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Blog Entries from July 2011

Public Computer Centers Helping Los Angeles Job Seekers

Sophia Esparza, CEO of Chicana Service Action Center; Anthony Wilhelm, Director of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program at NTIA; Richard Benbow, General Manager of the Community Development Department; and Kev Kazanjian, Project Manager for LA CAN.

Guest blog post by Anthony G. Wilhelm, Director, Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)

Last week I visited a new WorkSource Center Satellite in South Los Angeles, where a Recovery Act investment by NTIA has funded 25 new computer stations that community members seeking jobs can use. Coupled with hands-on assistance and career counseling from trained personnel, this investment is creating economic opportunities in a neighborhood where poverty and unemployment rates are unacceptably high.  All told, NTIA’s $7.5 million grant to the City of Los Angeles for its Computer Access Network (LA CAN) project–part of a $4 billion Recovery Act investment to expand broadband access and adoption in communities nationwide–will upgrade more than 180 public computer centers in some of the city’s neediest neighborhoods.

The WorkSource Center Satellite is located with the Chicana Service Action Center, whose CEO, Sophia Esparza, told me how the project is preparing job seekers, not for yesterday’s jobs, but for the “green jobs” of the future. Customers, including returning veterans and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients, are benefiting from strong partnerships between the city and local employers to place solar installers, energy auditors, lead green technicians and electrical auto technicians into well-paying jobs. The center expects to serve about 150,000 jobseekers annually.

The project team illustrated for me how the Center is helping unemployed residents transition to the workplace. In recent months, for instance, a 51-year-old man who was receiving food stamps came to the Center in desperate need of a job. After attending workshops on basic computer literacy, resume writing and interview skills, he is now working as a sales representative and looking forward to his first pay raise. Another example: a 25-year-old single mother of two, who never held a permanent job and relied solely on government assistance, attended workshops and received one-on-one support from the Center. She is now employed as a data entry clerk. For many adults, free computer training can be a life-changing experience.

In fact, the LA CAN team is so committed to ensuring this Recovery Act investment benefits residents right away that they have found creative ways to accelerate the project schedule, aiming to finish ahead of their original plan. They know that to bring their community the jobs of the future, the community needs broadband access today.

Green Buildings, Green Jobs: A Closer Look at the Clean Energy Economy

Image of covered walkway (iStock photo)

Guest blog by Andrew Bennett, International Trade Specialist and Smart Grid Industry Analyst at Commerce's International Trade Administration in the Office of Energy and Environmental Industries.

With the Department of Commerce focused on winning the future and driving the president’s vision for a growing clean energy economy, it’s good to see early results from these efforts in the form of the green jobs of today. Green Buildings is a key sector where we’re laying the foundations for the green jobs of the future.

Last month, Siemens USA announced 400 new positions across 39 states in its green technologies division, which is focused on helping cities across the country reduce energy costs through the implementation of a host of green building technology systems.

Meanwhile, in Baltimore, MTC Logistics is working with Virginia-based solar energy services provider HelioSage and Southern Energy Management, a green building services company from North Carolina, to build one of the largest roof mounted solar installations in the state of Maryland.

These ambitious green building projects not only create jobs, they also drive innovation, cut costs for businesses and government and help achieve important environmental benefits.

Broadband Investment in Massachusetts Paving Way for Jobs of the Future

Anna M. Gomez with Mass. State Senator Ben Downing and Governor Deval Patrick at the MassBroadband 123 kick-off in Sandisfield, Mass.

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

This week construction began on a fiber-optic network that will bring broadband Internet service to more than 120 communities in western and north central Massachusetts. Thanks in large part to a $45.4 million Recovery Act investment from NTIA, the project will help residents and businesses in these underserved parts of the state to better compete in today’s knowledge-based economy.

On Tuesday, I joined state and local officials, members of the project team at the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (a state-created organization that is our grantee), businesses, and others in the community to discuss the initiative, called MassBroadband 123. It will deploy broadband service to nearly 1,400 community anchor institutions, including schools, community colleges, libraries, healthcare providers, and public safety facilities – like the Sandisfield Fire Station where we met, and whose fire chief has emphasized the importance of up-to-date technology for keeping residents safe.

NOAA: Cultivating the Next Generation of STEM Workers, One Student at a Time

NOAA’s Ernest F. Hollings scholarship program students on Chesapeake Bay field study  (NOAA photo)

You’ve probably heard the term in the news of late. “STEM jobs” in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, are the new “It” jobs.

A report from Commerce’s Economics and Statistics Administration discussed recently in this blog had good news for present and future STEM workers. Among its key findings, the report notes that in the past 10 years:

  • Growth in STEM jobs was three times greater than that of non-STEM jobs;
  • STEM workers earn 26 percent more than their non-STEM counterparts; and
  • Job growth in these fields will continue to grow at a faster rate than other jobs. 

As the report confirms, STEM workers are driving our nation’s innovation and competitiveness and helping America “win the future” with new ideas, new businesses and new industries.

Enter Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

NOAA’s mission—to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts, to share that knowledge and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources—is central to many of today’s greatest challenges.  

Why? Climate change, extreme weather, declining biodiversity, and threatened natural resources all convey a common message: Now, more than ever, human health, prosperity and well-being depend upon the health and resilience of both natural and social ecosystems and resources.

That means we need skilled hands and inspired minds to help society prepare for and respond to weather-related events, to sustain healthy and productive ecosystems and to ensure resilient coastal communities and economies.

Standards Boost Business: Competing in a 21st Century Economy

Standards Boost Business logo

Guest blog post from S. Joe Bhatia, President and CEO, American National Standards Institute

From alternative energy and nanotechnology to electric vehicles, vast opportunities for U.S. innovation and economic growth are developing in new and expanding industry sectors. As the U.S. ramps up its efforts to create jobs for the 21st century economy, there is an incredibly powerful tool at hand that can help U.S. industry tap into these technologies and out-innovate competitors in the global market.

I’m talking about standardization – and there has never been a better time for American businesses to leverage standards and conformance to gain a powerful trade advantage. Standardization not only informs the direction of innovation, it impacts the strength of the American workforce. Standards have the potential to accelerate the idea-to-market cycle, increase the number of U.S. products and services, and save companies millions of dollars. In short, standards have the power to turbo-charge innovation and fuel business growth.

That’s why the U.S. standardization community has launched the Standards Boost Business outreach initiative – to help companies understand the strategic and economic value of standards to business and to our overall national competitiveness.

Acting Deputy Secretary Blank Meets with Business Leaders in Michigan, Stresses Value of Science and Innovation to Job Creation

Acting Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank and the BathyBoat

This week Commerce’s Acting Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank traveled to Ann Arbor, Mich., to visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory and meet with area business leaders as part of the White House Business Council Roundtable series. Engaging with local leaders, Blank discussed the region’s economic assets, challenges, and what can be done on local, state and national levels to boost economic growth and job creation throughout Michigan.

Senior administration officials across the federal government have participated in several business roundtables around the country to keep in touch with Main Street and hear from those who are doing the innovating and hiring that support our nation’s economy.

At the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, Blank addressed a Science Advisory Board meeting focused on Great Lakes research being conducted at two NOAA facilities. She highlighted the department’s recent release of a report profiling U.S. employment in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math – or STEM – and stressed the importance of supporting the next generation of scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs and the broad scope of work that organizations like NOAA do that are critically important to U.S. social and economic welfare.

The President has made a substantial commitment to furthering innovation and education in the STEM fields by setting a goal of investing 3 percent of our GDP in research and development and moving American students to the top of the pack internationally.  The President’s 2012 budget included a $206 million commitment toward STEM training and related programs – an investment that will pay off not just for students but for the country.

MBDA Helps Minority-Owned Businesses Win the Future

Workers installing solar panels on reservation building

Commerce's Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) is enabling job creation and growth within minority-owned companies as they expand through innovation and untapped resources. MBDA has 50 business development centers and regional offices throughout the country and is preparing to open its newest business center in Cleveland, Ohio, in September to continue to create an environment for support, technical training and access to capital, contracts and to markets for business owners there.

Knowing that many jobs of the 21st century will be in clean and renewable energy, green technology, and Healthcare IT, the MBDA Business Centers are reaching out to minority-owned firms so they can expand into those new areas and keep communities strong and workers employed.

For example, MBDA client Sacred Power Corporation Inc. based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is a Native-American-owned renewable and distributive energy manufacturer. Sacred Power operates on the principle that “the world in which we live can change its current direction and dependence on polluting energy sources and convert to renewable technologies that provide clean, long-term solutions to today’s energy problems.”

Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security Annual Update Conference Focuses on Export Control Reform

Conference logo

White House Chief of Staff and former Commerce Secretary William Daley delivered the keynote address to the Bureau of Industry and Security's 24th Annual Update Conference on Export Controls and Policy. Mr. Daley and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, who also addressed the conference, both highlighted the administration’s continued priority for the Export Control Reform Initiative as a national security imperative.  In his remarks, Under Secretary of Commerce for Industry and Security Eric Hirschhorn emphasized that the call for export reform by President Obama and Secretary Locke is real and long overdue.

 “The Obama administration’s commitment to export control reform reflects an overriding national security imperative. The current system—based on Cold War-era laws, policies, practices, and controls—is not responsive to current threats and emerging challenges of the twenty-first century. The administration launched ECR to rectify these shortcomings and to increase U.S. security and competitiveness.”

The annual Update Conference discusses reforms to the U.S. export control system that will strengthen national security and improve the competitiveness of key U.S. manufacturing and technology sectors.  White House statement

U.S. Seaports Join ITA in New Partnership to Increase Exports

Department of Commerce and American Association of Port Authorities sign memorandum of intent

Guest blog post by Francisco Sánchez, U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade

Just this week I traveled to the Port of Oakland to launch a new and exciting partnership.  The International Trade Administration (ITA) and the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) have entered into a new partnership to promote exports. During an event hosted by the Port of Oakland, Kurt Nagle, President of the AAPA and I signed a joint memorandum of intent to collaborate to help expand the reach of our export education efforts. This effort supports the National Export Initiative, President Obama’s goal of doubling exports by 2014. 

This was my first visit to the Port of Oakland and it is very memorable. The Port is the primary point of exit for exports from Northern California and its agricultural industries. Notably, it is the largest U.S. export port for wines handling over 52 percent of all U.S. wine exports (by value) in 2010.

On top of that, Oakland is the third-largest U.S. West Coast port for containers.  It is the United States’ 17th-largest export port overall and Oakland is one of the few U.S. seaports whose exports exceed their imports; nearly fifty-five percent of Oakland’s total cargo tonnage is exports. 

U.S. seaports are a critical conduit for most U.S. merchandise trade, with more than $455 billion in exports flowing through America’s sea ports in 2010.

Jobs of the Future Today

Logo for WET Center

Guest blog post by John Fernandez, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development

The U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is investing to create the jobs of the future today. 

In Fresno, California, for example, EDA provided $1.9 million to help the Central Valley Business Incubator, Inc. (CVBI) build the Claude Laval Water and Energy Technology (WET) Incubator located on the campus of Cal State Fresno.  This vital incubator provides start-ups access to active research within the university’s labs and state of the art facilities to advance cutting edge research in the use of water to support the agricultural sector while helping grow small businesses.

Since opening their doors four years ago in 2007, WET has helped create and sustain over 15 start-ups that are developing water and energy technology innovations. They are generating real returns, creating hundreds of new jobs for Central Californians and spurring $17 million in private sector investment to help fuel the nation’s economy. One of WET’s graduates recently sold its business for $30 million.

Startups and entrepreneurs like these bring an unparalleled wealth of transformative innovations to market, especially over the past three decades — think of everything from the airplane to the automobile to  These small businesses are tackling the nation’s challenges in clean energy, medicine, national security, and other fields. They will build the leading industries and jobs of the 21st century.

NOAA, U.S. Department of Energy and Private Partners Launch Project to Reduce Cost of Energy, Including Wind Energy

Wind turbines

There has not always been a need to know precisely how hard the wind blows 350 feet above Earth’s surface. Today, wind turbines occupy that zone of the atmosphere, generating electricity. So NOAA and several partners have launched a year-long effort to improve forecasts of the winds there, which ultimately will help to reach the nation’s renewable energy goals.

The Wind Forecast Improvement Project (WFIP) is a collaboration among NOAA, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), two private wind energy companies and academic research institutions. The project began today as dozens of powerful, custom instruments designed to better profile and predict the weather and winds were powered up.

“The end goal is to lower the cost of electric power for the consumer and meet President Obama’s clean energy challenge,” said Alexander MacDonald, NOAA deputy assistant administrator for research and director of NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) in Boulder, Colo. “Our starting point is to improve the basic wind forecast for all users, including wind power and conventional energy companies, the aviation industry and the general public.”

Last fall, through a competitive process, the DOE chose AWS Truepower, LLC and WindLogics, Inc. to participate in WFIP. DOE funds WFIP with about $6 million, while NOAA contributes scientific experts and expertise in collecting atmospheric data and in making weather predictions. The project targets the Upper Midwest and Texas, which were selected in part because WFIP industry partners support thousands of wind turbines in the areas.  Read more  |  Video

Spotlight on Commerce: Jon Wright, Legislative Assistant in the Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs

Photo of Jon Wright

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.

Jon Wright is a Legislative Assistant in the Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs

My boss describes me as the office’s “utility infielder,” because I help the Assistant Secretary for Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs manage Department-wide special projects as a legislative assistant in the Secretary’s Congressional and state government liaison office

During my time at Commerce, I have had a wide variety of responsibilities and experiences from responding to Congressional oversight inquiries to staffing a Congressional delegation led by Secretary Locke to South Korea to build support for the U.S.–Korea Trade Agreement. The experience in government that impacted me most, however, was serving as a liaison to the Coast Guard Florida Incident Commander during the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill where I advised him on handling the concerns of federal, state, and local elected officials.  It was my job to help ensure that the people who represent Floridians and Florida business owners were being heard. The response team and the administration were committed to addressing the economic and personal impacts of the spill, and I was proud to play a part in that.

Innovation and Invention: USPTO and Smithsonian Museum Partner in Exhibiting 'The Great American Hall of Wonders'

Kappos at podium

The exhibition, The Great American Hall of Wonders, examining the 19th-century American belief that the people of the United States shared a special genius for innovation, is now open at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. It is a collaborative effort between the museum and Commerce's U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and explores six subjects – three natural resources, three man-made inventions – that helped shape America during this period: the buffalo, Giant Sequoia, Niagara Falls, the gun, the railroad and the clock. The exhibition will focus on the ways these six subjects brought together artistic, scientific and technological ways of seeing the world.

In addition to providing creative and technical assistance for development of the exhibition, the USPTO has played a part in the public program development by working with the museum to provide:  speakers for university level courses as well as inventors from the National Inventors’ Hall of Fame for a lecture series.   There will also be a day and a half long inventors symposium held at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the USPTO will take the lead in providing experts to address the many challenges facing independent inventors and entrepreneurs.

Economics and Statistics Administration Releases New Report on STEM: Good Jobs Now and For the Future

Recent and Projected Growth in STEM and Non-STEM Employment

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) today released a new report that profiles U.S. employment in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. STEM: Good Jobs Now and for the Future offers an inside look at workers who are driving our nation’s innovation and competitiveness and helping America win the future with new ideas, new companies and new industries.

In 2010, 7.6 million people or 5.5 percent of the labor force worked in STEM occupations. Key findings from the new report show that over the past 10 years, growth in STEM jobs was three times greater than that of non-STEM jobs, and STEM jobs are expected to continue to grow at a faster rate than other jobs in the coming decade. Meanwhile, STEM workers are also less likely to experience joblessness.

Further findings show STEM workers command higher wages, earning 26 percent more than their non-STEM counterparts. STEM degree holders also enjoy higher earnings, regardless of whether they work in STEM or non-STEM occupations. Likewise, college graduates – no matter what their major – enjoy an earnings premium for having a STEM job.

ESA wrote up their findings on their blog and have released the complete report: STEM: Good Jobs Now and for the Future.

Spotlight on Commerce: Kevin Kurland, Bureau of Industry and Security

Photo of Kurland

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.

Kevin Kurland is Acting Chief of Staff for Export Administration and Director, Office of Technology Evlauation at the Bureau of Industry and Security

As a member of the White House Task Force on Export Control Reform (ECR), I have been fortunate to play an integral role in helping further the president’s vision for “Winning the Future.”  The interagency Task Force was directed by the president to build and help implement a blueprint for a new system that addresses current national security and economic challenges.  In April 2010, Secretary Gates announced the results of the Task Force efforts – a single control list, single licensing agency, single information technology platform and single primary export enforcement coordination agency – which agencies and the Task Force have been busily working toward for the past 15 months.

My role on the Task Force stems from my current positions of Acting Chief of Staff for the Assistant Secretary for Export Administration and Director of the Office of Technology Evaluation in the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS).  These positions have exposed me to national security and economic issues across the Bureau and Department-wide.

Spotlight on Commerce: Phillip Singerman, Associate Director for Innovation and Industry Services at the National Institute of Standards and Technology

Portrait of Singerman

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.

Phillip Singerman is the Associate Director for Innovation and Industry Services at the National Institute of Standards and Technology

In January I was honored to be selected by Pat Gallagher, Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), to serve as Associate Director for Innovation and Industry Services, with responsibility for NIST’s suite of nationally recognized industry-partnership programs, the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership, the Technology Innovation Program, the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, technology transfer and SBIR grants.  These programs are central to NIST’s mission and to the president’s innovation strategy of using science and technology to drive economic development, and are staffed by professionals of skill, dedication and integrity.

My professional career has focused on economic development at the local, state and regional levels in public, non-profit and private organizations.  In my current role, I continue to have the opportunity to work with the regional public-private partnerships, young entrepreneurial firms and universities which populate the innovation ecosystem.   

This is my second turn at Commerce.  During the latter half of the 1990s I served as Assistant Secretary for Economic Development; what has struck me upon my return to the Department is the higher level of coordination among bureaus, particularly NIST with EDA, USPTO, and ITA, and the leadership exercised by the National Economic Council and Office of Science and Technology Policy to encourage inter-departmental collaboration.

Spotlight on Commerce: Anne Rung, Senior Director of Administration at U.S. Department of Commerce

Portrait of Anne Rung

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.

Anne Rung is the Senior Director of Administration at the U.S. Department of Commerce.

A year ago I moved from Pennsylvania, where I was born and raised, to Washington, D.C., to join the Department of Commerce as Senior Director of Administration.  Prior to my move to Washington, I  worked for Governor Edward Rendell in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  Under Governor Rendell, I served as Deputy Secretary for Procurement and Administration for the state’s largest operating agency, the Department of General Services (DGS).  Because of significant budget challenges in Pennsylvania, our team at DGS focused on reform efforts to drive down costs and improve efficiencies.

I joined the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Administration and CFO to assist with similar reform efforts underway at the Department of Commerce, including acquisition reform – a top priority of Secretary Locke.  Under his leadership, we’ve embarked on an Acquisition Improvement program to deliver greater results, greater savings and greater acquisition efficiencies.  Our efforts include a new approach to defining requirements, better identifying and managing high-risk projects, smarter buying, and performance metrics to ensure accountability.

Protecting Innovation to Ensure New Opportunities for American Businesses, Higher Wages, and Greater Economic Security for American Families

Map of U.S. showing distribution of Green Tech patents

Innovation is a principal driver behind our nation’s economic growth and job creation. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) serves America’s innovators by granting the intellectual property rights they need to secure investment capital, build companies, and bring their products and services to the global marketplace. USPTO is an integral partner in President Obama’s drive to create the foundation for our economic future where we out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.  USPTO is proud to play a role in accelerating socially conscious technologies in emerging fields like alternative fuels, clean energy, and green technology.

Last fall the USPTO extended the deadline for filing petitions under its Green Technology Pilot Program.  Under the pilot, patent applications involving reduced greenhouse gas emissions, energy conservation and environmental quality are accelerated in their review at no cost to the inventor.

Program statistics show that stakeholders participating in the Green Tech Pilot have obtained patents much more quickly as compared to the standard examination process.  Currently, the average time between granting of a green technology petition and first office action on the merits is just 49 days.  In many instances, applicants have had their Green Technology inventions patented in less than one year from the application filing date.

More than 1,900 petitions have been granted to green technology patent applicants since the pilot began in December 2009. Of the 1,900 petitions granted so far, USPTO issued the program’s 350th patent for a configuration of a wind turbine housing on June 28.

By advancing a commitment to building a more sustainable energy future, USPTO is able to spur additional innovation and promote green collar jobs that provide our world with alternatives to harmful energy practices. This ensures that the U.S. is not just the world’s Chief Global Competitor, but also its Chief Global Citizen.

The ability to develop tools in the name of cause-based enterprising is an endeavor that may still require investment capital, but leaves the rest of the world inspired through human capital—and that’s an example of the sort of nuanced innovation that continues to mark excellence in American leadership.

Obama Administration’s Strong Cities, Strong Communities Initiative Strengthens Local Capacity to Help Spark Economic Growth

Guest blog post by John Fernandez, Assistant Secretary for Economic Development, Economic Development Administration

Mayors across the country are working hard to strengthen local economic ecosystems, given the economic challenges cities face today.

As a former Mayor myself, I understand those challenges–How do we create more jobs? How do we attract new businesses? How do we enhance our workforce? And equally as important, how do we leverage the state and federal resources that may be available to help us achieve our economic goals and objectives?

The Obama administration understands these challenges and knows that cities play a vital role in strengthening our nation’s economy.  

We are finding ways to be a better partner, and that is why today the administration launched the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) initiative in Fresno, Calif., and five other cities: Chester, Pa.; Cleveland, Ohio; Detroit, Mich.; Memphis, Tenn.; and New Orleans, La.

We know that development happens from the bottom up - that the best ideas come from America’s communities. Whether investment comes from the federal government, states, the private sector, or ideally all of the above, resources do more good when they serve a well-developed, robust plan.

In Fresno, for example, this bottom up approach will help the region capitalize on the coming high-speed rail station to improve the downtown area and to build on a successful neighborhood development program to help create new economic opportunity and jobs.

We can’t have a strong national economy without strong cities. The 14 federal agencies participating in this effort are working to break down traditional Washington silos and identify ways to partner more effectively with cities and regions across the country.

This is an important initiative that will help to support cities across the nation, create a new framework for intergovernmental cooperation and strengthen the American economy.

Spotlight on Commerce: Bryan Erwin, Director of the Advocacy Center of the International Trade Administration

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.

Bryan Erwin is the Director of the Advocacy Center of the International Trade Administration.

As the Director of the Advocacy Center of the International Trade Administration, it is my duty to ensure that sales of U.S. products and services have the best possible chance competing abroad. I am constantly reaching out to exporters and letting them know that this Administration stands ready to assist them win new business. Through our efforts at the Advocacy Center, we work very hard to ensure that America’s exports are as competitive as possible. That often means talking with foreign governments and business leaders to ensure U.S. companies competing for public international contracts aren’t at a disadvantage. I firmly believe that American companies can’t be beat if they have a level playing field. This level playing field not only helps exporters win public international contracts, it also helps put Americans back to work. In fact, we have supported over 100,000 U.S. jobs this year alone.

An example of how the Advocacy Center works occurred earlier this year when we were contacted by an aerospace company from Iowa.  They were competing against Israeli and French firms for a half a billion dollar contract to supply avionics to a South American company.  Our Regional Managers worked closely with ITA colleagues, including Trade Specialists in Iowa, Commercial Service personnel in South America, colleagues at headquarters and interagency colleagues to approve the company for advocacy and begin to work on their behalf.  In addition to great efforts by the Embassy Team, we helped to facilitate both Secretary Locke and Under Secretary Sanchez’s advocacy to their counterparts, stressing the value of U.S. goods and service and urging a transparent procurement process.  The company won the procurement and estimates that 150 jobs will be retained or created as a result.

Commerce Announces Appointment of First-Ever Chief Manufacturing Officer

Portrait of Molnar

The Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) today announced the appointment of the agency’s first-ever Chief Manufacturing Officer. The manufacturing sector is critical to the U.S. economy, and the Obama administration is committed to building domestic manufacturing capabilities to create the new products, new industries and new jobs of the future. The new position will leverage NIST’s strong relationships with industry to accelerate innovation that will create 21st-century manufacturing jobs and enhance our global competitiveness.

As Chief Manufacturing Officer, manufacturing industry executive Michael F. Molnar will be responsible for planning and coordination of the Institute’s broad array of manufacturing research and services programs and will support the broader Advanced Manufacturing Partnership recently launched by President Obama that brings industry, universities and the federal government together to invest in emerging technologies. NIST is particularly well-positioned to support this goal because of its unique mission to work closely with industry.

Molnar has extensive industrial experience, with past leadership roles in manufacturing technology, advanced manufacturing engineering, metrology and quality systems. He will serve as the central point of contact with the White House, the Department of Commerce and other agencies on technical and policy issues related to manufacturing.

2nd Quarter Performance Excellence Awards Ceremony

Early in his tenure, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke issued a challenge to the entire Commerce Department to improve service delivery to the American public and to develop measureable standards by which each of the bureaus could judge their customer service and internal performance.  It is this vision that launched the Commerce Performance Excellence program, putting the department at the cutting edge of the Administration’s efforts to increase the return on investment of government programs.  The program supports the education of staff, recognition of significant achievements and the sharing of winning strategies to help the department become more engaged in improving processes to deliver more effective and efficient services.

On May 25, 2011, Secretary Locke recognized three exemplary employee teams from the Census Bureau, NOAA, and the Economic Development Administration with Performance Excellence Awards.  For the second time in less than one year, Commerce employees were honored for successfully implementing streamlined processes to better the administration and delivery of service to the American people.

In this video, Secretary Locke, Acting Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank and others discuss the program, the awards and why process improvement matters.

In addition to its efforts to identify and promote quality improvements by role model teams throughout Commerce, the Performance Excellence program also deploys a system of Balanced Scorecards, quarterly Performance Reviews, and team process improvements to all bureaus.  Employees can learn learn more about the Performance Excellence program and Award recipients as well as information on the Balanced Scorecard or how they can improve processes in their own office by visiting the Performance Excellence page on the Commerce Intranet.

EDA Grantee Honored as Champion of Change at the White House

Champion of Change Award Winners

This week, Roland Arriola, founder and president of recent EDA grantee Texas Valley Communities Foundation, was honored at the White House as a ‘Champion of Change’ for the foundation’s work to advance the innovation economy and empower and inspire other members of the Lower Rio Grande Valley community.

The Champions of Change Series: Winning the Future Across America is a White House initiative to spotlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities and helping the nation rise to meet the many challenges of the 21st century. Arriola and other winners were joined by White House Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and White House Senior Policy Advisor for Rural Affairs Doug McKalip and participated in a roundtable discussion on Rural America.

The Texas Valley Communities Foundation received a $1 million EDA grant last week along with the city of Mercedes and the Texas Polytechnic Institute of Mercedes, Texas, to help develop a feasibility study for a ‘Technopolis Village’, a community focused on innovation and identifying ways to enhance and produce positive economic growth that spans the regional economy.
Learn more about the Champions of Change Series and the award winners. Learn more about the Texas Valley Communities Foundation project that received an EDA grant.

NOAA Ship Fairweather Sets Sail to Map Areas of the Arctic

NOAA Fairweather

NOAA Ship Fairweather, a 231-foot survey vessel, departed Kodiak, Alaska, today on a mission to conduct hydrographic surveys in remote areas of the Arctic where depths have not been measured since before the U.S. bought Alaska in 1867.

Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will use the data to update nautical charts to help mariners safely navigate this  important but sparsely charted region, which is now seeing increased vessel traffic because of the significant loss of  Arctic sea ice.

Over the next two months, Fairweather will conduct hydrographic surveys covering 402 square nautical miles of navigationally significant waters in Kotzebue Sound, a regional distribution hub in northwestern Alaska in the Arctic Circle.

“The reduction in Arctic ice coverage is leading over time to a growth of vessel traffic in the Arctic, and this growth is driving an increase in maritime concerns,” explained NOAA Corps Capt. David Neander, commanding officer of the Fairweather. “Starting in 2010, we began surveying in critical Arctic areas where marine transportation dynamics are changing rapidly. These areas are increasingly transited by the offshore oil and gas industry, cruise liners, military craft, tugs and barges and fishing vessels.”

Fairweather and her survey launches are equipped with state-of-the-art acoustic technology to measure ocean depths, collect 3-D imagery of the seafloor, and detect underwater hazards that could pose a danger to surface vessels. The ship itself will survey the deeper waters, while the launches work in shallow areas.

Manufacturing: The Resurgence of American Innovation and Jobs

Tektite founder, Scott Mele, receiving the Export Achievement Award from the Department of Commerce. Scott Mele on left, Congressman Rush Holt on right.

Guest blog post from Miles Bodnar, Marketing Manager at Tektite Industries

Cross-posted on the NIST MEP blog

There’s something really great that’s going on in America right now: people are talking about manufacturing again. If you ask individuals from the baby boomer generation, they’ll tell you that manufacturing was a cornerstone of the economy when they were growing up. Everyone’s job was associated with manufacturing in one way or another and we were proud of our products Made in the USA. Manufacturing was a part of patriotism.

Since the baby boomer generation has grown up, the world has certainly changed. What hasn’t changed though is that manufacturing is still a pillar of our economy. America is still the number one manufacturing country in the world; we out-produce number-two China by more than 40 percent. Despite our economic challenges in 2009, America created an estimated $1.7 trillion worth of goods according to the United Nations. Manufacturing will always serve as the foundation of our economy for two main reasons: manufacturing challenges us to become more innovative and manufacturing growth creates jobs.

The timeline of our company, Tektite Industries, is the perfect example of this. Like many start ups, company founder Scott Mele founded Tektite in his garage in 1990, developing and distributing the most advanced and quality flashlight in the world. A year later, the organization was manufacturing a Chemical Lightstick Alternative® and Mark-Lite®, which was designed to reduce solid waste produced by chemical sticks there by creating a more “green” alternative.  Over the past 20 years, our company has developed into a vertically integrated LED lighting manufacturer that produces specialty lighting products, incorporating leading edge technology. From specialty flashlights, strobes, to signaling lights, we mold our parts, assemble our electronics, CNC machine, and stamp our metal parts all in New Jersey.

We here at Tektite Industries have only been able to evolve throughout the decades because of innovation. Manufacturing never stops–it just changes. Innovation is all about identifying ways to differentiate ourselves and implementing new ideas to serve new markets. While foreign products may be cheaper in price, we out perform all foreign competitors and produce the best quality available. We use technology and innovative ideas to train our workforce, becoming more efficient and productive while creating new jobs. This creates a ripple effect throughout our economy. It is estimated that for every new manufacturing job created, four to seven additional jobs are created for the economy.

NIST Working to Develop Adaptable Robots That Can Assist—and Even Empower—Human Production Workers

NIST’s new Autonomous Assembly Testbed includes an automated guided vehicle (left), conveyers, mannequins and an underslung robot arm (right).

Guest blog by Albert J. Wavering, the Chief of the Intelligent Systems Division of the Engineering Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Robots have explored Mars, descended into volcanoes, and roamed the ocean depths.  Today, they also perform humdrum chores, such as vacuuming and waxing floors.  And in between the ordinary and the extraordinary, robots are carrying out a growing array of tasks, from painting and spot-welding in factories to delivering food trays in hospitals.

But, when it comes to these automated machines, you haven’t seen anything yet, especially in the manufacturing world, where robots were first put to use 50 years ago in a General Motors factory.  In fact, the first factory robot became something of celebrity, earning an appearance, along with one of its inventors, on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

Even today, however, manufacturing robots are akin to electromechanical hulks that blindly perform relatively simple, repetitive jobs and—Tonight Show demo notwithstanding—must be safely separated from human workers by fences and gates.

In laboratories around the world, the race is on to build a new generation of robots that are smarter, more flexible, and far more versatile than the current one.  A successful leap to more adept and adaptable robots could set the stage for a revolution in U.S. manufacturing that reaches from the largest factories to the smallest job shops.

Automation technology has found a place performing repetitive and, often, dirty and dangerous factory tasks. It also has helped U.S. manufacturers to achieve productivity increases that are the envy of the world.

But the best could be yet to come.  The next wave of robots could be the springboard to new U.S. companies and new domestic manufacturing jobs.

The Fourth of July, 2011: Independence Day

Painting of signers of the Declaration of Independence

On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, setting the 13 colonies on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation. Written primarily by Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration is a formal explanation of why Congress had voted on July 2 to declare independence from Great Britain, more than a year after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War. The birthday of the United States of America—Independence Day—is celebrated on July 4, the day the wording of the Declaration was approved by Congress.  See an image of the Declaration of Independence from the National Archives.

As always, this most American of holidays will be marked by parades, fireworks and backyard barbecues across the nation. In 1776, the estimated number of people living in the newly-independent nation was 2.5 million. This year, the Department of Commerce’s Census Bureau estimate is 311.7 million.

For fascinating figures on the Fourth’s fireworks, flags, fanfares, firings (grills) and more, see the Census Bureau’s Facts for Features.