Bonner served in the 1991-1994 administration of Governor Ann Richards as Executive Director of the Texas Department of Commerce. As director of the state's economic development and jobs workforce training agency, she helped Texas create more jobs than any other state in the nation for four consecutive years. She was responsible for the agency's $500 million budget, the $11 million Texas Tourism advertising program, four foreign trade offices, and all business development and corporate relocations. She also created The Smart Jobs Program for Texas, a public-private sector jobs training program.
Bonner conceived of the idea, formed the coalition, and passed the legislation creating the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas to find cures for cancer. Bonner helped pass on a state ballot the constitutional amendment along with $3 billion in state-approved bonds to fund the Institute.