Vinai K. Thummalapally
Executive Director of SelectUSA, U.S. Department of Commerce
How did you get here?
In a way, I feel like my current position with SelectUSA is something that I’ve been unknowingly working towards for much of my career. SelectUSA is the U.S Government-wide initiative to promote and facilitate foreign direct investment in the United States.
Starting in 1996, I worked for a Japanese company that manufactured CDs in Colorado, so I learned first-hand the pressures that manufacturers face as they evaluate locations and the factors that can make a difference between profit and loss. I understand the challenges and cross-cultural adjustments that international companies consider when investing in the United States. I also appreciate so deeply the opportunities that the United States has provided for me and my family, and it’s an incredible honor to share that experience with other companies that are considering investing here.
In 2007, my love of this country led me to throw myself into volunteering for then-Senator Obama during the campaign. After the election, I was honored with an appointment as US Ambassador to Belize, where I served from 2009 to 2013. As my term as Ambassador was coming to a close, I learned about SelectUSA, and I immediately knew that I wanted to support that effort.
Who or what has been the greatest influence on your career?
I have to say my greatest influence is an appetite for risk taking. I haven’t been afraid to make risky career/life moves. I came to the US in 1974 with $20 in my pocket. Later in life, in spite of his lost Congressional run in 2000, I took a risk to whole heartedly support Barack Obama in 2003-2004 when he ran for Senate, and 2007-2008 when he ran for President, because I knew how well suited he was for leadership, and I believed in his vision for the United States. My decisions have not always been the most logical to others, but life involves following your convictions and taking some risks along the way.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment during the Obama administration?
SelectUSA. When I joined, we were a small unfunded initiative with only a handful of passionate individuals. Since then, we have grown to more than 50 individuals worldwide, and we have organized two successful investment Summits hosted by the President – with a third on the way in June.
Can you describe your time working for the Obama administration in 10 words?
Privileged to be the first Indian-American US Ambassador, and lead SelectUSA. Complete the sentence: “When I’m not working, I…”
like to spend time outdoors walking with my family, hiking or carrying a bow and a quiver of arrows to look for elk.