This site contains information from January 2009-December 2014. Click HERE to go the CURRENT website.

Blog Entries from June 2013

Spotlight on Commerce: Frederick Steckler, Chief Administrative Officer, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Frederick Steckler, Chief Administrative Officer, USPTO

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 Frederick Steckler, Chief Administrative Officer, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

As the Chief Administrative Officer for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) I am responsible for the delivery of all administrative service support functions for the USPTO including human capital strategy, human resource management, telework policy and programs, facilities management, safety and security, transportation, asset and records management.  I am fortunate to work with a team of nearly 200 professionals in the delivery of these vital services to our colleagues at the USPTO.  My team and I pride ourselves on being a customer-centric and service-oriented team.  

I was born in Cleveland, Ohio and when I was nine years old, after one particularly bad Cleveland winter, my mother, grandmother and I moved to Boca Raton, Florida. So I really grew up there.  I am a proud graduate of Boca Raton Community High School.  

After high school, I attended Duke University and earned a Bachelor’s degree in economics. Growing up near the water led to being interested in a career with the U.S. Navy. I was a member of the Duke Navy ROTC battalion and upon graduation was commissioned as an ensign in the U.S. Navy. My first station was as part of the commissioning crew of the USS Vandegrift (FFG-48). I later went on to serve as Second Company Officer at the U.S. Naval Academy and Executive Assistant to The Commandant of Midshipmen. I left the Navy in 1989 and went to work as a junior consultant for Coopers & Lybrand and while working earned a Master of Business Administration from The George Washington University. Today, I am married to my partner of 20 years, Robert Murphy, and we live in the District of Columbia with our black lab, Sammi Jo.

Penny Pritzker Sworn in as 38th U.S. Secretary of Commerce

Pritzker greeted employees as they entered the Herbert C. Hoover Building

Penny Pritzker was sworn in yesterday as the nation’s 38th Commerce Secretary. As a key member of President Obama’s economic team, Secretary Pritzker will lead the U.S. Department of Commerce in carrying out the important work that gives entrepreneurs and businesses the tools they need to create jobs and keep the American economy growing, two of the administration’s highest priorities. She will also work extensively with the business community, bringing their concerns and ideas to the forefront.  

“I am pleased the Senate took bipartisan action to confirm Penny Pritzker as our next Commerce Secretary,” said President Obama. “Penny is a proven leader, a successful entrepreneur, and one of the most accomplished and highly-respected women in business today. She knows what it takes to build companies from the ground up, and she shares my belief in doing everything we can to help businesses and workers succeed and make America a magnet for good jobs. Penny will be a key member of my economic team as we continue to work to grow our economy and strengthen the middle class.” 

“It is an honor to join President Obama’s economic team as Secretary of Commerce,” said Secretary Pritzker. “The Department of Commerce provides many unique assets that are critical to strengthening our economy, creating jobs, and ensuring America’s competitiveness–from support for manufacturing and exports, to the promotion of innovation, to the economic data that startups and businesses rely on. Our Department stands ready to serve as an active partner to the business community as we work together to continue building a 21st century American economy.”  Background

EDA Investments: Supporting Entrepreneurship and Job Creation

Map of U.S. showing entrepreneurship rates

What do the states of Montana, Vermont, New Mexico, Alaska, and Mississippi have in common? They are, according to a report published this spring by the Kauffman Foundation, Index of Entrepreneurial Activity, 1996–2012, the states that posted the highest rates of entrepreneurial activity in 2012.

According to the Kauffman Foundation report:

• Montanans operate 530 businesses per 100,000 adults, Vermonters and New Mexicans operate 520 businesses per 100,000 adults, and Alaskans and Mississippians operate 430 businesses per 100,000 adults.

• A most important measure—the formation of businesses with employees—held steady from 2011 to 2012: At 0.11 percent (meaning 11 employer businesses per 100,000 individuals), an average of 193,000 new employer businesses were formed each quarter in 2012.

This is important, and good, news about our economy. And these states should be applauded for what they are doing to foster entrepreneurship, which is a driver of economic growth and prosperity.

Support for entrepreneurship is a central part of the Economic Development Administration’s mission as it works to establish a foundation for sustainable job growth and the building of durable regional economies throughout the United States.

Spotlight on Commerce: Ronald Lorentzen, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Import Administration, ITA

Photo of Lorentzen at his desk

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 Ronald Lorentzen, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Import Administration, International Trade Administration

As the career official responsible for the day-to-day management of Import Administration, I perform many roles: making the budgetary ends meet; acting as policy adviser plenipotentiary; being an “executive sponsor” of various projects; and serving frequently as a diplomatic counselor or empathetic ear to our organization’s staff and external stakeholders.

Import Administration’s core mission is to administer our nation’s antidumping and countervailing duty laws, which provide a remedy–typically, via a special import tariff–to help U.S. industries that are injured as a result of unfairly traded imports.  These remedies are determined through quasi-judicial investigations conducted under the close scrutiny of the courts and the World Trade Organization. While the process is sanctioned by international trade rules and receives broad support from the Congress, the outcome of any given investigation can displease the domestic industry, the foreign exporters, the foreign government(s) and–in many cases–all of the above. You have to have a thick skin to do my kind of work. But the work itself can be intellectually fascinating, impinging upon some of the most controversial trade policy issues and of make-or-break importance to the survival of many U.S. businesses and the livelihoods of many Americans.

How did I get here? I was born in northeastern Ohio and grew up in Indiana and Illinois, graduating from Bradley University in Peoria, IL, with a B.A. in French and international relations. I had no clue when I was in high school that one could specialize in such a field, but I think that my sense of being “different” led me to explore that possibility and the options that it might present. That led to a junior year of college at the Sorbonne in Paris, which in turn convinced me that I must continue in this field and find another chance at further study abroad. I was accepted by the Johns Hopkins School of International Studies M.A. program and packed my bags for a year at SAIS’s center in Bologna, Italy, with my second year bringing me to Washington–my home ever since. I can see more clearly now that my scholarly interests spoke to the calling that I had to understand and interact with people of different cultures, but the experience of living abroad was profoundly transformative in liberating me from my own, often self-imposed limitations as a gay man.

MBDA’s Business Centers Expand Reach

MBDA logo

Celebrated since 1963, National Small Business Week recognizes the contributions of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners. Entrepreneurship is an integral part of our country’s DNA and increasing numbers of minorities are becoming entrepreneurs. However, starting a business can be challenging in that the majority of small- to medium-sized businesses often lack access and visibility to helpful resources.

Through a national network of nearly 40 business centers and a wide range of domestic and international strategic partners, the Minority Business Development Agency provides minority-owned businesses with technical assistance and access to capital, contract opportunities and new markets to create new jobs and support the economy. Nationwide MBDA Business Centers help provide heightened visibility and access to valuable opportunities for minority-owned firms through partnerships with multi-national corporations, industry coalitions, and government agencies.

For Kevin Robinson, CEO of RFS Group, LLC, in Indianapolis, IN, hard work and determination helped get his full service janitorial company off the ground. However, taking the business to the next level required some help. Robinson contacted the MBDA Business Center in Indianapolis for direction. The Center provided Robinson with procurement assistance and business counseling. As a result, RFS secured several contracts valued at $16,700, and it was able to hire eight additional employees. Within six months of partnering with the Center, RFS saw its revenues increase by 10 percent.

Acting Secretary Cameron Kerry Honored to Serve the American Public Alongside His Brother

Acting Secretary Cameron Kerry is joined by his brother, Secretary of State John Kerry, in the Secretary's Office

Guest blog post by Acting Secretary of Commerce Cameron Kerry.

Earlier this month, I was honored to take the helm at the Department of Commerce as Acting Secretary. Having served as the Department’s General Counsel for the last four years, I have come to know and cherish the exceptional work that the people at Commerce do to promote innovation and economic growth, provide world-class science for the benefit of the American people, and expand our exports and global trade. I’m proud to have been called on to lead this work as Acting Secretary.

While taking the leadership role at the Department of Commerce is a very special point in my career, my tenure as Acting Secretary also marks the first time in U.S. history that two siblings have served together in the President’s cabinet, as the Boston Globe pointed out in a piece this week. My older brother John, of course, is the U.S. Secretary of State.

Siblings throughout history have served in Administrations simultaneously – such as the Dulles brothers, who served as Secretary of State (John Foster Dulles) and CIA Director (Allen Dulles) during the Dwight D. Eisenhower Administration. But never before have two brothers served in the Cabinet – which includes the Vice President and the heads of 15 executive departments – at the same time.

Protecting the Nation’s Critical Infrastructure

NIST logo

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

Just about everything these days—from banking to health care to the electricity powering our homes—is rooted in cyberspace. This any time, any where interconnected world unfortunately brings with it a constantly evolving set of security challenges. 

That’s why President Obama directed the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to work with industry on a voluntary cybersecurity framework for better protecting the nation’s critical infrastructure.

The idea is to use existing standards, guidelines and best practices to reduce cyber risk across sectors and develop capabilities to address the full-range of quickly changing threats. The framework will provide a flexible toolkit any business or other organization can use to gauge how well prepared it is to manage cyber risks and what can be done to strengthen its defenses.

It is vital that companies understand their digital assets and accurately assess the maturity of their cyber protections so they can properly allocate resources.  These needs stretch across a spectrum from maintaining awareness of existing threats to preventing, detecting, and responding to attacks to recovering from them.

Commerce Bureaus Play Key Role in Intellectual Property Accomplishments and Future Priorities

The Obama administration today released its 2013 Intellectual Property Enforcement Joint Strategic Plan. Since the issuance of its first Joint Strategic Plan for Intellectual Property Enforcement three years ago, the administration has made major accomplishments toward strengthening intellectual property (IP) enforcement, including increasing its use of trade policy tools, reducing online infringement and supporting American entrepreneurs and intellectual property-intensive industries that strengthen our economy.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), International Trade Administration (ITA) and the Office of General Counsel's Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP) all play important roles in these efforts.

The USPTO undertakes a wide range of policy, legal, operational and regulatory efforts and initiatives that enhance intellectual property protection both at home and abroad. For example, USPTO provided technical assistance to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to ensure that Colombia, Korea and Panama implemented IP rights enforcement provisions in our free trade agreements with the three countries. USPTO has also conducted several capacity building initiatives and training programs, including several with foreign judges, countries and organizations to facilitate more effective IP rights enforcement systems abroad.

To help small and medium-sized American businesses interested in doing business in China, the USPTO has conducted several events nationwide providing information on patents, trade secrets, trademarks, copyright and enforcement. The USPTO also has IP attachés who actively work to improve the protection of U.S. intellectual property rights overseas. In addition to experts in the U.S., these attachés have sponsored training seminars teaching best practices in applying and enforcing intellectual property laws with representatives from nearly 20 countries. To assess the impact of intellectual property on the U.S. economy, the USPTO collaborated with Commerce’s Economic and Statistics Administration (ESA) to publish the Intellectual Property and the U.S. Economy: Industries in Focus report, which found that the top IP-intensive industries in the U.S. support at least 40 million jobs and contribute more than $5 trillion to U.S. gross domestic product.

Commerce’s Economic Data Is a Goldmine for Small Businesses

Graphic of Econmic Census

Public data is a valuable national asset whose value is multiplied when it is made easily accessible to the public. For example, the public release of weather data from government satellites and ground stations generated an entire economic sector that today includes the Weather Channel, commercial agricultural advisory services, and new insurance options. Similarly, the decision by the U.S. Government to make the Global Positioning System (GPS), once reserved for military use, available for civilian and commercial access, gave rise to GPS-powered innovations ranging from aircraft navigation systems to precision farming to location-based apps, contributing tens of billions of dollars in annual value to the American economy.

The Department of Commerce makes available to small businesses economic data that are important for key business decisions such as where to locate, where to manufacture a product and where to sell that product.

For example, AmFor Electronics, a second-generation, family-owned manufacturer in Portland, Oregon, is the market leader in the manufacturing of alternator and starter testers, which are sold to auto parts stores, auto repair shops, and alternator and starter rebuilders. Using Commerce data like that available in the Assess Costs Everywhere tool, AmFor decided to enter the wire harness sector and chose to locate their manufacturing facility domestically rather than overseas because it provides a shorter turnaround times with fewer defects that ultimately leads to a reduction in costs. These successes have translated into new customers and the hiring of 50 employees.

International Trade Administration’s Commercial Service Makes Exporting Easier for Small Businesses

U.S. Commercial Service Logo

In early 2011, Vanport Outfitters received its first commercial overseas order from Japan. That is when they started working with the U.S. Commercial Service, which assisted them throughout the export process. Some challenges Vanport faced included building brand awareness and finding quality contacts overseas to do business with. To address these issues, Vanport used U.S. Commercial Service business matchmaking services. “As a small company, few have heard of us, and are already selling competing products from better known firms. We find that we have to work hard to demonstrate that we’re serious about our craft. We really enjoyed working with the U.S. Commercial Service and found that the services provided helped make selling our goods outside the country easy, and we are continuing to build our brand awareness,” said Thomas Craig, Business Manager at Vanport Outfitters.

The company decided to focus on their export potential and actively pursue other markets, and in doing so, relied on assistance provided by the Trade Information Center, including market research, trade counseling, and assistance with export regulations. The result was that Vanport Outfitters has received additional orders from ten different countries, and is planning to export into East Asia, Oceania, Europe, and Canada.

NIST MEP helps U.S. Manufacturers Create Jobs and Expand their Businesses

NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership - Make It In America

National Small Business Week, which is taking place June 17-21, recognizes the contributions of America’s entrepreneurs to job creation and economic growth. One way that the Commerce Department works to support small- and medium-sized enterprises is through the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), a public-private partnership designed to encourage innovation in American manufacturing.

NIST MEP is a nationwide network of technical experts and business advisers who work with small- and mid-sized U.S. manufacturers, helping these businesses identify growth opportunities. MEP focuses its resources on five critical areas: technology acceleration, supplier development, sustainability, workforce and continuous improvement of manufacturing processes, products, and services.

For every one dollar of federal investment, MEP generates nearly $20 in new sales growth, which amounts to about $2.5 billion in new sales annually. And for every $2,100 of federal investment in the program, MEP creates or retains one manufacturing job. These investments support the administration’s commitment to helping U.S. manufacturers innovate, grow, and create good jobs.

NIST MEP has successfully helped manufacturers across the country grow their businesses. For example:

Administration Advances Wireless Spectrum for Economic Growth

Wireless Spectrum Tower

Cross-post by Tom Power and Lawrence E. Strickling

President Obama today issued a Presidential Memorandum that builds on the Administration’s commitment to make additional spectrum available for wireless broadband to drive innovation, expand consumer services, and increase job creation and economic growth.  The memorandum establishes a set of measures that Federal agencies, in collaboration with industry and other stakeholders, will now take to more aggressively enhance spectrum efficiency and enable access to more spectrum for consumer services and applications. 

Many of the new measures are common-sense ways to improve spectrum efficiency.  Under the memorandum, an agency that requests a new spectrum assignment or that seeks to procure a spectrum-dependent system will have to document its consideration of alternative approaches and verify that it is pursuing the most spectrum-efficient method, in consideration of all relevant factors including cost and agency mission. 

Other aspects of the memorandum build on existing strategies, particularly with respect to advancing collaboration with the private sector and other stakeholders.   Since 2010 the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which manages Federal agency spectrum assignments, has been implementing the President’s directive to identify 500 megahertz of spectrum for wireless broadband by convening agency-industry working groups that are engaged in unprecedented discussions  aimed at increasing spectrum efficiency and providing access to certain federally assigned spectrum bands for consumer wireless broadband.  Today’s memorandum directs NTIA to expand that collaborative process to encompass additional bands.  Towards this end, NTIA and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will develop policies and best practices to promote and facilitate greater collaboration among agencies, the private sector, and academia with respect to research, development, testing, and evaluation of spectrum-sharing technologies.   Helping accelerate the pace of technological change, the White House announced $100 million in upcoming and proposed Federal investments in public-private research and development of spectrum sharing and other advanced communications technologies. 

Asians Fastest-Growing Race or Ethnic Group in 2012

Asian-American Family

The U.S. Census Bureau announced Asians were the nation's fastest-growing race or ethnic group in 2012. Their population rose by 530,000, or 2.9 percent, in the preceding year, to 18.9 million, according to Census Bureau annual population estimates. More than 60 percent of this growth in the Asian population came from international migration.

By comparison, the Hispanic population grew by 2.2 percent, or more than 1.1 million, to just over 53 million in 2012. The Hispanic population growth was fueled primarily by natural increase (births minus deaths), which accounted for 76 percent of Hispanic population change. Hispanics remain our nation's second largest race or ethnic group (behind non-Hispanic whites), representing about 17 percent of the total population.

These statistics are part of a set of annual population estimates released today by race, Hispanic origin, age and sex. They examine population change for these groups nationally, as well as within all states and counties, between July 1, 2011, and July 1, 2012.

Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders (climbing 2.2 percent to about 1.4 million), American Indians and Alaska Natives (rising 1.5 percent to a little over 6.3 million), and blacks or African-Americans (increasing 1.3 percent to 44.5 million) followed Asians and Hispanics in percentage growth rates. Full Release.

Pre-Registration Opens For SelectUSA 2013 Investment Summit

SelectUSA Summit 2013

Pre-registration is now open for the SelectUSA 2013 Investment Summit! This first-ever event will take place in Washington, DC on October 31 and November 1. 

The two-day SelectUSA 2013 Investment Summit will connect international and domestic investors and firms with economic development organizations (EDOs) from across the country in an effort to promote investment here and support the creation of American jobs.

Through a series of presentations and panel discussions, Summit participants will hear from world-class business leaders, senior Administration officials, and industry and technical experts. The Summit will feature an exhibition area where EDOs can showcase their business opportunities. Participants will also learn what Federal resources are available for investing in the United States. Another key component of the Summit will be matchmaking sessions, with opportunities for extensive networking.

SelectUSA, located within the International Trade Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce, was established by President Obama in 2011. This Presidential initiative is charged with leading federal government efforts to promote the United Sates as the premier global investment destination and facilitate investment in the nation. SelectUSA provides counseling to the global investment community, serves as an ombudsman for investors, and advocates for U.S. cities, states, and regions competing for global investment.

International Travelers to the United States Post Record Numbers in Visits and Spending

Bryce Canyon National Park

U.S. Under Secretary for International Trade Francisco Sánchez highlighted new data today that show spending by international visitors to the United States in April 2013 totaled nearly $14.5 billion, an increase of more than 5 percent when compared to April 2012. International visitors have spent an estimated $57.9 billion on U.S. travel and tourism-related services year to date in 2013 (January through April), an increase of 8 percent when compared to the same period last year.

Purchases of travel and tourism-related goods and services by international visitors traveling in the United States totaled $11.2 billion during April. 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 totaled nearly $3.3 billion for the month. The United States enjoyed a favorable balance of trade for the month of April in the travel and tourism sector, with a surplus of nearly $4.2 billion.

In 2012, international travel and tourism spending reached a record $168.1 billion, up 10 percent from 2011. The increase was the result of a surge in international visitors to the United States: in 2012, a record 67.0 million international visitors came to the United States, an increase of 4.3 million from the year before. Highlights of the 2012 arrivals data show that Canadian visitors set a record with 22.7 million visitors, up 6 percent.  Mexico was second with a record 14.5 million arrivals, up 8 percent. The U.K., (-2 percent), Japan (+14 percent), and Germany (+3 percent) rounded out the top five. Countries among the top 20 with the largest increase in 2012 from the previous year were: China (+35 percent), Colombia (+21 percent), Venezuela and Argentina (both up +20 percent), and Brazil (+ 19 percent). All five countries set records for visits to the United States in 2012.

The Department of Commerce Supports U.S.-ASEAN Partnerships

ASEAN Member Nations

It’s no secret that Asia is a source of tremendous economic growth. For more than 35 years, the United States and The Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) member countries have worked to foster economic development through trade and investment.

This week, officials from the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) will join a visiting delegation of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) economic ministers for the ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) Road Show events in Los Angeles and Silicon Valley, California, as well as in Washington, D.C. U.S. government officials from the U.S. Departments of Commerce, USTR, and State. Trade ministers from ASEAN member states (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) will meet with Members of Congress, local government officials and business leaders to discuss various trade issues, commercial diplomacy, and trade-openness. The U.S. Department of Commerce is specifically committed to economic engagement with ASEAN in support of the White House Expanded Economic Engagement (E3) initiative. ASEAN’s rapid economic development, growing middle class, and combined total trade of over $200 billion in goods and services speak to the tremendous enterprise and potential of the region. 

By 2015, ASEAN seeks to establish a unified economic market. The United States supports the integration efforts by ASEAN to establish an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), which will benefit both ASEAN economies and its U.S. business partners. The AEC would establish free flows of goods, services and foreign direct investment, as well as freer skilled labor and cross-border capital flows.

ASEAN’s progress toward establishing AEC, will have a strong impact on U.S.-ASEAN trade and investment. With a combined population of nearly 600 million people, an integrated ASEAN will lead to greater economies of scale and lower costs – which will help companies, workers and citizens in both the U.S. and ASEAN thrive.

The Commerce Department will continue to play a strong and active role in engaging with ASEAN. Commerce will do its part to foster more public-private relationships and support trade missions to ASEAN countries to help strengthen U.S.-ASEAN economic futures.

June 8 Marks World Ocean Day: NOAA’s National Ocean Service Concludes "30 Days of Oceans" Campaign

The ocean acts like a sunlight filter

Presidential Proclamation Declares June National Oceans Month

June 8 is World Ocean Day, a time to celebrate the ocean which covers most of our planet. 

The ocean—it’s bluedeep, and full of strange-looking forms of life. But beyond its natural beauty and mystery, the ocean is useful to have around for many practical reasons, such as: past ocean life produced enough oxygen to make this planet a nice place to live; it affects the atmosphere, and therefore, the weather and climate; it is full of food humans like to eat; it is fun to play in; and it has lots of materials and mineral resources we use for energy, manufacturing, and transportation.

What is the best way to give your thanks for the many benefits the ocean offers us? By protecting it and keeping it clean, of course.

Here are a few suggestions from NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration for a keeping a healthy and pollution-free ocean:

Also: In conjunction with World Ocean Day, NOAA's National Ocean Service concludes its 30 Days of Oceans campaign.  You can also view the World Ocean Day video at

For more information on the Presidential proclamation, please visit

Breaking Down the Urban-Rural Broadband Divide

Cover of May 2013 report

Cross-post by David Beede, Research Economist, Economics and Statistics Administration and Anne Neville, Director, State Broadband Initiative, National Telecommunications and Information Administration

While broadband availability has expanded for all parts of the United States, NTIA data has consistently shown that urban areas have greater access to broadband at faster speeds than rural areas. In a new report released today, NTIA and the Commerce Department’s Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) delve deeper into the differences between broadband availability in rural and urban areas.

This latest report is part of a series from NTIA that examines broadband availability data in greater detail. One key finding of the new report suggests that, in many cases, the closer a community lies to a central city, the more likely it is to have access to broadband at higher speeds. This is significant because some lower-density communities are located closer to the central city of a metropolitan area and have more access to faster broadband speeds than higher-density communities that are more distant from a central city.

Rural areas can be either within metropolitan areas (exurbs) or outside of metro areas (very rural areas), and while they each have approximately the same share of the total population (more than 9 percent) there is a wide gap in broadband availability between these two types of communities. The report shows that in 2011, 76 percent of residents in exurbs, which generally ring suburbs, had access to basic wireline broadband, defined as advertised speeds of 3 Mbps download and 768 kbps upload. In contrast, 65 percent of very rural residents, who live outside of metropolitan areas, had basic wired service. This disparity between exurban and very rural areas is even greater when it comes to access to much faster broadband service of at least 25 Mpbs. Only 18 percent of very rural residents had access to broadband at this speed compared to nearly 38 percent of exurban residents.  There are also significant gaps between exurbs and very rural areas when it comes to access to wireless broadband.  

Working Together with Indian Country

Photo of Senior Adviser Dee Alexander

Guest blog post by Dee Alexander, Commerce's Senior Adviser on Native American Affairs

Last month, Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank signed the “Tribal Consultation and Coordination Policy," (PDF) which establishes the manner in which the Department works with federally-recognized Indian tribes when developing Department policies that have tribal implications.

The Consultation Policy follows from President Obama’s Presidential Memorandum on Tribal Consultation from November 2009 which strengthens former President Bill Clinton’s Executive Order on “Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments” (PDF). Upon signing, President Obama stated the importance of the Presidential Memorandum: “History has shown that failure to include the voices of tribal officials in formulating policy affecting their communities has all too often led to undesirable and, at times, devastating and tragic results. By contrast, meaningful dialogue between Federal officials and tribal officials has greatly improved Federal policy toward Indian tribes.

Commerce Department Supports Disaster Relief Across the Country

A tornado funnel cloud

Only a few weeks ago, an EF5 tornado ripped through Oklahoma.  The 2013 Atlantic hurricane season just began, and forecasts predict that it will be a very active season. Whenever events like these may occur, the Department of Commerce is ready to help communities across the country prepare for and recover from natural disasters.

The U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) is one of the Commerce bureaus that assist in disaster-recovery efforts. Just last month, EDA announced grants totaling $54.1 million for disaster relief to 15 communities in 12 states and territories. For example, EDA announced a $20 million investment that will help redevelop the 20th Street corridor in Joplin, Missouri, where a devastating tornado in May 2011 claimed 161 lives, flattened large sections of the city, and destroyed more than 7,000 housing units.

Some other recently announced recovery projects include:

  • rebuilding a flood-damaged railroad bridge across the Judith River in Montana that provides the sole freight link for numerous farming communities;
  • providing communities in New England that were devastated by Tropical Strom Irene with the means to provide technical assistance to small businesses and local governments; and
  • rebuilding public infrastructure in downtown Minot, North Dakota, an area that was destroyed by flooding of the Mouse River.

These projects are part of a $200 million appropriation made by Congress to EDA to help with long-term economic recovery and infrastructure support in communities that received a major disaster designation in fiscal year 2011.