Indian American Vinai Thummalapally named to top USTDA post

Vinai K. Thummalapally
Vinai K. Thummalapally; file photo by Shahi Prabhakaran

Thummalapally, a former US ambassador and SelectUSA chief, will serve as the agency’s Deputy Director and COO.

President Joe Biden on Monday appointed Indian American Vinai Thummalapally to serve as the Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.

He will serve as USTDA’s Acting Director until a Director is confirmed by the Senate.

This is the third time Thummalapally, who has more than 30 years of private sector experience, will be served at the federal level. From, 2009 to 2013, he served as the U.S. Ambassador to Belize. He is the first Indian American to serve as a US ambassador. He was one of the very few Indian American political nominees that served in the Obama administration from its early days to the very end.

Read: Former Obama administration official Vinai Thummalapally launches K Street firm (August 2, 2018)

During President Obama’s second term, he was the Executive Director of SelectUSA, a U.S. Department of Commerce initiative that facilitates job-creating business investment into the United States.

“It is an honor to lead this Agency and its exceptional team of professionals,” Thummalapally was quoted as saying in a press release issued by the USTDA announcing his appointment. “I share their commitment to USTDA’s mission of creating U.S. jobs through exports, supporting the economic growth of the United States, and facilitating the development of sustainable infrastructure overseas using the best of what U.S. industry has to offer.”

He pointed out that the USTDA “has a global reputation for excellence, results, and setting the standard for American economic engagement overseas.”

Prior to joining the Obama administration, he was the president of a Colorado Springs, CO, -based company.

A year after leaving the administration, in 2018, he launched the Red Fort Strategies, a Washington, D.C.,-based public affairs and government relations.  The firm was the first major lobbying group in Washington owned wholly by Asian Americans.

Thummalapally also served as the president of MAM-A Inc., a U.S. manufacturer and distributor of archival recordable optical discs.

He has served on the board of the Indian American Impact Project, a non-profit group that encourages Indian Americans to run for public office, and as an advisor to the Asian American and Pacific Islanders Victory Fund.

Thummalapally has also worked as a board member for Cyient, a global digital engineering and technology company.

Thummalapally came to the United States in 1974 as a student. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from California State University Northridge, near Los Angeles, in 1977. In the late 1970s, he was a roommate of Obama.

In a 2018 interview with the American Bazaar, he described public service as giving back to America. “I feel tremendously privileged to have had that opportunity to give back to the United States, from which I received so much over the 30 plus years,” he said. “I received education here; and then opportunity to work. Prior to joining public service, I was president of a medium-sized US corporation. I had all this opportunity given to me and then I took advantage of those opportunities. So public service was my way of giving back.”

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