced in his 2010 State of the Union address, of doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014.

Nick Yaksich, Association of Equipment Manufacturers vice president for government relations, says, “That’s going to be her biggest challenge, to keep us on that path.” 

The Commerce Dept. says that exports rose to $2.2 billion in 2012, from $1.58 billion in 2009, the baseline for Obama's five-year goal. A doubling of the 2009 total would equal $3.16 billion.

Pritzker’s background includes long experience in real estate. Before becoming Commerce Secretary, she was chairman and CEO of PSP Capital Partners and its Pritzker Realty Group affiliate.

Her family founded the Hyatt hotel company and, in 1979, instituted the Pritzker Architecture Prize.

Pritzker also was the national finance chair of Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and national co-chair of his 2012 campaign.

Story updated on June 27 to include Pritzker's swearing-in.