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Blog Entries from August 2013

Confirming the Partnership Between the United States and Asia

Industry representatives from nations within the Asia-Pacific region attend a business ethics workshop with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Academy in August 2013.

The Department of Commerce has taken advantage of several opportunities to support its commitment to Asia, an important region with some of the world’s fastest growing economies.

Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Francisco Sánchez visited Brunei this month for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Business and Investment Summit. His message to the Summit was that ASEAN remains an important partner to the United States and a key player in the global marketplace.

As ASEAN looks to form an integrated economic community, the United States wants to make sure every nation in the region understands America’s commitment to ASEAN and the broader Asia-Pacific region. The United States and ASEAN are working within the Expanded Economic Engagement framework, designed to expand trade and investment ties and create new business opportunities and jobs in all eleven countries.

The United States and the Commerce Department support the important initiatives ASEAN is taking on to support the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). All governments in the region are actively working to put greater emphasis on protecting intellectual property and enforcing intellectual property rights. This encourages innovation, as it ensures that SMEs will be able to profit from their ideas without worry of them being compromised.

Secretary Pritzker Meets With Commerce Employees in Houston

Secretary Penny Pritzker meets with Houston-area Commerce Employees.

While in Houston, Texas today, Secretary Pritzker visited a U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC), part of the International Trade Administration (ITA), and met with USEAC employees and employees from the Bureau of Industry and Security’s (BIS) Houston field office. The secretary's visit was part of her latest stop on a nationwide listening tour and was an opportunity to thank the employees for their work for the Department of Commerce. 

USEACs are the domestic arm of ITA’s U.S. Commercial Service, which is comprised of an extensive network of trade specialists located in more than 100 U.S. cities and 80 countries worldwide. The specialists help American companies start exporting or expand their international business presence. Specific services include: world class market research; trade events that promote companies’ product or service to qualified buyers; introductions to buyers and distributors; and counseling and advocacy through every step of the export process.The Houston USEAC in particular has been working with companies in the energy, information technology and transportation sectors to support and increase U.S. exports.

The secretary also met with representatives from BIS’ Houston field office. The Houston office’s mission is to protect U.S. national and domestic security, foreign policy and economic interests. BIS operates a law enforcement program focused on sensitive exports to hostile entities or those that engage in onward proliferation, prohibited foreign boycotts and related public safety laws. The office accomplishes its mission through preventative and investigative enforcement activities and then pursuing appropriate criminal and administrative sanctions against export violators.

Partnership Between the Port of Houston and Department of Commerce is Crucial for Continued Economic Success

Len Waterworth, Executive Director of the Port of Houston Authority

Guest blog post by Len Waterworth, Executive Director of the Port of Houston Authority.

It was an honor to host the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Penny Pritzker, at one of the nation’s busiest and most critically important ports, the Port of Houston.

As a civic and business leader and entrepreneur, Secretary Pritzker understands that excellent transportation infrastructure allowing manufacturers to access materials and deliver products is key to increasing exports. It is how a port like Houston, geographically positioned as the gateway to America’s heartland with exceptional rail and roadway connections, has grown to be the nation’s number one port in terms of foreign tonnage.

The Port of Houston's economic activity helps keep Texas the nation's top exporting state. For the past 11 years, Texas has outpaced the rest of the country in exports. In 2012, Texas exports totaled $265 billion, up by 5.4 percent from 2011, according to Commerce Department data. Top export markets include Mexico ($94.8 billion), Canada ($23.7 billion), China ($10.3 billion), Brazil ($10 billion), and the Netherlands ($9.5 billion).

Exports from the Houston metro area topped $110 billion in 2012, an annual increase of almost $6 billion. That was enough to surpass New York for the first time since 2006 as the top export region in the U.S.

The partnership between the Port Authority and Department of Commerce is crucial for continued success and for making America awesome. A good example is Foreign Trade Zone 84, which is number one in the nation for merchandise received in warehouse/distribution centers. The FTZ program in the Houston region is providing economic stimulus in the form of jobs, tax base and revenue.  

Secretary Penny Pritzker Announces $600,000 Investment to Support Entrepreneurship and Job Creation in Louisiana

Secretary Penny Pritzker hears from entrepreneurs at Idea Village in New Orleans, Louisana

Secretary Penny Pritzker today announced that the Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is awarding a $600,000 grant to The Idea Village, Inc., of New Orleans, La., to support programs that assist entrepreneurs in building their businesses and creating jobs. Secretary Pritzker is in New Orleans today as part of her nationwide listening tour, and made the announcement at The Idea Village after meeting with local entrepreneurs, mentors and business leaders.

The EDA investment announced today will support more than 300 businesses, according to grantee estimates. Specifically, it will fund additional technical assistance programs, especially in such growing fields as technology, biomedical engineering, and media production; help with expansion of The Idea Village’s successful “Entrepreneur Season,” a six-month-long program of business assistance and education; and support more forums, workshops, and networking sessions that will be offered during New Orleans’ Entrepreneur Week. EDA previously awarded two grants to The Idea Village – $800,000 in 2009 and $400,000 in 2011 – which helped the organization build their capacity to assist entrepreneurs.

To learn more about the U.S. Economic Development Administration, visit

The 50th Anniversary of the "I Have a Dream" Speech and the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom: August 28

View of the National Mall teeming with thousands around the Reflecting Pool (photo: National Archives)

On Aug. 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to more than 200,000 people from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. His famous "I Have a Dream" speech and the march were key moments in the American Civil Rights Movement.  To mark the anniversary, the U.S. Census Bureau has gathered key statistics that measure changes in some aspects of the black population to date.

There has been tremendous progress over the past 50 years. The diversity that we see in the classrooms and boardrooms around the country is a testament to that. And that impulse towards making sure everybody gets a fair shot is one that found expression in the Civil Rights Movement, but then spread to include Latinos and immigrants and gays and lesbians. “As we reflect back on the progress made over the last five decades, there still remains a lot of work to ensure that everyone who works hard can succeed, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation,” Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said in an anniversary statement.

On August 23, President Obama signed a Presidential Proclamation commemorating the 50th  Anniversary of the March in 1963. Review the U.S. Census Bureau’s Facts for Features Special Edition for information about population, voting, elected officials, income, housing and many other demographic categories.

Non-English Language Use in the United States Mapped

Language Mapper Screenshot showing dots for where Spanish language is spoken

The U.S. Census Bureau has released a web-based map application built to display language data collected from the American Community Survey. 

Language use, English-speaking ability, and linguistic isolation data are currently collected in the American Community Survey. In the past, various questions on language were asked in the censuses from 1890 to 1970. The current language use questions, in use since 1980, gather how many people speak a language other than English at home, what languages are spoken, and how well English is spoken.

For most people residing in the United States, English is the only language spoken in the home. However, many languages other than English are spoken in homes across the country. Data on speakers of languages other than English and on their English-speaking ability provide more than an interesting portrait of our nation. Routinely, these data are used in a wide variety of legislative, policy, legal, and research applications.

Commerce Announces $15 Million to Boost Competitiveness of U.S. Manufacturers

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker today announced $15 million in U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) grants to support 11 Trade Adjustment Assistance Centers (TAACs) in California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington that help manufacturers affected by imports adjust to increasing global competition and create jobs.

“The Obama administration is committed to providing communities with the resources they need to succeed in a global marketplace,” Secretary Pritzker said. “The grants announced today will strengthen the competitiveness of the U.S. economy by providing funding for programs that help companies make improvements in such critical areas as advanced manufacturing, engineering, marketing, quality control, information technology, and market development.”

The Billion Dollar Roundtable

Guest blog post by David Hinson, National Director of the Minority Business Development Agency. Cross-posted from

Each year, since 1955, Fortune Magazine ranks the 500 largest corporations in the United States.  Corporations that are part of the Fortune 500, purchase goods and services from other businesses which in turn support thousands of other companies and millions of jobs across the nation.  Becoming a supplier to a major corporation is a growth strategy that many minority-owned firms incorporate into their business plans, and Fortune 500 corporations have responded by launching supplier diversity programs.  Some are more successful than others. 

The Billion Dollar Roundtable (BDR) was created 12 years ago to identify and honor those Fortune 500 corporations that have embraced the value of working with diverse suppliers and procuring quality products and services to satisfy their corporate needs.   Every corporation that is a member of the Billion Dollar Roundtable is formally committed to procuring at least $1 billion annually in goods and services from minority and women-owned businesses.  Today, there are 18 corporate members of the BDR, with many more on their way to achieving the $1 billion threshold.

Although $1 billion is the benchmark for joining the Billion Dollar Roundtable, AT&T is one corporation exceeding that goal.

On August 21st, I attended the Billion Dollar Roundtable annual summit, where attendees shared best practices in supply chain diversity excellence. There were also discussions about new strategies and opportunities to increase the number of Fortune 500 corporations in the Billion Dollar Roundtable. The Roundtable has accomplished a lot since its founding in 2001.

Secretary Pritzker Visits Census Bureau’s Atlanta Regional Office

Secretary Pritzker meets with Reggie Bigham (Deputy Regional Director) and Katrina Carter (Assistant Regional Director) of the Census Bureau's Atlanta Regional Office on Friday, August 23.

Earlier today, Secretary Pritzker visited the Census Bureau’s Atlanta Regional Office. She met with Census Bureau employees as well as staff from the Economic Development Administration and Minority Business Development Agency. Her latest stop on her listening tour, and the first at a Census Bureau regional office, gave her the opportunity to thank the employees for their hard work collecting the data that allows the Census Bureau to measure America’s people, places and economy.

The Census Bureau’s six regional offices form the backbone of the data collection process. Field representatives in the Atlanta region follow up with respondents from South Carolina to Louisiana to gather data for surveys such as the American Community Survey, which provides the only local statistics available for every neighborhood in the nation.

Secretary Pritzker toured the regional office and thanked staff for their hard work and dedication to gathering data critical to the nation: “The information you collect helps government at all levels — federal, state and local. Your data is critical for entrepreneurs and business owners who want to make good decisions. I’ve discussed the importance of the Census Bureau to the President himself, and we talked about how we need to capitalize on our data-rich environment to promote the administration’s initiatives.”

Atlanta Regional Office Deputy Director Reggie Bigham, along with assistant director Katrina Carter, led the office tour. He thanked Secretary Pritzker for including Atlanta on her tour: “We are thankful that you have taken the time to visit our regional office and that you took the time to personally hear from our staff about the many quality activities we perform to collect the vital statistics needed for our nation. We look forward to hearing from you about your vision for our organization as members of the Department of Commerce.”

Brand USA and Commerce: Partners in Travel Promotion

Daniel Halpern, President and CEO of Jackmont Hospitality, Inc., and the Chair-Elect of the Corporation for Travel Promotion, dba Brand USA

Guest blog post by Daniel Halpern, President and CEO of Jackmont Hospitality, Inc., and the Chair-Elect of the Corporation for Travel Promotion, dba Brand USA.

I had an inspiring conversation today with Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. I joined Secretary Pritzker and the heads of several Atlanta companies to discuss the opportunities and challenges facing the Atlanta business community. I think we all felt inspired by the conversation and the work that the Department of Commerce is doing to lead the economic recovery.

Travel and tourism was a key topic the Secretary and I discussed. Travel and tourism is the United States’ largest services export. In 2012 international visitors spent nearly $166 billion and produced a $47 billion trade surplus, supporting 1.2 million jobs. Tourism benefits virtually every sector of the U.S. economy, from hotels and attractions to restaurants, transportation, retail, and professional services.

The travel and tourism industry has advanced under the leadership of the Obama administration and the Department of Commerce. We’ve witnessed the signing of the Travel Promotion Act, which created Brand USA, and the development of a National Travel Tourism Strategy to attract 100 million international visitors by 2021.

Secretary Pritzker Tours Global Center for Medical Innovation in Atlanta, Georgia

Secretary Pritzker views a prototyping machine at the Global Center for Medical Innovation

Today, as part of her nationwide listening tour, Secretary Pritzker visited the Global Center for Medical Innovation (GCMI) in Atlanta, Ga. GCMI is an independent, non-profit organization that works with universities, research centers, and investors to help accelerate the commercialization of innovative medical technology.

GCMI, which opened in 2010, houses facilities that local entrepreneurs can use to design, engineer, and build their products, and provides access to a growing network of experts that can help bring cutting edge ideas to market. The secretary toured the facility with GCMI executives and CEOs from two of the four startup businesses that reside at GCMI.

During her tour, Secretary Pritzker learned about some of the daily on-site activities at GCMI, including medical device design engineering and prototyping, and explored the organization’s design lab. She also learned about the center’s rapid prototype machine, which is a 3D printer that enables innovators, and entrepreneurs to bring their ideas from concept to reality in a matter of hours. Typically, prototypes take days or weeks to manufacture. GCMI is able to support a relationship between Georgia Tech and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta to develop and commercialize new medical devices for the pediatric market. They are also helping an Atlanta-based entrepreneur and an inventor from Georgia Tech develop a functional prototype to help quadriplegics GAIN greater mobility.

Secretary Pritzker also met with some of the students who are part of GCMI’s apprentice program. This program provides opportunities to students and recent graduates from leading engineering and medical schools around the country who participate in a range of development activities that help bring new medical technology from the lab to the clinic.

Obama Administration Announces CEOs for U.S.-Brazil CEO Forum

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs Caroline Atkinson today announced the U.S. private sector members who will serve the next term on the U.S.-Brazil CEO Forum. The Forum will meet during the State visit of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff to Washington, D.C., in October and will provide joint recommendations to both presidents on opportunities to advance the U.S.-Brazil bilateral relationship. Pritzker and Atkinson will co-chair the ninth meeting of the CEO Forum along with Brazilian Presidential Chief of Staff Minister Gleisi Hoffmann and Minister of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade Fernando Pimentel. 

“During his recent trip to Brazil, Vice President Biden asked what the United States and Brazil can do together. The U.S.-Brazil CEO Forum seeks to answer that question through a public-private dialogue in which business leaders from the United States and Brazil make recommendations to the highest levels of our respective governments about the future of our bilateral economic and commercial relationship,” said Secretary Pritzker. “I am looking forward to meeting the new and returning CEOs along with both Ministers Pimentel and Hoffmann and Deputy National Security Advisor Atkinson to discuss issues of mutual interest.”

 The Forum has had success opening discussions between the United States and Brazilian governments on a number of important issues, including visa reform, aviation, and education, and was instrumental in concluding the recent U.S.-Brazil Tax Information Exchange Agreement.

Secretary Pritzker Discusses Power of Immigration Reform to Drive Florida’s Economy

National Entrepreneur Center Welcomes Secretary Penny Pritzker

Secretary Pritzker visited Orlando, Florida, today as part of her overall listening tour to hear directly from business leaders on how the public and private sectors can work together to strengthen the economy and create American jobs.

While in Orlando, Secretary Pritzker met with local business leaders on the need to pass comprehensive immigration reform, which is key to the country’s economic growth. She shared her story as an entrepreneur coming from a family of entrepreneurs, including her great-grandfather who emigrated from Russia to the United States.

Pritzker referenced a recent White House report citing the Economic Benefits of Fixing Our Broken Immigration System. The value of immigrants to the American economy cannot be understated. More than 40% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children. One-fourth of U.S. Nobel Prize winners over the years have been foreign-born. While immigrants account for only about 13% of the U.S. population, they start about 28% of all new businesses, according to an analysis of Census Bureau data.

Florida businesses were very aware of the power of immigrants to drive an economy. Nearly one-fourth of the labor force is foreign-born and about 30% of business owners are immigrants who generate over $13 billion in annual income. Through reform, it’s estimated that Florida’s economic output would increase next year by $1.8 billion and create 22,000 new jobs. According to one model, reforms in the Senate bill including a pathway to earned citizenship and an expansion of high-skilled and temporary worker programs would increase personal income for Florida families by over $6.5 billion in 2020.

Secretary Pritzker Visits Universal Studios Orlando and Speaks with Leading Executives of Travel and Tourism Companies

Secretary Penny Pritzker at Universal Studios Wizarding World of Harry Potter with COO Bill Davis (left) and John Sprouls, Executive VP (right)

Today, as part of her nationwide listening tour, Secretary Penny Pritzker toured Universal Studios Orlando with Bill Davis, President & COO, Universal Orlando and John McReynolds, SVP External Affairs, Universal Parks and Resorts and held a roundtable with Presidents and CEOs of local travel and tourism companies. Orlando is home to a vibrant travel and tourism industry that doesn’t contribute just to the state of Florida’s economy, but to the nation’s economy as a whole. In fact, international travel is the country’s largest service export with the travel and tourism industry accounting for nearly $1.4 trillion to the U.S. GDP and providing more than 7.5 million jobs for American workers, according to the Department of Commerce.

According to the Orlando Tourism Bureau, in 2011, Orlando benefited from $31.7 billion in visitor spending. Orlando was the fifth most visited U.S. city in 2011 with 2.8 million international visitors and Florida ranked third among states in 2011 with 5.7 million international visitors.

During the roundtable, Secretary Pritzker not only discussed the value of the travel and tourism industry to the overall American economy, but also the key role the Commerce Department plays in supporting and promoting the United States as the premier destination for international travelers. In fact, the Department’s NOAA manages the nation’s marine sanctuaries – a great destination for marine life lovers and history buffs.

Commerce Agencies Participate in Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force

Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force

President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, chaired by Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan, released a rebuilding strategy to serve as a model for communities across the nation facing greater risks from extreme weather and to continue helping the Sandy-affected region rebuild.  The Commerce Department made significant contributions to the Rebuilding Strategy containing 69 policy recommendations that will help homeowners stay in and repair their homes, strengthen small businesses and revitalize local economies and ensure entire communities are better able to withstand and recover from future storms. 
The Rebuilding Strategy includes policy recommendations that will have a significant impact on how the region rebuilds and how we will improve our ability to withstand and recover effectively from future flood-related disasters across the country.

Federal agencies collected and disseminated vast quantities of scientific data that aided Hurricane Sandy preparation, response, and recovery. Interagency data sharing has been central to this process. Before the storm, the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) worked with FEMA to deliver Geographical Information System (GIS)-ready storm surge depth grids and forecasts. After the storm, FEMA, state, and local emergency managers used aerial imagery collected by NOAA to guide evacuations, monitor local conditions, assess damages, and allocate response resources. Hours after the storm passed, NOAA also began surveying the waterways that lead to critical petroleum facilities within the Port of New York/New Jersey, helping to ensure safe navigation and restoring the flow of emergency fuel supplies by morning. Within five days, NOAA, working with the Coast Guard and Army Corps, restored maritime commerce, including transportation of food, fuel, and rebuilding supplies, to all major ports in the affected region.

Fostering Technology Transfer and Entrepreneurship

Green Technology and Advanced Manufacturing Showcase

This week the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) welcomed dozens of representatives from Maryland businesses to learn about collaboration and technology licensing opportunities at a “Green Technology and Advanced Manufacturing Showcase.” The event was hosted by the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO), an independent organization that provides entrepreneurial business assistance and seed funding for the development of startup companies in Maryland.

In a 2011 Memorandum, President Obama wrote, “Innovation fuels economic growth, the creation of new industries, companies, jobs, products and services, and the global competitiveness of U.S. industries. One driver of successful innovation is technology transfer, in which the private sector adapts federal research for use in the marketplace.”

The memo instructed agencies to take steps to enhance successful technology innovation networks by fostering increased federal laboratory engagement with external partners. TEDCO is one of the partners working with NIST to foster tech transfer and its economic benefits.

Attendees at today’s event learned about the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership, which supports small- and mid-size manufacturers across the U.S.; how to work with NIST; and technologies available for license from NIST’s Engineering and Material Measurement laboratories.

Investing in Our Economic Future: SelectUSA 2013 Investment Summit

SelectUSA 2013 Investment Summit Logo

Guest post by Mara Lee, Deputy Director of Public Affairs at the International Trade Administration. Cross post from, the official blog of the International Trade Administration

You don’t have to look far to find something in your life that is produced by an international company operating in the United States. It might be the dishwasher in your kitchen, the brake pads on your car, or the elevator in your apartment building.

You also won’t have to look far to find jobs supported by foreign direct investment (FDI) in the United States. There are more than five million of them throughout the country, covering every state in both rural and urban communities.

Those are five million reasons why FDI is an important ingredient in the recipe for continued economic growth in the United States.

President Obama has made it a priority to attract more FDI to the United States, helping support more jobs and economic growth. A key tool in his efforts is the upcoming SelectUSA Investment Summit.

The Summit will connect global investors with U.S. leaders who are ready to showcase local investment projects. Economic development organizations from 15 states have already confirmed attendance at the event, offering myriad investment opportunities around the country.

Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker also announced an impressive lineup of government and business leaders to share important lessons about the advantages of investing in the United States – advantages ranging from our educated workforce, our relatively low energy costs, and the long history of ingenuity, innovation, and entrepreneurship that is synonymous with the “Made in America” label.

U.S. Department of Commerce Announces $2.5 Million in Investments to Strengthen Innovation and Economic Growth Initiatives

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker announced the winners of the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) 2013 University Center Economic Development Program Competition. EDA is providing a total of $2.5 million in grants to 19 colleges and universities in 10 states to run five-year programs that will leverage university assets to promote American innovation and strengthen regional economies. This year’s competition was open to higher education institutions in states supported by EDA’s Austin and Denver regional offices.

“These EDA investments in University Centers are examples of the Obama administration’s commitment to public-private partnerships with higher education institutions that help America stay innovative and competitive in the 21st century,” said Secretary Pritzker. “These 19 grants will help colleges and universities throughout the country support regional entrepreneurship and job creation that are vital to boosting economic growth.”

EDA-funded University Centers provide business solutions and technical assistance to public- and private-sector organizations, and conduct other activities with the goal of enhancing regional economic development. They offer a full range of services tailored to each region’s needs and the institution’s strengths. University Center business solutions include basic and applied research, market research, feasibility studies, product development, strategic and financial planning, seminars and training, and management consultations. These services enhance business productivity, streamline operations, increase quality, and cut costs.  Release

NOAA Acting Administrator Addresses Climate Change and Prevalence of Extreme Weather Events

NOAA Acting Administrator Addresses Clean Energy Summit

Yesterday, Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, acting administrator of NOAA, participated in the 6th annual Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas, NV. Dr. Sullivan was part of a panel to discuss extreme weather and climate change.

NOAA, part of the U.S. Commerce Department, strives to not only understand the science behind climate change, but how decision makers can apply that science to inform operations, preparedness, and future planning. Business and industry get it. They understand that the planet is changing, and they rely on NOAA's climate research, products and services to make sound business decisions, both for their economic outlook and their resilience to extreme events.

During the panel, Dr. Sullivan talked about the unique role the federal government plays in developing and maintaining the expansive observational systems that provide insights into our changing planet. NOAA's science is showing a link between climate change and the prevalence of extreme weather events.  For example, 2012 had the most broken records for temperature for a one year period. New and continued research helps scientists the probability of extreme events change in response to global warming.

NOAA satellites and ground stations provide a wealth of weather data generating an entire economic sector that today includes the Weather Channel, commercial agricultural advisory services, and new insurance options.  In addition, Commerce Department economic data help small businesses make important key business decisions such as where to locate, where to manufacture a product and where to sell that product.  This use of Commerce data is an example of the power of open data and private sector entrepreneurship that benefits all Americans and creates new jobs.

NOAA's ability to provide "whole earth" understanding informs decisions for all industries and communities. Understanding and applying data promotes resilience in our communities and our economy.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Announces First Business Development Mission to Mexico

Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker recently announced that she will lead her first business development mission to Mexico City and Monterrey, Mexico from November 18-22, 2013. This mission will promote U.S. exports to Mexico by helping export-ready U.S. companies launch or increase their business in a number of key industry sectors, including: advanced manufacturing, information and communications technology, and health IT and medical devices.

In announcing the mission, Secretary Pritzker said, “Exports are an essential component for spurring growth and creating jobs in America. The United States and Mexico have strong business ties and increasing opportunities for trade and collaboration between our two nations will help bolster economic success across our border.” 

Earlier this summer, President Obama and President Peña Nieto met to underscore and discuss the strategic importance of the bilateral relationship between the United States and Mexico. In so doing, they noted the potential for mutual economic gains by strengthening commercial ties between our countries.

Secretary Pritzker Completes Third Leg of National Listening Tour

Phot of Prizker touring the EC

Today, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker wrapped up the third leg of her nationwide listening tour, during which she is traveling across the country to meet with businesses and thought leaders, entrepreneurs, academics and Department of Commerce employees. While in Nashville, Tenn. and Pella and Des Moines, IA, she heard from various groups and industry representatives about their priorities, concerns and ideas on how the public and private sectors can work together to strengthen the economy and create American jobs.

“Nashville, Pella, and Des Moines epitomize the entrepreneurial spirit that is driving economic development and job creation in the United States,” said Secretary Pritzker. “From leveraging the creative economy to making investments in advanced manufacturing, businesses in these states are getting it right. As I continue my listening tour over the next few weeks, I’m looking forward to hearing more from businesses and entrepreneurs about how the Department can serve as a bridge to the business community to protect, promote, inform and anticipate what America needs to be competitive and innovative in the 21st century.”

In Nashville, Secretary Pritzker visited the Entrepreneur Center, a nonprofit business incubator that helps connect entrepreneurs with investors, mentors and resources that are crucial to accelerating the launch of their startup businesses. While at the EC, Secretary Pritzker toured the facilities with its president and CEO Dr. Michael Burcham and met with facility staff and young entrepreneurs working in a wide variety of fields, and heard how funds from a grant from the Department’s Economic Development Administration enabled them to expand capacity three-fold. The secretary was also joined by the team from Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency’s (MBDA) regional office in Memphis, and encouraged collaboration between MBDA and the entrepreneurs who work with the center.

Secretary Pritzker then headed to Iowa where she visited Jaarsma Bakery and toured operations at Vermeer Corporation in Pella. Over its 65 year history, Vermeer has grown to become competitive on a global scale, earning a Presidential award for exports, in recognition of their efforts to increase exports. Vermeer serves customers with forage, specialty excavation, environmental and underground equipment products to more effectively and responsibly work farms and ranches, improve infrastructure, and manage natural resources. She also visited Dwolla, Inc. and the Iowa State Fair.

Full release

Secretary Pritzker Discusses Economic Benefits of Immigration Reform in Iowa

Secretary Pritzker visited Des Moines, Iowa, today as part of her overall listening tour to hear directly from business leaders on how the public and private sectors can work together to strengthen the economy and create American jobs. 

While in Des Moines, Secretary Pritzker met with local business leaders on the need to pass comprehensive immigration reform, which is key to the country’s economic growth. Commonsense immigration reform will reduce the deficit and grow the economy. In fact, the Senate-passed bill would grow the economy by 5.4 percent over the next two decades and increase labor force participation by 3.5 percent in 2023 and 5 percent in 2033, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. 

Immigrants and children of immigrants make significant contributions to the U.S. economy. In Iowa, the labor force is 5.3 percent foreign born and these men and women generate $216 million in income for the state each year.

During the roundtable, Secretary Pritzker heard from representatives from the health care community who favor immigration reform as a way to address a shortage of physicians in the area. Many around the table said that Iowa would be better served if the foreign-born students trained in Iowa's schools – and in their technology programs in particular – were allowed to stay in the United States. Others said that immigration reform would help them expand the pool of labor available to fill entry-level jobs. 

Commonsense comprehensive immigration reform will strengthen the U.S. economy and create jobs while at the same time fostering innovation and entrepreneurism.

Secretary Pritzker Tours Manufacturing Company, Vermeer Corporation, in Iowa

Secretary Pritzker Tours Manufacturing Company, Vermeer Corporation, in Iowa (photo credit: A.J. Hodgeman)

Today, Secretary Pritzker toured the Vermeer Corporation in Pella, Iowa. Her second stop in Iowa, the visit, which is part of her nationwide listening tour, gave her an opportunity to learn how the 65-year-old manufacturing company has innovated to stay successful and competitive in the 21st century economy. 

The Vermeer Corporation, one of the largest employers in Pella, is a family-owned and managed U.S. manufacturer that serves customers with forage, specialty excavation, environmental and underground equipment products to more efficiently and responsibly work farms and ranches, improve infrastructure and manage natural resources. The company’s founder, Gary Vermeer, is credited with inventing agricultural equipment now in widespread use around the world. 

Secretary Pritzker first toured Vermeer’s facilities with company CEO Mary Andriga and U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, where she saw several of the company’s machines in action. The secretary saw a reclaimer, a machine used to purify water in the process of drilling to install underground utilities, as well as a leveler, which is used in surface mining. She also saw Vermeer's Parts and Distribution Center, which ships out 800 packages a day. Vermeer has 65,000 active part numbers in inventory, and ships 30 percent of its parts internationally. 

She also learned about the company’s efforts in exporting – Vermeer's products are distributed through a network of more than 500 dealerships around the globe. Thanks in part to exports, the company’s annual sales are estimated at approximately $1 billion. 

In fact, Vermeer earned a Presidential “E-Star” Award for exports in 1998, recognition American entities can receive for making a significant contribution to the expansion of U.S. exports.  

Following the tour, Secretary Pritzker led a roundtable discussion with Vermeer executives and other local leaders from the Des Moines and Pella, Iowa business community. They talked about what the government is doing well in supporting manufacturers and where there is room for improvement, and the secretary heard from the business leaders what more the Commerce Department can do to continue helping American manufacturers.

NOAA: Atlantic Hurricane Season on Track to Be Above-Normal

Image of Tropical Storm Dorian on July 24, 2013, from NOAA's GOES East satellite.

Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) issued its updated Atlantic hurricane season outlook today saying the season is shaping up to be above normal with the possibility that it could be very active. The season has already produced four named storms, with the peak of the season–mid-August through October–yet to come.

“Our confidence for an above-normal season is still high because the predicted atmospheric and oceanic conditions that are favorable for storm development have materialized,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service. “Also, two of the four named storms to-date formed in the deep tropical Atlantic, which historically is an indicator of an active season.”

The conditions in place now are similar to those that have produced many active Atlantic hurricane seasons since 1995, and include above-average Atlantic sea surface temperatures and a stronger rainy season in West Africa, which produces wind patterns that help turn storm systems there into tropical storms and hurricanes.  Full release

Vermeer Corporation Welcomes Secretary Pritzker to Pella, Iowa Manufacturing Facility

Mary Vermeer Andringa, President and CEO of Vermeer Corporation in Pella, Iowa

Guest blog post by Mary Andringa, President & CEO of Vermeer Corporation

As the CEO of Vermeer Corporation and the former chair of the National Association of Manufacturers, it is especially exciting to have Secretary Pritzker visit us here in Pella, Iowa today.  When you look back at the origins of the Department of Commerce, you’ll see that the National Association of Manufacturers was at the center of support for its development. It’s fitting that the relationship between Commerce and the manufacturing community dates back before the Department’s official conception. The two share similar visions of progress - both strive to create jobs, promote economic growth and encourage sustainable development in communities big and small.

This year, Vermeer Corporation celebrates 65 years of manufacturing high-quality equipment. What all started with one man – my father, Gary Vermeer – has evolved into a global industrial and agricultural equipment company helping make a real impact in a progressing world. Vermeer does more than manufacture yellow iron. Our equipment is used by customers to improve infrastructure that keeps people connected, work farms and ranches that support a vibrant food supply, and manage natural resources in an efficient and responsible way.

Today, Secretary Pritzker will see examples of Vermeer’s global footprint by touring our manufacturing high-bay where Vermeer’s largest machine to date – the 200-ton T1655 Terrain Leveler surface excavation machine - is built and then exported around the world; the Vermeer Parts Center where more than 65,000 active parts are stocked and shipments are made domestically and internationally daily; and lastly, our lean brush chipper assembly line where the number of days from raw steel to finished product has been reduced from 52 days to 2 days as part of our lean journey that began in 1997.

On behalf of Vermeer Corporation and the Iowa-based CEOs who will meet with her today in Pella, we welcome the opportunity to represent the voice of Midwest business as the Secretary acclimates herself to the opportunities and challenges industry faces to grow domestically and abroad. We thank the Secretary for making the commitment to listening to the leaders who are working everyday to grow American jobs and American business opportunities.

Secretary Pritzker Tours Loud Recording Studios and Speaks With Music and Entertainment Industry Leaders

Secretary Pritzker Tours Loud Recording Studios and Speaks With Music and Entertainment Industry Leaders

Today, as part of her nationwide listening tour, Secretary Penny Pritzker toured Loud Recording Studios with Cary Sherman, Chairman and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Jim Catino, Vice President of A&R for Sony Music Nashville. The music industry is a vibrant part of Nashville’s economy and the American economy as a whole. In fact, entertainment, literary and artistic originals contributed $74 billion to the U.S. economy last year, according to the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.

According to a report by the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Music City Music Council, the music industry sustains more than 56,000 jobs and contributes both to the local economy and the region’s gross domestic product.

During the roundtable, Secretary Pritzker not only discussed how the music and entertainment industries are contributing to the health of the creative economy, but also the key role the Commerce Department plays in supporting and protecting intellectual property and innovation.

Secretary Pritzker Tours Entrepreneur Center in Nashville, Tennessee

Secretary Pritzker receives a demonstration from one of the entrepreneur inside the Nashville Entrepreneur Center

Today, Secretary Penny Pritzker continued her successful nationwide listening tour with a stop at the Entrepreneur Center in Nashville, Tenn. This was her first stop in “Music City, USA” and provided her with an opportunity to hear how the center supports business start-ups and job growth.

The Entrepreneur Center (EC), a nonprofit business incubator, helps connect entrepreneurs with investors, mentors and resources that are crucial to accelerating the launch of their startup businesses. The EC houses 80 startups and was created through a public-private initiative, the Nashville Chamber of Commerce’s Partnership 2010, in 2007.

Following a catastrophic flood in May 2010, the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) invested $2.5 million in the EC in 2011 to renovate an historic building, the Trolley Barn, which tripled the facility’s capacity. The investment is also helping mitigate economic impacts of future disasters and helping build a stronger, more disaster-resilient economy.

Commerce Department Data Show U.S. Travel and Tourism Exports Contributed $87.1 Billion to U.S. Economy in First Six Months of 2013

Report cover: National Travel and Tourism Strategy

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration announced new data today that shows spending by international visitors to the United States in June 2013 totaled $14.6 billion, an increase of 5 percent when compared to June 2012.  International visitors have spent an estimated $87.1 billion on U.S. travel and tourism-related goods and services year-to-date in 2013 (January through June), an increase of 7 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 $67.0 billion during the first half of 2013. 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 $20.1 billion during the first half of 2013. The United States enjoyed a favorable balance of trade for the month of June in the travel and tourism sector, with a surplus of more than $4.3 billion.

The increase in international tourism to the United States is helping to achieve the goals of the National Travel and Tourism Strategy, launched last year by the Commerce Department and the Department of the Interior. The Strategy establishes an overarching goal of increasing American jobs by attracting and welcoming 100 million international visitors annually by the end of 2021, who are estimated to spend $250 billion while traveling in and getting to the United States. Release

Secretary Pritzker Speaks with More Than 100 CEOs in Her First Five Weeks

The Department of Commerce is Open for Business

In Secretary Pritzker’s first five weeks as Secretary of Commerce, she has met with or spoken to more than 100 CEOs and entrepreneurs. Since assuming the office of secretary, she has prioritized meeting and speaking with representatives of the business community to hear directly from them about how she can serve as a bridge to the business community. 

By calling top business leaders to discuss Commerce’s work in supporting American businesses and conducting small roundtable discussions, Secretary Pritzker is leveraging the opportunity to have an open dialogue and receive feedback from the business community about the commercial climates they encounter at home and abroad. Throughout these discussions, she has been hearing about the challenges companies face, the opportunities they see to increase U.S. competitiveness, and factors driving growth and investment in companies’ respective sectors.

In discussing inbound investment with CEOs of companies of all sizes, Secretary Pritzker has been talking about the upcoming SelectUSA Summit. She is amplifying what the President said last week; that this conference will connect business leaders from around the world with local leaders, “who are ready to prove there’s no better place to do business than right here in the United States of America.” 

The feedback gained from these conversations is vital to growing the partnership between business and government. Secretary Pritzker is appreciative of the input she has received from over 100 CEOs of small-and medium-sized companies she has encountered during her roundtables and phone calls, and taken their feedback seriously. As she continues her nationwide listening tour, she is hopeful to continue to gain invaluable input from business leaders throughout the country that will help shape her agenda as Secretary of Commerce.

New Census Bureau Interactive Map Shows Languages Spoken in America

New Census Bureau Interactive Map Shows Languages Spoken in America

Spanish, Chinese Top Non-English Languages Spoken; Most of Population is English Proficient

The U.S. Census Bureau today released an interactive, online map pinpointing the wide array of languages spoken in homes across the nation, along with a detailed report on rates of English proficiency and the growing number of speakers of other languages.

The 2011 Language Mapper shows where people speaking specific languages other than English live, with dots representing how many people speak each of 15 different languages. For each language, the mapper shows the concentration of those who report that they speak English less than "very well," a measure of English proficiency. The tool uses data collected through the American Community Survey from 2007 to 2011.

"This map makes it easy for anyone to plan language services in their community," said Nancy Potok, the Census Bureau's acting director. "Businesses can tailor communications to meet their customers' needs. Emergency responders can use it to be sure they communicate with people who need help. Schools and libraries can offer courses to improve English proficiency and offer materials written in other languages."

The languages available in the interactive map include Spanish, French, French Creole, Italian, Portuguese, German, Russian, Polish, Persian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tagalog and Arabic. After selecting one of these languages from the menu, users will see a national population density map, with each dot representing about 100 people who speak the language at home placed where these speakers are concentrated. The map also allows users to zoom in to a smaller geographic area, where each dot represents 10 people. The dots were placed in a random location within census tracts to protect the confidentiality of speakers.

Increase in Non-English Speakers

Also released today, the report, Language Use in the United States: 2011, [PDF] details the number of people speaking languages other than English at home and their ability to speak English, by selected social and demographic characteristics. It shows that more than half (58 percent) of U.S. residents 5 and older who speak a language other than English at home also speak English "very well." The data, taken from the American Community Survey, are provided for the nation, states and metropolitan and micropolitan areas.

The report shows that the percent speaking English "less than very well" grew from 8.1 percent in 2000 to 8.7 percent in 2007, but stayed at 8.7 percent in 2011. The percent speaking a language other than English at home went from 17.9 percent in 2000 to 19.7 percent in 2007, while continuing upward to 20.8 percent in 2011.

"This study provides evidence of the growing role of languages other than English in the national fabric," said Camille Ryan, a statistician in the Census Bureau's Education and Social Stratification Branch and the report's author. "Yet, at the same time that more people are speaking languages other than English at home, the percentage of people speaking English proficiently has remained steady."

Incentives to Support Adoption of the Cybersecurity Framework

Guest post by Michael Daniel, Special Assistant to the President and the Cybersecurity Coordinator. Cross-post from

The systems that run our nation’s critical infrastructure such as the electric grid, our drinking water, our trains, and other transportation are increasingly networked. As with any networked system, these systems are potentially vulnerable to a wide range of threats, and protecting this critical infrastructure from cyber threats is among our highest security priorities. That is why, earlier this year, the President signed an Executive Order designed to increase the level of core capabilities for our critical infrastructure to manage cyber risk. The Order does this by focusing on three key areas: information sharing, privacy, and adoption of cybersecurity practices.

To promote cybersecurity practices and develop these core capabilities, we are working with critical infrastructure owners and operators to create a Cybersecurity Framework – a set of core practices to develop capabilities to manage cybersecurity risk. These are the known practices that many firms already do, in part or across the enterprise and across a wide range of sectors. The draft Framework will be complete in October. After a final Framework is released in February 2014, we will create a Voluntary Program to help encourage critical infrastructure companies to adopt the Framework. 

While this effort is underway, work on how to incentivize companies to join a Program is also under consideration. While the set of core practices have been known for years, barriers to adoption exist, such as the challenge of clearly identifying the benefits of making certain cybersecurity investments. As directed in the EO, the Departments of Homeland Security, Commerce, and Treasury have identified potential incentives and provided their recommendations to the President, through the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism and the Assistant to the President for Economic Affairs.

Why is Everyone Talking About Africa?

President Obama and Senegal President Sall at press conference. Photo by White House, Pete Souza.

Claudia Easton is an intern in the International Trade Administration’s Office of the National Export Initiative and Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee. She’s studying Economics and Political Science at Amherst College. Cross-posted from Tradeology.

With the President’s recent trip to Senegal, Tanzania and South Africa, as well as the announcement of two new trade initiatives, the spotlight is on Africa – and with good reason.

While speaking at the Business Leaders Forum in Tanzania, President Obama spoke of beginning a new level of economic engagement with Africa. The Doing Business in Africa Campaign (DBIA) is part of the president’s strategy, and the International Trade Administration (ITA) is proud to join other government agencies to support  DBIA initiatives that are helping U.S. businesses compete on the continent.

Trade Africa aims to facilitate expanded trade on the continent. Its initial focus will be on the East African Community (EAC), a market with increasingly stable and pro-business regulations. The plan will support increased U.S.-EAC trade and investment, EAC trade competitiveness, and regional integration. The United States seeks to expand this initiative to other regional economic communities on the continent.

Power Africa is intended to build on Africa’s enormous power potential to expand electricity access to the more than two-thirds of the population that is without power. The President pledged $7 billion in U.S. government support, in addition to $9 billion in private money, over the next five years to double access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa. Power Africa will help attract investment in Africa’s energy sector, build capacity for reform in the energy sector, and encourage transparent and responsible natural resource management.

Shark Week? At NOAA Fisheries, Every Week is Shark Week

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Sharks thrill us because they’re mysterious, powerful, terrifying, and beautiful. That’s why there’s a Shark Week. And, as top predators in the marine ecosystem, sharks are also vital to the health of the ocean. That’s why there’s a corps of NOAA Fisheries scientists and managers who are dedicated to researching and protecting sharks. This week, on the NOAA Fisheries website, you can meet our shark experts.

You can also check out a very cool and—don’t say we didn’t warn you—disgusting video of our expert, Antonella Preti, dissecting the stomach of a 12-foot-long, 1,300 pound shortfin mako shark. She specializes in the feeding ecology of sharks, or more specifically she studies what’s in their stomachs. By analyzing the contents of more than 2,000 swordfish and shark stomachs, Preti and her colleagues have built a database of who eats who in the ocean, an essential tool for managing fisheries. Preti shows us it really takes guts to be a scientist.

Also, meet Lisa Natanson, an expert on the life history of sharks, and see her role in analyzing the age of the shortfin mako. A shark backbone has rings much like those of a tree that can help a scientist determine a shark’s age. On Thursday, August 8, at 2:00 p.m. EST, Natanson and Preti will hold a live tweet chat to answer your questions about shark science and anything you might want to know about the shortfin mako.

John Carlson is a shark scientist whose research focuses on rebuilding vulnerable populations of sharks and sustainably managing shark fisheries. Listen to this podcast to hear Carlson discuss his research into whether sharks are more likely to survive if caught on a circle hook instead of the more common J hook.

You’ll also find loads of other shark content, from videos to photos to interviews with more experts.

At NOAA Fisheries, our goal is to sustainably manage shark populations so that we can continue to enjoy the economic and ecological benefits they provide. And we do that every week of the year. So visit our website at www.fisheries.noaa.govduring Shark Week, and learn what we’re doing to create a sustainable future for sharks.

Secretary Pritzker Visits the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Gaithersburg, Md., Campus

Secretary Pritzker tours the NIST Trace Contraband Detection laboratory with Acting Deputy Secretary and NIST Director Patrick Gallagher.  The laboratory helps law enforcement agencies protect the public and enforce the law by developing improved methods and standards for trace detection of drugs and explosives.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker visited the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Md., today, as part of her nationwide listening tour. The campus hosts approximately 2,700 NIST staff members, as well as visiting researchers, post-doctorate fellows and undergraduate students.

The Secretary met with NIST senior executives to discuss Commerce priorities and took a tour of a laboratory focused on the most effective ways to collect and accurately analyze small or trace amounts of contraband such as drugs or explosives. The NIST Trace Contraband Detection Program supports the deployment and effective use of detection devices throughout the United States. NIST scientists use their  existing expertise in particle analysis, analytical chemistry and chemical microscopy to study the explosives collection and detection process in detail and to help field methods.

Secretary Pritzker saw demonstrations of some NIST-developed devices that could speed the processing of airline passengers while accurately assessing them for trace contraband. A shoe-sampler uses air jets to blow samples off of shoes still on the wearer’s feet, while another device checks IDs for samples transferred on fingertips. She also learned about the program making use of a 3-D printing machine to rapidly create new devices for improving detection methods. Through these efforts, NIST supports standards that ensure detectors in the field today work as expected and develops the specialized measurement expertise that will be needed for the next generation of explosive detection equipment.

A One-Stop-Shop on the Health Care Law for Businesses Big and Small

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Cross-posted from the White House Blog by Valerie Jarrett 

As we implement the Affordable Care Act, we continue listening to the needs of the business community. Based on our many conversations with leaders of our nation’s businesses, large and small, today we are launching, a one-stop-shop where employers of all sizes can go for information on the Affordable Care Act.

The new site includes a web-based tool that allows employers to get tailored information on how the health law may affect them based on their business’ size, location, and plans for offering health benefits to their workers next year. From tax credits for small businesses to help make coverage affordable, to measures to help slow the growth of health care costs, there are a variety of ways that the Affordable Care Act can help businesses expand health care coverage and compete.

The site leverages the resources of our partners across the federal government to ensure that business owners get comprehensive health care information and easy-to-use tools, such as a timeline of key implementation dates; information about the SHOP Marketplaces and small business tax credits; and resources to help calculate a firm’s number of full-time equivalent employees or determine if the coverage they already offer meets the law’s minimum value standards.

The administration is working with the employer community to ensure the site continues to be a helpful resource for businesses and their employees, including updating the site with additional, timely information, so stay tuned.