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Blog Entries from May 2013

Spotlight on Commerce: Sharon Yanagi, Chief of Staff, Bureau of Industry and Security

Photo of Sharon Yanagi, Chief of Staff, Bureau of Security and Industry

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.

Guest blog post by Ms. Sharon Yanagi, Chief of Staff, Bureau of Security and Industry

For over three years, I have served as the Chief of Staff at the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), the U.S. Commerce Department agency charged with administering the nation’s dual use export control system. In that capacity, I advise the Bureau Under Secretary on a range of policy, management and operations issues. I work closely with BIS leaders on Congressional and industry outreach and education designed to build support for the Bureau’s overarching policy initiative, the Export Control Reform Initiative. It is a major update of the U.S. export control system which will enhance both our national security and our economic competitiveness.  

In 2010, I was recruited back to BIS, having served there as Congressional and Public Affairs Director during the Clinton administration. At that time, we also tried to reform the U.S. export control system, which has not been comprehensively updated since the end of the Cold War. As Congressional director, I was part of a team that spent two years and hundreds of hours working to reauthorize our legislative authority–and in 1994, we failed. It’s not often that you fail to attain a major goal and are given the chance to try again. That is why I’m very grateful for the opportunity to work toward this important and long overdue policy goal in this administration.

Workshop Identifies Research Priorities to Mitigate Fires in the Wildland-Urban Interface

Image of the 2007 "Witch Fire"

Over 46 million residential structures in the United States are in areas at risk of wildfires. A new publication* from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) identifies a set of research needs aimed at preventing or managing this growing threat to about 70,000 communities located in the so-called wildland-urban interface (WUI).

Identified by experts at a 2012 workshop organized by NIST, the top three recommended topics warranting sustained research efforts focus on:

  • "hardening" buildings, so that they resist ignition—by flames, embers and heat;
  • developing standards and tests of building performance that improve the "survivability" of structures exposed to WUI fires; and
  • improving the understanding of "how vegetation, topography, climate and construction cause structure ignition and spread of fires."

On average, WUI fires destroy 3,000 buildings annually. They accounted for six of the 10 most costly fires in the United States over the last 100 years. Five of these fires occurred in California, where the incidence of wildfires currently is up 47 percent this year over last . Read more

Guest blog post: Developing Foreign Business is Easier than You Think

Portrait of Friesen

Guest blog post by Dr. Cody Friesen, founder and president of Fluidic Energy, an associate professor at Arizona State University and a member of the U.S. Manufacturing Council.

As the founder of Fluidic Energy and a member of the Department of Commerce’s Manufacturing Council, I’m always mindful of the state of the economy. It’s impossible not to notice the beneficial impact of trade, and the importance of manufacturing, to the continued growth of U.S. exports.

The Manufacturing Council exists to advise Commerce leadership on the best policies to support manufacturing and U.S. exports.As great as exporting sounds in theory, the barriers to exporting can seem high to many small or medium-sized companies, but that’s really not the case.

I had the privilege of joining Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank and 19 other American companies on a trade mission to Latin America, discussing infrastructure development in the region.

We were able to meet one-on-one with government officials and foreign company executives who will be shaping the growing infrastructure of these growing economies. We made crucial contacts and learned the critical facts in each country that will help us to maximize the opportunities for our company in the region.

The Department of Commerce was instrumental in pulling together the meetings most meaningful to Fluidic. The Gold Key Matching Service and the local International Trade Administration staff, especially the U.S. Commercial Service personnel, in each country made it possible to rapidly assess potential business opportunities.

Spotlight on Commerce: Peggy Leung-Dombrowski, Acting Chief Learning Officer, Office of Human Resources Management

Portrait of Peggy Leung-Dombrowski

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.

Guest blog post by Ms. Peggy Leung-Dombrowski, Acting Chief Learning Officer, Office of the Secretary

I was born and raised in Hong Kong (China), also known as Pearl of the East. Fifteen years ago, I would never have dreamt of working for one of the United States Government Cabinet level agencies, serving the American people, and working side by side with the brightest professionals in the Learning and Development (L&D) field. 

My father, who was a retired language translator for the British Government in Hong Kong by day, a professor at the University of Hong Kong by night, taught me the values of integrity, working hard, and perseverance. My father’s dictum was “People may steal your money but no one can ever take knowledge away from you.” He always encouraged me to travel and see the world, which allowed me to experience life in Australia, Canada, and the United States first hand. Then, I settled down in Virginia, pursued my passion, and received my Master of Education in Instructional Technology from George Mason University, which provided me the competencies to work in the L&D arena. 

Before joining public service in 2001, I worked in the private sector as a trainer, Instructional System Designer, and Training Manager. After serving the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for  eight years, I began my career in the Department of Commerce (DOC) in 2009. At Commerce, I am the Acting Chief Learning Officer, Chair of the Department’s Chief Learning Officers Council, serving all the bureaus of the Department. My responsibilities include making recommendations on training development direction, including Leadership Development, to support our workforce; managing the implementation, development, quality assurance, and extended application of the enterprise Learning Management System; and providing Department training policies, processes and procedures guidance. Throughout my Commerce career, I have been supported by many mentors and managers, including Dr. Fred Lang, and Tyra Dent Smith for their guidance and leadership. I also serve on the Department’s Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Council and am heavily involved in the Department’s D&I learning and retention strategies.

Spotlight on Commerce: Vikrum Aiyer, Special Adviser, USPTO

Portrait of Vikrum Aiyer

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.

Guest blog post by Vikrum Aiyer, Special Adviser to the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property, USPTO

Some of the most disruptive solutions to the world's most pressing challenges are laid out in applications submitted to our office. And through the review of over half a million proposals for new products and technologies annually, I have the privilege to work alongside a team that helps protect those cutting-edge innovations in the global marketplace, with intellectual property rights.

We all know that the United States faces genuine economic competition in more sectors, from more companies, and from more places than ever before. But in order to write the next chapters of growth and remain the world’s chief global competitor, we must smartly and immediately invest in the very infrastructure that fosters American inventive potential. That’s why the agency has been hard at work to retool our nation’s patent laws from the ground up, making it easier, more cost effective, and more efficient for businesses of all stripes to protect their products and services. 

Being raised in Silicon Valley, and as the son of a physicist spearheading his own enterprise, I recognize that there is no shortage of great ideas in America, but there are barriers to getting those ideas off the ground. So the opportunity to serve as a Special Adviser to the Under Secretary hits especially close to home for me, as I help assess challenges start-ups and technologists face by spearheading our public partnerships with key stakeholders around the country. The role gives me the chance to advise the Under Secretary on how to connect inventors with the tools they need to protect their companies, while also empowering me to publicly frame and communicate how the administration’s intellectual property priorities drive export and manufacturing possibilities in America. 

NOAA: National Hurricane Preparedness Week, May 26 — June 1, 2013

Poster for National Hurricane Preparedness Week

National Hurricane Preparedness Week runs from May 26 through June 1 and history teaches that a lack of hurricane awareness and preparation are common threads among all major hurricane disasters. By knowing your vulnerability and what actions you should take, you can reduce the effects of a hurricane disaster.

Hurricane hazards come in many forms, including storm surge, heavy rainfall, inland flooding, high winds, tornadoes, and rip currents. The National Weather Service is responsible for protecting life and property through issuance of timely watches and warnings, but it is essential that your family be ready before a storm approaches. Furthermore, mariners should be aware of special safety precautions when confronted with a hurricane.

Download the Tropical Cyclone Preparedness Guide (PDF) or follow the links for more information. But remember, this is only a guide. The first and most important thing anyone should do when facing a hurricane threat is to use common sense. Additional guidance can be found on NOAA's Be Ready and Weather Ready Nation websites.


Obama Administration Announces Make It In America Challenge Accepting Applications Through May 31

Challenge Focused on Encouraging Businesses to Bring Production Back to the United States or Expand Domestic Operations

The Obama Administration today announced that it is accepting proposals through May 31, 2013, for the Make it in America Challenge, a $40 million competition funded by multiple federal agencies that is designed to encourage investment and job creation in the United States. Up to 15 awards will be made to challenge applicants who put forth one plan to accelerate job creation by encouraging re-shoring of productive activity by U.S. firms, fostering increased foreign direct investment, encouraging U.S. companies to keep or expand their businesses—and jobs—here at home, and training local workers to meet the needs of those businesses.

Challenge applicants must submit applications that leverages complementary Federal funding sources to support the development and implementation of a regionally driven economic development strategy. Eligible challenge applicants must demonstrate support of the development and implementation of a regionally driven economic development strategy. Applicants must provide a detailed description of all activities that will be undertaken, a summary of how these activities support the overall project’s goals, and a clear data-driven overview of anticipated impacts. Applicants will be evaluated based on their ability to meet the criteria set forth in Section VI.A of the Federal Funding Opportunity. All proposals must be submitted through  

The Make it in America Challenge builds on the Administration’s efforts to encourage companies – large and small, foreign and domestic, manufacturers and service firms – to increase their investment in the United States. The President’s initiatives include eliminating tax incentives for companies that ship jobs overseas and providing tax credits for companies that bring jobs back, investing in American workers to ensure they have the skills they need, modernizing our infrastructure, and taking action to ensure that American businesses and workers are competing on a level playing field.

NOAA Releases Hurricane Predictions for 2013 Season

Image of Hurricane from Space

NOAA expects an active Atlantic hurricane season, but below-normal Pacific hurricane season

In its 2013 Atlantic hurricane season outlook issued today, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting an active or extremely active season this year. For the six-month hurricane season, which begins June 1, NOAA’s Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook says there is a 70 percent likelihood of 13 to 20 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 7 to 11 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 3 to 6 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher). These ranges are well above the seasonal average of 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center announced that a below-normal hurricane season is most likely for the Eastern Pacific this year. The outlook calls for a 55 percent probability of a below-normal season, a 35 percent probability of a near-normal season and a 10 percent probability of an above-normal season. Seasonal hurricane forecasters are calling for a 70 percent chance of 11 to 16 named storms, which includes 5 to 8 hurricanes, of which 1 to 4 are expected to become major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale).

NOAA’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center announced that climate conditions point to a below-normal season in the Central Pacific Basin this year. For 2013, the outlook calls for a 70 percent chance of a below-normal season, a 25 percent chance of a near-normal season, and a 5 percent chance of an above-normal season. We expect 1 to 3 tropical cyclones to affect the central Pacific this season. An average season has 4 to 5 tropical cyclones, which include tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes. The outlook for a below-normal season is based upon the continuation of neutral El Niño–Southern Oscillation conditions. The Central Pacific Basin also remains on the low activity side of a multi-decadal cycle. Historical records show that this combination of conditions tends to produce a less active hurricane season for the central Pacific.

Digital Government Strategy Brings Big Changes to the Commerce Department

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the Digital Government Strategy, an effort by the Administration to transform public-facing government services in line with 21st century expectations. The Department of Commerce has made some big strides in providing better information to citizens in a timely manner through multiple formats and increasing access to services on mobile devices. The goal is to make citizen services and information available anywhere, anytime, and on any device, and in formats that facilitate additional use by public developers and entrepreneurs.

Technology is changing so rapidly that nearly 50% of American adults own a smart phone today, up from 35% only one year ago. To help keep pace with the rapid deployment of mobile technology, Commerce is working hard to ensure our services and data are available to citizens in whatever format and on whatever device they prefer. For example, earlier this week, NOAA released a mobile app to provide free nautical charts for recreational boaters to ensure safer and easier boating. NOAA is putting the finishing touches on the iOS version of their Shortfin Mako Shark Live Release app for public release next week. The success of these apps builds upon the America’s Economy app from the U.S. Census Bureau that already has more than 90,000 downloads.

We also have released the additional data for public consumption. For example, the International Trade Administration has released an application programming interface (API) for Export Trade Events so that data can be used by other organizations to pull the most relevant events for their members. The Department's Bureau of Industry and Security created the Commerce Control List Order of Review Decision Tool, a new web-based tool to assist exporters in understanding changes being made as part of the Administration's Export Control Reform Initiative. All information available for public use is on and also on our new Developer page. The release of this data and APIs is intended to provide developers, researches, entrepreneurs and others with the ability to access government data in ways that make it easier to use and program.

Department of Commerce Helps American Company Secure $42 Million Contract With Colombia

Advocacy Center logo

Contract supports $38 million in U.S. exports

U.S. Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank today announced that L-3 Communications Corporation Warrior Systems Sector (Londonderry, New Hampshire) and its distributor Aviation Specialties Unlimited (Boise, Idaho) recently secured a contract from the Government of Colombia worth $42 million. The announcement comes on the heels of Acting Secretary Blank’s trade mission to Brazil, Colombia and Panama, which wrapped up on May 17. The trade mission included 20 U.S. firms with expertise in a wide variety of infrastructure industry sectors, and was intended to help American companies expand their business opportunities in Brazil, Colombia and Panama and promote U.S. exports.

“L-3’s export success is a concrete example of the Department of Commerce’s continued efforts to help U.S. firms be more competitive in this growing market,” said Acting Secretary Blank. “L-3 benefited from an aggressive, coordinated interagency commercial advocacy campaign spearheaded by our Advocacy Center to win a contract that will increase U.S. exports and support American jobs. With U.S. exports reaching an all-time high of $2.2 trillion in 2012, and supporting nearly 10 million American workers, the work of our Advocacy Center and U.S. embassies across the world is more important than ever. I congratulate L-3 Communications and their distributor Aviation Specialties Unlimited on winning this valuable contract.”

The contract will support $38 million in U.S. exports, as well as nearly 50 American jobs, according to L-3. Through this contract, L-3 will provide fully-assembled night-vision goggles, spare parts, tooling and test equipment to the Colombian government. Full release

NOAA’s Latest Mobile App Provides Free Nautical Charts for Recreational Boating

Image of U.S. Coast Pilot guidebook and tablet displaying nautical map

Public is invited to try beta version of MyNOAACharts

As recreational boaters gear up for a summer of fun on coastal waters and the Great Lakes, Commercee's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is testing MyNOAACharts, a new mobile application that allows users to download NOAA nautical charts and editions of the U.S. Coast Pilot. The app, which is only designed for Android tablets for the testing period, was released on May 20.

MyNOAACharts, which can be used on land and on the water, has GPS built-in capabilities that allow users find their positions on a NOAA nautical chart. They can zoom in any specific location with a touch of the finger, or zoom out for the big picture to plan their day of sailing. The Coast Pilot has “geotagged” some of the major locations—embedding geographical information, such as latitude and longitude, directly into the chart so it is readable in the app—and provides links to appropriate federal regulations. The app can be downloaded from the Google Play™ app store. Full NOAA release

57 U.S. Companies and Organizations that Export Goods or Services Honored at the 2013 President’s “E” Awards Ceremony

Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank Honors More Than 50 U.S. Companies for Export Successes While Kenneth E. Hyatt, Acting Deputy Under Secretary for International Trade, Looks On

Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank today honored 57 U.S. companies and organizations that export goods or services at the 2013 President’s “E” Awards ceremony. This year marks the 51st anniversary of the “E” Awards, which recognize significant contributions to increasing American exports. Today’s set of honorees, many of which are small- and medium-sized enterprises, was the largest group in three decades to receive this distinguished award.

Winners of the 2013 “E” Awards represent diverse communities from 22 states across the country. They hail from places like Gilman, Conn., Cleveland, Ohio, Eagan, Minn., Parsons, Kan., Broussard, La. and Vacaville, Calif. Of the honorees recognized at today’s ceremony, 47 are small- or medium-sized enterprises, 33 are manufacturers, and 31 fall into both categories.

There are four categories in which companies can receive an award. This year, 37 companies were honored with the “E” Award for Exports for demonstrating a sustained increase in export sales over several years. Twelve companies that assist and facilitate export activities were honored with the “E” Award for Export Service. Five firms received the “E” Star Award for Exports, which recognizes previous “E” Award winners who have shown four years of additional export growth. Finally, three were awarded the “E” Star Award for Export Service, which recognizes previous “E” Award winners that have shown four years of continued support of exporters since first winning the “E” Award. Two companies are receiving the “E” Star Award for Exports for the second time, a first in the fifty-one year history of the program. Complete list of  “E” Award and "E" Star Award winners.

Acting Secretary Blank Highlights Success of the U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement

De. Blank seated at speakers' table at AmCham Panama

Exports are critical to supporting American jobs and helping U.S. businesses grow.  Increasing international trade is one of the Commerce Department’s top priorities.  U.S. Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank wraps up her week-long Latin American trade mission in Panama this week which highlighted the importance of the bilateral trade relationship between the two countries. In her remarks before the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) Panama today, Acting Secretary Blank marked the success of the U.S. Panama Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA), which went into effect on October 31, 2012 and is a key component to increasing bilateral trade between the two countries.

Panama’s economy has seen double-digit growth over the past two years and continues to be a critical market for U.S. exporters. Between 2011 and 2012, the total volume of trade between the United States and Panama grew by 21 percent, reaching a total of $10.5 billion. With the implementation of the TPA, more than 87 percent of U.S. exports of consumer and industrial exports immediately became duty-free. Prior to the TPA implementation, Panama’s average tariff rate on U.S. industrial goods was higher than seven percent, with some tariffs reaching 81 percent.

Panama Canal Expansion Offers Opportunity for U.S. Companies to Serve as Partners with Panama

Dr. Blank seated at control panel of Panama Canal

As a part of her trade mission to Brazil, Colombia, and Panama this week, Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank met today with Jorge Quijano, Panama Canal Administrator, and Roberto Roy, President of the Panama Canal Board and the Panama City Subway, to discuss the Panama Canal Expansion Project and infrastructure spending related to Panama City’s Metro Rail Project. These meetings aim to strengthen longstanding U.S.-Panama ties by promoting greater cooperation between the two countries on infrastructure development.

Panama is a longstanding friend and ally to the United States, and the country’s strategic location as a major shipping route makes it an important economic partner as well. The Panama Canal currently handles five percent of the world’s trade, and approximately two-thirds of the Canal’s annual transits are bound to or from ports in the United States.

In order to allow greater container capacity, the Panama Canal Authority has decided to invest over $5 billion to expand the Canal. The expanded Canal will accommodate larger vessels that cannot transit now, introducing a new line of business that Panama projects will gradually increase annual profits to $3 billion. 

Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank Visits Consular Section in Colombia to Promote Travel and Tourism

On the heels of Travel and Tourism Week, Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank visited the Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy in Colombia today as part of the trade mission she is leading this week to Brazil, Colombia, and Panama.

Currently, the U.S. consular section in Colombia is the sixth busiest worldwide by volume of visa applicants. So far this year, the record for one day processing was 3,001 applicants—the highest in the world for that day. On average, the Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy in Colombia receives 2,300 applicants a day for travelers visiting the United States for tourism, work, or education purposes.

The Acting Secretary’s visit directly supports the Obama Administration’s commitment to promoting travel to, and tourism within, the United States. Travel and tourism, which represents the United States’ number one service export, is a crucial stimulator for the American economy. In March 2013, spending by international visitors to the United States totaled more than $14.4 billion, an increase of nearly 3 percent when compared to last year.

Acting Secretary Blank Supports U.S. Companies’ Corporate Social Responsibility Efforts Abroad

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Acting Secretary Blank Supports U.S. Companies’ Corporate Social Responsibility Efforts Abroad

Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank visited Bogotá, Colombia, today, to see how a U.S.-based company is helping to promote corporate social responsibility in a country where it does business.

In 2007, the world’s largest software company Microsoft joined forces with the nonprofit Trust for the Americas, the nonprofit Centro Laudes Infantis and the local government to create “Mi Llave,” a program designed specifically to increase computer literacy.  The centers, including one that Acting Secretary Blank visited, provide economic and social opportunities to youth and vulnerable populations through access to technology, technical and vocational skills training, and more. Since its inception, 15 additional centers have opened across the country.

Acting Secretary Blank toured the facility and heard first hand testimonials from individuals who have benefitted from the services the centers provide.  More than 13,000 people have been trained, and more than 270,000 people have received access to computers and the Internet since training began at Mi Llave centers.

Autodesk Promotes Increasing Infrastructure Investment and Use of Technology During Latin America Trade Mission

Photo of Amar Hanspal

Autodesk Promotes Increasing Infrastructure Investment and Use of Technology During Latin America Trade Mission

Guest Blog Post by Amar Hanspal, Senior Vice President of Information Modeling products, Autodesk Inc.

Ed note: Autodesk is a $2 billion design and engineering firm with tens of millions of customers around the world. Autodesk’s portfolio of software empowers organizations of all sizes, creative visionaries, students and consumers to conceptualize, analyze, simulate and communicate their ideas and make them real. Autodesk’s software has been used to create the world’s most compelling media and entertainment, including the last 18 Academy-award winning films, and solve the most complex global design, engineering and sustainability challenges.

Autodesk is honored to be a part of this trade mission to Latin America.  As a company, we are committed to helping this region build, or rebuild, its critical infrastructure. This mission affords us an opportunity to meet with government and private sector leaders and develop long-term, strategic relationships with the Embassies and U.S. Foreign Commercial Service representatives. We are proud of the early progress already made in just a couple days of meetings.  Working together we have been able to identify near and long-term opportunities and connect with key leaders and decision makers to drive critical, infrastructure-related discussions forward. 

So, why is Autodesk involved?

Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank Commemorates the Anniversary of the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement

One of the Commerce Department’s top priorities is to strengthen the economic ties between the United States and our trading partners. One year ago today, the ties between the United States and Colombia became much stronger with the implementation of the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement, which Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank marked during her remarks today at a luncheon hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce and the Counsel of American Companies (CEA) in Bogotá, Colombia. 

Prior to the implementation of the Trade Promotion Agreement, also known as the U.S.-Colombia FTA, the average tariff rate on U.S. industrial exports to Colombia was higher than 10 percent. The agreement immediately eliminated tariffs on more than 80 percent of U.S. consumer and industrial exports to Colombia when it took effect last year, with the remaining tariffs being phased out within 10 years. This makes it easier for U.S. firms to export to Colombia. In fact, from June 2012 through March 2013, U.S. goods exported to Colombia have increased 19 percent compared to the same period in the year before. In 2012, U.S. goods exports to Colombia reached $16.4 billion and made up nearly a quarter of all Colombia’s imports of goods. 

Colombian firms have also benefited from the Trade Promotion Agreement, which experts estimate could create hundreds of thousands of Colombian jobs over the next few years. Under this agreement, more than 600 Colombian companies have started exporting to the United States for the first time, and Colombia continues to experience a trade surplus with the United States, its largest trading partner. 

Due in part to the Trade Promotion Agreement, U.S. businesses are increasingly interested in exploring trade with Colombia. The 20 firms accompanying Acting Secretary Blank on her trade mission this week represent just a snapshot of the U.S. business community that is looking for new opportunities to invest in Colombia. 

The U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement is one tool helping the United States work toward the goals of President Obama’s National Export Initiative, a government-wide strategy to promote American exports and support an additional 2 million export-related jobs by the end of 2014. By working together, the United States and Colombia have successfully fostered economic growth and strengthened the relationship between both countries. The Commerce Department is committed to further strengthening this relationship by encouraging increased trade and creating more economic development opportunities for businesses in both countries. 

For more information about the U.S.-Colombia FTA, visit

Greeley and Hansen Plans to Increase Infrastructure Export Opportunities in Latin America

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Guest post by John C. Robak, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, Greeley and Hansen

ED Note: Greeley and Hansen is a global leader in developing innovative engineering, architecture, and management solutions for a wide array of complex water, wastewater, and water-related infrastructure challenges. The firm has built upon nearly 100 years of proven civil and environmental engineering experience in all phases of project development and implementation to become a premier provider of comprehensive services in the water and wastewater sectors.

I’m honored to represent Greeley and Hansen on this trade mission with Acting Secretary of Commerce Dr. Rebecca Blank to promote U.S. exports related to infrastructure in Latin America.  While Greeley and Hansen has previously completed water infrastructure projects throughout the region, we’re looking at these high-growth areas as key markets for additional expansion of our business.  Steve Knode, Deputy Senior Commercial Officer, and his team have done an outstanding job in bringing together world-class U.S. companies for this mission.  Specifically for our firm, the local Commercial Officers have arranged meetings with many leading organizations to help connect our firm with high-level government officials and business leaders in our areas of interest. 

I’ve participated in two previous Department of Commerce trade missions, including a mission to southern Africa last November, led by Under Secretary of Commerce Francisco Sánchez, which provided many valuable business contacts in South Africa and Zambia.  To date, Greeley and Hansen has made several follow-up trips to Africa to meet with these contacts to further discuss specific potential business opportunities for our firm.  We also are planning a follow-up visit to Egypt after a recent trade mission there.  I’m certain that this mission to Latin America will be equally successful for establishing beneficial business leads.

Already, this mission has allowed us to make several key connections.  For example, I’ve met with senior municipal utility leaders at SABESP, the Brazilian waste management company owned by São Paulo state; along with other civil engineering firms in Brazil.  Prior to the one-on-one meetings, the delegation has had several briefings led by Brian Brisson, Minister Counselor for Commercial Affairs (Brazil), Nathan Younge, Regional Director, Latin America for USTDA, along with an informative presentation from Brian O’Hanlon of OPIC.  Further, the networking opportunities with Dr. Blank (who has been very accessible to the delegates for comments and questions) and Embassy and Commercial Services staff have provided invaluable information about the range of potential opportunities and barriers for any U.S. firm interested in doing business in the region.

In talking with these experts directly, I’ve been able to better assess the market for our services relative to the country’s planned development of water infrastructure.  It’s clear that Brazil offers tremendous opportunities for U.S. businesses looking to expand internationally, and, as was stated during the briefings, it’s hard to think of a global company of the future that will not have a presence in Brazil.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the trip in Colombia and visiting Panama, as these other growing Latin American economies also represent tremendous potential export opportunities for U.S. companies directly involved in infrastructure.  I’m confident that, for Greeley and Hansen, this Department of Commerce trade mission to Brazil, Colombia, and Panama will be fruitful for us and all involved.

Aviation Partnership Reaping Benefits for America and Brazil

Aviation Partnership Reaping Benefits for America and Brazil

Guest blog post by Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank

Yesterday, as part of my infrastructure business development trade mission to Brazil, Assistant Secretary Susan Kurland of the U.S. Department of Transportation and I took a tour of the facilities at Embraer -- a Brazilian aircraft manufacturer. Embraer is one example of a Brazilian company making substantial investments in the United States, and employs more than 1,000 U.S. workers to support its U.S. operations in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; Melbourne, Florida; Jacksonville, Florida; Nashville, Tennessee; Mesa, Arizona; and Windsor Locks, Connecticut. At the Commerce Department, one of the core components of our mission is to increase foreign investment in the United States, and Embraer continues to realize the benefits of choosing the U.S. as a place to do business. It was gratifying to hear from Embraer’s senior leadership about their plans for further investments in America, because of the United States’ strong aviation industry.

As we toured the 190 Model Airplane with the company's CEO, Frederico Fleury Curado, I was impressed by the quality and innovation in Embraer's product. And, like many companies doing business with and in the United States, Embraer continues to develop strategic partnerships with U.S. companies that create jobs and advance new technologies. In fact, Embraer imports more than $2 billion in U.S. aircraft components into Brazil each year to support its operations.  Embraer has built partnerships with American suppliers  like Rockwell Collins and GE, as well as, companies like Rolls Royce and BAE, which have major manufacturing facilities in the U.S.  These companies export from the U.S. to Embraer facilities in Brazil.  These cross border supply chains demonstrate the ways in which the private sector is deepening commercial ties between our two nations.

Connecting U.S. companies with opportunities in Latin America is what this trade mission is all about. The 20 U.S. firms that are joining me on this infrastructure business development trade mission to Brazil, Colombia and Panama offer a broad range of products and services that enable them to serve as partners on the ambitious infrastructure modernization projects that all three countries are undertaking. Strengthening the connections between the U.S. private sector and Latin America is a win-win for all parties, and I look forward to the continued progress that will be realized as a result of our trip this week.

Acting Secretary Blank Meets with Brazilian CEOs, Promotes SelectUSA Investment Summit

Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank is joined by Josué Gomes Da Silva, Chairman and CEO, Coteminas and Marcelo Bahia Odebrecht, President of Construtora Norberto Odebrecht S.A. at a Roundtable with Brazilian CEOs

Yesterday, Acting Secretary Blank met with a group of Brazilian CEOs to hear their priorities for doing business with the U.S. and to propose possible areas for close collaboration with American businesses. One area in which U.S. and Brazilian firms can work together is on infrastructure development, which is one reason why Acting Secretary Blank is currently leading a trade mission of 20 U.S. firms in a wide range of infrastructure industry sectors to Brazil, Colombia and Panama. These companies offer everything from cutting-edge technologies to top-notch services in engineering, management consulting, and more -- and they are well equipped to help Brazil meet its robust goals for infrastructure improvements.

Acting Secretary Blank emphasized the importance of a strong bilateral investment relationship -- many global manufacturers, including some in Brazil, are now looking to return manufacturing operations to the U.S., to expand operations here, or to invest in the U.S. for the first time. That´s because there are a host of factors that make America a very attractive place to do business: low domestic energy costs and a stable supply of energy, high labor productivity, strong research institutions that can serve as partners in developing new products, intellectual property protections, and a stable business investment environment.

Infrastructure Business Development Trade Mission to Brazil, Colombia and Panama Begins Today

This week, Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank will lead an infrastructure business development trade mission to Brazil, Colombia, and Panama, countries that have created robust infrastructure development plans for the coming years. This mission directly supports President Obama’s National Export Initiative, which set the goal of doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014 and creating an additional 2 million jobs supported by exports. Throughout the course of the mission, 20 U.S. firms will join the Acting Secretary, with the goal of expanding their business opportunities in Brazil, Colombia, and Panama.

Today is the first full day of the trade mission and Acting Secretary Blank will participate in a roundtable with Brazilian CEOs to discuss possible areas for collaboration with U.S. businesses, particularly in the area of infrastructure. This discussion serves as a follow-up to the U.S.-Brazil CEO Forum, which Acting Secretary Blank co-chaired along with Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs Michael Froman in Brasilia in March.

On Tuesday, Acting Secretary Blank will meet with members of the Federation of Industries of Sao Paulo (FIESP), a Brazilian industry association that includes more than 130,000 companies representing a wide range of industrial activities. The Acting Secretary will highlight U.S. businesses’ efforts to support Brazil’s infrastructure development goals and connect U.S. and Brazilian firms to explore further procurement opportunities. She will also visit Embraer while in Sao Paulo, to highlight a Brazilian company that has invested in America and created U.S. jobs. Embraer has also worked with many suppliers in the U.S. and has strong partnerships with a variety of U.S. companies.

Rapiscan Hopes to Facilitate Trade and Enhance Security in Latin America

Peter Kant, President, Rapiscan Americas

Guest post by Peter Kant, President, Rapiscan Americas

ED Note: Rapiscan Systems is the largest US manufacturer and supplier of security inspection systems and services.  Rapiscan specializes in airport, cargo and major event security systems and provides high-technology security scanners and scanning operational services.

Rapiscan is honored and excited to join Acting U.S. Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank on the infrastructure trade mission to Brazil, Panama and Colombia next week. Having participated in trade missions in the past, we have always found these opportunities to be extremely beneficial and, given the mission’s focus on infrastructure, I’m sure this one will prove to be no different.

Rapiscan is focused on expanding our efforts extensively in the Latin American market. Brazil’s economy is growing at a rate second to only China, providing ample opportunities for partnerships and trade with U.S. companies. Given the numerous events Brazil will be hosting over the coming years–including the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics–security is a concern, something we hope to discuss next week. Rapiscan will actually have the opportunity to secure some of the stadiums in Brazil that will be used for the FIFA Confederations Cup next month – the same stadiums that will later be used for the World Cup.

Latin America Presents Growing Opportunities for American Companies

Upcoming trade mission to promote U.S. exports and job creation

Guest blog post by Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank

With 95 percent of the world’s consumers living outside U.S. borders, helping U.S. companies find partnerships and customers in fast-growing markets is crucial to creating a strong and vibrant economy built on good middle class jobs.

As a part of our overall goal to increase American exports, next week, 20 U.S.-based companies will join me on an infrastructure-focused trade mission to Sao Paulo, Brazil; Bogota, Colombia; and Panama City, Panama.  Each of the governments of these fast-growing countries have ambitious infrastructure expansion and improvement plans for the years ahead. 

This trade mission will allow U.S. companies to highlight their cutting-edge technologies and world-class engineering services. The trade mission will also allow them to make the personal connections they need to expand their businesses and it will build on President Obama’s National Export Initiative, a government-wide strategy to promote American exports and create 2 million export-supported jobs by the end of 2014. Last year, U.S. exports hit another all-time record, reaching $2.2 trillion.  Between 2009 and 2012, exports have supported 1.3 million additional jobs.

Obama Administration Seeks Applicants for First Phase of ‘Investing in Manufacturing Communities’ Partnership

Effort will encourage an improved approach to economic development around the country

The Obama Administration today announced that it is accepting applications for the first phase of the “Investing in Manufacturing Communities” Partnership, a new initiative outlined in the President’s fiscal year 2014 budget that will help accelerate the resurgence of manufacturing and create jobs across the country.

Phase One of the “Investing in Manufacturing Communities” Partnership: In the first phase of this effort, the Departments of Commerce and Agriculture as well as the Small Business Administration and Environmental Protection Agency will award at least 25 grants of up to $200,000 each to help regions develop long-term economic development strategies intended to create a globally competitive environment that will attract, retain and expand investment and spur international trade and exports. These “Implementation Strategies” will encourage collaboration at the local level to identify the region’s comparative advantages and assets, and plan investments to expand the area’s appeal to manufacturers.  In addition, these grants can be used to help communities prepare for the second phase of this initiative, IMCP “Challenge” grants. 

Phase Two of the “Investing in Manufacturing Communities” Partnership: President Obama’s fiscal year 2014 budget includes funds for the Department of Commerce to award five to six IMCP “Challenge” grants, expected to be up to $25 million each.  These funds are intended to be supplemented by coordinated investments from several other federal departments and agencies. The 2014 challenge will reward communities for having the best long-term strategies for attracting private investment and increasing exports, and should combine many of the elements companies seek when they are deciding where to locate or expand, such as: specialized research centers at local universities; business incubators focused on targeted technology sectors; community college programs to train workers in targeted industries; public works projects to upgrade infrastructure or enhance energy efficiency; viable export promotion plans; well-integrated supply chains; and an engaged community of local government, education, workforce, and business leaders.  Full release

International Visitors Spent $14.4 Billion in the United States in March 2013

Firs-quarter U.S. Travel and Tourism exports contribute $43 billion to the U.S. economy

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank highlighted new data today that shows spending by international visitors to the United States in March 2013 totaled more than $14.4 billion, an increase of nearly 3 percent when compared to last year. International visitors spent $43 billion on travel to, and tourism-related activities within, the United States during the first quarter of 2013. The data release coincides with National Travel and Tourism Week, celebrated each year to recognize the positive impact the industry has on our economy.

“International travel and tourism represents our country’s largest services export,” said Deputy Secretary Blank. “So far this year, international visitor spending in the United States has markedly outpaced U.S. spending abroad by more than $13 billion, which continues our momentum from 2012’s record-setting year. Likewise, last week’s jobs report showed continued strong job growth in the leisure and hospitality industry.  Travel and tourism is an important sector of our economy, which is why we are continuing to increase our efforts to attract more international tourists to vacation in the United States.” 

Purchases of travel and tourism-related goods and services by international visitors traveling in the United States totaled $11 billion during March. These goods and services include food, lodging, recreation, gifts, entertainment, local transportation in the United States, and other items incidental to foreign travel. Fares received by U.S. carriers (and U.S. vessel operators) from international visitors also increased by nearly 3 percent to $3.4 billion for the month, an increase of $70 million when compared to March 2012. Overall, the United States enjoyed a favorable balance of trade for the month of March in the travel and tourism sector, with a surplus of $4.2 billion. Full release

USPTO Honors Inventors Hall of Fame Inductees

The National Inventors Hall of Fame 2013 Class of Inductees (seated) with living inductees attending the 41st Annual Induction Ceremony held at the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Alexandria, Virginia. USPTO photo by Amando Carigo

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) had the exciting privilege of honoring 17 of America’s greatest innovators Wednesday night, when they were inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in ceremonies held at the USPTO’s Alexandria, Va., headquarters. Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Acting Director of the USPTO Teresa Stanek Rea conferred induction medals to visionary inventors whose patented innovations include the electronic synthesizer, flat panel plasma display, iris recognition technology, and the code providing the foundation for 3G cellular systems.

Garret Brown was honored for inventing the Oscar-winning Steadicam camera stabilizer, which made Rocky Balboa’s run up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum one of the most iconic moments in movie history. Emmy award winners Don Bitzer, Gene Slottow, and Robert Willson were recognized for their invention of the flat-panel plasma display, which revolutionized home entertainment. Samuel Alderson was honored posthumously for developing the crash test dummy. From its beginnings, the dummy has proven invaluable to designing and testing advances in fields of automobile safety, aviation, and medical technology.

A complete list of the honorees and their revolutionary patented inventions is located on USPTO's website.

The National Inventors Hall of Fame is the premier non-profit organization in America dedicated to honoring legendary inventors whose innovations and entrepreneurial endeavors have changed the world. Founded in 1973 by the USPTO and the National Council of Intellectual Property Law Association, the Hall of Fame has 470 inductees with its 2013 induction. You can visit the National Inventors Hall of Fame and Museum in the atrium of the Madison Building on the USPTO campus in Alexandria, Va., Monday through Saturday. Admission is free.

Celebrating World Trade Throughout May

Cross post from Tradeology, the official blog of the International Trade Administration

The following blog post was written by Francisco J. Sánchez, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade

May brings warmer weather, longer days, and, most importantly for us at the Department of Commerce, World Trade Month. For years, this has been a special time to reflect on the importance of trade to our nation’s economic well-being.

Over the past few months, we’ve discussed what an important year 2012 was for exports and our  economy: a record-setting $2.2 trillion in overall exports, 10 percent annual growth in tourism-related exports, and 9.8 million U.S. jobs supported by exports.

World Trade Month is an occasion to recognize the past year’s successes while looking ahead to new ways to expand exports and build a stronger economy. It’s a month for us to recognize what we know all year long: that exports are a key to our long-term economic health.

The month of May will provide many opportunities to do just that. Events and observances to look out for include:

  • National Travel and Tourism Week, a celebration of that industry’s contributions to the U.S. economy, will take place from May 4-12.
  • On May 16, the Small Business Administration and Denver U.S. Export Assistance Center will co-sponsor the 40th Annual World Trade Day.
  • May 19 will bring the start of World Trade Week, a tradition dating back to 1927 and marked by a Presidential proclamation.
  • During that week, the President’s annual “E” Awards will be presented to leading U.S. exporters.

Have a question about getting started in exporting? Twitter chats throughout the month will offer chances to learn about exporting and pose questions to government agencies involved in President Obama’s National Export Initiative.

We invite you to check this post or our World Trade Month category for regular updates on these and other events. You can also visit our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter.

As we kick off World Trade Month 2013, our team looks forward to continuing to support our nation’s exporters as they build things here and sell them everywhere.