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Blog Entries from July 2012

NOAA Ship Fairweather Conducting Hydrographic Reconnaissance in the Arctic

NOAA Ship Fairweather

Mission to update measurements dating to the 18th century

NOAA Ship Fairweather begins a 30-day survey mission in the Arctic this week, scheduled to check a sparsely measured 1,500-nautical mile coastal corridor from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, north through the Bering Strait and east to the Canadian border.

The mission will collect needed information to determine NOAA’s future charting survey projects in the Arctic and will cover sea lanes that were last measured by Captain James Cook in 1778.

“Much of Alaska’s coastal area has never had full bottom surveys to measure water depths,” said Cmdr. James Crocker, commanding officer of Fairweather, and chief scientist of the party. “A tanker, carrying millions of gallons of oil, should not be asked to rely on measurements gathered in the 19th century. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what navigators have to do, in too many cases. NOAA is changing that.”

NOAA has made it a priority to update the nautical charts needed by commercial shippers, tankers, passenger vessels, and fishing fleets transiting the Alaskan coastline in ever-greater numbers. In June 2011, Coast Survey issued the Arctic Nautical Charting Plan, a major effort to update Arctic nautical charts for the shipping lanes, approaches, and ports along the Alaskan coast. Full release

New Online Tool Gives Public Wider Access to Key U.S. Statistics

U.S. Census Bureau logo

Census API lets developers create custom apps, reach new users

Commerce's U.S. Census Bureau has released a new online service that makes key demographic, socio-economic and housing statistics more accessible than ever before. The Census Bureau’s first-ever public Application Programming Interface (API) allows developers to design Web and mobile apps to explore or learn more about America's changing population and economy.

The new API lets developers customize Census Bureau statistics into Web or mobile apps that provide users quick and easy access from two popular sets of statistics:

  • 2010 Census (Summary File 1), which includes detailed statistics on population, age, sex, race, Hispanic origin, household relationship and owner/renter status, for a variety of geographic areas down to the level of census tracts and blocks.
  • 2006-2010 American Community Survey (five-year estimates), which includes detailed statistics on a rich assortment of topics (education, income, employment, commuting, occupation, housing characteristics and more) down to the level of census tracts and block groups.

The 2010 Census and the American Community Survey statistics provide key information on the nation, neighborhoods and areas in between. By providing annual updates on population changes the survey helps communities plan for schools, social and emergency services, highway improvements and economic developments.  Census press release

EDA Helps Ohio Auto Community Build a New Future

Economic Development Administration-banner

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

Economic recovery in the wake of an economic disaster—such as the closing of a large employer—doesn’t happen overnight. It requires careful planning, the coordination of human and financial resources, and a willingness to consider alternative directions that will benefit the community in the long run.

This is the story that the city of Moraine, Ohio, can tell. For nearly 90 years, Moraine—located in close proximity to Dayton, Ohio—was the location of a single, prominent manufacturing plant whose successive owners read like an honor roll of 20th century American business: Dayton-Wright Airplane (manufacturer of DeHavilland aircraft), Frigidaire (maker of an iconic line of refrigerators), and, since 1981, General Motors (GM).

When GM announced plans in June 2008 to close this plant, the development came as a blow to the local economy. Just think about the impact to suppliers and the distributors that get their business from them.  According to a report published by the International Economic Development Council, the Moraine region, with more than 90 GM suppliers in 14 surrounding communities, lost more than 800 jobs at larger suppliers in addition to the 4,200 jobs that were lost when GM shut down.

Within weeks of GM’s announcement, staff from the Chicago regional office of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) began working with state and local officials in Ohio to develop a strategy to deal with the effects of the Moraine plant closure. As a first step, an EDA investment helped the city develop a bottom-up Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) to guide the region’s recovery efforts.

Commerce Department Scientists Earn Presidential Honor for Early Career Achievements

OSTP seal

Earlier this week, President Obama announced the 2011 recipients of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the United States Government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers. Six employees from the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) were among those honored on Monday.

The awards, established by President Clinton in 1996, are coordinated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the President. Awardees are selected for their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, or community outreach.

The scientists are recognized not only for their innovative research, but also their demonstrated commitment to community service.

Census Report: Nearly 1 in 5 People Have a Disability in the U.S.; Update

Images of universal disability symbols

Report released to coincide with 22nd anniversary of the ADA

About 56.7 million people—19 percent of the population—had a disability in 2010, according to a broad definition of disability, with more than half of them reporting the disability was severe, according to a comprehensive report on this population released today by the Commerce Department's U.S. Census Bureau.

The report, Americans with Disabilities: 2010, (PDF) presents estimates of disability status and type and is the first such report with analysis since the Census Bureau published statistics in a similar report about the 2005 population of people with disabilities. According to the report, the total number of people with a disability increased by 2.2 million over the period, but the percentage remained statistically unchanged. Both the number and percentage with a severe disability rose, however. Likewise, the number and percentage needing assistance also both increased.

“This week, we observe the 22nd anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act, a milestone law that guarantees equal opportunity for people with disabilities,” said Census Bureau demographer Matthew Brault. “On this important anniversary, this report presents a barometer of the well-being of this population in areas such as employment, income and poverty status.”

The statistics come from the Survey of Income and Program Participation, which contains supplemental questions on whether respondents had difficulty performing a specific set of functional and participatory activities. For many activities, if a respondent reported difficulty, a follow-up question was asked to determine the severity of the limitation, hence, the distinction between a “severe” and “nonsevere” disability. The data were collected from May through August 2010. Disability statistics from this survey are used by agencies—such as the Social Security Administration, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Administration on Aging—to assist with program planning and management. Read the full Census Bureau release.

Census Facts for Features: ADA Stats


Friday, July 27, at approximately 9:15 a.m. EDT Matthew Brault, a statistician in the Health and Disability Statistics Branch at the U.S. Census Bureau discusses statistics about the people with disabilities in the United States. Each Friday, C-SPAN’s “America By the Numbers” segment features information from the federal statistical system. The program highlights the trends and allows the public to call in or email their views. More information on previous C-SPAN programs is available at

Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank’s Trip to St. Louis Highlights American Manufacturing, Insourcing and Exports

Acting Secretary Blank continued her trip through Missouri today. She traveled to St. Louis to attend a roundtable breakfast with business owners from a range of industries hosted by Helix Center Biotech Incubator, an innovation facility owned and operated by the St. Louis County Economic Council. She was joined by St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and St. Louis County Executive Charley Dooley.

Acting Secretary Blank wrapped up her trip with a visit to Wilco Molding, Inc. a third-generation family-owned custom plastic injection molder as well as a tool and mold machine shop. There, Dr. Blank was joined by Wilco’s President, Kim Williams, along with Denny Coleman, President & CEO of St. Louis County Economic Council, and Tom Dustman, Director of International Sales for Sunnen Products. Acting Secretary Blank reiterated President Obama’s commitment to support manufacturing, to promote U.S. exports, and to encourage American businesses to bring jobs back or to expand operations in America—also known as insourcing She also discussed the importance of building on America’s insourcing trend by bringing more jobs back to states like Missouri. She also highlighted President Obama’s plan, released today, to extend the middle class tax cuts for families making under $250,000. In Missouri, this would help approximately 2.1 million families by preventing a tax increase of about $2,200 for the typical family of four.

During her visits to Missouri manufacturers, Acting Secretary Blank discussed Administration efforts to create good jobs by investing in American manufacturing. The President continues to press Congress to pass legislation that rewards businesses who hire American workers and eliminates tax incentives for companies to ship jobs overseas. The Commerce Department also continues to support the resurgence of American manufacturing and ongoing efforts to provide U.S. companies with the tools and resources they need to sell their products and services in the global marketplace.

Community Colleges as Economic Engines

Terry Calaway, President, Johnson County Community College

Guest blog by Terry Calaway, President, Johnson County Community College

ED NOTE: With 50,000 students a year enrolled in credit and noncredit classes, Johnson County Community College is the state’s largest institution of higher education. JCCC offers a full range of undergraduate credit courses and 50 career and certificate programs that prepare students for employment. JCCC’s noncredit workforce development program is the largest, most comprehensive in the Kansas City area.

Johnson County Community College (JCCC) in Overland Park, Kansas, was fortunate to host Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank during her visit to Kansas City July 23. We were honored to show the Acting Secretary the facility on campus we share with BNSF Railway in a model partnership of industry and education, one that demonstrates how community colleges can serve as economic engines for the county.

Because Kansas City is one of the most important freight transportation hubs in the Midwest, BNSF is building a 443-acre intermodal facility in the southern part of Johnson County, Kansas (a Kansas City suburb). The facility will help the region’s economy grow by shifting more freight traffic from the highway to the rails. The increasing demand to move more freight by rail coupled with the number of current rail workers who will be retiring means that freight railroads will hire more than 15,000 employees this year alone.

JCCC is prepared for these changes, thanks to a long and beneficial relationship with BNSF Railway. The college first entered into partnership discussions with BNSF in 1986. The result is the largest railroad training facility in the country, founded on the college campus. Originally intended to train only BNSF employees, the training center over the years has come to serve other railroads as well. As many as 14,000 railroad employees come to JCCC each year for training from the United States and Mexico.

Director Kappos Promotes Innovation in Southern California

Director Kappos, seated, being interviewed

Under Secretary and United States Patent and Trademark Office Director David Kappos briefed southern California innovators on the many ways the Obama administration is advancing U.S. innovation. He met with technology entrepreneurs at Powerwave Technologies in Santa Ana, California, hosted by Southern California’s TechVoice chapter in conjunction with CompTIA and locally-based Technology Leadership Political Action Committee (TLPAC). The USPTO is on the eve of publishing a series of new rules implementing the America Invents Act, signed last September by President Obama, which will improve patent quality and make it easier for U.S. innovators to protect their intellectual property (IP) abroad. Attendees were briefed on AIA implementation as well as the USPTO’s plans to open four new satellite offices, including one in the Silicon Valley region of California. “By building partnerships and collaborating with the Orange County Bar and broader community,” Director Kappos said, "the USPTO will better engage its Silicon Valley office with the Southern California IP community.”

An American Resurgence in Manufacturing Happening In Kansas City and Columbia, Missouri

Zahner CEO and President Bill Zahner explains how 3-D computer modeling is used to create working files for the plant for fabrication and for the field crews to use for installation

Guest blog post by Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank

I am back in my home state of Missouri today, so it is even more of a treat to witness firsthand the resurgence in American manufacturing. I visited two manufacturers today—the A. Zahner Company, in Kansas City, and Environmental Dynamics International (EDI), in Columbia—and had the chance to talk to some remarkable local businesses leaders and entrepreneurs in both cities.

Under President Obama’s leadership, and with the hard work of businesses and workers like those here in Missouri, our private sector has now seen 28 straight months of job growth—4.4 million jobs. Of course, there is more work to be done, but we are making progress in critical areas. Over the last two and one-half years, we’ve seen the strongest growth in manufacturing jobs since the 1990s. Missouri alone has gained nearly 9,000 new manufacturing jobs since 2010.

On top of that, manufacturers in states like Missouri are realizing that investing here at home is both the right thing to do and the smart thing to do. Many businesses—both here and abroad—are deciding to keep jobs here, bring jobs back to the U.S., or to set up operations here for the first time—a trend called “insourcing.”

We need to do everything possible to support businesses in places like Missouri that are thinking about insourcing. The Obama administration will continue to call on Congress to pass legislation to give our companies a tax break if they move operations and jobs back.

U.S. Launches Interactive HIV/AIDS Database on

AIDS 2012 logo

The U.S. Census Bureau today launched an interactive global resource on the prevalence of HIV infection and AIDS cases and deaths. The database was developed in 1987 and now holds 149,000 statistics, an increase of approximately 10,800 new estimates in the last year, making it the most complete of its kind in the world. The launch comes as thousands of people worldwide meet in Washington, D.C., for the International AIDS Conference this week.

The resource is maintained by the Census Bureau with funding from the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby, head of PEPFAR, said on the launch, “This release of the HIV/AIDS database will expand global access to data that are critical to understanding the epidemic. This information is invaluable for the evidence-based response PEPFAR is championing.”

Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said “This database provides the people who need it with quality statistics — supporting the life-saving efforts of our partners at PEPFAR and USAID and the doctors, nurses and public health officials working to reach the end of AIDS.”

New Patent Office Will Foster Innovation, Creating a Cycle of Job Growth

Eric Kelly, President and CEO of Overland Storage

Guest blog post by Eric Kelly, President and CEO of Overland Storage

As one of the driving forces of technological innovation in the United States, Silicon Valley companies continue to create new products and opportunities that advanceall aspects of our lives. The ability to create intellectual property is critical for companies as they develop new products and protect existing assets. Last year alone, Californians made up more than a quarter of the 108,626 patents issued to U.S. inventors. 

Recently the Commerce Department announced a plan to put a satellite Patent Office in Silicon Valley. As the President and CEO of a global provider of leading data management and data protection solutions, I support this move, as it brings increased resources to streamline the patent process and creating a cycle of job growth that is good for the overall US economy.

I also believe that it is critical that the United States retain our manufacturing base to further protect the intellectual assets of our innovators. The impact of piracy and counterfeiting not only affects company sales, exports and profits, it can threaten the existence of companies that spent years and millions of dollars developing and bringing technology to market.

The world is changing at lightning speed, and Silicon Valley continues to be a force in driving change and enabling companies and individuals adapt to change. We look forward to working with Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank and the entire Commerce Department team in their efforts to ensure that companies can remain agile, innovative and competitive in today's evolving marketplace.

NIST Visit to Chicago Spotlights Manufacturing Success

On Tuesday this week, Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Patrick Gallagher was in Chicago to visit two manufacturing companies to learn more about the best practices and challenges confronting U.S. manufacturers.

“Having the opportunity to hear directly from manufacturers and see their operations firsthand is invaluable to those of us working to support and increase the competitiveness of American manufacturing,” said Gallagher.

The trip was coordinated by the Illinois Manufacturing Extension Center (IMEC), the Illinois center for the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program. “NIST is a critical resource for advanced manufacturing competitiveness,” said David Boulay, president of IMEC. “We were pleased to show the director the great prospects for American manufacturing success.”

Gallagher, along with representatives from the City of Chicago including Housing and Economic Development Commissioner Andrew Mooney, toured PortionPac Corporation. The company is a sustainability-focused manufacturer of highly concentrated, pre-measured cleaning products. President Burt Klein and other company leaders got the chance to showcase their manufacturing processes. With its commitment to workforce excellence, recognized by INC. magazine’s 2010 Winning Workplace, and its values of innovation, environmental leadership and social responsibility, the company highlights the keys to success for the next generation manufacturer.

Commerce Department Declares Winners in the Commerce Business Apps Challenge

An online application that allows businesses to compare themselves to their competitors, locate their competition, customers, and suppliers, and find the best places to advertise and their developer team of four won the Commerce Department’s first prize and $5,000 in the nationwide Commerce Business Apps Challenge sponsored by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The winning apps use at least one Department of Commerce data set that assists businesses and/or improves the service delivery of to the business community. BusinessUSA is a centralized, one-stop platform to make it easier than ever for businesses to access services to help them grow and hire. All of these winners equip businesses with tools to be more competitive around the world, while creating jobs here at home.

The First Place winner, SizeUp, is a business intelligence tool that uses data from hundreds of sources including the Census Bureau, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, IRS records, county courthouse filings, Yellow Pages and White Pages, business publications, the U.S. Postal Service, and corporate annual reports to provide a comprehensive overview to small- and medium-sized  business about their competitiveness and where to find resources to improve. This will improve the success of small businesses so they can prosper and create new jobs.

The $10,000 contest challenges app developers to find innovative ways to utilize Commerce and other publicly available data and information to support American businesses. 22 entries were submitted to the high-profile judging panel that included Vint Cerf, Chief Internet Evangelist at Google; Tim O’Reilly, founder and CEO of O'Reilly Media and Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer at Facebook among others who selected the three winners.

The Commerce competition awarded a First Place winner ($5,000), a Second Place winner ($3,000) and a Third Place winner ($2,000).

Government Coming to Entrepreneurs

Ali Ansary, co-founder of SeventyK

Guest blog post by Ali Ansary, co-founder of SeventyK.

Ed. Note: SeventyK’s mission is to change cancer care by educating patients, families, and their healthcare providers through innovative ways about age-appropriate treatment and the unique needs of the adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer patient. Unlike pediatric and older adult cancer patients, for over two decades the rate of survival for AYA cancer patients has not improved.

Last Thursday I was honored to be part of a panel at the Colorado University Denver Anschutz Medical Campus where Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank discussed the importance of opening four new USPTO offices, including one in Denver.

As Acting Secretary Blank spoke to the new opportunities and growth that will spur from opening new USPTO offices, two quotes came to mind:

#1: "No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it" (Albert Einstein). 

For the first time, new offices outside of Washington, D.C. will be part of the solution to accelerate innovation in this country—an important recognition that innovation doesn’t happen in one place—it happens across the country. Now entrepreneurs who need to protect their innovation have a direct line to the government locally. A strong move when seeing that IP-intensive industries account for nearly 35 percent of the FY2010 U.S. GDP.

Acting Secretary Blank Speaks About Innovation Imperative at GlobalWIN’s Luncheon

Acting Secretary Blank Enjoys a Laugh With Members of the Global Women’s Innovation Network (Photo by Ben Droz -

Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank delivered remarks at the Global Women’s Innovation Network (GlobalWIN)’s third annual Innovation Luncheon at the Library of Congress today. GlobalWIN provides a forum for women executives and women working in academia, government and business in innovation-related fields. In her remarks, Dr. Blank highlighted the importance of women’s leadership in advancing America’s innovation agenda to compete and create jobs.

Blank emphasized that to be competitive in the 21st century, America needs to encourage students to enter science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. These fields produce many of the inventors and leaders who bring new ideas from the lab to the marketplace. Even though STEM jobs pay about 25 percent more than others, only about 13 percent of U.S. college graduates got degrees in the STEM fields. Blank affirmed that one reason America has so few STEM workers is because women are seriously underrepresented in these fields. Women make up nearly half of America’s labor force—but less than one-fourth of our STEM workforce. Some women lack information, others lack role models or mentors, while others may lack opportunity.

To provide opportunities, the Obama administration launched Educate to Innovate in 2009. This campaign brings together the federal government with private-sector partners with a particular focus on inspiring more girls, women and minorities to explore science and technology. Another example is Race to the Top, made possible by the Recovery Act. With about $4 billion in funding, Race to the Top provides competitive grants that support and reward states with high K-through-12 achievement with the only extra preference allowed in this competition is for states that focus on STEM. A third example of the president’s commitment came this week when he dedicated $100 million for a new corps of high-quality STEM teachers at 50 sites around the U.S. These teachers will get up to $20,000 on top of their base salary in exchange for making a multi-year commitment.

Blank reminded the audience that in the long run, America’s ability to innovate and compete as a nation will determine what kind of economy—and what kind of country—we pass along to the next generation.

EDA: By Attracting Investment in America, We Create New Jobs

Today, Acting Assistant Secretary for Economic Development Matt Erskine joined Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, Rochelle Mayor Chet Olsen, and Members of Congress at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for this new Nippon Sharyo railcar production facility in Rochelle, Illinois

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

Attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) to the United States, and the jobs that come with it, has been a priority of the Obama administration since it came into office. Business programs from every federal agency have been thoroughly ramped up, and a new initiative targeting foreign companies thinking about locating in the United States, SelectUSA, was launched in 2011.

The United States is already the largest recipient of FDI in the world. In 2010, such investment totaled $228 billion, up from $153 billion in 2009, supporting more than five million jobs throughout the country. Those workers made up 4.7 percent of total private-sector employment in the United State, with an annual payroll of $410 billion.

Success in attracting FDI doesn’t happen without a lot of hard, collaborative work on the part of states, municipalities, development agencies, and the federal government. I saw an excellent example of this today in the city of Rochelle, Illinois, where I participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the opening of a new manufacturing facility for Nippon Sharyo U.S.A., the U.S. subsidiary of a Japanese manufacturer of railcars.

NIST: University, Industry Experts Recommend Steps to 'Invigorate' U.S. Manufacturing

Alternate TextReport: University, Industry Experts Recommend Steps to Invigorate U.S. Manufacturing (cover of report)

A new report by a national committee of U.S. industry and university leaders details 16 recommendations "aimed at reinventing manufacturing in a way that ensures U.S. competitiveness, feeds into the nation's innovation economy, and invigorates the domestic manufacturing base."

The report was prepared by the 18-member steering committee of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP) that was launched by President Obama in June 2011 and co-chaired by Susan Hockfield, now president emerita of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Andrew Liveris, president, chairman and chief executive officer of The Dow Chemical Company.

The AMP Steering Committee Report to the President on Capturing Competitive Advantage in Advanced Manufacturing (PDF) was formally adopted today by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

It addresses needs in three broad categories:

  • enabling innovation,
  • securing the talent pipeline, and
  • improving the business climate.

The recommendations include a call to establish a national network of manufacturing innovation institutes; an emphasis on investment in community college training of the advanced manufacturing workforce; an approach to evaluate platform manufacturing technologies for collaborative investment; a plan to reinvigorate the image of manufacturing in America; and proposals for trade, tax, regulatory, and energy policies that would level the global playing field for domestic manufacturers.  Full NIST release

Women in the Financial Sector: A White House Forum on Economic Growth

Acting Secretary Blank Presenting to the Women in the Financial Sector: A White House Forum on Economic Growth

Guest blog post by Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank

This morning I spoke with around 100 women from across the U.S. financial services industry at the White House. The forum included business executives as well as stewards of institutional funds.

I’m an economist by training and I’ve studied the role that women play in the workforce. When it comes to decision-making, in the boardroom or anywhere else, the best decisions get made when there is more diversity of perspectives and opinions at the table. So it was great to hear from these leaders.

We talked about the U.S. economy and some of the challenges we face, and I highlighted some of the things that President Obama is pushing for to help strengthen our economy, build on our global competitiveness, and create even more jobs.

Already, GDP has grown for 11 straight quarters and more than 4.4 million private sector jobs have been created over the past 28 months. That’s good news, but clearly we must do more.

For example, we need to expand support for states and localities to hire more teachers, police, and firefighters. We need to expand infrastructure investment, and put unemployed construction workers back to work. We need to reward firms that insource—bringing jobs back to America—and eliminate tax benefits for companies that outsource. And we need to extend tax cuts for middle class families.

In addition, everyone agreed that Americans should be as concerned, perhaps even more concerned, with long-term investments that assure long-term American competitiveness. For example, the president has called on Congress to support more research and development as well as tech transfer in America’s top universities and labs along with investments that will help to increase the skills of the U.S. workforce, provide greater access to higher education and enhance our nation’s educational infrastructure.

Acting Secretary Blank Delivers Remarks at BIS Update Conference on Export Controls and Policy

Acting Secretary Blank gestures from the dais

On Tuesday, Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank delivered the keynote address at the Conference on Export Controls Policy, hosted by the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security. This annual conference is the U.S. Government’s major export control outreach and education event of the year.

In her remarks, Dr. Blank highlighted progress on President Obama’s Export Control Reform Initiative and the National Export Initiative, saying that success in both areas is important for strengthening the American economy and creating more jobs, which are the president’s top priorities.  

Blank emphasized that the United States must have a strong, effective export control system through the powerful partnership between federal agencies like BIS and American companies that sell cutting-edge products, calling such a system “a national security imperative.”

The last major changes to export control regulations took place over 15 years ago, and those changes were more organizational than substantive. Through the President’s Export Control Reform (ECR) initiative, this is changing.

This initiative has at its core a continued commitment to national security, to prevent key goods and technologies from falling into the wrong hands, Acting Secretary Blank said. The proposed changes over controls on less-significant military items do not mean that key items will be “de-controlled.”  In fact, the departments of Commerce, Justice and Homeland Security will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute illegal exports to countries and end users of concern.

Acting Secretary Blank noted that these export control reforms will not only enhance national security by focusing resources on the greatest threats, but will also generate other benefits, including increased U.S. interoperability with allies, reduced incentives for foreign companies to avoid American-made parts that in turn will strengthen the American defense industrial base, and, importantly, reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens, expenses and red tape on American exporters.

Driving Broadband Adoption in the Latino Community

Anna Gomez (left), Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and Deputy Administrator, at the recent NALEO conference.

Cross-posted from NTIA blog by Anna M. Gomez, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information

I recently had the opportunity to speak to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) about NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) and the work it is doing to promote broadband adoption in the Latino community.

A high-speed Internet connection can provide access to everything from online job postings to educational opportunities to valuable healthcare information. But too many Latino households remain cut off from these important benefits.

NTIA, in collaboration with the Census Bureau, conducts some of the most extensive survey work on broadband adoption trends in the U.S. Our most recent survey, in October of 2010, found that 72 percent of White households nationwide subscribed to broadband, compared with only 57 percent of Hispanic households. The survey also found that socioeconomic factors such as income and education do not fully explain the gap. Even after accounting for these factors through regression analysis, Hispanic households still lag White households in broadband adoption by 11 percentage points on a nationwide basis.

Department of Commerce Conducting Time and Travel Survey

Recently, you may have received a letter from the Department of Commerce with a set of questions called the Time and Travel Survey. This important survey is part of a larger study of how people spend their time and their business and leisure travel.

We are now conducting the first stage of this scientific study. For the results to be most useful, we are asking all households who receive this short questionnaire to complete it and send it back. Your input is important because the Department of Commerce will use it to assist a number of state and federal agencies in making decisions about how to manage resources. Your answers are voluntary and will be kept confidential to the fullest extent of the law. Your answers will be used for statistical purposes only in accordance with the Privacy Act of 1974.

We may select someone from your household to ask them some additional questions. Thank you again for your help in this important study.

Acting Secretary Blank Cuts Ribbon to Open U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Detroit, Michigan

Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank cuts the steel ribbon, officially opening the Elijah J. McCoy USPTO Satellite Office

Acting Secretary Blank wrapped up her 3-day Innovation Tour with a stop in Detroit, Michigan today to participate in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially launch the Elijah J. McCoy USPTO Satellite Office. She was joined by USPTO Director Kappos, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, U.S. Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, U.S. Representatives John Dingell, John Conyers, Jr., Gary Peters, and Hansen Clarke, and local businesses and entrepreneurs.

During the ceremony, Acting Secretary Blank swore in the office’s first seven USPTO Board Judges who will review patents and help speed up the patent process. The Detroit USPTO satellite office will create approximately 120 highly-skilled jobs in its first year of operations.

In her remarks, Blank said:

And now, today, with this new office, we’re making another critical investment in the future of Detroit, the state of Michigan, and the U.S. as a whole.

With the help of the McCoy office, we’re creating a stronger, more efficient patent system. That’s important because patents are the fuel for innovation.

Patents protect the intellectual property of Americans who have game-changing ideas. Patents help put those ideas to work in our economy. And patents help us out-compete the rest of the world.

We’ve already made great progress in improving our patent system. Even though patent filings grew five percent last year, we were able to actually reduce the patent backlog by 10 percent.

The McCoy office will help us continue to expand our patent system’s capacity and productivity.

Blank noted that the new office is just a beginning. An innovation-driven economy demands more support of R&D, help for universities like Michigan, Michigan State and Wayne State to push their research discoveries into the marketplace, and to ensure young people can succeed in science, technology, engineering and math—the STEM fields.

Blank reiterated the President's call that we must stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas and start helping those that are trying to keep jobs here or bring them back. Citizens and government must use all of the tools at their disposal to ensure that America will continue to drive innovation and be a magnet for good jobs for the middle class. The ability to innovate and compete as a nation will determine what kind of economy—and what kind of country—is passed along to the next generation.

International Visitors to the U.S. Spent Record $13.9 billion in May, Helping Support U.S. Jobs

Report cover: National Travel and Tourism Strategy

Guest blog post by Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank
Tourism is America’s number one service export, and today we have even more evidence that America is indeed open for business. New data released by the U.S. Commerce Department today shows that international visitors spent nearly $14 billion on travel to, and tourism-related activities within, the United States in May$1 billion more than was spent in May 2011marking 29 straight months of growth.
This data also means that the U.S. is on pace for a record-setting year, with international visitors having spent over $68 billion so far – up 12 percent compared to last year.
The facts are clear: tourism is a high-growth bright spot in our economy. We must continue to build on this momentum by making sure that America is travel-friendly to international visitors, thereby helping our businesses create even more jobs.
Fortunately, there are many dedicated people working to increase travel and tourism. This morning, I had the chance to talk with a few of them at a meeting of the Travel and Tourism Advisory Board in Dearborn, Mich., where I joined federal agency partners, as well as U.S. Representative John Dingell (D-MI), to discuss the Obama administration’s ongoing efforts to increase travel and tourism to the United States. During the board meeting, we discussed implementation of the recently released National Travel and Tourism Strategy (PDF), a blueprint for the federal government to welcome 100 million international visitors each year by the end of 2021. These visitors would spend an estimated $250 billion per year, supporting even more jobs and spurring economic growth in communities across the country.

Innovation and the Economy

AlPatrick Kennedy, Founder and CEO of OSIsoft LLC.

Guest blog post by Patrick Kennedy, Founder and CEO of OSIsoft LLC.

ED Note:OSIsoft LLC produces the PI System, the world leading product for managing and monitoring real time information supporting quality, energy management, safety and other productivity applications. It is an 850 person software company that builds industrial software for monitoring manufacturing and one of the winners of the President’s E-Awards in 2012. OSIsoft LLC was founded in 1980 and has grown to operate in 110 countries and, in the last five years, exported over $0.5 Billion in software.

Manufacturing must be a part of a healthy economy in the US because it not only creates a lot of value add, but is nearly the only route that puts everyone to work, not just computer scientists. How do we do this?  As Dr. Michael Porter of Harvard noted, innovation -> jobs and productivity -> higher wages and the strength of the US for both of these is software.  Most new manufactured goods that are candidates for production in the US are software based (e.g. electric cars, grid storage systems, virtual power plants, photography, animation, health care instrumentations, real time tracking) and the addition of a Patent and Trademark office to Silicon Valley represents a boost to this idea.  Patents not only protect Intellectual Property they convert it to a product that you can sell worldwide to support the economy.

I am a personal believer in this, plus I believe that we have to help ourselves, not just wait for the next program. This is a private-public partnership. I am personally pulling a 12-mile loop of fiber optic cable around my city, San Leandro, to allow it to participate in software based manufacturing in the age of Big Data and rapidly changing software infrastructure (see, but will be using some of the Economic Development Grant programs to extend this deeper into the community.  Providing up to 10 Gbps pipes to business is a strong advantage to people that want to envision and experience the next generation software. The Silicon Valley already receives 1 of every 10 patents granted in the US and with our enhanced broadband, wireless, software talent and strong financial community, we will host the innovation required to re-enter manufacturing of next generation product in healthcare, energy conservation, mobility and transportation. The SF Bay Area is the heart of the software industry in the world and we want to leverage this for job creation.

Acting Secretary Blank Travels to Denver to Highlight Innovation and Newly-Announced Patent and Trademark Office

Blank was joined by Mayor Mayor Hancock and University of Colorado-Denver Chancellor Donald Don M. Elliman

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank was in Denver, Colo. today to discuss ways to support innovation and create jobs, particularly through the protection of intellectual property. In the morning, Blank attended a breakfast hosted by the Colorado Innovation Network, where she spoke with local business leaders. She listened to their ideas and suggestions for how Commerce can better support them in their efforts to create jobs by encouraging innovation.

Later this morning, the Acting Secretary delivered remarks and participated in a panel discussion on the key role that the patent system plays in strengthening the local economy and driving U.S. competitiveness at the University of Colorado-Denver Anschutz Medical Campus. Also joining the panel were: Denver Mayor Michael Hancock; Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) David Kappos; University of Colorado-Denver Chancellor Donald Don M. Elliman Jr.; Robb Walt, co-founder of the Community Power Corporation; and Ali Ansary, co-founder of SeventyK. During the discussion, Blank noted some of the ways the Department of Commerce is supporting and fostering American innovation.

Acting Secretary Blank Begins 3-Day Innovation Tour with Stop in Silicon Valley to Discuss Newly Announced Patent and Trademark Office

Acting Secretary Blank Begins 3-Day  Innovation Tour with Stop in Silicon Valley

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank delivered remarks to a full house and participated in a panel discussion at San Jose State University on driving U.S. innovation to create jobs. The panel was moderated by Carl Guardino, President and CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. Blank was joined by Dr. Pat Kennedy, CEO of OSISoft, Eric Kelly, President and CEO of Overland Storage  and Dr. Mohammad Qayoumi, President of San Jose State University. During the discussion, Blank noted some of the 22 ways the Department of Commerce is supporting and fostering American innovation.

In her opening remarks, Blank noted:

This past winter, our [US Patent and Trademark] Alexandria office had a special exhibit on the ground floor – 30 giant iPhones lined up side-by-side.  Each one featured one of the many patents that Steve Jobs received. As Steve said, “The ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world are the ones who do.”

Today, those entrepreneurs, those innovators, and those dreamers – all of you – are the reason I’m so proud to say that the Commerce Department will soon put one of its first four satellite patent offices right here in Silicon Valley.

Today, thousands of inventors here and across the country continue to help lay the foundation for America’s long-term growth and leadership.  The entrepreneurial spirit continues to thrive here in Silicon Valley. With your help, we have seen 28 straight months of private sector job growth – totaling 4.4 million jobs.  

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) plans to open a satellite office in the Silicon Valley area in an effort to help local businesses and entrepreneurs innovate quicker and grow faster. Acting Secretary Blank cited a recent Commerce Department report showed that industries that rely heavily on intellectual property protection support at least 40 million jobs – and about one-third of our GDP. That report showed that these jobs pay about 42 percent more than others. So a better patent system means good jobs and stronger economic security for millions of middle class families. 

After the panel discussion, Acting Secretary Blank attended a lunch at TechShop. TechShop is a membership-based workshop that provides members with access to tools and equipment, instruction, and a community of creative and supportive people so they can build the things they have always wanted to make. Blank spoke with local business leaders to discuss entrepreneurship, innovation and how the new patent satellite office could help to support job creation. She heard ideas about how the satellite office will meet local business needs, how the office will work with regional economic development groups focused on job creation, and whether their might be in interest tailoring the patent office’s services to meet the needs of startups, incubators and accelerators.

Blank will fly to Denver – another newly announced patent office location – and host another series of conversations with local businesses and officials about improving and continuing American innovation tomorrow.

22 Ways the Department Of Commerce Is Supporting and Fostering American Innovation

RIANO logo

In an increasingly competitive world, the United States must invest in its best scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs so that they innovate here, make things here, and create good paying, high quality jobs for middle class families. The Department of Commerce and its bureaus are supporting and fostering innovation at all stages of product development, from original research through to final manufactured goods.

Commerce’s Economic Development Agency has launched two grant challenges, the i6 Challenge and the Advanced Manufacturing Jobs and Innovation Accelerator, to move ideas from the lab and shop floor to the marketplace at an accelerated rate. Supporting this work is the Regional Innovation Acceleration Network, a web-based tool to help economic development professionals promote entrepreneurship, business development, and technology commercialization in their region.

In April 2010, the Commerce Department launched the Internet Policy Task Force to ensure that the Internet remains open for innovation. In doing so, it has produced the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, made important steps forward for a National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, started a conversation about privacy concerns within mobile apps, and worked to combat Botnets that threaten internet security. To ensure continued Internet security, Commerce has opened a Cybersecurity Center of Excellence.

NOAA's State of the Climate Report for June 2012

Graphic: Significant climate events in June 2012

Nation experiences warmest first half of year; wildfires claim 1.3 million acres across nation

Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issues its monthly state of the climate report for June, 2012. The average temperature for the contiguous U.S. during June was 71.2°F, which is 2.0°F above the 20th century average. Scorching temperatures during the second half of the month led to at least 170 all-time high temperature records broken or tied. The June temperatures contributed to a record-warm first half of the year and the warmest 12-month period the nation has experienced since recordkeeping began in 1895.

Precipitation totals across the country were mixed during June. The Lower 48, as a whole, experienced its tenth-driest June on record, with a nationally-averaged precipitation total of 2.27 inches, 0.62 inch below average. Record- and near-record dry conditions were present across the Intermountain West, while Tropical Storm Debby dropped record precipitation across Florida.  Full NOAA release

Innovation in the Marketplace: Dr. Desh Deshpande on Successful Proof of Concept Centers

Portrait of Desh Deshpande

Guest blog post by Nish Acharya, Director of the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration.

The National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE) supports President Obama’s innovation strategy by helping to develop policies that foster entrepreneurship and identifying new ways to take great ideas from the lab to the marketplace to drive economic growth and create jobs.

One of the guiding forces of NACIE is its co-chair, Dr. Desh Deshpande, who is also Chairman and President of the Sparta Group and has been involved with many other companies, such as A123 Systems, Sycamore Networks, Tejas Networks, Sandstone Capital, and HiveFire. He is also the founder of the Deshpande Foundation, and creator and supporter of the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which is a leading proof of concept center.

In the last of a series of conference calls with members of NACIE, on June 27, participants spoke with Dr. Deshpande, with whom I have worked closely to identify and implement strategies to spur entrepreneurship and innovation.

During the call, Dr. Deshpande defined innovation as coming up with new ideas, while entrepreneurship is putting those ideas into practice. He pointed out that all innovation is contextual, in that no group of individuals can just sit down and solve all the world’s problems. It is important, he noted, that innovators live in the areas where the problems exist. His point echoed one that has been made by several other NACIE members, namely that innovators have a greater chance of success if they begin by solving the problems that exist in their own communities.

The Road to Revitalizing Anderson, Indiana’s Auto Sector

Economic Development Administration-banner

Guest blog post by Thomas Guevara, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development and a native of Indiana

As auto communities across the country work to strengthen and redefine their economies, the Obama administration is making good on the President’s commitment to invest in American innovation and advanced manufacturing to spur growth.

In my home state of Indiana, the city of Anderson, located about 25 miles northeast of Indianapolis, was once home to one of the greatest concentrations (after Flint, Michigan) of General Motors facilities in the United States. Today, not a single one of those plants is in operation.

While this is a significant challenge, there is also opportunity. That was the focus of the Auto Community Revitalization Roundtable at the Flagship Enterprise Center that I recently attended in Anderson: to hear from communities affected by the loss of manufacturing jobs, offer practical tools, share available resources, and explore solutions for auto communities in Indiana that are on the road to revitalization. The forum was organized by the Manufacturing Alliance of Communities, the Obama administration’s Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers, and the RACER Trust, which was established to clean up and redevelop closed General Motors sites.

The road to revitalization requires a change of mindset. Rather than think of the abandoned facilities and their accompanying infrastructure as a disadvantage, cities such as Anderson are finding ways to repurpose these assets for future economic growth. The built industrial environment—including manufacturing plants, warehouses, road and rail links, etc.—can be refashioned and reused to suit the needs of newer, growing industries to replace the industries that departed. These industries are not the traditional manufacturers that employed our parents, but rather are modern advanced manufacturing sites that are leading the way in global competitiveness and attracting foreign direct investment.

The Fourth of July, 2012: Independence Day

Image of the Continental Congress

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 313.9 million.

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

Innovation in Austin, TX: EDA Investments Help Create Jobs and Industries of the Future

Matt Erskine, Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, touring the Austin Technology Incubator

By Matt Erskine, Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development

There is a lot of talk about innovation today, and how it can be leveraged to promote economic and job growth. In Austin, Texas, it’s more than just talk. Throughout the region, businesses are developing cutting-edge technologies, commercializing them, and—with the help of research parks, incubators, and other business support facilities—creating jobs.

Last week, I was in Austin to tour recent Obama administration EDA investments. Grants to the Austin Technology Incubator at the University of Texas, the Science, Technology, and Advanced Research (STAR) Park, and the Pecan Street Consortium are helping to spur high-tech commercialization and business development.

These investments are addressing two major issues for the Austin region - the creation of the next-generation smart grid technology infrastructure and the shortage of wet labs - to help create the jobs and industries of the future.

MBDA Achieves 130x Return on Taxpayer Investment in FY2011

Front Cover of the Minority Business Development Agency's FY 2011 Annual Performance Report

Guest blog post by David Hinson, National Director, Minority Business Development Agency

When Muhammad Ali, the legendary world heavyweight boxing champion, was asked by reporters why he kept boasting about being the greatest in the ring, he used to say, “It isn’t bragging if you can back it up.”

The MBDA FY2011 Annual Performance Report (APR) (7MB PDF) backs up what we’ve been saying about MBDA’s achievements under President Obama. In 2011, we registered the best performance in our 43-year history. It was our third record-breaking year in a row.

The recently released APR presents detailed information about the contracts and capital MBDA helped obtain for minority-owned businesses, along with the number of new jobs created. It also highlights our strategic and organizational accomplishments.

Let me give you just a few of those highlights.

Despite the serious head winds the economy is facing, more than 5,780 new jobs were created by minority-owned firms working with MBDA and its network of MBDA Business Centers in FY 2011.  MBDA assisted minority-owned businesses in obtaining access to nearly $4 billion in contracts and capital.

During the first three years of the Obama Administration,

  • MBDA facilitated a total of more than 16,300 new jobs, an increase of 20% over the prior three-year period.  
  • MBDA directly served more than 17,400 minority-owned businesses and indirectly served thousands more, a 36% increase over the prior three-year period.
  • And MBDA achieved a Return on taxpayer Investment (ROI) between 102x and 130x, an impressive 86% increase over the prior three-year period. 

MBDA’s FY2011 APR also presents a state-by-state detailed analysis of the performance of minority-owned businesses broken down by industry.

Dallas, Denver and San Jose Join Detroit as Regional U.S. Patent Offices

United States Patent and Trademark Office Seal

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank and Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) David Kappos today announced plans to open regional USPTO offices in or around Dallas, Texas, Denver, Colorado, and Silicon Valley, California. These offices are in addition to the already-announced first USPTO satellite office to open on July 13 in Detroit, Michigan. The four offices will function as hubs of innovation and creativity, helping protect and foster American innovation in the global marketplace, helping businesses cut through red tape, and creating new economic opportunities in each of the local communities.

The offices announced today will help the USPTO attract talented IP experts throughout the country who will work closely with entrepreneurs to process patent applications, reduce the backlog of unexamined patents, and speed up the overall process, allowing businesses to move their innovation to market more quickly, and giving them more room to create new jobs.

Patents are a significant factor in private sector job creation. In fact, the U.S. Commerce Department issued a recent report finding that IP-intensive industries are the source – directly or indirectly – of 40 million jobs, contributing $5.06 trillion to the U.S. economy in 2010.

Selection of the four sites was based upon a comprehensive analysis (PDF) of criteria including geographical diversity, regional economic impact, ability to recruit and retain employees, and the ability to engage the intellectual property community. The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act of 2011 (AIA), signed into law by President Obama in September, requires the USPTO to establish regional satellite locations as part of a larger effort to modernize the U.S. patent system over the next three years.

“Intellectual property protection and innovation are engines of economic growth and the bedrock of America’s private sector,” said Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank. “The Obama administration is committed to making certain our businesses and entrepreneurs have the resources they need to grow, create jobs and compete globally. These new offices are an historic step toward further advancing our world’s best IP system, and reinforcing the United States as the number one destination for innovation capital, and research and development around the world.”