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Baldrige Award Ceremony at the 30th Anniversary Quest for Excellence Conference

Thank you.

And thank all of you. You are, indeed, part of a movement for the strength of this country and for the health, the well-being, the education of our people. You're the ones who keep America at the lead of this world.

Thank you for being part of the Baldrige program.

Thank you, winners! You're awesome!

I'm very happy to be here on behalf of the Department of Commerce. Secretary Ross sends his regards. He's very sorry that he can't be here at the party. He's dealing with a few international trade issues over this weekend.

But, I'm glad to stand in, because quite frankly, the Baldrige Program is very close to my heart.

Thirty years, it is, indeed, a celebration. And we're also celebrating the fact that after a haitus, the Congress has acknowledged the Baldrige program and appropriated $2.2 million in the current fiscal year.

It's an important milestone. It's an ongoing journey, as we know, but it's a signal that in our Congress, in our U.S. leadership, there is an understanding of the value of public-private partnerships such as this very special one, the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program.

Secretary Ross and I both deeply appreciate this program and all that it means for the country and for all of you who have worked so hard to bring this country forward.

It's a pinnacle of recognition. And I think there's going to be a lot of celebrating. I heard a few noisemakers before. Bring it on! The night is yet young. You'll be hearing that a little bit more.

You've been able to move your organizations forward.

And whether it's in the new conversation that you have with your customers, with your people; understanding how to deliver value in ways that perhaps you hadn't thought about before; in the quality of the conversation with one another as leaders; as the management teams, as the employees, as the communities that you serve; it's a powerful journey. And I think the conversations that will be going on over the coming days here will be part of fueling that energy that each of us feel here tonight.

It's like a competitive rowing team that you've joined on the Baldrige journey. And it's truly a quest—it is striving for excellence. Everyone in the crew needs to be there as part of that journey. Because unless you fully pull together as a team, you won't achieve what you're looking for, and you won't be seated at the left hand of the stage here—at least my stage left!

It is a wonderful celebration for us all.

One hundred and eighteen organizations over the last 30 years have achieved this pinnacle of performance.

We've just seen the Olympics, the Winter Olympics completed, and this is like the olympics for American excellence.

It's remarkable really that the business principles that Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige had initially demonstrated in 1988 when this program was kicked off—those principles are equally relevant today. It was looking for quality in America. Quality in manufacturing and products. Quality in leadership. And he passionately believed, as the Secretary of Commerce, that the quality of our products were the key to American prosperity, economic strength and competitiveness.

And history has proven the Baldrige program correct. It's shown that not only quality in products, but also our services are the key to the vitality of the U.S. economy, and to our organizations that deliver value.

So each of you who have been part of this journey know what this means. You know how powerful those questions are. You know how it drives the conversation within your organization, how you even start thinking differently about what it is that you deliver.

I would love to continue talking about this, but what I wanted to do is spend a little bit of time sharing a bit more about our honorees this evening.

Our first honoree tonight—and I was on the phone call together with Secretary Ross as there were some pretty nervous people waiting for a call from a 202 area code on that morning. And especially on the Hawaii side, you were very very early that morning.

But our first honoree is Bristol Tennessee Essential Services. This is a small business with 68 employees located on the boundary between Tennessee and Virginia near the Cherokee National Forest. They may be a small utility company in a smaller region, but they show the rest of us just what the future of quality service delivery looks like. they provide 33,000+ happy customers with the fastest internet service in the United States—10 gigabits per second. Their customer satisfaction level approaches 100 percent on almost every product and performance measure that they have. They've used innovative technologies in ensuring that the electricity services and the internet availability rates are at 99.99 percent, amongst the highest in the nation. And we know that certainly for many of us, that we wish that our power and internet were that good. And their employees care, their employees love it. They have an employee retention rate of 100 percent.

Remarkable. That's what happens in this journey. People love one another and the power of the organization that they are part of.

Our next honoree, Stellar Solutions from California, takes employee satisfaction one step further.  Their headquartered in Palto Alto, and their vision is to align customer needs with a dream job for everyone of their 175 employees. To make the vision real, they embed 90 percent of their employees at their customers' work sites. The company also provides extensive health and financial benefits, supports work/life balance, and gives 40 hours of professional training annually to each employee. And at the same time, they're living up to their name—Stellar—by offering aerospace engineering integration and program management services. From 2013 to 2016, fully 100 percent of the customers said that they would recommend this company to others.

Now, I'm a Coloradan. I'm a Coloradan. And the City of Fort Collins in Colorado found their way into the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program through outstanding listening skills. And by the way, there are a couple of other Colorado organizations who are also Baldrige winners, and I know there's a tremendous community of practice toward organizational excellence in the state of Colorado. The great state.

So, everybody in Colorado loves Fort Collins. They've got their act together. They're doing wonderful things. It's a full-service, municipal corporation. Two thousand employees, probably many more volunteers, because they get it, they engage their community. They've raised the concept of town halls to a fine art, and Fort Collins has 27 advisory boards and commissions. They just get the community together. They engage, they listen, and the city has the results to show for it. They rank in the top tenth percentile for the best places to live and work, quality of culture, recreation, job opportunities, air quality and attractiveness, and in the top 1 percent nationally for water quality and emergency preparedness.

So, yay Fort Collins! They also happen to have some pretty good microbreweries in their town.

Our fourth award winner this evening—the Adventist Health Castle—combines a bit of the strengths of all the other honorees. They are living the dream on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, and build strong relationships with their employees, their patients, while achieving impressive quantitative results. By the way, NIST also has facilities in Hawaii.

This is a faith-based community. It's a hospital system that provides full-service health care with a real difference. This is the Hawaiian spirit of aloha and ohana—love, family. At the same time, they achieve solid business results. They meet or exceed the top 25 percent nationally on important composite measures of health care quality. They're in the top 1 percent or better for metrics on common hospital-acquired infections and patient falls. And they do all this while staying focused on patient wellness that saves lives, health screening, disease prevention. The bottom line is better health physically, and financially they deliver real value to their community. And they do that with a strong faith-based value system as well that underpins their great work. Their work has boosted their operating margin, and they have all the metrics in the right direction, with a great community behind them.

Finally, we have Southcentral Foundation. They've been here before, folks. This is one of the the few organizations in the country that's actually been a Baldrige winner not just once, but twice. Only seven other organizations have done that in this country. So, it's not their first rodeo, it's not their first time drumming.

What they really focus on is providing outstanding care to about 65,000 Alaska Native American Indian people. They succeed in providing their patients, the perspective being the customer-owners of the service and truly treating the whole person—body, mind and well-being overall. The hospital system achieves the 90th percentile rankings on many important health measures while serving a population within a more than 100,000 square mile surface area. It's amazing what you do. Seventy percent of the customer-owners needing behavioral health service receive same-day consultation. The service has achieved a Moody's AAA financial rating for the last three years, and also with dramatically low overhead expenses versus their peer group.

In short, this organization has proven themselves and to justify to everybody else how important it is to measure and to work together and to show that "we've got this" as an organization. We know what it takes to achieve performance excellence.

So, congratulations to each of you. I look forward to shaking your hands and to our conversation this evening and over the coming days.

It's such a tremendous pleasure for me to be here, to be part of this important event.

This is really a journey for excellence, not only for each organization and for their stakeholders, their customers, but it's also very important to America. So I'm pleased that the Department of Commerce, that NIST, are the partner organizations in this great Baldrige tradition. You are making our nation a better place, one organization, one customer, one student, one patient, one employee at a time.

We are here to celebrate. We are here to celebrate American excellence.

Thank you for your passion. Thank you for being on the quest. You are the people who make this country great.

Thank you.

Created April 10, 2018, Updated May 7, 2018