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Blog Entries from September 2013

Manufacturing Award Grants Will Invite Lasting Investment for Our Communities

Guest blog post by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker

This past spring, the Commerce Department launched the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP), a first-of-its-kind initiative to provide communities with the resources needed to create and implement development plans and recognize their full economic potential.

I’m so pleased to announce 26 grant award winners have been selected by the Department of Commerce. Along with our agency partners – the Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Small Business Administration – we are awarding $7 million in grants and investments that comprise the first funding phase of the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership.

The communities selected as winners by the Department of Commerce represent 17 different states. They have developed cutting-edge plans that capitalize on these communities' comparative advantages as a place to do business. These plans make investments in public goods, and encourage collaboration between multiple public and private entities to expand the area's commercial appeal to investors. In total, the first funding phase of the program provides 44 planning grants and investments.

The IMCP stemmed from the recognized need to effectively accelerate manufacturing investment in the United States. Too often, communities have relied on the practice of “smokestack chasing” to attract investment, in which communities will offer tax breaks and subsidies to attract the attention of a single firm. Economists have found this approach often yields a low return for taxpayer investment. The Obama administration seeks to encourage and assist American communities to not merely make efforts to attract individual investments but instead to transform themselves into manufacturing hubs that that draw all kinds of businesses.

Back in Black: Black Sea Bass Stock is Rebuilt

Black Sea Bass

The wait wasn’t easy but it’s over. NOAA Fisheries has declared the southern stock of black sea bass successfully rebuilt. With that, the combined commercial and recreational catch limit for this popular species has more than doubled, to 1.8 million pounds.

The southern stock of black sea bass ranges from Cape Hatteras, NC to the Florida Keys. For the communities along that stretch of coast, the higher catch limit is extremely good news.

According to the latest Fisheries Economics of the U.S. report, in 2011 recreational fishing in this region supported more than 52,000 jobs and added just short of $3 billion of value to the nation’s GDP.

Among recreational anglers, black sea bass is one of the most popular fish throughout its range. Those anglers will now be chasing black sea bass for about 6 months each summer and fall. In recent years, the season lasted about half that long.

Black sea bass is also an important commercial species. Although the economic impact from commercial fishing is less overall, it will be felt strongly in the Carolinas, where the commercial black sea bass fleet is concentrated.

Acting Deputy Secretary Pat Gallagher Highlights Programs to Help Entrepreneurs at #GovFest Event

Acting Deputy Secretary Pat Gallagher Speaking at #GovFest

Yesterday, Acting Deputy Secretary Pat Gallagher participated in a panel discussion on "Bridging the Gap Between Government and Entrepreneurs" at an event hosted by #GovFest. Acting Deputy Secretary Gallagher was joined by Tameka Montgomery, Associate Administrator of the Office of Entrepreneurial Development at the Small Business Administration, and Jason Kessler, Program Executive for NASA's Asteroid Grand Challenge, in addition to Aneesh Chopra, the first U.S. Chief Technology Officer, who moderated the panel.

The conversation focused on efforts to increase communication between entrepreneurs and the federal government in order to help innovators grow businesses, create jobs and increase America's competitiveness.

Acting Deputy Secretary Gallagher highlighted the many areas where the Commerce Department is already working to support entrepreneurs. For example, two years ago, the White House called for a consumer-friendly button on utility company websites that would give consumers easy access to their own energy usage data and, in turn, save both money and support the environment. The aptly named Green Button Initiative has been a great success - 12 million households had access to the Green Button last year, which is expected to rise to 27 million in the near future. Entrepreneurs have already started to save consumers money and build value for themselves by using this data. The Green Button Initiative was built on a technical standard which was developed by a public-private partnership supported by the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology. Similar efforts are underway in the fields of health information technologies, smart grid systems, cybersecurity, and climate data.

State Broadband Grants Are Helping States Embrace Digital Government

Anne Neville, Director, State Broadband Initiative

Cross-post from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration 

The following blog was written by Anne Neville, Director, State Broadband Initiative

With the Internet on our phones, our tablets, at the office and in our homes, most Americans have come to expect that our government, too, will be online. Still, whether it’s due to a lack of resources or skepticism over the need, some local governments have yet to fully embrace the potential of e-Government.

As part of our efforts to expand broadband access and adoption, NTIA’s State Broadband Initiative (SBI) has been working with states to help them provide the tools for citizens to participate in government online. These efforts are providing real benefits for consumers in many states, including allowing residents to communicate with government officials, make online tax or fine payments, and access numerous government forms.

With NTIA’s state broadband grants, states have taken a variety of approaches to helping localities better utilize the Internet. In Arkansas, Connect Arkansas, a nonprofit corporation focused on increasing broadband adoption and access, has used an SBI grant to work with 17 counties to help them launch engaging, transactional, and informational websites or to enhance existing sites. Six Arkansas counties have launched or are expected to launch new e-Government websites by the end of the year. 

Often, the savings created by a new or expanded website offsets the costs of creating and maintaining these sites by allowing county and city employees to spend less time taking in-person payments or answering questions over the phone. Since the launch of the property tax feature on its new e-government website in March 2012, Sharp County, Ark., has collected $360,000 in property taxes online.  This new feature has saved county staff as much as a full week in time as well as postage and stationery fees, according to County Collector Charlotte Ratliff.

U.S. Department of Commerce Invests Approximately $21 Million to Support Economic and Job Growth in Eleven States

Economic and Development Administration Seal

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker today announced that the Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is awarding $21.1 million in grants to support economic development projects in Alabama, California, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah. The projects are expected to create more than 2,500 jobs and attract $505 million in private investment, according to grantee estimates.

The Obama administration is committed to supporting critical business infrastructure for growth and economic competitiveness. The EDA grants announced today will help implement economic development projects that aim to boost job creation and sustainable economies in 11 states throughout the country.   

The mission of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) is to lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation's regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. An agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, EDA makes investments in economically distressed communities in order to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation, and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth. Find more information on the $21.1 million in EDA investments announced today.

Secretary Pritzker Co-Chairs U.S.-Mexico High Level Economic Dialogue And Outlines Future Engagement

 Secretary Penny Pritzker speaking with the American Chamber of Commerce of Mexico alongside Ernesto M. Hernández, President & Director General of General Motors Mexico, and Jose Zozaya, President and Executive Representative, Kansas City Southern de Mexico

Today, in Mexico City, Secretary Penny Pritzker co-chaired the U.S.-Mexico High Level Economic Dialogue (HLED) along with her colleagues from the U.S. Department of State, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and their Mexican counterparts. The goal of the HLED is to advance strategic economic and commercial priorities central to promoting mutual economic growth, job creation, and global competitiveness.

Specifically, the two countries discussed how to attract foreign direct investment, jointly promote travel and tourism, improve manufacturing within integrated supply chains, promote entrepreneurship, and provide 21st century workforce development. They will also work on improving transportation and telecommunications links and networks. The two countries will work collaboratively in regard to international institutions and negotiations, as well. During the proceedings, participants agreed on the HLED work plan, which are broadly defined under three pillars: Promoting Competitiveness and Connectivity; Fostering Economic Growth, Productivity, Entrepreneurship, and Innovation; and Partnering for Regional and Global Leadership.

After concluding the HLED, Secretary Pritzker spoke with the American Chamber of Commerce of Mexico and highlighted the results of the Dialogue. She recognized that the private sector, including small business, civil society, and labor organizations, is vital to building the U.S.-Mexico relationship and to drive mutual prosperity.

American Community Survey Statistics Give Communities Detailed Look at Income, Poverty, Health Insurance and Many other Statistics

U.S. Map

Cross-post from Random Samplings, the official blog of the U.S. Census Bureau

The following blog was written by James B. Treat

The American Community Survey statistics released today provide information for geographies with populations of 65,000 or more on many different topics, including income, poverty and health insurance. While national level statistics on these topics were released earlier this week from the Current Population Survey, many states and communities also rely on getting this information from the American Community Survey.

These ACS statistics that cover 2012 will be followed by new releases of statistics from data collected over three- and five-year periods later this year, allowing you to explore these topics for every community in the nation.

As the nation’s most comprehensive survey, the American Community Survey is unique in its ability to produce annual statistics on housing, economic and population measures for even the smallest geographic areas and population groups.  With today’s release, you can find statistics on a variety of topics including commute times, housing costs, educational attainment and characteristics of veterans.

Retailers, homebuilders, police departments, and town and city planners are among the many private- and public-sector decision makers who count on these annual results.

Looking at income, poverty and health insurance statistics provided by the American Community Survey helps communities measure their economic well-being as well as plan resource needs, such as allocating funds for food, health care, job training, housing and other assistance programs.  For more information on the American Community Survey please visit

Secretary Pritzker Speaks to Rhode Island Business Owners at Senator Jack Reed’s Rhode Island Business Leaders Day

This afternoon, Secretary Penny Pritzker attended Senator Jack Reed’s Rhode Island Business Leaders Day to affirm that Rhode Island, and America as a whole, are open for business. She noted the role that the Department of the Commerce is playing in helping to fortify the state’s economy by strengthening manufacturing, increasing exports, and making critical infrastructure and economic development investments.

Through the local United States Export Assistance Center, the Department of Commerce is promoting Rhode Island’s exports. Nationwide, U.S. exports hit $2.2 trillion last year, supporting nearly 10 million good-paying jobs. In 2009, Rhode Island exports were just $1.5 billion.  But last year, they hit $2.4 billion – representing a 60% jump. International trade now supports approximately 130,000 jobs in the state.  And exports now support 17% of manufacturing workers in Rhode Island.  Today, Rhode Island has seen growth in export areas like chemicals, machinery, electronics, and textiles, in addition to its biggest export, scrap metal, which often leaves from the Port of Providence.

A recent example is the Warwick-based firm named Astro-Med. They asked the Commerce Department for help entering into new markets in Latin America. They contacted one of our aerospace specialists in our International Trade Administration’s Commercial Service, who helped connect them with Embraer. As a result, just two weeks ago they won a major contract for cockpit equipment from Embraer. This contract means jobs for Rhode Islanders.

Rhode Island Business Leaders Day is an annual event co-hosted by Senator Jack Reed and the Rhode Island Food Dealers Association. Invitees include Rhode Island business owners from the manufacturing, defense, services, and financial sectors, economic development officials, and state politicians. The event consists of speeches and question and answer sessions with members of Congress, cabinet officials and journalists.

Commerce’s NIST Awards Grants to Improve Online Security and Privacy

NIST Awards Grants to Improve Online Security and Privacy

The U.S. Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced more than $7 million in grants to support the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC).  The funding will enable five U.S. organizations to develop pilot identity protection and verification systems that offer consumers more privacy, security and convenience online.

These new pilots build on the successful launch of five NSTIC pilots awarded in 2012Launched by the Obama administration in 2011 and housed at NIST, NSTIC is an initiative that aims to support collaboration between the private sector, advocacy groups and public-sector agencies. The selected pilot proposals advance the NSTIC vision that individuals and organizations adopt secure, efficient, easy-to-use, and interoperable identity credentials to access online services in a way that promotes confidence, privacy, choice and innovation.

The grants announced today will support privacy-enhancing technologies that help make Internet transactions more secure, including better protection from fraud and identity theft, and are an important step toward giving American companies and consumers greater confidence in doing business online.  Release

Secretary Penny Pritzker Delivers Keynote Remarks at the U.S.-Saudi Business Opportunities Forum

 Secretary Penny Pritzker Delivers Keynote Remarks at the U.S.-Saudi Business Opportunities Forum

Today Secretary Penny Pritzker delivered keynote remarks at the U.S.-Saudi Business Opportunities Forum currently underway in Los Angeles, an event being hosted by the Saudi Committee for International Trade, the U.S.-Saudi Business Council, and the Saudi-U.S. Trade Group. The event brought together approximately 1,200 American and Saudi businesses, government officials, academics and opinion leaders to highlight the U.S.-Saudi commercial and trade relationship and inform participants about business opportunities in Saudi Arabia.

During her remarks, Secretary Pritzker noted that the United States and Saudi Arabia have a strong trade and investment relationship, and last year, trade between our two countries hit all-time record highs. Our bilateral trade is now triple what it was just a decade ago.

Secretary Pritzker also noted that the Commerce Department, over the past four years, has helped more than 450 U.S. companies export to Saudi Arabia for the first time. More such partnerships are expected as Saudi Arabia’s plans for infrastructure growth allow U.S. companies opportunities to team up to build strong and vibrant Saudi communities, she said.

Secretary Pritzker also met with staff from the Los Angeles U.S. Export Assistance Center, which is part of the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA). Her visit with USEAC employees was an opportunity to thank them for their work and part of her ongoing efforts to meet with Department of Commerce employees all over the country.

USPTO Marks Second Anniversary of Milestone Patent Law—The America Invents Act

Deputy Director Teresa Stanek Rea of the United States Patent and Trademark Office provides opening remarks at a public forum marking the 2nd anniversary of the America Invents Act, the biggest overhaul of the nation’s patent laws since the 19th century.

When President Obama took office, he made overhaul of the patent system one of his top priorities. New innovations and ideas play a crucial role in creating American jobs, stimulating our economy, and remaining globally competitive.

And it was two years ago today that the president signed the America Invents Act (AIA) into law, setting in motion the most significant changes to the U.S. patent system since 1836. In just two years, the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) implementation of AIA has contributed to a more internationally harmonized, more predictable, and more flexible patent system for the United States, and one that is much more responsive to 21st century realities.

USPTO Deputy Director Teresa Stanek Rea marked the anniversary during a public forum at USPTO’s headquarters in Alexandria, Va., today. The meeting served as an opportunity to bring stakeholders together with USPTO experts to address and answers questions on AIA provisions.

New Center for Advanced Science, Innovation and Commerce Comes Online at Auburn

Auburn University officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday for the new Mike Hubbard Center for Advanced Science, Innovation and Commerce

The Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) hosted a ceremony Friday, September 13 to dedicate the Mike Hubbard Center for Advanced Science, Innovation and Commerce at Auburn University in Alabama.

The Center is a $28.8 million research facility designed to support multidisciplinary research in bioenergy, water quality, food safety and engineering, genomics, information science and ecosystem health. The new lab includes 20 high-tech laboratories with specialized equipment, a super computer, seminar rooms and outside features such as two 5-ton cranes for biofuels work.

The lab was partially financed by a cost-share award of $14.4 million from NIST’s Construction Grants Program as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The grants program has helped to fund either new construction or expansions at 24 research facilities across the country in fields as diverse as marine ecology, quantum physics, earthquake simulation and nanoscale measurement. The grants were designed to foster cutting-edge research in science and technology to advance economic growth and international competitiveness.

A Joint Imperative to Strengthen Skills

A Joint Imperative to Strengthen Skills

Guest blog post by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez

As two of the newest members of President Obama’s cabinet, we’ve both spent the past few months lending a fresh set of eyes and ears to the opportunities and challenges facing middle-class workers and American businesses. One concern facing both communities that requires our full attention and our joint efforts is making sure that every American has the skills needed to succeed in the workforce.

This week we visited Anne Arundel Community College (AACC) in Maryland, where we were joined by U.S. Congressman Steny Hoyer, to hear from local business, education, labor, and government leaders about the importance of skills training as both a workforce development and an economic development imperative.

In 2011 Anne Arundel Community College received a $19.7 million grant from the Labor Department to lead the National STEM Consortium, which is made up of 10 community colleges in nine states. Together, they’re working with employers, labor unions, and industry groups to develop certificate programs designed to train workers for mid-skill technical careers that have a high volume of openings in a particular region. Over the next decade, more than half of the new jobs created will be middle skills jobs meaning they require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year college degree.

For Army veteran and current AACC student Gary Pollard, the National STEM Consortium has meant a second shot at serving his country, this time as a trained cyber security analyst ready to take on one of the 15,000 related job openings in Maryland alone. The National STEM Consortium is just one example of the type of partnership that can be replicated around the country as we work to find ways to ensure American workers have the skills employers are looking for when they want to hire.

Improving the Economic Measurement Toolkit: Partnerships between Businesses and Federal Statistical Agencies

Director Steve Landefeld

Businesses and federal statistical agencies have a long history of working together to produce something that is vitally important to both groups: the nation’s economic measurement toolkit.

Steve Landefeld, director of the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, charted the history of this collaboration and underscored the importance of continuing that partnership during a panel session Tuesday at the National Association for Business Economics’ (NABE) annual meeting in San Francisco.

This public-private partnership has produced concrete results over the years. For example, BEA partnered with IBM to develop a new type of price index that captured the effect of changes in technology. And BEA worked with Chrysler to develop a new price index for motor vehicles.  The Chamber of Commerce has also hosted conferences that led to important changes in the way the U.S. and other countries measure their economies. NABE has served as an important forum to spur additional ideas on the measurement front.

Arts and “First Friday” Contribute to Overall Economic Activity in Missoula, Montana

Guest blog by Rob Rubinovitz, Deputy Chief Economist, Economics and Statistics Administration

Secretary Penny Pritzker’s visit to Missoula, Montana last week coincided with one of the community’s “First Friday Gallery Night” events.  “First Friday’s” are part of a larger effort of the Cultural Council in Missoula to support the arts to benefit the community as a whole.  These events include various art galleries, museums, and retail locations, and may feature musical performances, poetry readings, dance and lectures. The effort seem to be paying off, as one study found that Missoula’s nonprofit arts organizations are responsible for close to $40 million annually in local economic activity, from both the direct spending on arts activities as well as spending on related activities such as restaurant meals, and support more than 1,400 full-time jobs. Missoula is not alone in this; over the last three years, the U.S. economy has added 140,000 jobs in the arts and entertainment sector, as many communities recognize the benefits of a thriving artistic community.

It used to be that communities invested in the arts solely as a local amenity that produces value in and of itself.  In times of tight budgets, this justification has not always been enough to continue support for the arts; however, research has found there are many ways in which the arts economically benefit communities.  A framework for thinking about these benefits can be found in what is known as “new growth theory,” which is based on the idea that individuals, firms and governments make a conscious choice to invest in skills, knowledge acquisition and in innovative activities.  With investment in skills and innovation comes the development of technology that enhances growth, and technological changes have been found to be responsible for most of the long-run growth in income per capita.  Further, there are spillovers of knowledge between firms and individuals that are near each other, leading to clusters of knowledge-based industries. 

Secretary Pritzker Wheels Around the United Bicycle Institute in Portland, Oregon

Today, as part of Secretary Penny Pritzker’s nationwide listening tour, she toured the United Bicycle Institute in Portland, Oregon. It is the bicycle industry’s leading technical school offering courses in repair, frame building, and mechanic certification for technicians. She also held a roundtable discussion with representatives from the bicycle industry.

In 2012, Bicycling magazine rated Portland as the No. 1 cycling city in the U.S. The United Bicycle Institute (UBI) has established itself as a critical part of the cycling culture in the region. UBI has two facilities, the main facility in Ashland, Oregon and the Portland facility, which includes a 3,000 square foot mechanics classroom and a 2,400 square foot frame building shop.  Founded in 1981, UBI has educated nearly 20,000 students since it opened, many of whom have gone on to careers in the bicycle industry. 

During her tour, Secretary Pritzker viewed the mechanics classroom where students work on a component-by component study of bicycle repair, as well as a study of the bicycle as a complete system. This enables mechanics to work on all types of bicycles. She also visited the frame room, where students are taught by master frame builders. The course of study provides certification for students who want to become professional frame builders. The frame building classes are intensive, but no prior frame building, welding or brazing experience is required. Students learn all the skills they need during the coursework.

Following her tour, Secretary Pritzker participated in a roundtable with business owners in the bicycle industry who expressed their optimism about their ability to grow in the future.

Portland was Secretary Pritzker’s 12th stop on her nationwide listening tour. She has been meeting with businesses, thought leaders, entrepreneurs, academics and Department of Commerce employees. In these discussions, Secretary Pritzker has heard about their priorities, concerns and ideas on how the public and private sectors can work together to strengthen the economy and create American jobs.

Secretary Pritzker Tours NOAA’s Western Regional Center in Seattle

Secretary Pritzker is joined by Commerce employees at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Western Regional Center in Seattle, Washington

As part of her nationwide listening tour, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker yesterday visited the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Western Regional Center in Seattle, Washington, the largest NOAA facility outside of Washington, D.C. She thanked NOAA employees for their hard work, which she said was critical to Commerce’s mission. The Secretary also toured parts of NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration and NOAA Fisheries Service. 

On the tour of the Western Regional Center, Secretary Pritzker learned specifically about two different kinds of tsunami detection buoys that NOAA has developed and has now been commercialized by private industry. The buoys are now built commercially and sold to many different countries, thus providing a standardized tsunami detection and warning system for the world as well as creating U.S. jobs and increasing U.S. exports.  A partnership between the National Weather Service and Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory has made tsunami forecasting and warning more accurate than ever before, while helping to promote the development of tsunami forecasting capabilities in other countries.

Secretary Pritzker also visited the Office of Response and Restoration where Secretary Pritzker learned about the tools they build and maintain that emergency responders depend on nationwide. These tools provide the best available science data to federal, state, and local responders when they need it most, predicting chemical reactions, oil spill and marine debris trajectories, and oil weathering during emergencies.  From preparedness and response through recovery, the NOAA Office of Response and Restoration protects the United States’ coastal and marine environment from threats including marine debris, releases from hazardous waste sites, and oil and chemical spills.

Secretary Pritzker Tours Year Up Skills Center in Seattle, Washington

Secretary Pritzker visiting the IT Apps class where students use office productivity applications to build their own business plan, which they present to the class as a final project.

Today, as part of her nationwide listening tour, Secretary Pritzker visited Year Up in Seattle, WA. Year Up is a national non-profit organization operating in 12 cities that provides urban young adults with the skills, experience, and support that will empower them to pursue professional careers and higher education.

She toured the facilities with Lisa Chin, Executive Director of Year Up Puget Sound Seattle, and John Stanton, Year Up Board Chair. On the tour she saw a Business Communications class where students learn the fundamentals of effective communication in a professional setting.  Some of the skills taught include public speaking, email etiquette, and giving presentations in a business setting. She also visited the IT Apps class where students use office productivity applications to build their own business plan, which they present to the class as a final project.

Students at Year Up focus on learning skills and obtaining needed credentials during their first six months in the program. In the second six months, students apply those skills through corporate sponsorships. Students can earn up to 23 college credits during their year of study. Year Up is an excellent of example of how employers, community colleges and non-profits can come together to teach young adults the skills valued by employers.

Today’s Investments in Infrastructure and Workforce Are Ensuring Our Future Economic Growth

Deputy Assistant Secretary Matt Erskine Presents EDA Investment Grants to Tennessee and Kentucky (Photo courtesy of Jeremy Nash, News-Herald and The Connection)

Guest blog post by Matt Erskine, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Devleopment, U.S. Economic and Development Administration

Making investments in our workforce and building out critical business infrastructure are key elements of any strategy to ensure our nations’ future economic growth. And when these investments are matched locally and amplify existing local and regional technological assets and expertise, they are doubly effective. 

I saw evidence of this today and yesterday when I travelled to Kentucky and Tennessee to announce three new EDA investments in these states. I was accompanied by Earl Gohl, federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission, which is doing impressive work that is critical to the competitiveness of this region. 

In Barbourville, Kentucky this morning, I was honored to participate in Union College’s opening convocation where I announce a $1.5 million EDA disaster assistance grant that will help Knox County and the surrounding region rebound and diversify in the wake of 2011 flooding and tornadoes.  Specifically, the grant will support the region’s workers and its growing health-care sector by helping to renovate the former Knox County hospital building on the college’s campus to serve as the new Department of Nursing and Health Sciences. 

As U.S. House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers said, “When our rural communities face natural disasters, they need financial support to rebuild, which secures the hope of a full recovery…I commend the EDA for supporting these efforts in Southern and Eastern Kentucky.” 

This EDA grants will ensure a full recovery for the region by helping them prepare for a greater healthcare workforce. The grant adds to the more than $42 million in EDA investments that have gone to projects in Kentucky since 2009, supporting the creation of 6,000 new jobs in the state. 

Secretary Pritzker Tells Employees in the Northwest their Efforts are Key to American Innovation

Secretary Pritzker today in Seattle kicked-off her first visit to the Northwest as Commerce Secretary by visiting with EDA employees and employees from U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC), part of the International Trade Administration (ITA), U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) and Office of Inspector General (OIG). The secretary's visit is 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. 

At the meeting, the Secretary told employees gathered at the EDA regional office that the common thread in the bureaus throughout the department is working together to protect, promote, anticipate and inform what America needs to be competitive and innovative in the 21st century. This is the mission of the Commerce Department.

Secretary Pritzker praised the agencies in attendance for the great work they are doing in the region.

  • U.S. PTO patent examiners were spotlighted for helping Americans turn ideas into businesses quickly, even as PTO has had several straight years of 5 to 7 percent increases in patent applications.
  • The Seattle U.S. Export Assistance Center was praised by the Secretary for their work in industries like aerospace and defense which has proven to be crucial in growing exports and reaching record breaking numbers in the first half of this year. Recent Commerce data show that exports support nearly 40% of all manufacturing workers in Washington.
  • EDA’s regional office was acknowledged for their efforts in serving 8 states and a number of territories. EDA funds helped build a Pipeline Training Center in Alaska, expand a fiber optic network in California and launched several of new Jobs Accelerators. 
  • And, the Inspector General’s office was recognized for the crucial role they play. From reviewing NOAA’s fisheries enforcement efforts, climate monitoring systems, and other NOAA programs, their work ensures the Department is doing the best possible job.

Secretary Pritzker concluded her visit by encouraging the employees to continue their great work. She believes America is more competitive than ever before. Over the past 41 months, 7.3 million jobs were created. She said the Commerce Department’s goal is to accelerate that momentum through the great work of Commerce employees in the Northwest region, throughout the country, and across the world.

Commerce Department Encourages Businesses to Prepare Now for Future Emergencies and Disasters

National Preparedness Month Graphic

September is National Preparedness Month. It is crucial that businesses, in addition to government officials and the public, take steps now to prepare for future emergencies or natural disasters. The Commerce Department is encouraging business owners to be good corporate citizens by establishing a plan to help lessen the economic impact of disasters within their communities. Here are three things business owners can do today to prepare for future emergencies and disasters:

  1. Have a business continuity plan. This plan can help protect businesses, employees, and infrastructure, and increase chances of recovery after a disaster.
  2. Know your risks. Gather information about local hazards by contacting your local emergency management office, American Red Cross chapter and NOAA's National Weather Service forecast office.
  3. Become a StormReady community. Being StormReady means your business has multiple ways to receive forecasts and warnings from the National Weather Service, monitors local weather conditions, communicates effectively with employees, promotes public readiness through community seminars, and has a formal hazardous weather plan. 

According to a report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center, Americans coped with 11 weather and climate disaster events in 2012, including seven severe weather and tornado events, two tropical cyclone events, a year-long drought and wildfires. The impacts of this weather have a significant effect on the U.S. economy. In addition to killing over 300 people, the events in 2012 caused more than $110 billion in damages, having particularly devastating economic effects on the impacted areas. That makes last year’s disaster costs second only to 2005, which incurred $160 billion in damages. 

These effects can be felt by businesses that don't reopen after a storm, which also negatively impacts communities and the local economy. The American Red Cross reports that as many as 40 percent of businesses fail following a disaster. But businesses that are weather-ready don't have to be part of this statistic. 

The time is now. Businesses can’t afford to be unprepared, particularly with the peak of hurricane season now in full swing. Implementing the suggested recommendations can help businesses and communities survive natural disasters and sustain their local economies. 

For more information on how businesses can prepare for an emergency, visit

NIST Releases Study on Reducing Damage and Loss from Wildfires

A wooded area aflame during the 2007 Witch Creek/Guejito wildfire in Southern California. A new report from NIST looks at the fire's impact on structures in one community based on their pre-fire exposure risk to direct fire contact and embers (both seen in the photo). Credit: With permission from Dan Tentler,

recent study of one of California's most devastating wildland fires by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) strongly suggests that measures for reducing structural damage and property loss from wildland urban interface (WUI)* fires are most effective when they are based on accurate assessments of exposure risks both for individual structures and the community as a whole.

The report also describes how the NIST-USFS WUI Hazard Scale provides a state-of-the-art tool for making such assessments and how that data could be linked to improved building codes, standards and practices that will help communities better resist the threat of wildfires.

The Witch Creek/Guejito WUI fire (commonly known as the Witch Fire) was the largest of a series of wildfires that began burning across Southern California on Oct. 20, 2007. It affected areas north and northeast of San Diego, starting in Witch Creek Canyon near Santa Ysabel and quickly spreading westward toward the coast because of strong Santa Ana winds. The Witch Fire burned some 80,000 hectares (nearly 200,000 acres), destroyed more than 1,600 structures, caused an estimated $1.8 billion in property damages and cost $18 million to fight. It also was responsible for two civilian deaths and 39 firefighter injuries.  Full release

Back to School: 2013-2014

Image of students boarding a yellow school bus

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

  • $8.5 billion: The amount of money spent at family clothing stores in August 2012. Sales at bookstores in August 2012 totaled $2.0 billion.
  • 79 million: The number of children and adults enrolled in school throughout the country in October 2011—from nursery school to college. They comprised 26.9 percent of the entire population age 3 and older.
  • 42%: Percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled in college in 2011. 

School Enrollments in the United States (report)

More Facts for Features

Labor Day 2013: September 2

Labor Day greeting

The first observance of Labor Day was likely on Sept. 5, 1882, when some 10,000 workers assembled in New York City for a parade. That celebration inspired similar events across the country, and by 1894 more than half the states were observing a "workingmen's holiday" on one day or another. Later that year, with Congress passing legislation and President Grover Cleveland signing the bill on June 29, the first Monday in September was designated "Labor Day." This national holiday is a creation of the labor movement in the late 19th century—and pays tribute to the social and economic achievements of American workers.

  • 155.7 million: Number of people 16 and over in the nation's labor foce in May 2013
  • 84.7%: Percentage of full-time workers 18 to 64 covered by health insurance during all or part of 2011. 
  • 4.3%: Percentage of workers 16 and over who worked from home in 2011.
  • 76.4%: Percentage of workers 16 and over who drove alone to work in 2011.
  • 25.5 minutes: The average time it took workers in the U.S. to commute to work in 2011. 

See more stats in the Census Bureau's Facts for Features

Secretary Pritzker Labor Day statement.