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Blog Entries from August 2012

Labor Day 2012: September 3

Labor Day collage (Credit:

The first observance of Labor Day is believed to have been a parade of 10,000 workers on Sept. 5, 1882, in New York City, organized by Peter J. McGuire, a Carpenters and Joiners Union secretary. By 1893, more than half the states were observing “Labor Day” on one day or another. Congress passed a bill to establish a federal holiday in 1894. President Grover Cleveland signed the bill soon afterward, designating the first Monday in September as Labor Day.

The Department of Commerce's U.S. Census Bureau has gathered a collection of interesting statistics in its "Facts for Features" series. This edition highlights the many statistics associated with celebrating Labor Day, including:

  • 155.2 million: Number of people 16 and older in the nation’s labor force in June 2012;
  • 16.3 million: Number of commuters who left for work between midnight and 5:59 a.m. in 2010. They represent 12.5 percent of all commuters;
  • 25.3 minutes: The average time it took people in the nation to commute to work in 2010.

For more statistics, see the Labor Day Facts for Features.

New, Innovative, Online Tool to Help Weigh Benefits of Economic Development Projects Using the Triple Bottom Line Model

Screenshot of Triple Bottom Line Tool website homepage

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

Traditionally, the effectiveness of an economic development investment has been measured primarily by the number of jobs created and dollars leveraged. While critically important, the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) has partnered with Portland State University to create an innovative, web-based tool that takes into account a broader array of economic, environmental, and social impacts to more fully evaluate the potential impact of projects. This new Triple Bottom Line (TBL) Tool will help economic development practitioners, investors, and decision-makers assess, compare, and communicate the viability of potential investments.

While the TBL approach has been recognized as a valuable analytical tool among businesses—including major U.S. companies such as General Electric, Unilever, Proctor and Gamble, among many others—it has not been widely applied or considered within the public sector or by the economic development profession. The new TBL Tool developed through EDA’s investment represents a significant step forward for expanding the application of the concept by planners, nonprofits, community organizations, and governments to help support the assessment and decision making of critical development decisions.

NOAA Joins Partners to Award $800,000 for Living Shorelines, a New Way to Combat Erosion, Build Fish Habitat

Alternate Text

Eric Schwaab, NOAA’s Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, was in Annapolis Thursday with U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, Chesapeake Bay Trust Executive Director Jana Davis, Maryland Department of Environment Secretary Dr. Robert Summers, Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary John Griffin and others to announce $800,000 in federal, state and private funding to create “living shorelines” on Chesapeake Bay.

Shorelines, like those in the bay, are often stabilized with hard materials, such as bulkheads and seawalls. Ironically, these structures often increase the rate of coastal erosion, and provide little habitat for fish and wildlife. Living shorelines mimic nature by using plants, sand, and sometimes rock to stabilize banks while maintaining and improving valuable fish and wildlife habitat.

Sixteen homeowner associations, nonprofit organizations, and municipalities in Maryland and Virginia have been selected to be part of the program to develop living shorelines and increase public understanding of the technique.

Doing More with Less: Taxpayers Will Save with Commerce’s New Adobe Contract

Doing more with less logo

Guest blog post by Commerce Chief Information Officer Simon Szykman             

Last summer, President Obama launched the Campaign to Cut Waste, saying, “No amount of waste is acceptable, not when it’s your money. Just as families are living within their means, government should too, so we can invest in the things that we know will create good jobs and grow the economy.” 

We’re doing just that at the Commerce Department.

This campaign is an administration-wide effort to make government more transparent and accountable to the American people. As part of this ongoing initiative, the Commerce Department is looking for new ways to boost efficiencies and to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. The Department’s fiscal year 2013 budget request identified a total of $176 million in savings through lower-cost acquisitions, reduced overhead expenses, and better management of facilities and vehicles. 

Today, we’re launching a blog series to highlight some of these Department-wide efforts to eliminate wasteful spending and support an economy built to last.

Acting Secretary Blank Talks Insourcing and Job Creation at Economic Development Forum

Acting Secretary Blank at International Economic Development Summit in Washington

Guest blog post by Dr. Rebecca Blank, Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce

This morning, I joined economic development leaders from around the country to discuss ongoing efforts to create jobs and grow the U.S. economy. The Economic Development Forum was hosted by the U.S. Commerce Department’s SelectUSA initiative, in partnership with the White House Business Council and the International Economic Development Council (IEDC), the world’s largest professional organization of economic development practitioners.

The forum provided an opportunity to discuss the Obama administration’s efforts to support U.S. businesses and encourage companies to bring good jobs back to America, a trend called insourcing.

Both American and international firms are increasingly looking for opportunities to invest in the U.S. And businesses are not only choosing to bring jobs back, but they are also making decisions to expand here instead of shipping jobs overseas. These investments mean that more products will be made in America. That means more jobs and greater economic security for families across this nation.

MBDA National Director Hinson Builds Relationships with Brazil In Line with Obama Administration NEI Goals

With Director Hinson (right) are Ms. Reta Jo Lewis, S/Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs, U.S. Department of State Mr. Julio Semeghini, Secretary of State, São Paulo, Planning and Regional Development

The Department of Commerce's Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) National Director David Hinson wrapped up a five-day trip to Brasilia and São Paulo, Brazil, on August 24. 

The trip provided an opportunity for Commerce’s MBDA to help push forward on the Obama administration’s National Export Initiative (NEI) by fostering greater access to emerging markets in Brazil for minority business enterprises. Helping the administration achieve its NEI goal of doubling exports by the end of 2014 is a top priority for MBDA, because more exports mean more jobs. Through the NEI, MBDA is thinking strategically about the sectors and markets that give America’s minority businesses a comparative advantage globally. Brazil is one of those key markets.

During the trip, Director Hinson met with Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Relations and Brazilian business owners to discuss how MBDA can help U.S. minority-owned businesses enterprises (MBEs) improve their return on investment through strategic partnerships and gain access to the unprecedented opportunities in the United States and Brazil—the two largest economies in the Western Hemisphere.

Census Digital Transformation

Screenshots of the America's Economy App

Guest blog post by Lisa Wolfisch, chief of the Web and Social Media Branch, Center for New Media and Promotions

It has been three months since the release of the Federal Digital Strategy. At the Census Bureau, we were already undergoing a digital transformation and have continued to align our efforts with the strategy. It is part of the overall transformation effort at the Census Bureau, which now provides for Internet responses to 60 different surveys.

 At this three-month anniversary, we are excited about our most recent innovations, which work toward providing the public with access to our statistics “anywhere, anytime, on any device,” a key goal of the Federal Digital Strategy.

As of today, real-time statistics about the U.S. economy are available at your fingertips, straight from your iPhone, iPad, and Android phone or tablet through our “America’s Economy” mobile app. The app combines statistics from the Census Bureau, Bureau of Economic Analysis and Bureau of Labor Statistics and includes 16 key economic indicators. The app gives you the ability to view trends over the past few years, add alerts to your calendars, and readily share the news on both Facebook and Twitter

NIST: Baldrige Program Celebrates 25 Years of Performance Excellence

Logo: Baldrige Program Celebrates 25 Years of Performance Excellence

Not many 25-year-olds can boast that in their short lifetime they have helped thousands of organizations develop and maintain world-class operations, innovative management, efficient procedures, involved workforces and highly satisfied customers. But one certainly can: the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, the nation's premier means for organizations of all types to seek, achieve and maintain performance excellence.

On August 20, 1987, President Ronald Reagan signed into law the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Improvement Act, establishing the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and its supporting program "to spark U.S. competitiveness and create a sustainable economy." Named after Malcolm Baldrige, the 26th Secretary of Commerce, the Baldrige Award and the Baldrige Program have guided organizations worldwide on their journeys toward continuous improvement and enhanced performance through the seven Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence—leadership; strategic planning; customer focus; measurement, analysis and knowledge management; workforce focus; operations focus; and results.

To celebrate its silver anniversary, the Baldrige Program has created a special Web page, "Honoring Our Past. . . Building an Even Better Future", that provides numerous links. See the full release

International Traveler Spending On Pace For a Record Setting Year

Happy tourist jumping in Glacier National Park

Guest blog post by Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar

Travel and tourism spending by international visitors is helping to boost the U.S. economy. The U.S. Department of Commerce released data yesterday showing that international visitors have spent an estimated $82.2 billion on U.S. travel and tourism-related goods and services year to date, an increase of 11 percent when compared to the same period last year. Many people do not know that this boosts exports – when foreign citizens travel to America and buy goods and services from American companies, that counts as a U.S. export. The new data indicate that the first half of 2012 set a new record for U.S. travel and tourism exports, and, if these trends continue, international visitors could end up injecting close to $170 billion into the U.S. economy by year-end.

These increases help explain why the Obama administration is working hard to make the United States the top destination for international travelers. The U.S. Departments of Commerce and Interior are implementing the National Travel and Tourism Strategy, which they presented to the President in May. The National Strategy is a blueprint for expanding travel to and within the U.S., setting out the goal of attracting over 100 million international visitors annually by 2021, more than a 50 percent increase over the number expected this year. These international visitors would spend an estimated $250 billion per year, creating jobs and spurring economic growth in communities across the country.

Acting Secretary Blank Applauds Steamfitters’ Job Training as Key to Building a 21st Century Economy

    Acting Secretary Blank Applauds Steamfitters’ Job Training as Key to Building a 21st Century Economy

This morning, Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank joined U.S. Representatives Chaka Fattah and Allyson Schwartz on a tour of the job training facilities of Steamfitters Local 420 in Philadelphia, where classes are held for apprentices and journeyworkers to develop and improve their skills so they can better serve clients and become qualified for a broader range of employment opportunities.

The rigorous training and education being offered at the facility has made a difference in the lives of hundreds of people throughout the region. The steamfitters local union 420 training center services the entire state and the work being done by members helps keep the region's infrastructure running smoothly, helping to make southeastern Pennsylvania an attractive place to do business.

Today's visit was an opportunity for local business leaders, workers and entrepreneurs to showcase all that they are doing to support manufacturing, train a 21st century workforce, and help the American economy recover from the worst recession since the Great Depression. 

While there is still more work to be done, our private sector has now had 29 straight months of job growth, creating 4.5 million new jobs. Over the past two and one-half years, more than a half-million manufacturing jobs have been created in the U.S.— the strongest job growth in that sector since the 1990s.

Pennsylvania alone has gained over 10,000 new manufacturing jobs since January, 2010. And these manufacturing jobs are good jobs that pay more than average and provide greater benefits.

During the visit, Acting Secretary Blank affirmed Commerce’s efforts to build a strong environment for manufacturing and innovation in the U.S. For example, the Obama administration recently announced the launch of a new public-private institute for manufacturing innovation as part of its ongoing efforts to help revitalize American manufacturing and encourage companies to invest in the United States. This new partnership, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII), includes manufacturing firms, universities, community colleges, and non-profit organizations from the Ohio-Pennsylvania-West Virginia "Tech Belt."

Though progress has been made, more work remains. This is why the Obama administration continues to call on Congress to pass legislation to give our companies a tax break if they move operations and jobs back. President Obama has also called for helping state and local governments hire or retain teachers, police, and firefighters; and putting construction workers by to work while repairing crumbling American infrastructure. These proposals would create a million new jobs, according to independent economists.

After visiting the steamfitters' training facilities, Acting Secretary Blank traveled to Allentown, Pennsylvania, to announce a grant to help local small manufacturers lower operating costs and create jobs. She was joined by Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, local business leaders, and entrepreneurs to highlight Obama administration efforts to help local companies and workers build things here so they can sell them everywhere.

EDA: Helping Businesses in Columbus, Ohio, Grow and Hire

Erskine (left) at presentation showing time-lapse sequence of the building of the Ohio Supercomputer Center. (Photo: the Ohio Supercomputer Center)

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

By helping regions plan for their economic future, and by giving businesses access to the advanced tools they need to compete in the 21st century, we can make sure that the U.S. economy grows and creates the well-paying jobs that are key to our long-term prosperity. I got a first-hand look at such efforts today in Columbus, Ohio, when I had the opportunity to participate in a roundtable with local economic development leaders and visit the facilities of the Ohio Supercomputer Center.

One of the groups I met with was Columbus 2020, a regional public-private partnership that was created to leverage central Ohio’s research and academic institutions and its diverse industries, with the goal of better positioning the area to be the fastest growing economy in the country. It is doing that by working to retain and expand businesses already located in the region, attracting new businesses, leveraging the region’s research assets (such as its colleges and universities) to make it more attractive to entrepreneurs and startup businesses, and improving the region’s civic infrastructure.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Promotes Innovation in Maine

PTO Director David Kappos addresses the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce in Rockport, Maine

Innovation is thriving in Maine, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the Department of Commerce, and the administration are working hard to further foster that environment, Under Secretary of Commerce and USPTO Director David Kappos told the Regional Chamber of Commerce of Penobscot Bay, Maine, on Tuesday.

From 2009 to 2010, the number of patent filings in the Portland, Maine, region nearly doubled, Kappos said. “We’re doing a lot to ensure that creative ideas and groundbreaking innovations, born right here in Maine, can flourish, and that the American innovation system is one that’s built to last.”

Barriers to innovation are being reduced, Kappos said, in part through the Startup America initiative, which includes investment funds, mentoring networks for entrepreneurs, tax breaks for small businesses, and the Department of Commerce’s i6 Green Challenge. That program rewards communities that develop and embrace cutting-edge ideas in green technology development and implementation.

Kappos also highlighted promoting insourcing of U.S. jobs through robust protections of our intellectual property abroad.

Acting Secretary Blank Names Members of First National Public Safety Broadband Board in Minnesota

Image of logo, First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet)

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank was in Minneapolis, MN, today to address attendees at the Opening General Session of the 78th Annual Conference and Expo hosted by the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International.

In addition to thanking America’s first responders and public safety officials for keeping our country safe and secure, Acting Secretary Blank announced that she appointed twelve of the nation’s leading experts on public safety and wireless broadband communications to serve on the Board of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet).

U.S. Census Bureau Facts for Features: Back to School 2012—2013

Image of students boarding a yellow school bus

By August, summertime will be winding down and vacations will be coming to an end, signaling that back-to-school time is near. It's a time that many children eagerly anticipate—catching up with old friends and making new ones, and settling into a new daily routine. Parents and children alike scan the newspapers and websites looking for sales to shop for a multitude of school supplies and the latest clothing fads and essentials. This edition of the U.S. Census Bureau's "Facts for Features" highlights the many statistics associated with the return to classrooms by our nation's students and teachers. 

Interesting Fact: $74,000=Median earnings of full-time, year-round workers with an advanced degree in 2009. Workers whose highest degree was a bachelor's had median earnings of $56,000. Median earnings for full-time, year-round workers with a high school diploma was $33,000, while workers with less than a high school diploma had $25,000 median earnings.  Back to School 2012-2013

Obama Administration to Strengthen Rural Alaskan Community Economy

Aerial view, Bristol Bay Lowlands (Alaska)

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

Over the last three and a half years, President Obama has committed his administration to make investments to strengthen rural economies and create jobs. That includes Alaska’s Bristol Bay region.

The Bristol Bay Jobs Accelerator Project, an economic growth effort by the Bristol Bay Native Association in Dillingham, Alaska is one of the winners of the multiagency Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, an initiative that pools the resources of 13 federal agencies to support innovation in rural regional industry clusters.

While Bristol Bay has a wealth of natural resources, it has struggled to leverage those assets to fuel long-term, sustainable growth. The area, for example, is one of the world’s premier fishing grounds for sockeye and king salmon, with millions of fish returning to Bristol Bay and its tributaries each year to spawn.

The Bristol Bay Jobs Accelerator Project, representing a consortium of 31 Alaskan tribes, will support the fisheries and seafood processing industry cluster located in Bristol Bay. The goal is to assist distressed rural communities in the region by leveraging local assets, building stronger economies, and creating regional linkages.

Commerce Joins Announcement on New Public-Private Partnership to Support Additive Manufacturing Innovation

Acting Secretary Blank signs her name next to Secretary Chu's on a robot designed by a high school team from Knoxville, TN that was built via additive manufacturing (3-D printing).

Today, Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank joined White House National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling, Undersecretary of Defense Frank Kendall, and other Obama administration officials to announce the launch of a new public-private institute for manufacturing innovation in Youngstown, Ohio as part of ongoing efforts to help revitalize American manufacturing and encourage companies to invest in the United States. This new partnership, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII), was selected through a competitive process, led by the Department of Defense, to award an initial $30 million in federal funding, matched by $40 million from the winning consortium, which includes manufacturing firms, universities, community colleges, and non-profit organizations from the Ohio-Pennsylvania-West Virginia "Tech Belt." The institute focuses on additive manufacturing, often referred to as 3-D printing, which will have implications in a wide range of industries including defense, aerospace, automotive, and metals manufacturing. In her remarks, Acting Secretary Blank discussed the role of American manufacturing in driving economic growth and creating good jobs in the United States.

Youngstown, Ohio and the surrounding region knows what happens when manufacturing production declines. But in this area once known as the "rust belt," investments like this new pilot institute demonstrate the potential within a region to bring together the capabilities of America’s companies and universities, in partnership with the federal government, to invest in the cutting-edge technologies and skills our manufacturers need to compete. With this initiative, Youngstown is poised to become the epicenter of burgeoning new industries from its leadership in additive manufacturing or 3-D printing.

Acting Secretary Blank Talks Administration Support for American Manufacturing

Guest blog post by Dr. Rebecca Blank, Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

I just returned from the White House Business Council American Economic Competitiveness Forum on Manufacturing where I had an opportunity to hear from a group of American manufacturers—representing businesses of all sizes from across the country—about how the Obama administration can continue to support them as they build things here and sell them everywhere. As we have seen in recent months, manufacturing is one of the bright spots for our economy. Over the past two and one-half years, more than a half-million manufacturing jobs have been created in the U.S.—the strongest job growth in that sector since the 1990s. In fact, just last month, an additional 25,000 new manufacturing jobs were added.

In terms of production, manufacturing output is up 20 percent since 2009, and increased again in July. One manufacturing sector that has been consistently strong is the motor vehicles and parts industry, which has added 165,000 jobs since June 2009a sector that might not even exist in the U.S. today if not for the assistance this administration gave to the U.S. auto industry in 2009.

This matters because we know that manufacturing jobs are good jobs that pay more than average and provide greater benefits. They strengthen economic security for middle class families.

There is a powerful link between America’s ability to make things and America’s ability to innovate, compete, and create good jobs. We have come to realize that you can’t separate innovation and production—they have to sit near each other. Manufacturers perform 70 percent of all private sector R&D, investing in and producing technological advances that accounted for 90 percent of U.S. patents.  Economic research indicates that innovation—in new products or new processes—was central to three-quarters of the nation’s economic growth since World War II and it is not an accident that the manufacturing sectors where America is most competitive are all advanced manufacturing, where new technologies, new products or new production processes are central to the success of specific firms.

Obama Administration Holds Rural Swing in North Carolina and Louisiana to Promote Jobs and Innovation

EDA Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge Logo

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

Over the next two days, I will join several colleagues for a rural swing in North Carolina and Louisiana to promote jobs and innovation. Along with Deputy Under Secretary for USDA Rural Development Doug O’Brien, Appalachian Regional Commission Federal Co-Chair Earl F. Gohl, and Delta Regional Authority Federal Co-Chairman Christopher Masingill, I will attend events in rural America and tour two projects that were among the 13 winners of this year’s Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge.

The Rural Jobs Accelerator—designed by the Taskforce for the Advancement of Regional Innovation Clusters and the White House Rural Council—is a joint effort of 13 federal agencies, working together to help accelerate economic and job growth across rural regions. It is a great example of collaboration across federal agencies to pool resources and identify new, innovative ways to create an economy built to last.

Since taking office three and one-half years ago, President Obama has been deeply committed to strengthening rural economies all across America—helping to create jobs, support business growth, and expand opportunity for rural Americans. The administration has advanced new policies and initiatives and made significant investments in rural communities. The Rural Jobs Accelerator builds on those goals, seeking to foster job creation and business innovation in these communities.

New Export Data Shows 34 States Reached Record Highs for Merchandise Exports in the First Half of 2012

U.S. map showing 34 states passing exports records

U.S. exports support nearly 10 million jobs across the country

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank announced today that U.S. merchandise exports totaled a record $773.4 billion in the first six months of 2012, up by $50.7 billion from the same period of 2011.

“Comprehensive data from the first half of 2012 demonstrates that exports continue to be a bright spot for America and that we’re making historic progress toward the president’s goal of doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014,” said Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank. “Despite a challenging global economy, these numbers show continued global demand for American goods. While the nation looks to be on track toward exceeding last year’s goods and services export total of $2.1 trillion, we are also seeing some individual states outpace the national average of seven percent growth in merchandise exports. This is good news for the economy, because we know that increased exports create jobs. The jump in exports since 2009 has helped the private sector create 4.5 million jobs over the past 29 months, and, in 2011, jobs supported by exports increased by 1.2 million over 2009. There’s more work to be done to strengthen the economy and put more Americans back to work, and we need to continue to do all we can to support American workers, exporters and businesses so that they can continue to help us rebuild this economy." Full release

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Helps Atlanta Kickstart Innovation Opportunities

Director Kappos addressing Startup Atlanta (Photo by Used with permission)

Helping set a stage for success to Atlanta’s entrepreneurs, Under Secretary of Commerce and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) David Kappos was in the Georgia capital this afternoon to help launch Startup Atlanta. Created by the city’s economic development agency, Invest Atlanta, the initiative seeks to connect entrepreneurs with the resources they need to succeed.

A hallmark for Startup Atlanta is an online platform that will serve as a network for entrepreneurs while simultaneously mapping out valuable resources such as incubators, accelerators, service providers and connections.

At the event, Kappos addressed the importance of a vibrant local entrepreneur community. “Not only do the novel ideas of Georgia’s entrepreneurs have the potential to move the pulse of an industry or transform the welfare of a community,” Kappos said, “They can also attract critical resources and capital for additional research and development, creating a host of new markets and new opportunities.”

NOAA Provides Easy Access to Historical Hurricane Tracks

Map of U.S. with storm and hurricane trackings

Understanding historical hurricane landfalls is important in preparing for current storms

Seeing where hurricanes have hit and how often is one of the best ways to bring home a powerful hurricane preparedness message. A NOAA website, Historical Hurricane Tracks, lets users insert their zip code and see a map that contains more than 150 years of Atlantic hurricane tracking data. The site also contains global hurricane data from as far back as 1842.

“Knowing more about local hurricane history can help communities better understand their vulnerabilities so they can take steps to be more resilient if a future hurricane strikes.” says David Eslinger, Ph.D., an oceanographer with the NOAA Coastal Services Center and one of the site’s developers.

The Historical Hurricane Tracks website,, includes tropical cyclone data and information on coastal county hurricane strike data through 2011 while also providing links to detailed reports on the life history and effects of U.S. tropical cyclones since 1958.

In addition to the tracks of storms, the site provides insight to the increasing numbers of the U.S. citizens and infrastructure at risk for hurricanes, detailing population changes for U.S. coastal counties from 1900 to 2000. As the population continues to grow, so too has the number of storms with multi-billion dollars in damages to coastal infrastructure and property. Seven of the top 10 costliest hurricanes in U.S. history have occurred in the past eight years, including seventh-ranked Irene last August with $15.8 billion in damages.

The site’s popularity with the public was evident as Hurricane Irene bore down on the U.S. East Coast. Tens of thousands of people used Historical Hurricane Tracks to compare the National Hurricane Center’s projected path of Irene with past storms. User traffic peaked at over 19,000 visits on August 26, the same day Irene swirled off the North Carolina coast heading towards New York City while saturating the East Coast and New England and leaving millions without power.

U.S. Businesses Going for the Gold

Gold Key Matching Services Logo

As the 2012 Olympic Games wind to a close, American athletes have racked up nearly 40 gold medals against the best of their international competition. They achieved those victories with hours of practice, dedication, and partnership with coaches and mentors. Like America’s Olympians, American businesses are also competing on the global stage, and the Commerce Department is partnering with them through our Gold Key Matching Service to help them win.

Gold Key Matching Services, run through the International Trade Administration’s U.S. Commercial Service, is a low-cost service for American businesses to expand their global reach by making contacts with foreign firms and potential business partners.

Before business leaders go oversees to meet with prospective trade partners, the Gold Key Matching Service arranges appointments with pre-screened overseas agents, distributors, sales representatives and business partners. This cuts the time and cost to businesses in locating and vetting prospective trade partners.

The Gold Key Matching Services provide a host of other benefits for U.S. companies, including market research, industry briefings with U.S. Commercial Service trade specialists, and assistance with travel, accommodations, and interpreter services. In addition, for business leaders who aren’t able to make a trip overseas, video services are available to meet with potential business partners via videoconferencing.

ITA: Exports Bring Jobs to the Twin Cities Region!

Congressman Keith Ellison (MN-5) and Under Secretary Francisco Sánchez take questions from local companies during a business round table event in Minneapolis.

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

Since the 2012 Olympic Games began, Minnesotans have competed in sports ranging from basketball to fencing, proving that athletes from the North Star State can succeed on the global stage. The same can be said for Minnesota’s businesses.

Yesterday, I visited Minneapolis to meet with Congressman Keith Ellison, Mayor R.T. Rybak and business and community leaders. It was a great opportunity to see and hear firsthand how local entrepreneurs are designing and manufacturing quality products that are being exported all over the world.

For instance, I had the pleasure of visiting Accent Signage Systems, a small manufacturing company. A pioneer in innovative sign technology, Accent Signage is experiencing the direct benefits of exporting and has plans to increase its workforce by 25 percent in the near future. This is a gleaming example of a business that is successfully competing abroad, and, in doing so, is making a positive impact here at home.  

NOAA Raises Hurricane Season Prediction Despite Expected El Niño

Satellite image of Hurricane Ernesto taken on Aug. 7, 2012 in the Gulf of Mexico (NOAA)

Updated outlook calls for near- or above-normal Atlantic season

This year’s Atlantic hurricane season got off to a busy start, with 6 named storms to date, and may have a busy second half, according to the updated hurricane season outlook issued today by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service. The updated outlook still indicates a 50 percent chance of a near-normal season, but increases the chance of an above-normal season to 35 percent and decreases the chance of a below-normal season to only 15 percent from the initial outlook issued in May.

Across the entire Atlantic Basin for the season—June 1 to November 30—NOAA’s updated seasonal outlook projects a total (which includes the activity-to-date of tropical storms Alberto, Beryl, Debbie, Florence and hurricanes Chris and Ernesto) of:

  • 12 to 17 named storms (top winds of 39 mph or higher), including:
  • 5 to 8 hurricanes (top winds of 74 mph or higher),
  • 2 to 3 could be major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of at least 111 mph)

The numbers are higher from the initial outlook in May, which called for 9-15 named storms, 4-8 hurricanes and 1-3 major hurricanes. Based on a 30-year average, a normal Atlantic hurricane season produces 12 named storms, six hurricanes, and three major hurricanes.  See NOAA's full release

Census Bureau Releases Its First Mobile App Providing Real-Time Statistics on U.S. Economy

Logo: America's Economy

The Department of Commerce's U.S. Census Bureau today released its first-ever mobile application, "America's Economy," which will provide constantly updated statistics on the U.S. economy, including monthly economic indicators, trends, along with a schedule of upcoming announcements. The app, which is currently available for Android mobile device users, combines statistics from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Census Bureau, Bureau of Economic Analysis, and the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics.

America's Economy is the first mobile app from the Census Bureau that provides smartphone and tablet users with the real-time government statistics that drive business hiring, sales and production decisions and assist economists, researchers, planners and policymakers. The economic indicators track monthly and quarterly trends in industries, such as employment, housing construction, international trade, personal income, retail sales and manufacturing.

The America's Economy app has been developed as part of the Census Bureau's Web Transformation Project and fulfills a key goal of President Obama's recently announced Digital Strategy to provide federal employees and the general public with greater access to government information and services. The creation of this app is also consistent with the Census Bureau's longtime mission of providing accurate statistics about the nation's growth and changes using 21st century technology to make that information available more quickly and easily. Read the full press release. America's Economy is available now for Android users and is expected be available for Apple smartphone and tablet users in the Apple App Store in the coming weeks.

EDA Works with Federal Partners to Help Drought-Stricken Rural Areas

President Barack Obama meets with the White House Rural Council on August 7 to discuss ongoing efforts in response to the drought. (White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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

A look at the recent national weather map underlines the reason for the Obama administration’s comprehensive response and action plan: large sections of the country are experiencing one of the worst droughts in decades—with levels ranging from “severe” to “extreme” and “exceptional.”

The consequences of drought don’t just affect farmers and their crops and livestock, but have ripple effects throughout the regional economies that depend on them. It is with this in mind that President Obama convened a recent meeting of the White House Rural Council to coordinate an administration-wide response to the drought and focus agency activities to partner and support Americans impacted by it.

The U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), with its decades of experience helping communities stricken by natural disasters, will play an important role to help rural communities with economic recovery. Along with the Small Business Administration (SBA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and other federal partners, it will leverage its resources, economic tool box, and expertise to help implement initiatives to alert drought-stricken communities to the federal resources that are already available to them.

Shelling Out Evidence: NIST Ballistic Standard Helps Tie Guns to Criminals

Image of shell casing

Thanks to a new reference standard developed by Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), law enforcement agencies will have an easier time linking the nearly 200,000 cartridge cases recovered annually at U.S. crime scenes to specific firearms.

Cartridge cases—the empty shells left behind after a gun is fired—are routinely sent to forensic laboratories for analysis when they're found at a shooting scene. Using a specialized microscope called an Integrated Ballistic Identification System (IBIS), lab technicians acquire digital images of three markings, or "signatures," impressed on the cartridge case by the gun that fired it. These signatures—the firing pin impression, the breech face impression and the ejector mark—are unique when fired from a specific firearm and can serve as "fingerprints" for that gun once the digital images are entered into a national database known as the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN).

For forensic examiners to reliably match recovered cartridge cases with ones whose signatures have been recorded in the NIBIN, they need to have confidence in the accuracy of the equipment and procedures used to make the link. That's where NIST's new "standard casing" comes in. The standard contains two items: an exact replica of a master cartridge case with distinct signature marks (obtained from the Department of Justice's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF), and a "golden" digital image of those same signatures that reside on the NIBIN.  Full Tech Beat story

July 2012 Marked the Hottest Month on Record for the Contiguous United States

Map highlighting July significant weather events

Drought expands to cover nearly 63 percent of the Lower 48; wildfires consume two million acres

The average temperature for the contiguous U.S. during July was 77.6°F, 3.3°F above the 20th century average, marking the hottest July and the hottest month on record for the nation. The previous warmest July for the nation was July 1936 when the average U.S. temperature was 77.4°F. The warm July temperatures contributed to a record-warm first seven months of the year and the warmest 12-month period the nation has experienced since recordkeeping began in 1895.

Precipitation totals were mixed during July, with the contiguous U.S. as a whole being drier than average. The nationally-averaged precipitation total of 2.57 inches was 0.19 inch below average. Near-record dry conditions were present for the middle of the nation, with the drought footprint expanding to cover nearly 63 percent of the Lower 48, according to the U.S. Drought MonitorSee full report

Commerce Department Needs Your Input on Digital Strategy

On May 23, 2012, the White House released the Federal Digital Strategy that outlined the use of “modern tools and technologies to seize the digital opportunity and fundamentally change how the Federal Government serves both its internal and external customers–building a 21st century platform to better serve the American People.” The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is requiring agencies to implement at least two such tools or technologies by August 23, 2012.

As part of the Digital Strategy, the Department of Commerce has identified two areas that are ripe for improvement and several platforms within each that could be updated: APIs and mobile-optimization. As such, today we are asking for your input in deciding which two items we will commit to completing by OMB’s August 23 deadline. In the comments section contained below, we welcome your feedback on the possible candidates for improvement, or other opportunities we may have overlooked. Your feedback, combined with other internal and external conversations, will guide Commerce’s digital plan in the coming months and years.

U.S. Manufacturing Continues to Create Jobs in the U.S.

Guest blog post by Mark Doms, Department of Commerce Chief Economist, Economics & Statistics Administration

Earlier today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released a report showing that the private sector added 172,000 jobs last month, and overall employment rose by 163,000. While there’s more work to be done, the economy is creating jobs on a consistent basis. The economy has added private sector jobs for 29 straight months, for a total of 4.5 million jobs. In fact, since the beginning of the year, the economy has added over 1.1 million private sector jobs. Today’s employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to recover from the deepest recession since the Great Depression.

Additionally, the BLS report also showed that the manufacturing sector continues to be a bright spot, which is especially important for middle class families, because these jobs pay high wages and provide high levels of benefits.

The good news is that the U.S. manufacturing sector’s recovery continues: 532,000 new manufacturing jobs have been created over the past 30 months, with 25,000 being added in July. In terms of production, manufacturing output is up 19.8 percent from the trough reached in June 2009.

A part of manufacturing that has been consistently strong is the motor vehicles and parts industry, which has added 165,000 jobs since June 2009. Further, production of cars and trucks in the U.S. reached 10.5 million units at an annual rate in June, a sharp contrast to the shockingly low level of 3.7 million units witnessed in January, 2009.  To continue the revival in manufacturing jobs and output, it is crucial that we implement President Obama’s proposals providing tax incentives for manufacturers, supporting training for the workforce, creating manufacturing hubs, and ending tax breaks for companies that send jobs overseas and provide tax incentives for companies bringing jobs back to the United States.

Acting Secretary Blank Speaks at White House Business Council Forum on Travel and Tourism

Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank joined business leaders from across the country earlier this week at the White House Business Council American Economic Competitiveness Forum on Travel and Tourism

Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank joined business leaders from across the country earlier this week at the White House Business Council American Economic Competitiveness Forum on Travel and Tourism to discuss the administration’s actions to help grow travel and tourism and support the millions of jobs associated with the industry. Travel and tourism is a bright spot for the American economy, leading the recovery with growth that has outpaced the growth of the overall economy by almost 800 percent and on pace for another year of record high international visitors to the U.S. 

Since even before the passage of the Travel Promotion Act in 2010, the Administration has been focused on the importance of travel and tourism.  The President recognized the importance of developing the travel and tourism industry and issued an Executive Order last January that created a new inter-agency Task Force co-chaired by the Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior and charged them with developing a National Travel and Tourism Strategy to increase both domestic and international travel throughout the United States, with the goal of increasing the United States’ market share of worldwide travel. The Task Force included representatives from every agency and department whose mission intersects with the travel and tourism industry. The Task Force released the National Strategy in May with an ambitious goal of attracting 100 million international visitors ($250 billion in spending) to the U.S. annually by 2021 -- a 60% increase above the 62 million international visitors in 2011.

The National Travel and Tourism Strategy laid out a blueprint for reaching that goal by focusing on five areas:

  • Promoting the United States
  • Enabling and enhancing travel and tourism to and within the United States
  • Providing world-class customer service and visitor experiences
  • Coordinating across government
  • Conducting research and measuring results

Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge Awards $9 Million to 13 Projects to Boost Rural Economies, Strengthen Regional Industry Clusters

Jobs & Innovation Accelerator Challenge logo

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

Over the last three and a half years, President Obama has been committed to investing in efforts that strengthen rural economies, create jobs, support business growth, and expand opportunity for rural Americans.

Today, the administration announced the 13 winners of a key component of this goal, the Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge. Economic development partnerships and initiatives in Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia will receive awards ranging from nearly $200,000 to more than $1 million.

The projects will promote job creation, accelerate innovation, and provide assistance to entrepreneurs and businesses in a wide range of industrial sectors, including advanced manufacturing, agribusiness, energy and natural resources, technology, and tourism. They range from the Bristol Bay Jobs Accelerator in Alaska, a job training initiative put together by a consortium of 31 Alaskan tribes that will support a fisheries and seafood processing industry cluster; to the I-20 Corridor Regional Accelerator, a project involving the collaboration of institutions in Louisiana and Arkansas to promote science and technology clusters in these states; to the “Project 17: Together We Stand,” a 17-county business development effort led by Kansas State University.