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Blog Entries from June 2012

General Counsel Kerry Leads Administration Efforts to Support Long-Term Economic Growth in Iraq

General Counsel Kerry standing a podium

Guest blog post by Cameron F. Kerry, Department of Commerce General Counsel

On June 28, 2004, Iraq's first democratically elected government assumed full sovereign authority. Eight years later, I joined Iraqi counterparts to discuss Iraq's next great challenge: integrating itself into the world economy. Overcoming this challenge is a critical step in Iraq's transition since, as President Obama has noted, “Iraq is assuming its rightful place among the community of nations.”

The Department of Commerce mission in Iraq is to help the country assume this role while working to expand and facilitate increased U.S. business opportunities. As part of this mission, I had the honor of co-hosting two conferences focused on Iraq’s economic growth strategy. Iraq faces the challenge of generating trade and investment at the same time as managing the expansion of its resource wealth to ensure economic diversification. While these challenges are significant, I was encouraged by the universal agreement between panelists, government officials, and private sector representatives that these challenges can be overcome by the adoption of a commercial law framework that emphasizes predictability, transparency, and economic security.

The first of these conferences, co-hosted by Iraq’s Minister of Finance Rafi al-Issawi, brought together experts from U.S., multilateral, and private institutions to discuss with Iraqi counterparts how under-developed commercial law and financial mechanisms can act as barriers to trade and investment. A common theme in the two days of discussion was how the rule of law is vital to a welcoming economic environment in Iraq in which U.S. and Iraqi businesses can predict and plan their investments, purchases, and sales with greater certainty.

NIST Kicks Off New National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence

NIST’s Curt Barker, Karen Waltermire, and Henry Wixon are seen explaining how interested parties can get involved

Guest blog post by Donna Dodson, Chief, Computer Security Division and Acting Director, National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence, National Institute of Standards and Technology

This week, Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) hosted a workshop to kick off the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE), a new public-private collaboration that will bring together experts from industry, government and academia to design, implement, test and demonstrate integrated cybersecurity solutions and promote their widespread adoption.

IT is central to financial, communications, healthcare and physical infrastructures and even entertainment systems. It is also under constant attack by cybercriminals looking to steal business data, personal information and devices, or disrupt private and government business with malicious code, denial of service and Web-based attacks.

We were excited to bring together representatives from various industry sectors (health, utility, financial, and more), along with those from government agencies, academia and other organizations to learn how the center will operate and how the public can participate. In the photo here, NIST’s Curt Barker, Karen Waltermire, and Henry Wixon are seen explaining how interested parties can get involved.

The NCCoE will provide a state-of-the-art computing facility where researchers from NIST can work collaboratively with both the users and vendors of products and services on holistic cybersecurity approaches. NIST is hosting the center in collaboration with the state of Maryland and Montgomery County, Md.

By providing a test bed where new ideas and technologies can be tried out before being deployed, the center provides the opportunity to thoroughly document and share each solution, supporting specific industry sector business challenges. This will encourage the rapid adoption of comprehensive cybersecurity templates and approaches that support automated and trustworthy e-government and e-commerce.

Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank Wrapped up Her Visit to Turkey with Concrete Steps to Advance the U.S-Turkish Commercial Relationship

Acting Secretary Blank Co-Chairs the U.S.-Turkey Framework for Strategic Economic and Commercial Cooperation  with U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk,  Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan and Minister of the Economy Zafer Caglayan

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank wrapped up her visit to Turkey after co-chairing the second meeting of the U.S.-Turkey Framework for Strategic Economic and Commercial Cooperation (FSECC) with U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk in Ankara yesterday. The Turkish delegation was led by Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan and Minister of the Economy Zafer Caglayan.

The FSECC was created following the first meeting between President Obama and Turkish President Gul in April 2009. The two leaders tasked the U.S. and Turkish governments to create a framework to help substantially increase the trade and investment flows between both countries to help strengthen the economic dimension of our partnership. The meeting focused on opportunities for increased bilateral trade and investment relations to create jobs in both countries, and the ministers agreed on several concrete steps to advance the U.S-Turkish commercial relationship. The Acting Secretary promoted increased Foreign Direct Investment, including calling for greater Turkish FDI to the U.S., highlighting Commerce’s SelectUSA initiative. The four principals made a joint statement after the meeting.

During the meeting, Acting Secretary Blank announced that the Commerce Department's International Trade Administration will lead an Aerospace and Defense Industry Trade Mission to Turkey in December 2012. She also applauded the work that has been done so far to increase bilateral trade between the U.S. and Turkey.  She emphasized the work that must be done to continue to advance the U.S.-Turkey trade relationship, such as overcoming market access barriers, furthering cooperation on intellectual property rights, and enabling businesses to take advantage of opportunities in key sectors such as renewable energy, financial services, and infrastructure.

Chicago Today, Russia Tomorrow

Under Secretary Francisco Sanchez and Chicago U.S. Export Assistance Center Director Julie Carducci present Export Achievement Certificate to BayRu CEO Aaron Block. (Photo Commerce)

Cross-posted from ITA Tradeology blog by Francisco Sánchez, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade

Today I was fortunate enough to speak at the SMC3 conference in Chicago about the progress we’ve made toward achieving the President’s goal of doubling U.S. exports. SMC3 is a supply chain industry association that provides technology to shipping and logistics companies across the country, the very same companies who ensure the efficient transportation of American exports. Each year, the conference brings together representatives from America’s most active manufacturing, trucking, rail, shipping, and logistics firms.

The success of U.S. exporters depends in part on U.S. businesses being able to quickly and efficiently get their products to market. So it was fitting that I gave these remarks in Chicago, home to some of America’s most important freight and transportation corridors. According to the latest data, the Chicago metropolitan area is the 7th largest export market in the U.S. with merchandise shipments totaling nearly $34 billion.

Chicago is also home to some of America’s top exporters. I was pleased to honor an innovative company, BayRu, with an Export Achievement Certificate while in Chicago. Their online store,, BayRu is one of the fastest growing e-commerce sites in Russia. On, Russian shoppers can buy a wide range of American consumer goods found in catalogues like E-bay and Amazon and then have those products shipped to more than 160 cities across Russia and other CIS states.

NIST Goes the Distance for the Olympics

NIST technician Christopher Blackburn uses a microscope to precisely align a retroreflector over the center of a hash mark on a measuring tape. Photo credit: Bruce Borchardt

In yet another Olympian feat of measurement, researchers at Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recently calibrated a tape that will be used to measure out the distance of this summer's Olympic marathon—a distance of 26 miles 385 yards—to 1 part in 1,000.

Measurement is a vital aspect of the Olympic Games. Officials measure the height of jumps, the speed of races, and the mass of weights to determine who wins a medal and who goes home. The marathon is no different. Because of the difficulties in measuring out the distance, the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) only recognized best times and didn't begin awarding world records for marathons until 2004 when a method using a device called a Jones Counter was officially recognized as sufficiently accurate.

Developed by a father-son duo in the early 1970s, the Jones Counter is a simple geared device that counts the revolutions of a bicycle wheel. To calibrate the device, course measurers lay out a calibrated measuring tape at least 30 meters in length. Once they have determined the number of revolutions that equal that distance—and a couple of successively longer distances—they follow painstaking procedures for laying out the rest of the course. The measurements, which can take hours to complete, will ensure that the shortest distance a runner will run will be at least the required distance and no more than about 40 meters over, corresponding to an error of about one part in 1,000.  Full story

Disaster Recovery Funding Available Now for Counties with FY 11 Disaster Declarations

Map of eligible and ineligible U.S. counties for disaster assistance

Guest blog by Matt Erskine, Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development

Applications are now being accepted for investments in regions experiencing severe economic distress as a result of natural disasters that were declared as major federal disasters between October 1, 2010, and September 30, 2011. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) received an appropriation of $200 million from Congress to address economic recovery challenges in regions impacted by a major disaster.

More than 1,400 counties in 44 states, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia are eligible for the federal funding. Successful projects will support long-term economic recovery; demonstrate a clear connection between the project scope of work and the applicable disaster; demonstrate that the project will foster job creation and promote private investment; align with a relevant strategic, economic development, or disaster recovery plan; and demonstrate the incorporation of disaster resiliency. Applications are accepted on a continuing basis and processed as received.

Minority Businesses Export to Support Jobs in Long Island

Under Secretary Sanchez (center), Congressman Tim Bishop (right) and Shakir Farsakh, director of the Long Island Export Assistance Center (left)

Cross-posted from ITA Tradeology blog by Francisco Sánchez, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade

Washington can be a sweltering place in the summer. And this year is no exception. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to escape the heat of Washington today for Long Island, New York. There, I joined forces with my friend and colleague Congressman Tim Bishop to help highlight the benefits of exports and the impact they have in strengthening the economy.

We’ve always known exports to be among best ways to boost domestic economic output. Just last year, the United States had a record-setting $2.1 trillion in exports which supported nearly 10 million American jobs.

Rather, the question has always been “how can we expand the message of exporting to more businesses?”

This was the challenge laid forth by President Obama in 2010 when he announced the National Export Initiative, which aims to double U.S. exports by the end of 2014.

Well, the data are in! One of the great things about our country is our diversity. And according to the U.S.  Census Bureau, that same diversity is boosting our economy. A report released this month, using data from 2007, shows that exports by minority-owned American businesses make significant contributions to our economy.

Acting Secretary Blank Encourages Turkish Investment to Create American Jobs


U.S. Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank visited Istanbul today to meet with U.S. and Turkish business leaders to advance commercial and trade relations between the United States and Turkey. This is the first visit to Turkey by a U.S. Commerce Secretary in 14 years.
Acting Secretary Blank, along with U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, are leading a delegation of senior U.S. Government officials, including representatives from the Department of State, the Department of Energy, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, U.S. Export-Import Bank and the National Security Staff.
Throughout the meetings and events, Acting Secretary Blank highlighted President Obama and Prime Minister Erdogan's goal of elevating our commercial relationship with Turkey to the strategic level, contributing to the peace and prosperity of citizens of both countries and the world.
Acting Secretary Blank and Ambassador Kirk met with U.S. companies that are active in the Turkish market to hear their views on the commercial environment in Turkey, and learn how the U.S. government can help grow their businesses, and support jobs and growth in Turkey and in the United States.

EDA: Economic Recovery in Fremont, California's Auto Community

Ed. note: Cross-posted from U.S. Department of Labor's "Auto Communities" blog by Matt Erskine, Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development (EDA)

We all know the situation a few years ago when President Obama took office: the American auto industry was shedding jobs by the hundreds of thousands and General Motors and Chrysler were in financial crisis. In the year before GM and Chrysler filed for bankruptcy, the auto industry lost more than 400,000 jobs. Had President Obama failed to act, conservative estimates suggest that it would have cost at least an additional million jobs and devastated vast parts of our nation's industrial heartland. But that did not happen because the president quickly intervened to save the U.S. auto industry from collapse. Today, GM, Ford and Chrysler have all returned to profitability.

President Obama's decision to respond so boldly was about more than the auto companies. It was about standing behind the countless workers, communities and businesses—large and small—that depend on the automotive industry. It was also about revitalizing American manufacturing.

Across the administration, federal agencies have outlined an agenda to support growth, job creation, and competitiveness in U.S. manufacturing. The U.S. Commerce Department's Economic Development Administration (EDA) has a strong track record of working with automotive communities to develop plans for economic recovery. The agency's efforts to help revitalize the nation's auto industry have been significant in Fremont, California, where a large auto assembly facility operated by the New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. (NUMMI) was shut down in early 2010. The plant had employed nearly 5,000 workers, with thousands more dependent on it. The blow to the local economy was severe.

Letter from Secretary Bryson to Commerce Employees

Official portrait of Secretary Bryson

Dear Commerce Team,

I have informed the president that I am resigning as Secretary of Commerce.

The work that you do to help America’s entrepreneurs and businesses build our economy and create jobs is more important now than ever and I have come to the conclusion that I need to step down to prevent distractions from this critical mission.

I feel privileged to have been part of the progress we have made together for our businesses and workers as they “build it here and sell it everywhere.”

As I step down from the Cabinet, Dr. Blank will continue to serve as Acting Secretary. As you know, she provided very able leadership in this role last year, and I have every confidence that on her watch going forward, the Commerce Department will continue to fulfill its mission with excellence.

In my personal capacity, I will continue to do everything I can to support the president and America’s businesses as they continue to advance innovation, U.S. competitiveness, and prosperity for our people in the months and years ahead.

Thank you for your many thoughtful and kind notes over this last week. It has been an honor and a pleasure to serve with you.


John Bryson 

Acting Secretary Blank Participates in U.S.-Poland Business Summit in Warsaw, Poland

Acting Secretary Blank Participates in U.S.-Poland Business Summit in Warsaw, Poland

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank and Poland’s Deputy Prime Minister Waldemar Pawlak welcomed participants in the U.S.-Poland Business Summit and Business Roundtable in Warsaw yesterday. This important event fulfills an agreement made during President Obama’s visit to Poland last yearto bring together U.S. and Polish business and government leaders to identify and promote new commercial opportunities and strengthen and expand commercial relations between the two countries.
Blank and Pawlak co-chaired the Business Roundtable at an informal session with American and Polish businesses and government officials. They discussed increasing bilateral investment and expanding energy sector cooperation. In her remarks, Acting Secretary Blank called for more cooperation between the two countries to continue vital strides towards creating good paying jobs that will help both economies flourish.
In her remarks to the summit, Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank talked about increasing U.S.-Poland economic and commercial ties. She said that over the past ten years, U.S. bilateral trade with Poland has nearly quadrupled and today the U.S. is doing more than ever to link with the E.U.’s fastest growing economy. Complete Readout

U.S. Outdoor Recreation Industry Found to Boost the Economy

The Outdoor Recreation Economy

Guest blog post by the International Trade Administration's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Services Kenneth E. Hyatt.

If you haven’t heard the news, the U.S. travel and tourism industry is on pace for a record-setting year of creating American jobs and growing the economy.

In fact, a new report (PDF) released today by the Outdoor Industry Association shows the impressive impact of America’s outdoor recreation on the economy.  

The study found that the outdoor industry has created 6.1 million jobs nationally and puts $646 billion into the U.S. economy each year. The study also shows that each year, three out of four Americans participate in active outdoor recreation—activities like fishing, hunting, hiking, running, swimming and camping all contribute to refueling the economy.

This new study comes on the heels of new Commerce Department data released last week, which showed that international travelers are spending more while visiting the United States—and that the receipts for U.S. businesses are reaching record highs. International visitors spent an estimated $14 billion on travel to, and tourism-related activities within, the United States in April 2012—$1.5 billion more (or a 12 percent increase) than was spent in April 2011. International visitors have spent an estimated $54.6 billion in 2012 so far, which is an increase of 13 percent when compared to the same four-month period last year.

USPTO Hosts FIRST Lego League Innovation Award Ceremony

Teasm members seated at table

Yesterday, the Commerce Department’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) hosted the second annual First Lego League (FLL) Award Ceremony, where two teams of young inventors ages six to 14 each won an FLL Global Innovation Award and a $250,000 investment to help develop their ideas for the marketplace. Both teams invented products related to this year’s theme: food safety.

The Dublin, Ohio team Moderately Confused, inspired by food spoilage caused during delivery, created the “Erasable Barcode”; if the temperature of an environment becomes unsafe for food, ink attached to the barcode will obscure a portion of the label so that the spoiled product cannot be sold.

Similarly, after witnessing massive power outages caused by natural disasters like Hurricane Irene, the team S.I.S. Robotic Revolution of Shelton, Conn., created a “Smart Sticker” that attaches to food packaging and changes color when the package has been exposed to unsafe temperatures

Guest Blog Post: Commerce Comes to Your Town – Pittsburgh

Lyn Doverspike, Director of the Commercial Service Pittsburgh Office, Harlan Shober, Washington County Commissioner, Under Secretary Francisco Sanchez, Nate Nevela, District Field Director for U.S. Congressman Tim Murphy , Dennis Gray, Aquatech Vice President of Operations and R.Suresh Kumar, Vice President (Projects) Infrastructure – Major Projects.

Ed. note: Cross-posted from ITA Tradeology blog by Francisco Sánchez, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade

Yesterday I toured Aquatech International’s facility in Canonsburg, right outside of Pittsburgh. The company has been working with Commerce Department staff to export more of their products, and it was great to see up close the great work being done at their facilities.

Established in 1981, Aquatech is a global leader in water purification technology for the world’s industrial and infrastructure markets, with a focus on desalination, water reuse and zero liquid discharge. Aquatech is also a socially responsible company. Their products help to solve the problem of water scarcity abroad. They also help support numerous nonprofits that work to provide clean water to those without access to drinkable water.

Our visit to Aquatech is a part of wider Department of Commerce campaign, announced last month, called “Commerce Comes to Your Town.” Here at the International Trade Administration (ITA), we stand ready to provide American businesses the tools and resources they need to export their goods and services all around the globe, grow their businesses, and create more good-paying manufacturing jobs for Americans.

I can’t stress enough how important exports are for America’s economic future. Forty-one companies that successfully grew their exports recently received the President’s “E” Award during a ceremony at the White House. As part of “Commerce Comes to Your Town,” I’ve spoken in towns across the country and met with business leaders to get their input and spread our message. In fact, earlier in the day, I attended the TechBelt Export Summit in Youngstown, Ohio, where I was able to speak about how important exports are to that region.

Commerce on Track to Meet Most Federal Energy and Sustainability Goals

Department of Commerce Sustainability and Energy Scorecard

Last week, as part of the administration’s initiative to reduce energy use, waste and costs in Federal operations, the Commerce Department joined the other Federal agencies in releasing our annual updates on energy and sustainability performance. In October 2009, President Obama issued Executive Order 13514 (PDF), directing Federal agencies to lead by example in clean energy and to meet energy, water, pollution, and waste reduction targets. These performance scorecards benchmark annual agency progress and enable us to target the best opportunities to improve efficiency, reduce pollution and eliminate waste.

Growth and Opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa

Logo: African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA)

Crossposted from ITA's blog, Tradeology.

Guest blog post by Nicole Y. Lamb-Hale is the Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing and Services within the International Trade Administration

This week I am participating in the 11th Annual U.S.-Sub-Saharan Trade and Economic Forum, hosted this year in Washington, D.C. The event is mandated by the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and is the U.S. Government’s premier high-level, bilateral event with Sub-Saharan Africa. This year’s theme is “Enhancing Africa’s Infrastructure for Trade.”

The AGOA Forum brings together over 600 participants, including senior U.S. and African officials, as well as U.S. and African members of the private sector and civil society.

I am honored to be co-chairing a session with Humberto Brito, Minister of Tourism, Industry and Energy, Cape Verde focused on ways to create an attractive regulatory environment to attract renewable energy investment.

Sub-Saharan Africa is a continent of opportunities for U.S. businesses with overall projected growth rates of approximately six percent in 2012–some of the highest in the world. In looking at the world’s ten fastest growing economies from 2001-2010, six were in Africa. This trend accelerates in 2011-2015 with seven of the ten world’s fastest growing economies being in Africa. In the World Bank’s Doing Business 2012: Doing Business in a More Transparent Worldan impressive 36 out of 46 economies in Sub-Saharan Africa improved business regulations this year–a record number since 2005. Of the economies that improved the most in the ease of doing business in 2010/2011, with improvements in three or more areas of regulation measured by Doing Business, four of the twelve are Sub-Saharan African countries.

NIST: Creating Jobs with Innovation

Image: NIST Under Secretary and Director Patrick Gallagher tours Omega Plastics

Guest blog post by Patrick Gallagher, Under Secretary  of Commerce for Standards and Technology and Director, National Institute of Standards and Technology

We’ve been hearing a lot about manufacturing, especially advanced manufacturing, these days. Things like U.S. manufacturing :

  • Is critical to innovation since it’s responsible for most of our private sector research and development;
  • Is increasingly about sophisticated computer-driven, highly productive worksites requiring skilled workers; and
  • Is a growing source of good jobs.

What we don’t hear about as often are specific cases where U.S. manufacturers are using new technologies to diversify their markets, improve their products, and create or retain jobs. I was fortunate today to visit one such company, Omega Plastics Inc., located in Clinton Township, MI, about an hour outside Detroit.

The event was part of a “Best Practice Tour” sponsored by the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (MMTC), an affiliate of NIST’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP).

New $6 Million Strong Cities, Strong Communities Challenge to Spur Economic Growth in Six Cities

Economic Development Administration-banner

Guest blog post by Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Matt Erskine

Today, at the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Orlando, Florida, I joined Erika Poethig, the Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), to launch the latest key components of the Obama administration’s Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) initiative, which was announced in July 2011 to help strengthen local capacity and spark economic growth in local communities while ensuring taxpayer dollars are used wisely and efficiently.

The Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA)—an SC2 Federal partner—announced the $6 million Strong Cities, Strong Communities Visioning Challenge to help economically distressed cities leverage innovative strategies to spur local economic and job growth.

The challenge will start with the competitive selection of six cities, one in each of EDA’s regions. Each of the winners will receive up to $1 million to conduct their own two-phase competitions. In the first phase, winning cities will encourage teams of experts in such fields as transportation planning, economic and community development, business incubation, and engineering to submit economic development proposals for their city or region. The highest-rated proposals, as evaluated by a city-appointed review panel, will receive cash awards. In the second phase, the finalists from the first round will compete for a cash prize by developing comprehensive economic development plans.

NIST Effort Could Improve High-Tech Medical Scanners

Microarrayer machines (A) now can mix colors and deposit them on microscope slides, which can be used to calibrate hyperspectral imagers (HSI) for use in medical applications. The finished slides can be custom-colored (B) to calibrate HSIs to find specific types of tumors or disease tissue. Close up, they resemble dot-matrix printwork (C). Photo: Clark/NIST

A powerful color-based imaging technique is making the jump from remote sensing to the operating room—and a team of scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have taken steps to ensure it performs as well when discerning oxygen-depleted tissues and cancer cells in the body as it does with oil spills in the ocean.

The technique, called hyperspectral imaging (HSI), has frequently been used in satellites because of its superior ability to identify objects by color. While many other visual surveying methods can scan only for a single color, HSI is able to distinguish the full color spectrum in each pixel, which allows it to perceive the unique color "signatures" of individual objects. Well-calibrated HSI sensors have been able to discern problems from diseases in coral reefs to pollution in the atmosphere as determined by the distinct spectral signature at a location.  NIST Tech Beat item

Acting Secretary Blank Highlights Competitions As a Tool For Improving American Competitiveness

This morning, Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank spoke before the Department of Energy’s National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition. The competition is part of the Obama administration's Startup America Initiative, the White House campaign to inspire and promote entrepreneurship. Launched in December 2011, the National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition included six regional competitions that served as platforms for college students to present business plans that transform great clean energy ideas into great businesses. The goal of building regional networks of student-focused businesses, as well as its inclusion of corporate leaders in the clean energy and venture capital sectors, builds squarely on existing partnerships with the Department of Commerce to spur domestic innovation and entrepreneurship.

Blank told the audience, which included the six regional winning teams, that the key to America’s success is innovation. . . new products, new processes, new ways of thinking.  Since the 1940s, over two-thirds of America’s economic growth has been directly related to increased productivity due to innovationthat’s both new products and new production processes.

Commerce's ITA Releases Data Showing International Visitor Spending Continues at Record-Setting Pace

Graph: U.S. Travel and Tourism-Related Exports

Rate is twelve percent increase over last year

Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA) today released tourism data revealing that international visitors spent an estimated $14 billion on travel to, and tourism-related activities within, the United States in April 2012—$1.5 billion more (12 percent) than was spent in April 2011.

The new data reaffirms the importance of the Obama administration’s efforts to increase travel and tourism in the United States and comes on the heels of the release of the National Travel and Tourism Strategy (PDF) last month. The National Strategy is a blueprint for the Federal government to welcome 100 million international visitors each year by the end of 2021. The visitors would spend an estimated $250 billion per year, supporting more jobs and spurring economic growth in communities across the country.  Read the full ITA release here.

Acting Commerce Secretary Blank Promotes U.S.-India Commercial Relations

This morning, Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank delivered remarks to the U.S.-India Business Council in Washington, DC as part of their 37th Anniversary Leadership Summit, in advance of the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue.

Within the next 20 years, it is estimated that India will become the most populous country in the world, and total yearly income of Indian urban households could reach four trillion U.S. dollars. With their middle class growing bigger each day, India is poised to continue playing a major role in the global economy.

Acting Secretary Blank spoke to the Council about these important economic opportunities and the ways that the United States and India can work together to strengthen their economic relationship.

First, Blank praised the success of the U.S.-India trade relationship. From 2009 to 2011, U.S. goods exported to India grew over 30 percent to a record $21.6 billion.

$6 Million i6 Challenge to Spur High Growth Entrepreneurship and Expand Proof of Concept Centers

i6 Challenge logo

Guest blog post by Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Matt Erskine

The Obama administration has unveiled several actions that are designed to speed up the growth of new, job-creating companies. Today, a new $6 million i6 Challenge, the third round of the national innovation competition, was announced. Six winning teams from around the country will get awards of up to $1 million this fall for innovative proposals to create and expand Proof of Concept Centers, such as the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Stevens Institute for Innovation at the University of Southern California.

Centers like these incorporate a range of services—such as technology and market evaluation, business planning and mentorship, and early-stage access to capital—that are critical to regional economic growth and job creation.

The i6 competition series has generated great momentum since it was first introduced as part of the roll-out of the White House’s Startup America initiative last year. Projects funded in 2010 and 2011 are already starting to show results.

Census Innovation Day: Government at the Speed of Business

Groves address the adience

Guest blog post by Robert Groves, Director of Commerce's U.S. Census Bureau

I’m blogging from the Census Bureau’s Innovation Day event. We’re highlighting for all our staff the newest tools and techniques that we’re developing to do our work more efficiently.

These are the fruits of programs that seek ideas from every staff member, from the newest to the most senior, about how to do our work for less money, to do it faster, and to complete it with higher quality. Hundreds of proposals were submitted and scores of projects are underway to introduce the new procedures. The depth of creativity within the staff rivals that of any organization.

What are we up to?

The Census Bureau produces most all information we know about the socioeconomic and demographic characteristics continuously. We also are the key supplier of information on the economy—retail sales and other service sector volume, manufacturing, foreign trade, state and local government finances, and a host of others. Almost every week, information that answers the question, “How are we doing?” is released.

Assistant Secretary Michael Camuñez Concludes U.S.-Mexico Border Trade Policy and Promotion Week Visit

Assistant Secretary Camuñez is joined by public and private stakeholders after recognizing the New Mexico Border Authority for their efforts to support the local community.

Guest blog post by Michael C. Camuñez, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Market Access and Compliance, International Trade Administration

During this past week, in my official capacity as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Market Access and Compliance, I had the privilege of leading a high-level delegation of U.S. and Mexico government officials on a tour of the U.S.-Mexico border region, which, with $460 billion in trade passing across it each year, is one of the most economically significant borders in the world. As a native New Mexican, I was especially proud to highlight the vast commercial benefits that the border region generates for both countries. The trip included stops in San Diego/Tijuana; NM/Santa Teresa; El Paso; Laredo/Nuevo Laredo; and Monterrey, Mexico. 

At each stop, stakeholders repeated the theme that we—government and business—must work together to change the narrative about the border. The goal is not to diminish awareness of the fact that real security challenges exist; rather, we need to increase awareness that there is more to the border story. Both countries are critical to the economy of the other, and one of our goals for this trip was to highlight the fact that new commercial opportunities exist and that the border serves a critical role in facilitating the essential flow of goods and people between Mexico and the U.S.

Our delegation consisted of U.S. and Mexico government officials and members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. We conducted stakeholder outreach events related to the border trade facilitation efforts under the U.S.-Mexico 21st Century Border Management initiative, which was established by Presidents Obama and Calderon in May 2010 as a vehicle to develop and promote a more secure and seamless border between our two countries. These events provided us with an opportunity to share information with stakeholders about the ongoing work and accomplishments of the initiative and to receive important, on-the-ground feedback from them, which can be incorporated into the 21st Century Border Management work streams.

U.S. Experiences Second-Warmest May, Hottest Spring on Record

Map of U.S. with significant weather events for April-May

Lower 48 also experienced record warm year-to-date and twelve-month periods

The average temperature for the contiguous U.S. during May was 64.3°F, 3.3°F above the long-term average, making it the second-warmest May on record. The month's high temperatures also contributed to the warmest spring, warmest year-to-date, and warmest 12-month period the nation has experienced since recordkeeping began in 1895.

The spring season's (March-May) nationally-averaged temperature was 57.1°F, 5.2°F above the 1901-2000 long-term average, surpassing the previous warmest spring (1910) by 2.0°F.

Precipitation totals across the country were mixed during May, with the nation as a whole being drier than average. The nationally-averaged precipitation total of 2.51 inches was 0.36 inch below average. The coastal Southeast received some drought relief when Tropical Storm Beryl brought heavy rains to the region late in the month. | See the full Climate Report

Secretary Bryson Encouraged by President’s Export Council Recommendations to Help Strengthen U.S. Economy

Secretary Bryson addresses the President's Export Council

Yesterday, Secretary John Bryson met with the President’s Export Council (PEC) with two goals in mind: to discuss further ways to strengthen the U.S. economy; and to update PEC members on the actions taken by the Department and the administration to increase exports.

As the principal national advisory committee on international trade, the PEC provides a forum for public-private interaction at all levels of government and business. It is responsible for advising the president on government policies and programs affecting U.S. trade performance, covering topics that range from export promotion to deliberations over specific trade challenges in various industries and sectors.

Since the PEC last met, the Obama administration has made great strides in creating jobs, increasing exports and growing the economy. For example, the U.S.-Korea and U.S.-Colombia free trade agreements were implemented earlier this spring, and will drive billions of dollars in additional annual exports and create tens of thousands of American jobs.

A Collaborative Effort to Support Ogden, Utah’s Growing Software Applications Sector

EDA logo-banner

Guest blog post by Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Matt Erskine

Today, I joined Mayor Mike Caldwell in Ogden, Utah, to announce a $1 million investment by the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) with the Ogden City Corporation to help create a lab that will train workers and provide space for business startups in the growing field of software applications for mobile computing devices.

This new facility will be strategically located in Ogden’s downtown and will be operated by a consortium of experienced, capable partners, including the city of Ogden, Weber State University, the Weber State University Research Foundation, and private-sector industry leaders. It is exactly the type of collaborative partnership that EDA is excited to invest in.

Over a 10-year period, the new facility is expected to create 750 jobs and generate up to $4.6 million in private investment, according to grantee estimates. Its focus on software applications is very timely: You can’t walk down any street today, or sit in any coffee shop for long, without seeing smart phones and tablet computers all around you. And while it’s only been a few years since these devices first came on the market, they’ve been a runaway hit ever since: Demand for them has skyrocketed, and with it the demand for applications, or “apps,” that run on them.

USPTO: Leading the Way on International Patent Harmonization

Nearly 80 percent of all patent applications filed worldwide are processed through five patent offices: Commerce's United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the European Patent Office (EPO), the Japan Patent Office (JPO), the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO), and the State Intellectual Property Office of China (SIPO). In 2007, the five agencies formed a group called the IP5, to work on increased cooperation and collaboration. Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos and Deputy Under Secretary Teresa Stanek Rea attended the 5th Meeting of IP5 Heads of Offices in Porticcio, France on June 6th.  

As the USPTO implements the America Invents Act (AIA), signed into law on September 16, 2011, by President Obama, America is poised to implement an optimal 21st Century harmonized patent system. This administration is leading the process of reshaping an IP world into one in which national and regional patent systems are coordinated to create an optimal environment for technological innovation.

At this high-level meeting, the Heads of Offices focused on receiving and analyzing input from IP owners regarding how to make the patent process more user-friendly. As part of that vision, they discussed the concept of a “Global Dossier,” aimed at simplifying procedures for patent applicants and improving the efficiency of the offices when dealing with the same patent application.

The IP5 also reaffirmed their commitment to improve the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), which already enables patent applicants to seek simultaneous patent protection with a single international application for up to 145 countries.

This was the first-ever IP5 meeting featuring the Heads of Offices. The next meeting of all Heads of Offices will be held in the United States, hosted by the USPTO, in 2013.

The Law of the Sea Convention is Good for American Businesses

Guest blog post by U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson

This morning at Capitol Hill Oceans Week, I spoke about the key role that oceans play in our economic recovery. America’s waters have always been a strong economic engine. After all, more than half of Americans live in coastal watershed counties. And even though this area makes up only 17 percent of U.S. land area, those counties support about 66 million jobs. Now more than ever, we need to ensure that the blue economy is strong and growing.

And here is one thing we need to do to make sure that happens: ratify the Law of the Sea Convention. The U.S. Senate is now taking a hard look at having the U.S. join the Convention, which sets forth a comprehensive legal framework governing uses of the oceans. The Law of the Sea Convention will support American businesses and create American jobs, as well as bolster U.S. national security and promote energy security. We need to join the Convention now.

C-SPAN video

June 1, 2012: The Atlantic Hurricane Season Begins, Runs Through November 30

Satellite image of Hurricane Andrew, 1992

NOAA predicts a near-normal Atlantic hurricane season, Census offers related facts for features

Conditions in the atmosphere and the ocean favor a near-normal hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin this season, Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced last week from Miami at its Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, and home to the Hurricane Research Division.

For the entire six-month season, which begins June 1, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center says there’s a 70 percent chance of nine to 15 named storms (with top winds of 39 mph or higher), of which four to eight will strengthen to a hurricane (with top winds of 74 mph or higher) and of those one to three will become major hurricanes (with top winds of 111 mph or higher, ranking Category 3, 4 or 5). Based on the period 1981-2010, an average season produces 12 named storms with six hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.

Hurricanes by the Numbers

Commerce's U.S. Census Bureau produces timely local statistics that are critical to emergency planning, preparedness and recovery efforts. This edition of Facts for Features highlights the number of people living in areas that could be most affected by these dramatic acts of nature, and more.

  • 37.3 million: Population as of July 1, 2011, of the coastal portion of states stretching from North Carolina to Texas—the areas most threatened by Atlantic hurricanes. Approximately 12 percent of the nation’s population live in these areas;
  • 7: The number of hurricanes during the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season, four of them Category 3-strength or higher. Irene was the only hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. and one of the most costly and devastating;
  • 3: Top states for hurricane impacts from 1851-2011Florida (114), Texas (64), Louisiana (57);
  • 1992: Hurricane Andrew made landfall in Florida on Aug. 24, destroying a large swath of South Florida, most notably the city of Homestead. Andrew was the second-costliest tropical cyclone in U.S history and killed 23 in the U.S.

Spotlight on Commerce: Malcolm Lee, Director of the Office of Policy and Strategic Planning

Portrait of Lee

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 an America Built to Last.

I am honored to serve as Counselor to the Secretary of Commerce, where I support Secretary Bryson and lead his Office of Policy and Strategic Planning.  I direct a team of policy advisors that works across the Department and Administration to implement President Obama’s America Built to Last blueprint through focus on a few key priorities:  increasing exports and investment, and strengthening U.S. manufacturing and innovation.  As Secretary Bryson has said, our mission at Commerce is to help American businesses “Build it here and sell it everywhere.”  As part of Secretary Locke and then Secretary Bryson’s senior staff, I have focused my time on economic relations with China, U.S. manufacturing and innovation, and cybersecurity.

I joined Commerce from Microsoft, where I directed international policy and strategy in headquarters, then moved to China as General Manager for China Policy and Strategy.  Prior to that, I served at the White House and State Department during the Clinton Administration as Special Assistant to the President and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, working on international trade, economic and technology policy.  

I graduated from Yale College, worked in the U.S. Senate, attended University of Pennsylvania Law School, then practiced trade law.  As a young lawyer, I served on the Immigration Committee of the Asian American Legal Defense Fund, and as pro bono General Counsel of the Organization of Chinese Americans.  Living in China in recent years, I was an elected governor of the American Chamber of Commerce in China and a member of the board of USITO, which represents U.S. technology companies in China.            

Weather-Readiness Transforms Businesses into Forces of Nature

Be a force of nature logo

With Atlantic hurricane season starting today, this week is national Hurricane Preparedness Week, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is teaming up with other federal partners to help get businesses and communities StormReady. Each year, Americans cope with an average of 10,000 thunderstorms, 5,000 floods, 1,000 tornadoes, and two landfalling hurricanes. The impacts of this weather have a significant effect on the U.S. economy. In fact, routine weather events in the U.S., such as rain and cooler-than-average days, can add up to an annual economic impact of as much as $485 billion, or about 3.4 percent of the 2008 gross domestic product (Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, PDF).  
These effects are most keenly felt by those businesses that don’t reopen after a storm. The American Red Cross reports that as many as 40 percent of businesses fail following a disaster. But businesses that are weather-ready don’t have to be part of this statistic. They can be a force of nature by knowing their risk, taking preventative action and being an example for their community. NOAA and other federal partners have a number of tools available to help businesses better prepare for extreme weather.