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Blog Entries from June 2011

Resources for Manufacturers - A Month in Review

All month long, highlighted programs, resources and efforts made to help American manufacturers grow faster and become more competitive. Why? Because the manufacturing sector has been a main driver of the economic recovery over the past two years, with over 230,000 jobs added since the beginning of 2010. The manufacturing sector currently employs over 11 million Americans, providing good-paying jobs for millions of families and serving as the backbone of communities across the country – a brighter future for American manufacturers will mean a brighter future for the American economy.

If you missed any of our posts, here is a quick digest:

The US-India Economic Partnership – a 21st Century Partnership Built on Innovation and Collaboration.

Assistant Secretary Camunez with one of the Research Directors at the GE Jack Welch Technology Center in Bangalore, India.

Guest blog by Michael Camuñez, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Market Access and Compliance.

President  Obama has observed that “The relationship between the United States and India-- bound by our shared interests and values -- will be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century.”

This week, my first trip to India has focused on deepening the economic and trade dimensions of our bilateral partnership. I began in Mumbai, passed through Bangalore, and ended in Delhi.

The stunning growth of the Indian economy is well known.  India has embraced global trade and competition, cutting its top applied tariff rates on industrial goods from more than 100% before liberalization to about 10-12% currently. Today, annual growth rates in excess of eight percent percent have become commonplace. 

As part of this story, the US-India partnership has been hard at work, with great success. The United States is the largest source of foreign investment in India. In 2009, total U.S. FDI in India was $18.6 billion, up 12 percent from 2008.

American corporations who’ve set up shop in India are partnering with leading local companies and professionals to do great things.

USPTO Director Kappos Talks Jobs, Innovation and Patent Reform with Kojo Nnamdi

USPTO Director Kappos Talks Jobs, Innovation and Patent Reform with Kojo Nnamdi

Today USPTO Director David Kappos was interviewed by popular Washington, D.C. radio host Kojo Nnamdi for a segment focused on patents as a vehicle to create new jobs, the patent reform legislation currently pending in Congress, and improvements made at the USPTO under Director Kappos’ leadership. 

Topics discussed in the interview included the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act and how a change from a first-to-invent system to a first-to-file system as called for in the legislation would impact the innovation community. Kappos noted that this is really a first-inventor-to-file system, meaning that the person who files the patent application has to be the inventor. He pointed to this system as one that is more transparent, simple and objective and one that provides greater certainty for inventors.

Commerce Department's Census Bureau Announces Management and Structural Reforms that will Improve Efficiency and Cut Costs

Map Depicting Current Census Bureau Regional Office Structure

Today, the Commerce Department’s U.S. Census Bureau announced the first realignment of its national field office structure in 50 years and management reforms that will improve efficiency, reduce costs and enhance data quality. The changes will take place gradually over the next 18 months and reduce the number of regional offices from 12 to six, saving an estimated $15 million to $18 million annually beginning in 2014.

Increasing efficiency, cutting waste and reforming Washington has been a priority for the Obama Administration since day one, and this consolidation supports the administration’s ongoing effort to make government more efficient, effective and accountable to the American people. It also builds on the work of Census Bureau Director Robert Groves and his management team in bringing in the 2010 Census on time and 25 percent under budget, saving nearly $1.9 billion.

For more information, please see today's announcement on the White House Web site.

Earlier this month, President Obama and Vice President Biden launched the Campaign to Cut Waste with the goal of eliminating misspent tax dollars in every agency and department across the federal government. Whether the budget is in surplus or deficit, every dollar must be spent as efficiently as possible, but in a time when so many Americans have had to cut back, our mission takes on added urgency.

Made in America continues to shine

Scott Paul, Executive Director for the Alliance for American Manufacturing

Guest post by Scott Paul, Executive Director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

A strong and vibrant manufacturing base is essential to our nation's economic stability, a strong middle class, and employment opportunities for young men and women across America. The good news is that manufacturing output and employment have been growing over the past 15 months, and in many ways, the sector has played an outsized role in our economic recovery. But our nation will never realize its full potential to grow the manufacturing sector of our economy without a robust strategy and aggressive set of public policies to complement private sector efforts by business and labor to maintain a globally competitive industry.

The case for a permanent capacity for strategic planning on our manufacturing base, evolving to make use of our workers’ skills and the latest technology as well as responding to global trends, could not be stronger when one considers that no matter how innovative or competitive individual manufacturers may be, there are some problems they simply cannot solve on their own. This was recently articulated by Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

  • Research and development can be expensive and hard to capture profits, such as in advanced batteries;
  • No single firm could possibly coordinate national projects like the smart grid or internet;
  • Firms often need assistance in applying academic innovations to the production process;
  • Manufacturers often face barriers to accessing credit for entry, expansion, and innovation; and
  • Manufacturers need assistance in exporting as well as push back against unfair trade practices.

The Commerce Department leads the federal government’s efforts to assist manufacturers with these challenges. For example, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program provides on-the-ground services. The International Trade Administration (ITA) helps manufacturers boost exports and seek relief from unfair trade practices. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) offers cutting edge research on production, innovation, and commercialization.

Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee Releases 2011 National Export Strategy: Powering the National Export Initiative to Congress

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, on behalf of the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee, today released to Congress the 2011 National Export Strategy: Powering the National Export Initiative (PDF). The report reinforces the importance of U.S. exports of goods and services, which in 2010 totaled $1.84 trillion, an increase of nearly 17% over 2009 levels, and supported more than 9 million jobs in the United States.

Starting with this report, the annual National Export Strategy will fill the essential role of tracking and measuring the federal government’s progress in implementing the NEI. The TPCC will assess new opportunities and seek new ways for its agencies to improve coordination and increase effectiveness.  The National Export Strategy identifies the four areas of focus during 2011:

  • Collaborating with states, metropolitan areas, and border communities to help U.S. companies successfully export around the globe;
  • Encouraging exports by U.S. companies selling technologies in high-growth sectors;
  • Ensuring better data and measurement of U.S. services sector exporting; and
  • Removing barriers to trade, including through passage of the South Korea, Colombia and Panama trade agreements.

Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Canada: Intertwined through Manufacturing and Trade

Guest blog by Nicole Lamb-Hale, Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing and Services

Today, I joined members of the President’s Export Council (PEC), U.S. and Canadian officials and U.S. and Canadian businesses to discuss border trade opportunities and challenges between American and Canadian companies. Canada and the United States share a unique relationship = we share not only borders, but economies.

Canada and the United States’ economies are greatly intertwined. The two nations share the world’s largest and most comprehensive trading relationship, which supports millions of jobs in each country. However, Canada and the United States don’t simply trade goods with each other: we build things together and rely on each other’s markets to design and build products that compete in global markets.

In 2010, U.S. Exports to Canada were worth $249.1 billion, 19 percent of total U.S. exports. These exports include motor vehicles and parts, agricultural and construction machinery, computer equipment, iron and steel, basic chemicals and petroleum and coal products.  
The Administration will continue to work hard to help Michigan companies grow by breaking into foreign markets, increasing exports and creating jobs.
The simple fact is that the more American – and Michigan – companies export, the more they produce. The more they produce, the more workers they need. And that means jobs. Good paying jobs here at home.

Agencies Working Together Results in Manufacturers Now Hiring

Alternate Text

Cross-posted on the NIST MEP blog

UEMC, Inc., a woman-owned manufacturer located in San Antonio, Texas, is now hiring. The company has over 50 years of experience in contract sewing, screen printing and textile related manufacturing … and now sustainable manufacturing practices.

In October 2009, UEMC, Inc. participated in a local Lean. Clean. Energy. program as part of a national manufacturing sustainable effort. Five Federal Government Agencies—Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Labor, Small Business Administration and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) of The National Institute of Standards and Technology – have jointly created the E3 Initiative (Energy, Economy, Environment), which is focused on helping manufacturers implement sustainable manufacturing practices. The E3 program is designed to capture the knowledge and tools of the five agencies to run effective sustainability initiatives across the nation.

The E3 program benefits manufacturers throughout the country not only with cost savings, but also by providing access to technical and financial resources.

That’s exactly what UEMC, Inc. experienced. Linda Jordan, the CFO of UEMC, was quick to agree that E3 is about much more than just saving the company money and energy:

Spotlight on Commerce: John Gray, Director of NOAA's Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs

John Gray, Director of NOAA’s Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of winning the future through their work.

Guest blog by John Gray, Director of NOAA’s Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs.

My father served in the U.S. military so as a child our family moved all over the world. I fondly remember my time in New Mexico, Texas, Washington state, and abroad in Panama and Japan. Even though I was a world traveler as a child, I found Texas to be home. I entered and graduated from Rice University in Houston, Texas and graduate school in Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. After college and graduate school I was recruited to work at the Congressional Research Service, a part of the Library of Congress that specifically responds to congressional inquiries.  I have held several jobs in Washington, in and out of government, but immediately before starting at NOAA I worked as the Public Outreach Director, Economics for AARP. Prior to that, I worked for almost 8 years at the Department of Commerce where I served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs among many other positions.

I feel very grateful to work in this administration to further the President’s goal of winning the future.  At NOAA we perform a variety of services that move the President’s agenda forward. In my role as Director of NOAA’s Office of Legislative Affairs, we help communicate that vision to the Hill every day, ensuring that members of both parties understand how NOAA’s daily weather forecasts, severe storm warnings and climate monitoring, fisheries management, coastal restoration and supporting marine commerce support America’s economic growth and affect more than one-third of the gross domestic product. I’m particularly proud of NOAA’s effort to establish a climate service, which will provide available information about long term weather for public and private sector audiences and will be a significant innovation in the service that government can provide its citizens. Our work to build sustainable fishing waters will ensure that coastal communities can remain viable.

Helping U.S. Manufacturers Expand Exports

Guest post by Suresh Kumar, Assistant Secretary for Trade and Director General of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service.

Today, I had the opportunity to travel to West Virginia to discuss progress on President Obama’s National Export Initiative (NEI) and the promotion of U.S. manufacturing exports. As many of you might know, the NEI, announced in 2010, aims to double U.S. exports by the end of 2014. I’m glad to report that the NEI is off to a good start. Exports last year comprised 12.5 percent of GDP, up from the 11.2 percent recorded in 2009. 

In West Virginia, exports of merchandise grew 34 percent in 2010 -- double the national growth rate of 17 percent for goods and services. Thus far for 2011, the U.S. remains on pace to achieve the NEI goal.

The NEI is critical because we need to get more U.S. companies to export so that we can bolster our economy and support new jobs here in America. Of America’s 30 million companies, less than 1 percent export, and of those that do, 58 percent only sell to one market. The NEI helps creates deep market linkages and connects innovation to the marketplace. It also works to inform U.S. companies of their export potential, and the U.S. Government and private sector services available to help them sell internationally. 

Export Assistance at Work  

The International Trade Administration’s U.S. Commercial Service (CS) of the U.S. Department of Commerce operates a global network of 108 U.S. offices and locations in more than 75 countries comprising more than 1,400 trade specialists that provides U.S. business comprehensive, soup to nuts service and programs

West Virginia is an excellent example of how CS counseling and collaboration with businesses and state and local governments is resulting in many export sales for U.S. companies. Last year, CS offices in West Virginia offices recorded 53 export successes totaling more than $11 million.

Materials Scientist at Commerce’s NIST to Receive Prestigious Kyoto Prize in Advanced Technology

John Cahn

John Cahn, an emeritus senior fellow and materials scientist at the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), was recently named to receive the prestigious Kyoto Prize in Advanced Technology. Cahn's numerous major contributions to materials science include developing a fundamental theory that describes the behavior of mixtures of different materials and how they tend to separate at the microscale. The theory established an entire branch of materials research and is particularly important to the rational design of new alloys.

The Cahn-Hilliard equation supplied that basic framework for understanding how an alloy's phase separation and related changes in microstructure play a key role in determining the physical engineering properties of the bulk composite alloy—things like strength, toughness, ductility, magnetic strength and thermal conductance. The equation describes, quantitatively, how the components of a binary mixture that becomes unstable when cooled will separate through a process called "spinodal decomposition." Cahn proceeded to elaborate the theory, showing how basic thermodynamic principles could be used to design alloys that, under spinodal decomposition, would form desired microstructures. His work laid the foundation for the rational design and manufacture of new materials using the Cahn-Hilliard equation as well as for the related "phase-field" method, which uses similar thermodynamic considerations to model the behavior of complicated interfaces in materials.

Like many other fundamental theories, spinodal decomposition has proven relevant to a broad range of seemingly disparate fields. The Cahn-Hilliard equation, among other things, describes how galaxies began forming out of the primal material of the Big Bang in the early stages of the universe.

NIST has posted a video of Dr. Cahn explaining his work and a computer animation of the equation at work.

Make It and Move It

steel girder rails

Cross-posted on the NIST MEP blog

Without manufacturing, transportation would mean walking barefoot. Without transportation (and manufacturing), there would be no global economy. Fortunately for us, there are trains, trucks, planes, bikes and cars (and shoes!), all of which need to be made. So do bridges, roads, terminals, safety signs and tracks. All these seemingly disparate things work in concert to create the economic systems that keep America buying and selling and building and moving.

And, fortunately for our country, most, if not all, of the transportation infrastructure and supporting transportation equipment can and perhaps should be manufactured here. Transportation is not an end in itself. It’s a means to achieving American manufacturing and economic prosperity — a very big and very important means.

I know that American manufacturers can make anything and everything. The problem is matching manufacturing capability with long-term, predictable business opportunities that make sense.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) teamed up to address some of the issues that have hampered the matching of opportunity with ability. The partnership was set up to find domestic manufacturing capacity for steel girder rails. Yes, steel girder rails. There are 60 cities in the United States that are planning, designing or constructing systems for street cars.  Yes, street cars. (If your mind just wandered off to the scene in Meet Me in St. Louis when Judy Garland sang, “the Trolley Song,” you’ve got the picture.)

Broadband and the Latino Community: Let's Keep the Momentum Going!

Chart showing the Internet subscribership rate among Hispanics is only 45 percent

Guest blog by Anna M. Gomez, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information

Yesterday I was happy to participate in a panel discussion about broadband at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) annual conference in San Antonio. NALEO members recognize that broadband Internet is one of the tools necessary to help their communities thrive in today's economy. In fact, I think that any conference focused on building stronger communities should include a discussion of broadband - it's a critical ingredient for job creation, economic growth, and improving education, health care, and public safety.

I talked about challenges and opportunities. NTIA's data show that although 90-95 percent of Americans live in areas with access to broadband, only 68 percent of households subscribe to the service. In fact, more than 28 percent of Americans do not use the Internet in any location, which means they are cut off from countless educational and job opportunities.

Make It In America

Whip Hoyer discusses the Make It In America agenda with employees at Antenna Research Associates, Inc., a manufacturer in Maryland's fifth district.

Guest post by Rep. Steny Hoyer, Minority Whip of the U.S. House of Representatives

American manufacturing helped make this the most prosperous country on earth—and it helped build a strong middle class. As we continue to focus on job creation and economic growth, I believe a key part of that effort must be rebuilding our manufacturing strength. That’s why House Democrats have created the Make It In America agenda: it’s about creating the conditions for American businesses to innovate here, create jobs here, make products here, and sell them to the world—and about making sure we have a workforce qualified for well-paying jobs. I believe strongly that when we make more products in America, more families will be able to Make It In America, as well.

Even as much of our economy has struggled, the manufacturing sector has consistently added jobs—it’s been a bright spot for our recovery. But the news isn’t all good. Manufacturing employment is still near its lowest point since World War II. And more worryingly, the index of manufacturing activity—a measure of the sector’s productivity and growth—fell sharply last month, to its lowest point since fall of 2009.

Whether or not you work in manufacturing, that ought to concern you for a number of reasons. Manufacturing stimulates more activity across our whole economy than any other sector—so a fall in manufacturing activity is felt across the economy, which is bad for all of us. It’s also bad for the middle class because manufacturing jobs pay better-than-average wages, and it’s bad for America’s competitiveness because China has overtaken us as the world leader in the dollar value of manufacturing output. Last but not least, a decline in manufacturing is bad for American innovation.  As assembly lines move overseas, innovation often follows to be closer to production.  That’s resulted in America losing the innovative lead in a number of technological fields, from precision optics to photovoltaic cells to computer chips—we can’t afford to lose ground elsewhere.

Spotlight on Commerce: Jim Stowers, Director of Legislative Affairs

Jim Stowers, Director of Legislative Affairs

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of winning the future through their work.

Guest blog by Jim Stowers, Director of Legislative Affairs.

As Director of Legislative Affairs at the Department of Commerce, I serve as a senior advisor in the Office of the Secretary on legislative matters before Congress and other federal departments. 

My journey to this point in my career began about 25 years ago when I was growing up in Benton County, Arkansas and had the good fortune one Saturday evening to hear Senator Dale Bumpers speak at the annual Little Flock Picnic.  I don’t recall everything Senator Bumpers said in his speech that night, but I do recall being star struck by an exceptionally gifted speaker and inspired by his pursuit of the common good through public service. 

That moment - combined with my growing awareness of the political process and its importance – inspired me to pursue an internship in Senator Bumpers’ Washington office while I was in college and later serve for 12 years in the office of U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln.  Today, I feel blessed to have the opportunity to continue my public service in the Obama Administration at the Department of Commerce.   

Assistant Secretary Fernandez To Mayors: "Manufacturing Goes Hand-in-Hand with Innovation"

Assistant Secretary Fernandez Tells Mayor's "manufacturing goes hand in hand with innovation"

Guest Blog by John Fernandez, Assistant Secretary for Economic Development.

I had the pleasure of addressing the National Conference of Black Mayors 2011 Legislative Policy Summit in Washington, D.C. today. I focused on what the Obama administration is doing to grow local economic ecosystems and help create jobs, particularly in manufacturing.

The summit of almost 40 mayors from across the nation was a great opportunity for intergovernmental collaboration and provided an excellent platform to share best practices and discuss the challenges of creating jobs and increasing competitiveness. 

As a former mayor myself, I understood the pressing issues facing these leaders. They are the same issues the Obama administration is aggressively tackling at the federal level. And they all boil down to creating more jobs, particularly in manufacturing.

The manufacturing sector currently employs over 11 million Americans, providing good-paying jobs for millions of families. Preparing Americans to enter into the manufacturing sector will not only strengthen the economy and put folks back to work, it’s critical to our nation’s success as we compete in a 21st century global economy. 

Growing Exports with the New Market Exporter Initiative

NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons tours Muscatine Foods in Iowa with the chairman of the company, Gage Kent.

Guest blog by Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers.

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the Department of Commerce are working together to achieve President Obama’s goal of doubling exports by 2014. The New Market Exporter Initiative (NMEI) will make it easier for manufacturers to identify new markets, find new customers for their products and grow their business.

Exports are a key part of any competitiveness agenda. Ninety-five percent of the world’s consumers live outside of the United States. With the right tools and resources, manufacturers can increase their exports and find new customers.

Many of these manufacturers don’t have the resources to conduct extensive research on new possible export markets. Small and medium-sized firms, for example, account for 95 percent of all exporters in the U.S., yet only about one-third of all exports. The NMEI helps small and medium-sized manufacturers that are currently exporting to one or two countries expand their export sales to new markets. 

U.S. Companies and Technology on Display at the 2011 Paris Air Show

Boeing 777

Guest Blog by Francisco Sanchez, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade

This week I have had the privilege of attending the 2011 Paris Air Show, the largest aerospace industry show in the world. Since arriving on Sunday, I’ve participated in numerous industry events, met with CEOs, governors, ministers, members of congress and association representatives.

Yesterday, I presided over the opening ceremony for the U.S. Pavilion with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray Lahood, Hawaii senator Daniel Inouye, Alabama senator Richard Shelby, and Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley.  More than 200 U.S. companies are displaying their innovative and forward-thinking technology here.

The U.S. aerospace industry is a strategic contributor to the economy, national security, and technological innovation of the United States The industry contributed $78 billion in export sales to the U.S. economy in 2010 and is important to achieve the goals of the President’s export initiative.

The aerospace sector in the United States supports more jobs through exports than any other industry.

Earlier today I witnessed a signing ceremony between Boeing and Aeroflot, Russia’s state-owned airline. Aeroflot has ordered eight 777s valued at $2.1 billion, and the sales will support approximately 14,000 jobs in the United States.

Resources for Aerospace Manufacturers and Their Suppliers

Shuttle Piggybacking on an Airplane

From the first thread of upholstery for seat cushions to the final gallon of paint for the exterior, American manufacturers, large and small, are contributing to the construction of an airplane. While many Americans see an airplane as one item, it is really a feat of modern engineering and planning with thousands of parts being assembled all across America to create the single airplane. In fact, according to a 2008 study by the U.S. Department of Commerce, aerospace supports more jobs through exports than any other industry.  The U.S. aerospace industry directly supports about 430,000 jobs and indirectly supports more than 700,000 additional jobs.

This week at the Paris Air Show, civil and military aircraft manufacturers and those engaged in the burgeoning space vehicle market will show off their products to buyers from all over the world. Selling internationally is vital for America to meet the President’s goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2015 in order to support millions of jobs. The aerospace industry contributed $78 billion in export sales to the U.S. economy in 2010.  The industry’s 2010 positive trade balance of $44 billion is the largest trade surplus of any manufacturing industry and came from exporting 42% of all aerospace production and 72% of civil aircraft and component production.

For manufacturers looking to break into this market, ITA has also worked with Boeing’s Supplier Management Office to produce a webinar for U.S. aerospace companies that discussed how to participate in Boeing’s global supply chain.  In addition, ITA organized a webinar with Airbus procurement officials and over 200 companies where Airbus officials discussed the company’s procurement strategy and how U.S. companies can become part of its supply chain.

For all manufacturers, ITA has the Manufacture America Initiative that connects U.S. manufacturers with resources to help them be more competitive in the global marketplace, regardless of market. Boeing has been an active participant in the Manufacture America Initiative for the aerospace industry and the MAS Aerospace Team website is full of resources and contacts for U.S. aerospace manufacturers and their suppliers.

Tapping Experts to Improve Federal Statistics: The Federal Economic Statistics Advisory Committee

FESAC members with Acting  Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank

Guest blog by Robert Groves, Director, U.S. Census Bureau.

Major economic statistics tell us fundamental facts about the state of the economy – where we have been and how we are doing.  They allow citizens, businesses, and governments to assess how things are going.  Examples of such statistics include Gross Domestic Product (GDP), produced by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA); U.S. international trade in goods and services, produced by the U.S. Census Bureau; and the consumer and producer price indexes, produced by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).  While each example statistic is issued by only one statistical agency, some – such as GDP - hit the statistical “trifecta” because they are built from data from all three agencies.

Keeping those statistics up-to-date and relevant to an ever-changing economy is central to the credibility of statistical organizations such as the Census Bureau, BEA, and BLS.  It is also a significant challenge for the agencies. We use many tactics and strategies to make sure our data are current and relevant.  Getting good advice from experts in relevant fields, through advisory committees, is one of those strategies.  Hearing about both the strengths and weaknesses of our data in an open and public setting is essential to improving our data and maintaining their credibility.

I am excited that we get advice from the Federal Economic Statistics Advisory Committee (FESAC).  FESAC advises the heads of the Census Bureau and BEA – both in the Department of Commerce – as well as the Department of Labor’s BLS. FESAC’s mission -- to recommend research to address important technical problems -- aims at improving exactly complex economic statistics relying on data from not just one, but two or three of these agencies. 

Made in the USA – American Innovation

Richard Bogert, President and CEO, The Bogert Group

Guest blog by Richard W. Bogert, President and CEO, The Bogert Group

I grew up with the phrase “American Ingenuity” to describe the monumental accomplishments of our time. I grew up in a time that “Made in America” was the norm and made somewhere else meant inferior. We were proud to manufacture the best and supply the world. That was American Innovation and manufacturing might. We were the best at everything.

I started my company as a service business but soon realized that I was only trading hours for dollars.  I had limited myself because there are only so many hours in a day.  My income also fluctuated with the local economy. I turned to manufacturing because it was limitless and selling products on the global level insulated me from the ups and downs of my local economy. Starting with what I knew, Bogert Aviation became a FAA Certified parts manufacturer in 1986. My philosophy, “We are going to make the very best products – or we aren’t going to do it”.  Over the years we started other companies that manufacture a wide range of products. We call it the Bogert Group.  

I’ve got news for you. American Ingenuity and Innovation are alive and well. Most of the best new products and technologies have been created in the good old USA. Our young people are creative and inventive when encouraged.  We just need to create an environment that fosters innovative thought.

See video
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Bogert transcript

U.S., Mongolia Commit to Expand Bilateral Commercial Relations

President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, Foreign Minister Zandanshatar, Secretary Locke at signing ceremony

Locke applauds historic Boeing aircraft deal

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and Mongolia’s President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj today announced agreements to expand cooperation on trade and economic issues, and support Mongolia’s aviation sector with technical assistance and training programs at a Blair House ceremony.

“Our trade relationship with Mongolia has deepened during the past several years,” Locke said. “We are pleased that U.S. exports to Mongolia have been increasing, and we look forward to continuing to work with President Elbegdorj and his government to strengthen our commercial ties.”

The Boeing Company also finalized a purchase agreement with MIAT Mongolian Airlines for one 767-300ER and two 737-800 aircraft valued at $245 million from The Boeing Company. This is the first direct purchase of Boeing aircraft by MIAT, and marks the first time in more than two decades that MIAT will extend its route network by purchasing Boeing airplanes instead of leasing them.

Locke and representatives from the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) each signed agreements with Mongolian government and private sector officials promoting cooperation between the two nations.

Tariff Tool Demystifies U.S. Trade Agreements for Manufacturers

Guest blog by Justin Hoffmann, International Economist in the Office of Trade Policy Analysis.

Manufacturers who are looking to expand into new markets are often faced with myriad questions about tariffs and barriers to these new markets. Figuring out which products have what tariffs can be a very frustrating and time consuming process. That is why the International Trade Agency has developed a Free Trade Agreement Tariff Tool to help manufacturers quickly find the information they need.

For manufacturers, America’s Free Trade Agreement (FTA) partners can be an attractive markets because these negotiated agreements eliminate tariffs, remove non-tariff barriers, and secure non-discriminatory treatment for U.S. goods and services.

While these agreements bring many benefits for manufacturers, they can be confusing. For example, in the U.S.-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement, the tariff schedules alone for that agreement go on for nearly a thousand pages. If a manufacturer is dedicated enough to slog through the pages to find out where his specific product is in the tariff schedule, he will learn, for example, that the tariff charged on his product before the agreement went into effect is 20 percent. Additionally, after some further digging around the agreement text, the exporter would also learn that the tariff on his product “shall be removed in ten equal annual stages beginning on the date this Agreement enters into force, and such goods shall be duty-free, effective January 1 of year ten”.

It is pretty clear that these lengthy documents are crafted by trade negotiators and lawyers and are really not written for U.S. manufacturers who are simply trying to export their goods to new markets.

The good news is that the FTA Tariff Tool provides this information instantly and almost effortlessly.

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FTA Tariff Tool Transcript

Bringing and Keeping Business Investment in America

SelectUSA logo

Guest blog by Gary Locke, U.S. Secretary of Commerce. Cross-posted at the White House blog.

Business investment in America creates and supports millions of jobs, while generating economic growth and opportunities in communities throughout the United States.

Today at the Business Round Table in Washington, D.C., we announced a new initiative – SelectUSA – the first-ever government-wide program to aggressively pursue and win new business investment in the United States by both domestic and foreign companies.

America has the most appealing investment environment in the world, with the largest consumer market, an educated workforce, strong intellectual-property protections and open capital markets.

More than 5 million Americans are directly employed by foreign companies in the U.S., ranging from Japanese carmakers to British banks to Indian energy and industrial companies.

But at a time when competition for business investment is more intense than ever, the U.S. is the only developed economy in the world without a national-level investment program and advocacy program.

In recent years we have been losing ground in attracting and retaining business investment to better coordinated foreign competitors.

SelectUSA, established by Executive Order of the President, will leverage existing resources of the federal government to ramp up promotion of the U.S. as a prime investment destination to create jobs at home and to keep jobs from going overseas.


Commerce Updates Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan and Publishes Climate Adaptation Policy

NIST Solar Array

On June 3, the U.S. Department of Commerce updated its Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan (SSPP), an 80-page roadmap to increasing its energy and environmental stewardship. The SSPP details the department’s current progress and plans for meeting targets in 8 key areas, from reducing greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption to increasing on-site generation of renewable energy and recycling.

Highlights from 2010 include the completion of a 120 KW solar array to power the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Kauai, Hawaii WWVH radio station, which is projected to save nearly $60,000 per year; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s construction of two green buildings and plans for completion of four more; and completion of Commerce’s first ever inventory of its greenhouse gas emissions.

As part of the SSPP update Secretary Locke issued the department’s first ever climate change adaptation policy, which commits Commerce to considering climate change impacts when undertaking planning, setting priorities for scientific research and investigations, and making decisions regarding its resources, programs, policies, and operations.

The new policy also commits Commerce to developing and publishing a department-wide Climate Adaptation Plan by June 4, 2012, which will evaluate risks and vulnerabilities to climate change and define the department’s strategy for managing climate change impacts in both the short and long term.

Using Green Technology to Turn Carbon Dioxide into Cement (and Jobs)

Calera's process - Mineralization via Aqueous Precipitation

In order to meet President Obama’s goal of out-innovating the world in the clean energy economy, the United States Patent and Trademark Office extended the Green Technology Pilot Program. Through this pilot, the USPTO expedites patent applications for any invention that will strongly contribute to improving environmental quality; the discovery or development of renewable energy sources; better use of existing energy resources, or reduction of greenhouse gases. Since the pilot program began in December 2009, a total of 1,918 petitions have been granted to green technology patent applicants, and 328 patents have been issued.

Under this program, California-based Calera Corporation has been able to fast track twelve applications for converting carbon dioxide (CO2) into green “reactive cements” that replace traditional “portland cement” commonly used in the construction of buildings.

The heart of the Calera process, referred to as Mineralization via Aqueous Precipitation, combines carbon dioxide flue gas from power plants with the Earth’s natural waters and converts the gas into stable solid minerals similar to those found in the skeletons of marine animals and plants including metastable calcium and magnesium carbonate and bicarbonate minerals. These minerals can then be used to produce high reactive cements akin to portland cement without the negative environmental impacts derived from mining and processing. For those interested in more details, the USPTO's website has a more in-depth webpage about Calera and this process.

National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship Holds Public Forum at Howard University

NACIE participants around table with Locke

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke addressed a town hall-style public forum at Howard University’s School of Business in Washington, D.C. today as part of a meeting of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE). In his remarks to students, faculty, administrators and business leaders, Locke praised the Council for its ongoing efforts to accelerate innovation and entrepreneurship, and to help America win the future by out-innovating, out-educating and out-building our economic competitors.

Locke thanked the Council for their recommendations and highlighted the importance of NACIE’s work in creating policies that support President Obama’s innovation agenda by improving America’s economic competitiveness and meeting the needs of America’s entrepreneurs.


First announced in 2009 and authorized in 2011 America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, the Council advises the Secretary of Commerce on key innovation and entrepreneurship issues and engages with the public and stakeholders to promote effective public policies and regulations.

U.S. Census Bureau Announces Half of U.S. Respondent Businesses Were Home-Based

Two women at a store counter

The Census Bureau today released new national-level statistics on business owners including owner’s age, education level, veteran status and primary function in the business; family-owned and home-based business status; types of customers and workers; and sources of financing for start-up, expansion or capital improvements.

The survey found that more than half (51.6 percent) of all businesses that responded to the 2007 Survey of Business Owners (SBO) were operated primarily from someone’s home in 2007. In addition, only 6.9 percent of these home-based businesses had $250,000 or more in receipts, while 57.1 percent of home-based businesses brought in less than $25,000. About 23.8 percent of employer respondent businesses and 62.9 percent of nonemployer respondent businesses were home-based.

“Most businesses are started by people who dig into their own pockets for at least some of their start-up capital,” said Census Bureau Deputy Director Thomas Mesenbourg. “This is true for both firms with employees and those without them. Furthermore, more than one in five (20.8 percent) of respondent businesses used no start-up capital at all.”       

The two data sets released today are from the 2007 Survey of Business Owners: Characteristics of Businesses: 2007 and Characteristics of Business Owners: 2007. All findings are for respondent firms only.

Numerous organizations such as the MBDA , the Small Business Administration, the National Chamber of Commerce, the Urban League, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and others use these data to track the progress of minorities and women as entrepreneurs. Release  Estimates by Gender, Race and Veteran Status

Secretary Locke Joined President Obama For Jobs and Competitiveness Council Meeting In North Carolina

Chancellor Woodson talks with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke.

Earlier today, Secretary Locke joined President Obama and other senior administration officials for a meeting of the Jobs and Competitiveness Council in the Raleigh-Durham area. Prior to the President's arrival, Secretary Locke participated in one of the five Listening and Action sessions to engage with the local business community and solicit input on how the public and private sectors can partner to create opportunity and job creation for small businesses.

Other participants in the session, titled “Energy Innovation and Smartgrid,” include Jeffrey Immelt, Chairman and CEO of General Electric, Lewis Hay, III, Chairman and CEO of NextEra Energy, Gary Kelly, Chairman, President, and CEO of Southwest Airlines, and Brian Roberts, Chairman and CEO of Comcast Corporation.

Enhancing Trade in Latin America: Opening Opportunities

Sanchez on podium

Guest blog b y Francisco Sánchez, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade

Today I am honored to be speaking at the Association of American Chambers of Commerce at the Latin America Conference in Cartagena, Columbia. I shared with the hundreds of participants that the United States will continue its decades-long effort to increase economic integration throughout Latin America, including the passage and implementation of pending trade agreements with Colombia and Panama.

Latin America is our fastest-growing export market. The United States exports three times as much to Latin America as we do to China. We enjoy significant bilateral trading relationships with most of the countries in the region, and exports to these countries will soon support more than two million U.S. jobs.

Currently, 84 percent of U.S. trade within Latin America is covered by free trade agreements. Passage and implementation of new trade agreements with Colombia and Panama is an Obama administration priority for 2011, and are expected to support tens of thousands of jobs in America.

President Obama has made his commitment to the free trade agreements with Panama and Colombia clear because he believes that the future of the United States is inextricably bound to the future of the people of the Americas.

Panama is one of the fastest-growing economies in Latin America, expanding 6.2 percent in 2010, with similar annual growth forecast through 2015. Exports of U.S. goods to Colombia are expected to increase by more than $1.1 billion once the agreement is fully implemented.

Initiatives such as Pathways to Prosperity and the Americas Competitiveness Forum – two important programs supported by the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration – are critical to improving economic integration that will benefit every nation in the Western Hemisphere.

Trade between countries in the Western Hemisphere is important to all of us, supporting millions of jobs and bettering the lives of our people.

Manufacturers Receive Presidential Award For Their Export Efforts

APS Biogroup Manufacturing Facility

Guest Blog Post by Laura Barmby, the Program Officer for the President’s "E" Awards.  In this capacity, she coordinates the submission and review of applications for this Presidential Award, working with an inter-agency committee.

Last month, Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and Under Secretary Francisco Sánchez presented 27 U.S. companies, organizations, and institutions the President’s "E" Award for Exporting.  The "E" Award is the highest honor presented to exporters and acknowledges the significant contributions of the recipients in supporting U.S. exports.  This year marks 50 years since the establishment of the program by President Kennedy in 1961.
In honor of our nation’s manufacturers, I wanted to highlight for you a few of the companies that received the award this year that manufacture unique products.  What caught my attention was that this year we have three winners who took a product found in nature and improved it through a manufacturing process to make a great new product.

Here are a few things these companies have in common:

  • All take something from nature and make it into a product to support health and nutrition
  • All invest back into research and product development
  • All create jobs

Think about the jobs created by these companies:  farmers, scientists, assembly and manufacturing support, shipping, distribution, marketing.

If you have a product or service that you would like to export, visit to find out how to contact your nearest U.S. Export Assistance Center.  With 108 centers nationwide, exporting help is right around the corner!

Smarter Manufacturing Makes Businesses More Competitive

Sustainable Manufacturing Initiative logo

Guest blog post by Morgan Barr, an International Economist within the Manufacturing and Services division at the International Trade Administration. She works on sustainable manufacturing issues as well as negotiations for trade agreements.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Sustainable Manufacturing Initiative (SMI) has developed tools and resources to help companies, particularly small and medium sized enterprises, implement sustainable business practices faster and more effectively. The benefits to manufacturers include lower energy and resource costs, increased marketability of products and services and lower regulatory costs and risk.

The Sustainable Manufacturing Initiative developed a number of business friendly resources that are available through its website:

  • Sustainable Business Clearinghouse - This searchable clearinghouse provides information and links to almost 900 federal and state programs and resources dedicated to supporting sustainable business practices.  It includes everything from lean and green assessments, to training, to financial assistance for green improvements.  Users can search by government or non-governmental programs, geographic location, sustainability issue, industry sector and type of assistance.
  • OECD Sustainable Manufacturing Metrics Toolkit - This toolkit provides a simplified set of core sustainability metrics for facilities and products that any company can use to both measure performance and make decisions on improvement.
  • Sustainable Manufacturing 101 Training - This training can be used to train employees anywhere in the company from purchasing to the production line. It is designed to take users through the various aspects of the practice, from energy efficiency to designing for the environment to remanufacturing. This module is currently not available, but scheduled to be completed by October 2011 and will be available on the SMI website.

The More You Know: Key Statistics for Manufacturers and Exporters

Graphic of a spreadsheet overlaid with two charts

Economists, journalists, Wall Street executives and main street businesses as well as consumers look at a variety of economic indicators and data for information and to get a picture of how the economy is doing. The indicators above give us an idea of how our manufacturing sector is fairing in the turmoil of economic indicators that keep us on our toes every day.

Great sources for this information are right here within the Department of Commerce, through our Bureau of the Census (Business and Industry, Manufacturing) where we regularly release reports on sales, inventories, employment, job creation and capacity utilization.

Looking at today’s trade in goods and services numbers will show you a pretty good story about the state of America’s manufacturing sector. For instance, in the first four months of 2011, U.S. exports of manufacturing products increased by $56.9 billion (16.5 percent) to reach $401.4 billion up from $344.5 billion recorded in the first four months of 2010. Major growth categories by value in the first four months of 2011 include petroleum and coal products (up 66%), base chemicals (up 21%), nonferrous metal products (up 34.7%), motor vehicles (up 19%), and agricultural and construction machinery (up 25.4%).

To see where those exports are going, the International Trade Administration provides data and resources on trade statistics, including state and metro export data, profiles of exporting companies, as well as a nifty mapping tool that allows you to see the geographic reach of our exports by product or state. 

Information is golden and having the tools at your fingertips to sift through the relevant information and make sense of it yourself is a powerful advantage.

Expert Advice on Exporting from Successful Companies

As today’s trade numbers show, the appetite for American-made products abroad is growing rapidly. That’s why these five companies have made exporting part of their long-term growth strategy. They know that 95% of all consumers live outside the United States and therefore, the more markets they target, the more diversified their customer base will be. That strategy has served them well as they generally held up better during the recession than companies that didn't export.

But they also know some of the ups and downs for manufacturers just starting to export: concern about the language and cultural differences, not knowing where to start or how to make inroads into new markets, fear that foreign consumers won’t pay once the products leave the country.

And that’s why Jack Hollender, Dan Kleiman, Al Powers, Jason Speer and Terry Koehn agreed to share their experience. In the video below, each shares insight and expertise about getting started in exporting.

In addition to these wise words, the Department of Commerce’s National Export Initiative is designed to help more companies overcome these and other hurdles to exporting. To get their assistance, simply call 1-800-USA-TRADE or go online to Commerce Department experts will work with you to design and implement a market entry or expansion strategy, conduct an international search to find potential agents or distributors for your unique business and contact potential overseas businesses--all on your behalf. Many of these services are free or extremely low cost.

Protecting Our Electronic Main Street

Cybersecurity and the Electronic Main Street

Guest blog post by Ari Schwartz, Internet Policy Adviser at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and member of the Internet Policy Task Force at the Department of Commerce.

As we all know, the Internet has led to incredible commercial growth and an unprecedented means for self-expression and innovation.  Some industry analysts now estimate that the Internet now carries some $10 trillion in online transactions annually.

However, each time a new technology dramatically expands the boundaries of commerce, there are dishonest, dangerous people who try to disrupt and exploit the new pathways for their own gain. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that as the Web, e-mail, and e-commerce have become the electronic version of Main Street, hackers, spammers, and cybercriminals have emerged as major threats to its welfare. An estimated 67,000 new malicious viruses, worms, spyware and other threats are released every day. 

To paraphrase Willy Sutton: It’s where the money. . . and the information is.

A new Commerce Department report issued today calls for a public-private partnership and voluntary codes of conduct to help strengthen the cybersecurity of companies that increasingly rely on the Internet to do business, but are not part of the critical infrastructure sector as defined by the administration’s recent cybersecurity legislative proposal.  Issued by the department’s Internet Policy Task Force, the report targets what it calls the Internet and Information Innovation Sector or the I3S.  These are businesses that range from Mom and Pop manufacturers or startups that sell most of their products and services online to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to cloud computing firms that provide anytime, anywhere access to applications and personal or public data.

U.S. EDA Supports Downtown Business HUB in California’s San Joaquin Valley

Image of video clip showing Guevara

Guest blog by Thomas Guevara, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Regional Affairs, U.S. Economic Development Administration

On June 7, 2011, I was honored to join U.S. Congressman and Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management Jeff Denham (CA-19), Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, and Fresno Area Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Dora Westerlund for the ribbon-cutting for the Fresno Area Hispanic Foundation’s Downtown Business HUB (DBH). The innovative business incubator facility located in Fresno, California will provide local entrepreneurs of various ethnicities the opportunity to develop and grow their ideas for new products and services to create the economy of the future.

Manufacturing is Vibrant and Vital in America

Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke (center) announces the appointment of 24 members of the Manufacturing Council

Guest blog by Jennifer Pilat, Deputy Director for the Office of Advisory Committees within the International Trade Administration. She oversees the Manufacturing Council as well as a number of other private-sector advisory committees.

Superconductors and streetcars. Photovoltaic cells, cars and steel. Cardboard boxes, pharmaceuticals, linens. A vibrant manufacturing sector isn't just critical for the millions of Americans whose jobs depend on it, but is also absolutely central to driving the innovation that fuels the American economy. It is that belief that led U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to appoint the private sector members that comprise the 2010 – 2012 Manufacturing Council. 

The Manufacturing Council serves as the principal private sector advisory committee to the Secretary of Commerce on the United States manufacturing sector and advises the Secretary on matters relating to the competitiveness of the manufacturing sector, and government policies and programs that affect U.S. manufacturers.

Secretary Locke recently designated Joe Anderson, Chairman and Chief Executive Office of TAG Holdings, LLC as the Chair of the Manufacturing Council and Chandra Brown, President of United Streetcar and Vice-President of Business Development and Government Relations of Oregon Iron Works as the Council Vice-Chair. 

The next Council meeting will be held in Clackamas, Oregon at the United Streetcar facility, where members will discuss the free trade agreements with Panama and Colombia, ideas for energy policy to support manufacturing, and educating and training the workforce needed to fill today’s available manufacturing jobs and those that will drive the future of American manufacturing. You can read more about the past work of the Council, on their website: 

Secretary Locke Meets with German Federal Minister of Economics and Technology

Locke and Rösler

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke met with the recently-appointed Vice Chancellor and Federal Minister of Economics and Technology Dr. Philipp Rösler today and discussed ways to strengthen U.S.-Germany commercial relations.  Locke and Rösler had a productive conversation on a variety of topics, including U.S. commitment to the Transatlantic Economic Council and the upcoming re-launch of the U.S.-German Informal Commerce Exchange this fall, where issues related to regulatory and standards cooperation, renewable energy, e-mobility and market access will be discussed.  Locke also expressed the Commerce Department’s desire to work closely with the new leadership of the Ministry of Economics and Technology under Rösler. He is a member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s official delegation to the United States.


NIST Workshop Aims to Advance Usability in Electronic Health Records

Matt Quinn of NIST with large projection screen

Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is hosting a workshop today on usability in electronic health records (EHR) at its campus in Gaithersburg, Md. "A Community-Building Workshop: Measuring, Evaluating and Improving the Usability of Electronic Health Records" brings together industry, government, academia and healthcare providers to identify models and methods for collaborating to improve the usability of EHR systems.

Usability refers to how easy EHR systems are to learn and operate, while maximizing efficiency. A health information technology (IT) industry task force identified usability as one of the major factors hindering widespread adoption of EHRs in clinical settings. The task force also noted that usability has a strong, often direct relationship with clinical productivity, user satisfaction, lower error rate and less user fatigue.

"Moving the science and practice of evaluating EHR usability forward has required an open and transparent community effort,” said NIST computer scientist Matt Quinn, one of the workshop's organizers. “We hope to build on our workshop from last year to encourage further collaboration among stakeholders, collect constructive feedback on methods for evaluating usability, and identify priority areas for future work."

The NIST health IT usability initiative focuses on providing guidance to the public and private sectors in the development of health IT usability standards and measures. NIST collaborates closely with industry, academia and other government agencies to share best practices on electronic health record usability and gather technical feedback on the development of EHR usability evaluation methods.

Workshop sessions include an overview of current programs for improving EHR usability, models for collaboration, efforts to support the needs of developers and care delivery organizations, and various breakout sessions, concluding with next steps on building a stronger community to improve health IT usability.   

For more information on today’s workshop, visit:

Commerce Department Hosts First Innovation Advisory Board Meeting

Commerce Department Hosts First Innovation Advisory Board Meeting

The Innovation Advisory Board held its first meeting today at the United States Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, Va.  Acting Deputy Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank led the meeting and Secretary Gary Locke welcomed and thanked the new board members for their service. The 15-member board will guide a study of U.S. economic competitiveness and innovation to help inform national policies at the heart of U.S. job creation and global competitiveness. 

In the State of the Union, President Obama launched a commitment to winning the future by out innovating the rest of the world. The board will build upon the early work and findings of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness and Startup America to advise the U.S. Department of Commerce as it produces a report by January 2012 assessing America's capacity for innovation and our global economic competitiveness. The study will analyze all facets of the economy impacted by national policy, including trade and exports, education, research and development, immigration, technology commercialization, intellectual property and tax policy.   

The Innovation Advisory Board was established by the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, signed by President Obama in January of this year. See list of board members. See a statement on today’s inaugural meeting from Acting Deputy Commerce Secretary Blank.

Locke and Duncan Discuss Comprehensive Immigration Reform with Members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Secretary Gary Locke and Education Secretary Arne Duncan participated in a conference call today to discuss comprehensive immigration reform with members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The pair made the case for why effective immigration reform is vital to U.S. economic competitiveness and why the involvement of the business community is crucial to move this important priority forward. Approximately 175 people from at least 30 states joined the call, including 80 CEOs and representatives from businesses, local and state chambers of commerce and industry and trade associations. 

Locke discussed how comprehensive reform will help create jobs in the U.S. and stressed the need to build an immigration system that will attract the brightest, most highly-skilled people from around the world, so their skills, ideas and entrepreneurial spirit can help start new businesses, enhancing U.S. global competitiveness.  Locke specifically highlighted two proposed approaches for reforming the current visa system: encouraging top foreign talents who receive a graduate degree in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) to remain in the U.S. after they graduate by allowing them to acquire legal permanent residence; and issuing two-year visas to immigrant entrepreneurs whose start-up companies receive investment from a U.S. investor, and giving these entrepreneurs permanent residence if their companies create full-time jobs in the U.S. within those two years.  Locke urged members of the Chamber to help make the case in their communities that comprehensive immigration reform is an economic imperative critical to America’s future economic competitiveness. 

Locke asked participants on the call to add their voice to the national conversation by visiting and hosting a conversation in their community about why we need to fix the broken immigration system. 

Acting Deputy Secretary Blank Emphasizes Success of U.S.-Canada Trade

Acting Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank Conversing with Members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Canada

Acting Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank is in Ottawa, Canada today and gave remarks before the American Chamber of Commerce.   She discussed U.S.–Canada commercial relations and how the free flow of goods and services results in huge economic benefits for both countries.  She also highlighted the benefits of creating jobs and economic growth on both sides of the border.

Increasing trade between the two countries will help reach President Obama’s National Export Initiative goal of doubling U.S. exports in 5 years.  To reach that goal, Blank emphasized that 2011 needs to be another banner year for U.S.-Canada trade.  In 2010, U.S. exports to Canada reached $248.8 billion.

In fact, the U.S.–Canada economic relationship is unparalleled in the world.  We are each others’ largest trading partners.

Secretary Locke Highlights Management, Performance Reforms at the Department of Commerce

Locke gesturing on podium

Reforms have helped save millions, streamlined the way in which the Department is run

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke delivered remarks today at an event hosted by the Partnership for Public Service, titled Performance Under Pressure: Getting the Most Out of Every Taxpayer Dollar. At the event, Locke catalogued aggressive, money-saving management reforms that have been initiated at the Commerce Department during his tenure. Joining Locke at the event was Jeff Zients, Deputy Director for Management and Chief Performance Officer for the Office of Management and Budget at the White House.

Locke discussed the importance of smart management, and honing in on strategic priorities in a difficult budget environment. For Commerce, this has meant focusing on key priorities that will help American businesses become more innovative at home and more competitive abroad. To drive the priorities, Locke instituted a data-driven management approach, which helps ensure accountability and oversight. He pioneered the approach for the public sector as Washington State governor.

Commerce’s management reforms have helped identify more than $142 million in 2012 administrative savings alone, of which $39 million are slated to be reinvested by bureaus to strengthen critical programs.

By stressing the critical importance of smart management, especially during difficult budget times, Locke has helped Commerce better serve the American people and positioned Commerce employees for success. Smart and efficient management is essential to ensure that the U.S. successfully implements the Obama administration initiatives that will help the country out-educate, out-innovate, and out-build its economic competitors to win the future.

IT Reform at the U.S. Department of Commerce

Portrait of Szykman

Guest blog by Simon Szykman, Chief Information Officer at the Department of Commerce

The IT community at the U.S. Department of Commerce has been hard at work implementing Federal IT Reform as outlined by U.S. Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra last December. After only six months, our list of accomplishments is impressive, but there is still much to be done to meet the ambitious goals set forth in the 25 Point Implementation Plan to Reform Federal IT Management. The plan represents not just a change in strategy, but a change in thinking among the technology leaders in the administration and at the Commerce Department. Moving toward a leaner, cloud-driven and collaborative approach is a significant shift in philosophy, and we are aggressively incorporating these ideas into our strategic IT planning process. To date, we have closed six Commerce data centers, with a total of nine scheduled to be closed by the end of the year. Consolidating data centers will significantly lower the agency’s carbon footprint, save us millions of dollars each year, and allow for more effective use of resources as we streamline our infrastructure to become more efficient. Every major change presents both challenges and opportunities, and we are taking full advantage of this opportunity to enhance the security of the department’s IT operations while also improving our performance. During the 2010 Census, cloud computing enabled us to handle a once-in-a-decade peak in demand (over five million hits per week) for Census information without having to add permanent capacity. By harnessing the power of the cloud, we were able to offer a compelling set of blogs, videos and interactive tools that encouraged participation in the Census. With several more projects in the pipeline, we continue to pursue the goal of thinking “Cloud First” when it comes to IT.