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Blog Entries from September 2012

Acting Secretary Blank Speaks With Council of Foreign Relations on Increasing the Level of Business Investment in the U.S.

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank Answers Questions After Her Remarks at the Council on Foreign Relations

This afternoon, Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank spoke before the Council on Foreign Relations about the Obama administration's initiatives to help businesses expand their investment in the United States and bring jobs back home. The Commerce Department works to attract investment across all sectors, but in her remarks Blank focused on manufacturing because that sector has added more than half-a-million new jobs since 2009, compared to the previous decade in which six million manufacturing jobs were lost. In addition after decades of watching American companies take jobs to other countries, more and more manufacturers are making the decision to keep factories and production facilities here in the United States and are bringing jobs back to the U.S. from overseas through insourcing.

Blank mentioned that the renewal of the manufacturing sector is driven by America’s quality infrastructure, skilled labor, and advanced research and innovation that are critical for manufacturers to thrive. Business leaders list a number of reasons why the U.S. looks so attractive to them right now, including the fact that domestic energy production is lowering the cost of oil and natural gas needed in manufacturing. A second reason for investing in the U.S. is a competitive edge in labor productivity. America’s manufacturing workers now produce about nine percent more each hour than they did in 2008.

Blank noted that the list of reasons that CEOs give for investing here is longer still. America has a strong rule of law and a good regulatory environment. Additionally, the U.S. has the strongest level of intellectual property protection–and our patent system is only getting better due to the 2011 passage and implementation of the America Invents Act. America has the best universities in the world, producing graduates that drive entrepreneurship and feed innovation into our private sector.

With EDA Assistance, Communities Have a New, Resource-Rich Tool to Help Them Recover from Disasters

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

To coincide with National Preparedness Month, the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) has just launched the newly redesigned website.

Developed with funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), the website is a one-stop resource for economic development organizations and chambers of commerce seeking to assist businesses after a disaster, rebuild their local economy, and encourage resiliency among local businesses and government.

Since it was first established, EDA has played an important role in helping communities across the country recover from disasters by assisting them in reestablishing their local economies and implementing long-term economic recovery efforts. Earlier this year, EDA announced the availability of $200 million to help communities that received a major disaster designation in fiscal year 2011 with long-term economic recovery and infrastructure support.  Within the context of the administration’s National Disaster Recovery Framework (NDRF), EDA serves as the Coordinating Agency on behalf of the Department of Commerce for the Economic Recovery Support Function (RSF) to coordinate the activities of a diverse group of partner agencies supporting recovery in disaster-impacted communities. The activities consist primarily of improved information sharing and leveraging existing resources to make a positive impact for communities affected by disasters.

Populations Increasing in Many Downtowns, Census Bureau Reports

Image of cover of " Patterns of Metropolitan and Micropolitan Population Change: 2000 to 2010"

Commerce's U.S. Census Bureau today released a report that shows that in many of the largest cities of the most-populous metro areas, downtown is becoming a place not only to work but also to live. Between the 2000 and 2010 censuses, metro areas with five million or more people experienced double-digit population growth rates within their downtown areas (within a two-mile radius of their largest city’s city hall), more than double the rate of these areas overall.

Chicago experienced the largest numeric gain in its downtown area, with a net increase of 48,000 residents over 10 years. New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington, D.C also posted large population increases close to city hall. These downtown gains were not universal, however: New Orleans and Baltimore experienced the greatest population declines in their downtown areas (35,000 and slightly more than 10,000, respectively). Two smaller areas in Ohio—Dayton and Toledo—also saw downtown declines of more than 10,000.

These are just some of the findings in the new 2010 Census special report, Patterns of Metropolitan and Micropolitan Population Change: 2000 to 2010 (PDF). The report uses 2010 Census results to examine contemporary geographic patterns (as well as changes since the 2000 Census) of population density and distribution by race, Hispanic origin, age and sex for metro and micro areas collectively as well as individually. Metro areas contain at least one urbanized area of 50,000 population or more, while micro areas contain at least one urban cluster of less than 50,000, but at least 10,000.  Census release

NIST Director Gallagher Participates in Dedication of New Facility for Coral Reef Research

The new NSU Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Ecosystem Research in Hollywood, Fla. (Photo: Nova Southeastern University)

Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and Directory of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Dr. Patrick Gallagher today is helping dedicate the new Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Ecosystems Research (CoECRER) at Nova Southeastern University (NSU) in Hollywood, Florida.

Gallagher joins state and local officials, including Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, and other guests, including former Vice President Al Gore and Dr. Paul Sandifer, Senior Science Adviser to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in the opening celebration for the “only research facility in the nation dedicated entirely to coral reef ecosystems science.”

Among the unusual features of the festivities was a morning media tour, by snorkel, of one of the center’s off-shore coral “nurseries.”

The new research facility was funded in part by a $15 million grant from NIST as part of a competitive program under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to support the construction of new scientific research facilities at academic institutions and non-profit research organizations. (See “NIST Awards $123 Million in Recovery Act Grants To Construct New Research Facilities,” Jan. 8, 2010).

Acting Secretary Blank Announces $40 Million Initiative to Challenge Businesses to Make it in America

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank Announces $40 Million Initiative to Challenge Businesses to Make it in America (Photo: Roberto Westbrook and STIHL Inc.)

Yesterday, Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank traveled to Virginia Beach, Va., where she toured the STIHL manufacturing plant and announced a new initiative to strengthen the economy by supporting American businesses as they make things here in America and create jobs. The Make it in America Challenge is designed to accelerate the trend of insourcing, where companies are bringing jobs back and making additional investments in America. The competition, which is being funded by the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration and National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership and the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, will build upon the administration’s bottom-up approach to strengthening the economy and creating jobs by partnering with state, regional and local economies.

The national competition will help provide the critical infrastructure, strategic planning, capacity building, technical assistance, and workforce skills training necessary for American communities to be the desired home for more businesses. The Make it in America Challenge builds on the administration’s efforts to encourage companies—large and small, foreign and domestic, manufacturers and services firms—to increase investment in the United States.

Acting Secretary Blank also highlighted two ongoing efforts by the Department of Commerce to attract foreign direct investment. SelectUSA, a program the president launched last year, continues to showcase the United States as the world’s premier business location and to provide easy access to federal-level programs and services related to business investment. Also, Commerce’s Commercial Services officers have been trained to help foreign investors who want information about how to invest in the U.S and who want to link up with local and state economic development leaders to create jobs in America.

USPTO Deputy Director Rea Participates in University of Michigan Law School Panel

Deputy Under Secretary for Intellectual Property and Deputy U.S.Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Director Teresa Stanek Rea participated today in a panel titled, "The State of Patent Litigation: A Conversation with the Federal Circuit Court" at the University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor. The event included a keynote presentation by the Honorable Randall R. Rader, Chief Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

The America Invents Act (AIA) was the main topic of the panel discussion. Rea described how its historic reforms drive growth in both jobs and exports. Most of the AIA’s rules went into effect on September 16th, and create new avenues to ensure our patents are of the highest quality. The AIA was signed into law by President Obama last September. 

Given Ann Arbor’s proximity to Detroit, it’s not surprising that many audience members were curious to learn more about the USPTO’s first-ever satellite office in Detroit. It opened on July 13th, but examiners there are already working on patent applications from regional inventors. Rea also noted that the USPTO is hard at work looking to open additional offices in Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver, and Silicon Valley.

NOAA Ramps Up 'Weather-Ready Nation' Initiative in Nation's Capital

National Weather Service office building

Launches new project to enhance weather forecasts and support for D.C, Baltimore

On Friday, Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced service improvements underway at its forecast office in Sterling, Va., which provides weather forecasts and warnings and supports public safety decision-makers in the nation's capital and Baltimore. This is the latest in a series of six pilot projects NOAA launched over the past year as part of its Weather-Ready Nation initiative to improve the country's resilience to extreme weather.

The six Weather-Ready Nation projects focus on emergency response, ecological forecasting and enhanced support to officials who make public health and safety decisions when extreme weather sets in. Successful projects may be duplicated in other locations. NOAA release

Acting Secretary Blank Applauds Local Economic Development Efforts and Announces Strong Cities, Strong Communities Challenge Winners

With Blank are Denise Turner Roth, Greensboro City Manager and Robbie Perkins, Mayor of Greensboro

Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank traveled to Greensboro, North Carolina yesterday, where she discussed the Commerce Department’s initiatives to strengthen the city and the region, spurring economic development and creating jobs. Over the past few years, local officials have shared how the federal government could best help cities that were hit hard in the recession and in the years leading up to it. They suggested:

  • Combining federal, state and local resources to help cities that were poised to reinvent themselves;
  • Requiring effort and money by both federal and local governments;
  • Including an element of competition in order to make sure that the money went to the places that were best able to use it.

The result was the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Challenge. The goal of the competition is to generate innovative ideas, strategies, and perspectives that cities can use to develop long-term economic and job growth plans. Acting Secretary Blank announced that Greensboro, North Carolina; Hartford, Connecticut; and Las Vegas, Nevada are the winners of the Obama administration’s SC2 Challenge. These grants will contribute to stable, long-term growth that will benefit families and businesses in each city and throughout each state. 

Energy House in Delaware Is Retraining and Giving Former Auto Workers a Leg Up in the Job Market

Energy House at Delaware Technical and Community College’s Georgetown campus was built with financial support from the Economic Development Administration.

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

An impressive new training facility opened this spring at Delaware Technical and Community College’s campus in Georgetown and is expected to retrain former auto workers for new jobs in the emerging green sector. Energy House, designed to resemble an actual residence, serves as an educational lab where these workers can get a new start by learning about innovative energy-efficient technologies and renewable materials. Programs will fill a pressing need to train workers and will help strengthen the economic competitiveness of the Delaware region.

At the green building technology and alternative energy systems training center, students are being trained for the jobs and industries of the future. Participants are being prepared to work as skilled technicians who can install efficient heating and cooling systems and windows; retrofit homes to save electricity; and build and install solar panels, wind turbines, and other clean energy technologies. 

NOAA Announces $4.5 Million in Environmental Literacy Grants to Support K-12 Science Education and Stewardship Projects

Students and teachers explore global data visualizations with NOAA’s Science On a Sphere at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry (MSI).  The sphere will serve as a focal point for K-12 teacher professional development programs at MSI, which is one of eight new recipients of NOAA Environmental Literacy Grants.  (Photo credit:  MSI)

Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced Wednesday that it is awarding eight new education grants to enhance science education activities in classrooms, aquariums, museums and other institutions across America. These awards support six unique, multi-year projects and will share $4.5 million in grants from the NOAA Office of Education’s Environmental Literacy Grants Program. Projects are designed to increase stewardship and informed decision-making within a diverse pool of educators, students and the public to help promote environmental literacy.

“NOAA’s Office of Education is proud to partner with such an impressive group of organizations,” said Louisa Koch, director of education at NOAA. “It is only with the help of institutions such as these that we can successfully engage the public in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) topics while supporting NOAA’s mission of science, service, and stewardship."

The projects receiving grant funding focus on engaging formal and informal educators along with K-12 students. Project activities include formal K-12 educator training programs to help teachers incorporate NOAA data and other resources into experiential learning activities; service learning programs for K-12 students that combine standards-based learning with stewardship activities in students’ local communities; and professional development to enhance informal science educators’ effectiveness in increasing public understanding of complex ocean topics. The selected projects will partner with NOAA’s research laboratories, national marine sanctuaries, Climate Program Office, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Weather Service, Pacific Services Center, Coral Reef Conservation Program and Sea Grant.  NOAA release

Acting Secretary Blank Announces Grants to Establish Proof of Concept Centers for Emerging Technologies

$7 million invested in seven communities to help entrepreneurs out-innovate the world and create American jobs.

Today, Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank visited the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va. today, where she announced the winners of the third round of the i6 Challenge, a national competition to advance American innovation, foster entrepreneurship, increase the commercialization of ideas into viable companies, and create jobs. The initiative seeks to accelerate innovative product development, spur the formation of start-ups, and create small businesses by supporting Proof of Concept Centers at universities and research consortiums across the country, which are helping to jumpstart the production of emerging technologies and revolutionize manufacturing processes.

In her remarks, Blank noted that job creation remains the Administration’s top priority, noting a number of economic studies suggesting that innovative new products and processes account for about two-thirds of U.S. economic growth since World War II. Innovation also drives increases in productivity and rising incomes. The Proof of Concept Centers funded by the i6 Challenge grants support innovation by providing the tools and the support entrepreneurs and researchers need to take new products to market, launch businesses, and to create jobs. Proof of Concept Centers incorporate a range of services, such as technology and market evaluation as well as business planning, that are critical to regional economic growth and job creation.

ITA: Metro Exports Driving Economic Growth

Map of U.S. highlighting metro areas

Ed. note: Cross-posted from ITA's Tradeology blog by Michael Masserman and Ashley Zuelke of the Office of  Export Policy, Promotion & Strategy

Here’s a fact:  the 100 largest metro areas in our country make up just 12 percent of land area—but they make up 65 percent of our population and 75 percent of our nation’s GDP. So when it comes to export growth, it should come as no surprise that metro areas are leading the way.

What may surprise you, is that 13 smaller metropolitan areas across the U.S.—from Asheville, N.C., to Green Bay, Wisc., to Yakima, Wash.— for the first time joined the club of metropolitan markets that exported more than $1 billion in merchandise to the world. These metro areas exported U.S. goods such as machinery, transportation equipment, and computer and electronic products which are in great demand all over the world.

The achievement of these thirteen metropolitan areas and recently released national data for 2011 metropolitan exports confirms the historic progress we are making toward reaching the President’s National Export Initiative (NEI) goal of doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014.

Commerce's U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Implements Most Provisions of the America Invents Act

Vice Chief Judge Jay Moore of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board explains provisions of the AIA (file photo)

The most significant reform to the U.S. patent system in more than a century is a major step forward as numerous provisions of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act of 2011 are now in effect. The new rules will spur innovation and economic growth by streamlining the patent application process and introducing new procedures to ensure patent quality. Seven reforms to U.S. patent law went into effect one year after the signing of the bipartisan patent reform legislation by President Barack Obama on September 16, 2011. 

Some of the new rules include three new administrative trial provisions—inter partes review, post-grant review, and the transitional program for covered business method patents—will offer third parties timely, cost-effective alternatives to district court litigation to challenge the patentability of an issued patent; a supplemental examination provision that allows applicants to submit additional information relevant to the patentability of an issued patent to the Office in a new procedure that may protect the patent from an inequitable conduct charge; an inventors oath and declaration provision that for the first time allows assignee filing of a patent application; and a citation of prior art and written statements provision will enable the Office to treat the claims in a patent consistent with how a patent owner represents its claims to the courts or in other Office proceedings.

U.S. Population Reaches 314,395,013 on Constitution Day 2012

Image of Constitution with Census authorizing phrase, "in such manner as they shall by Law direct"

Commerce’s U.S. Census Bureau reports that the U.S. population reached 314,395,013 at noon today—the 225th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution on September 17, 1787, in Philadelphia. Twenty-five years ago, on the 200th anniversary, the population was 243,636,172. The very first census of 1790 counted 3,929,214 residents. 

Today, September 17, is recognized as Constitution Day and Citizenship Day to commemorate the creation and signing of the supreme law of the land and to honor and celebrate the privileges and responsibilities of U.S. citizenship for both native-born and naturalized citizens. The U.S. Constitution empowers the Congress to carry out the census in "such manner as they shall by Law direct" (Article I, Section 2). Read the Census in the Constitution

Job-Creating Culinary Center Opens in Philadelphia with EDA Support

Artist's rendering of exterior of the new Center

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

Providing office space and support for budding entrepreneurs to develop and grow their businesses while boosting the synergies offered by their developing ideas, skills, and products is a critical economic development strategy.

This is exactly what I saw today in Philadelphia, when I attended the opening of the new Dorrance H. Hamilton Center for Culinary Enterprises (CCE), an innovative facility that will provide shared business space for food entrepreneurs from throughout the Philadelphia region. This center was developed by Philadelphia’s The Enterprise Center, a business accelerator that since 1989 has supported local entrepreneurs and spurred economic growth in Philadelphia, and the Economic Development Administration (EDA), which in 2010 provided $1.5 million to support the construction of the CCE.

The new CCE building contains 13,000 square feet of space, and includes four state-of-the-art commercial kitchens that will be available for rent to culinary entrepreneurs, an eKitchen Multimedia Learning Center, and retail space for tenants.

Exports Hit Record Highs in 200 Metro Areas

Map of U.S. highlighting metro areas

Guest post from Natalie Soroka, Economist in the Office of Industry Analysis within the International Trade Administration

2011 was a good year for U.S. Metropolitan Area Exporters. Of the 367 metro areas with available data (due to Federal disclosure regulations), 206 saw record-high merchandise exports in 2011. Overall, exports from all metropolitan areas increased by 16 percent from 2010 to total $1.31 trillion in 2011. New York was the top exporter, accounting for $105.1 billion. 

While export value is concentrated in the top metro areas (like New York, Houston, and Los Angeles), exports are an important economic driver nationwide. In 2011, 150 metro areas exported more than $1 billion of goods, thirteen of which reached this mark for the first time.

Overall, many areas experienced significant export growth in 2011, with exports increasing by more than $1 billion in 36 metro areas. Larger exporters such as Houston and New York showed the highest dollar growth, each growing by more than $20 billion compared to the previous year, but growth was not contained to big cities. Of the top 50 metro exporters in 2011, Corpus Christi showed the fastest growth, nearly doubling its goods exports since 2010. Much of this growth, along with other fast-rising metropolitan areas in Texas and Louisiana, was due to higher exports of petroleum and coal products. Higher commodity prices benefitted many cities in 2011, with major exporters of crops (Minneapolis, New Orleans, Portland), primary metals (Salt Lake City, New York), and petroleum and coal products (Houston, New Orleans, New York, Corpus Christi) showing high growth. In addition to commodities, exporters of manufactured goods such as chemicals (Houston) and transportation equipment (Detroit) showed high growth in 2011.

Jacob Taylor, NIST Physicist, Receives Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal for Public Service

On Thursday evening, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) physicist Jacob Taylor received a Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal (Sammies) for his advanced scientific research, which has potential for advances in health care, communications, computing, and technology. Presented the award by Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank, Taylor was one of just nine winners chosen from nearly 400 nominees for awards honoring excellence in public service.

A fellow at the Joint Quantum Institute, Taylor has already developed a number of original theories on the cutting-edge of theoretical physics. One such idea is a way to allow magnetic resonance imaging to more effectively be utilized on the molecular level. This holds the promise of providing more detailed health information, better diagnoses, more targeted medical treatments, and more rapid discoveries of new drugs.

Taylor also has a pending patent on a process that would increase the quantity of data that could be sent through the Internet while using less energy, and his theory on computing has the potential to advance scientists much closer to the goal of achieving quantum computing—an extraordinary development in the field of physics that would allow for unprecedented increases to calculation speed.

NIST Unveils Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility to Improve Testing of Energy-Efficient Technologies

Grass seed falls from a ribbon as officials celebrate the opening of the Net-Zero Residential Test Facility on NIST’s Gaithersburg, Md., campus.

In a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday, the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) unveiled a new laboratory designed to demonstrate that a typical-looking suburban home for a family of four can generate as much energy as it uses in a year. Following an initial year-long experiment, the facility will be used to improve test methods for energy-efficient technologies and develop cost-effective design standards for energy-efficient homes that could reduce overall energy consumption and harmful pollution, and save families money on their monthly utility bills. 

The unique facility looks and behaves like an actual house, and has been built to U.S. Green Building Council LEED Platinum standards—the highest standard for sustainable structures. The two-story, four-bedroom, three-bath Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility incorporates energy-efficient construction and appliances, as well as energy-generating technologies such as solar water heating and solar photovoltaic systems. Full release  |  Video

Acting Secretary Blank Delivers Remarks at National Automobile Dealers Association Conference

Acting Secretary Blank Addresses the National Association of Auto Dealers

This morning, Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank delivered remarks at the National Automobile Dealers Association Legislative Conference. In her remarks, the Acting Secretary discussed how the Obama administration is working to strengthen the U.S. automobile industry, grow the economy and create jobs.

New car sales are beating expectations, having just seen the best August sales since 2009—nearly 1.3 million cars and trucks were sold last month. So far this year, sales for new cars are up 20 percent and sales for light-duty trucks are up more than 10 percent. Blank noted that, compared to the lowest point in 2009, the number of people employed in auto dealerships has risen by more than 85,000.

She also highlighted Cash for Clunkers, a $3 billion investment that stimulated our economy at a critical time when we needed consumers to go ahead and buy new cars, instead of holding back.  Not only did Cash for Clunkers help auto dealers get through a tough patch, but it also helped auto manufacturers and suppliers who were struggling to keep their workers employed and put safer, cleaner cars on the road.

2011 Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States Report

Cover: Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States Report

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released its report on Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States in 2011.

As we continue to fight back from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage report released today provides further evidence of how critical it is that we implement policies that benefit and create security for struggling families and our middle class—and not just the wealthiest Americans. 

Today’s report shows that while too many American families are still struggling, the nation’s poverty rate fell and the percentage of Americans with health insurance coverage rose in 2011. It is clear that had President Obama not taken swift and aggressive action to grow our economy and create jobs, today’s report would have shown much higher poverty rates, lower incomes, and a greater share of the population without health insurance. 

Though our poverty rate remains unacceptably high, this report shows that the poverty rate ticked down in 2011 after rising for several years in the wake of the Great Recession. Poverty fell for all age groups, including children, elderly, and non-elderly adults. A key reason for this decline was that 2.2 million more people had full-time jobs last year, in part because unemployment fell by 0.9 percentage points from December 2010 to December 2011. Government programs also continued to provide a vital safety net. 

Acting Secretary Blank Volunteers with Serve DC to Mark National Day of Service and Remembrance

Dr. Blank seen filling tote bags

Guest blog post by Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank

It was 11 years ago when we all heard the news that our friends, neighbors and first responders had been killed in a senseless and unprovoked attack on this nation. While we cannot change what happened on that terrible day, we can use the anniversary of 9/11 to remember who we are as a nation, and to celebrate the values that make America great: a respect for diversity, a commitment to democracy, and a concern for those less fortunate.

We all owe a debt of gratitude to those who have built on the tragedy of 9/11 to make this nation stronger.

This afternoon I participated in a National Day of Service and Remembrance event at Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C. I worked with Serve DC to assemble kits for homeless veterans, which included thermal blankets, water and food, and first aid kits.

I hope that everyone is taking the time today to remember those we lost on September 11, 2001. On this day and every day, if you’re interested in actively honoring the lives that were lost, our first responders and members of our military—you can find ideas for giving back at this site:

One of the things I reflected on today is the fact that I am truly fortunate to work with thousands of veterans and members of military families who are employed at the U.S. Department of Commerce. Their spirit of teamwork and public service help advance the mission of our Department while also making it a great place to work.

Today, I encourage everyone to thank the people you know who have served and continue to serve our country. And, I think I speak on behalf of everyone at the Commerce Department when I express our deep appreciation for the first responders and military members who serve, protect, and defend our great country.

Acting Secretary Blank cut the ribbon at the International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago

Acting Secretary Blank cut the ribbon at the International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago

Yesterday, Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank traveled to Chicago, Illinois to deliver remarks at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS), hosted by the Association for Manufacturing Technology. Acting Secretary Blank discussed the importance of manufacturing to boosting U.S. economic growth, job creation and exports and highlighted the administration's continuing efforts to build things here and sell them everywhere.

Blank noted that President Obama has been committed to U.S. manufacturing since his very first day in office, and shared three key facts that show manufacturing is making a comeback. First, after a decade when America lost six million manufacturing jobs, we’ve now added more than a half million back since January 2010. These are good-paying jobs that strengthen economic security for the middle class. Second, our manufacturing output is up 20 percent since 2009–with big growth in areas like cars and car parts. Third, manufactured exports have increased in nearly all industry categories, jumping over 36 percent from 2009 to 2011.

After finishing her remarks, Blank toured the floor exhibits. She stopped by the Local Motors exhibition to hear about their crowd-sourced car. The Defense Advance Research Project Agency challenged Local Motors, a small company based in Chandler, Arizona to design a vehicle in four weeks and build it in three months. To meet this deadline Local Motors crowd-sourced the vehicle design, selected one of the over 162 high-quality designs that came in and then built it ahead of schedule.

Acting Secretary Blank departed IMTS and traveled to Cree-Racine in Racine, Wisconsin, a local manufacturer of energy-efficient LED lights. They recently formed a partnership with a distributor in India and last year won the President’s E-Award for their success in increasing exports. Because of that success, they’re expanding their facility and creating nearly 500 more jobs in Wisconsin.

Acting Secretary Blank then traveled to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she spoke with local business leaders about steps that can be taken to grow the American economy and create jobs. Her remarks focused on the importance of increasing consumer spending, spurring innovation in manufacturing, increasing business investments in the U.S., and growing U.S. exports. She drew attention to a joint venture between five federal agencies, the Departments of Defense, Energy, and Commerce, the National Science Foundation, and NASA, and local manufacturers for a pilot project that is focused on additive manufacturing.   

Additive manufacturing, often referred to as 3D printing, is a new way of making products and components from a digital model, and will have implications in a wide range of industries including defense, aerospace, automotive, and metals manufacturing. Like an office printer that puts 2D digital files on a piece of paper, a 3D printer creates components by depositing thin layers of material one after another using a digital blueprint until the exact component required has been created.  The Department of Defense envisions customizing parts on site for operational systems that would otherwise be expensive to make or ship. The Department of Energy anticipates that additive processes would be able to save more than 50 percent energy use compared to today’s "subtractive" manufacturing processes.

This pilot institute will set a research agenda, driven by private sector needs. It will encourage researchers and entrepreneurs to take risks, test prototypes, fail quickly and get back up to try again. This is a great public-private partnership, with funding from the Federal government, two states and many manufacturers. The Department is tracking this pilot closely, to learn how best to help fund and establish these sort of public-private collaborations all over the country.

In addition to highlighting manufacturing, Blank outlined steps needed to grow the American economy and create jobs. She focused on the importance of increasing consumer spending, increasing business investments in the U.S., and growing U.S. exports. She also highlighted the need for U.S. investments in infrastructure and education to build an economy to last.

NOAA: Contiguous U.S. Experiences Third-Hottest Summer on Record

Map showing U.S. states and relative temperature from below to above average

Warm and dry conditions continue in August; Isaac brings heavy rain to Gulf Coast and some drought relief to the Midwest

The average temperature for the contiguous U.S. during August was 74.4°F, 1.6°F above the long term average, marking the 16th warmest August on record. The warmer than average August, in combination with the hottest July and a warmer than average June, contributed to the third hottest summer on record since recordkeeping began in 1895.

The summer season's (June-August) nationally-averaged temperature was 74.4°F, 2.3°F above the 20th century average. Only the summers of 2011 (74.5°F) and 1936 (74.6°F) had higher temperatures for the Lower 48.

The August nationally-averaged precipitation total of 2.59 inches was near the long-term average. The Southwest and Southeast were wetter than average and the Northwest and the Northern Plains were drier than average. As of August 28th, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, nearly 63% of the contiguous U.S. continued to experience drought conditions. 

August climate highlights:

  • Higher-than-average temperatures occurred across much of the West. Much of the Northeast was also warmer than average, where five states from Maine to Delaware had monthly temperatures among its ten warmest.
  • Drier-than-average conditions stretched from the Pacific Northwest, through the Rockies, and into the Upper Midwest. 
  • Hurricane Isaac made landfall along Louisiana's coast on August 28th with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph. The major impacts from the hurricane were storm surge along the Gulf Coast and heavy rainfall, both of which were driven partially by the storm's slow motion and large size.
  • Over 3.6 million acres burned nationwide, mostly across the West. The acreage burned was nearly twice the August average and the most for the month in the 12-year period record.

Full release for August and June-August climate highlights

USPTO Hosts Webinar to Discuss Provisions of the America Invents Act that Become Effective on September 16, 2012

USPTO leadership looks on as Judge Michael Tierney of the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences addresses Friday’s webinar on changes to patent laws.

In just 9 days, many provisions related to the biggest change in U.S. patent law since the 19th century go into effect, and the senior leadership of the United States Patent and Trademark Office spoke about them in an online webinar this afternoon. The America Invents Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama on September 16, 2011, modernizes our intellectual property system, ensuring that the USPTO is sufficiently resourced to operate efficiently, and affords inventors the timely and consistent patent protections they need to spur business growth and hiring.

Many of these new rules and guidelines go into effect on September 16, 2012, and they were created with input and comments from the public over the last year. Participating in today’s webinar were USPTO Director David Kappos, Commissioner for Patents Peggy Focarino, General Counsel Bernard Knight, Chief Judge James Smith, Lead Judge Michael Tierney, and Chief Communications Officer Todd Elmer.

Meanwhile, USPTO leadership will engage with the public even further when it begins traveling the country on Monday, September 10 for a series of “roadshows.” These roadshows will take place in eight cities—beginning in Minneapolis—and patent practitioners and the public can come to learn about how the America Invents Act is changing the law.

Largest U.S. Education Services Mission Reaches Thousands of Potential Students in Brazil

Under Secretary for International Trade Francisco J. Sánchez launches the EducationUSA Fair in Brazilia, Brazil on September 1, 2012.

Education fairs in Brasília, São Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro promote higher education in the United States

U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Francisco Sánchez this week concluded the Commerce Department’s largest education services trade mission in history in Rio de Janeiro. Sánchez and representatives from 66 U.S. colleges and university introduced more than 7,500 Brazilian students and parents to educational programs and opportunities for study in the United States during education fairs and meetings in Brasília, São Paulo and Rio de 

“These distinguished U.S. colleges and universities value the role that international students can play in helping shape the next generation of leaders in government, business, and science,” Sánchez said at the EducationUSA Fair in Rio de Janeiro. “Our efforts during this mission strongly support the extraordinary commitment from President Obama and President Rousseff to increase student exchanges between our two countries.”

Education and training is one of the United States’ leading services exports. The industry annually adds $21 billion to the U.S. economy, and Brazilian students in the United States paid more than $257 million in tuition and fees for the 2010-2011 academic year. Brazil currently ranks 14th among countries sending students to the United States with more than 9,000 students, and the goal of this mission is to help boost that number significantly in the next five years.  Read the full mission wrap-up release

With EDA Help, New Mexico’s Economy Gets a Boost from Sandia Science and Technology Park

Sandia Science & Technology Park and Economic and Development Agency logos

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

Last spring, I visited one of the premier technology parks in the southwest, the Sandia Science and Technology Park (SSTP) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Over the past five years, the Economic Development Administration (EDA) has invested $1.8 million in this industrial park, funding  infrastructure improvements such as new, high-speed fiber optic lines that help the businesses located there leverage advances in technology that have been generated by nearby universities and federal labs.

With the recent release of a report by the Mid-Region Council of Governments, we have learned what a smart investment that turned out to be. According to the authors, the $1.8 billion in economic activity generated by Sandia since it was established in 1998 has brought more than $73 million in tax revenue for the state of New Mexico and $10.4 million for the city of Albuquerque.

The effects on employment in the region are even more impressive. In addition to being responsible for nearly 2,500 direct jobs, the report found that SSTP generated more than 4,100 indirect jobs—meaning that for every job at the technology park, an additional 1.7 jobs were created in the region. Combined, these direct and indirect jobs generated $3.06 billion in wages. Average salaries at SSTP—estimated to be $73,728 in 2011—significantly exceed the average for the Albuquerque metropolitan area, which was $42,332.

Learn More About the Ocean and Great Lakes Economy on BEA’s New Web Portal


Ed. Note: This is cross-posted from the Bureau of Economic Analysis's blog. It highlights the coordination and collaboration between BEA and NOAA to bring value in data and services to the American public.

How many jobs are created from the construction of a new bridge or an increase in tourism?

The Bureau of Economic Analysis’ (BEA) new Web portal on the ocean and Great Lakes economy shows how the Bureau’s Regional Input-Output Modeling System (RIMS II) can be used to provide answers to such questions. The new Web site stems from a joint project with the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

RIMS II, a regional economic model, is used by investors, planners, and elected officials to objectively assess the returns to projects ranging from a new sports stadium to a new bridge. The returns include the short- and long-term increases in jobs and spending associated with the projects.

The idea behind the results of RIMS II is that an initial change in economic activity leads to additional changes in economic activity in other parts of an economy—for example, building a new bridge leads to increased production of concrete and steel. The increased production of concrete and steel leads to more mining. Workers benefiting from these increases may also enjoy bigger paychecks, so they may then spend more by eating out at nicer restaurants or splurging more on entertainment.

Military Vets to Help Rebuild Northern California Fisheries

Military Veterans Help Rebuild Northern California Fisheries

NOAA partners with California to offer training and employment in habitat restoration; space still available for veterans to apply

Veterans will get a chance to train and work on habitat restoration and fisheries monitoring through a project funded by NOAA and administered in partnership with the California Conservation Corps and California’s Department of Fish and Game.

During the yearlong program of paid training and hands-on experience, veterans will spend part of the time on habitat restoration and will also receive training and experience in firefighting and reducing fire hazards. 

“This is a win-win for everyone,” said Eric Schwaab, NOAA’s assistant administrator for fisheries. “Military veterans have tremendous skills to offer, and by helping to restore fish habitats they will be supporting the important role of commercial and recreational fishing in the economy. Restoration jobs pay dividends twice, first because they put people to work immediately, and then because restoration benefits our fisheries, tourism, and coastal communities for years to come.” 

Veterans will start the program by taking courses in how to collect data and evaluate the effectiveness of coastal and marine habitat restoration. By mid- to late October, they will begin monitoring several river restoration sites in Humboldt, Del Norte, and Mendocino counties that were designed to increase spawning and rearing habitat for populations of endangered coho salmon in accordance with the recovery plan developed under the Endangered Species Act. The restored habitat should also help boost populations of Chinook and steelhead trout as well as improve environmental quality generally. See the full release.

Commerce’s NIST Announces $2 Million for Small Business Innovation Research

A woman operates a prototype of an environmental chamber for humidity control by Measurement Analysis Corp. (Photo © Nicholas McIntosh)

The Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has awarded nearly $2 million in Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards to 12 U.S. businesses. These awards provide funding to help companies develop technologies that could lead to commercial and public benefit.

"We are delighted by the high quality of SBIR proposals we received, and congratulate all the awardees," said Phillip Singerman, associate director for innovation and industry services at NIST. "Over the past year, NIST updated the solicitation process to focus on critical national priorities and provide maximum opportunities for businesses that are just starting out. With three-fourths of the Phase I recipients in business fewer than 10 years and two-thirds of them with 12 employees or fewer, the results of the solicitation demonstrate the success of that process."

NIST's SBIR program is a competitive funding opportunity that provides contracts to small businesses for federal research and development. In Phase I, small businesses can receive up to $90,000 to establish the scientific or technical merit or feasibility of ideas that support the commercial potential of their research. If after six months the Phase I awardees have accomplished their goals, they can compete for Phase II funding of up to $300,000 to continue their research and development efforts for up to two years.

Read more about the 12 winners and how NIST will provide technical assistance and direct assistance as allowed by the SBIR statute, as well as direct them to additional resources through NIST's Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership.