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Readout of U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker’s Listening Tour Stop in Orlando, Florida

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Pritzker is traveling across the country, engaging with business and thought leaders, academics and Department of Commerce employees

Today, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker continued her nationwide listening tour with a visit to Orlando, Florida, where she met with travel and tourism industry executives, and spoke at the U.S. Manufacturing Summit hosted by Walmart and the National Retail Federation. She also held a roundtable discussion with business leaders focused on the economic benefits of immigration reform. Throughout her listening tour, Secretary Pritzker has been meeting with businesses, thought leaders, entrepreneurs, academics and Department of Commerce employees throughout the country to hear their priorities, concerns, and ideas on how the public and private sectors can work together to strengthen the economy and create American jobs.

To better understand the opportunities and challenges facing the travel and tourism sector in one of America’s most vibrant tourism hubs, Secretary Pritzker started her day at Universal Studios, where she participated in a roundtable discussion. In addition, Secretary Pritzker took a tour with John Sprouls, Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer for Universal Parks and Resorts, and Bill Davis, President and Chief Operating Officer for Universal Orlando.

While on the tour of the park, she discussed President Obama’s National Travel and Tourism Strategy and had an opportunity to hear first-hand how Universal Orlando, among others in the region, is helping reshape Florida’s tourism economy.  Since the launch of the strategy, the travel and tourism industry has seen strong growth:  In 2012, 67 million visitors came to the U.S. and spent a record of more than $165 billion, a 9 percent increase over 2011. Recently, the Commerce Department announced that for the first half of 2013 travel and tourism has increased 7 percent over the same period last year. In 2011, Orlando benefited from $31.7 billion in visitor spending, and tourism accounted for an estimated 224,000 direct industry jobs and $7.7 billion in direct annual wages.

Following the roundtable, Secretary Pritzker spoke at the first-ever U.S. Manufacturing Summit, hosted by Walmart and the National Retail Federation. The summit brought together representatives from more than 32 states and municipalities, more than 500 supplier companies, and major retail industry leaders to focus on increasing manufacturing in the United States. The event provided state officials with an opportunity to connect with hundreds of manufacturers.

During her remarks, Secretary Pritzker discussed the current momentum in American manufacturing.  Two weeks ago, the Commerce Department announced that the U.S. broke another record in exports in the first half of 2013, sending more than $1.1 trillion in exports around the globe. In addition, American manufacturers have added more than a half million jobs since January 2010.  This week, the Commerce Department’s Economics and Statistics Administration released a report analyzing these new manufacturing positions in 2010 and 2011, and found that new hires in manufacturing had 38 percent higher monthly earnings than those in other sectors.

Secretary Pritzker also participated in a panel discussion with Mike Duke, President and CEO of Walmart Stores, Inc., and Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of General Electric. The panel was moderated by CNBC Anchor Maria Bartiromo, and focused on the future of manufacturing in the United States.  Secretary Pritzker discussed the enormous opportunities that exist to bring manufacturing back to America because of the advantages to doing business here at home, such as abundant and affordable energy, intellectual property protection, a stable financial system, an improving housing market, and the cost savings that can be achieved by making products closer to home. She also discussed how the Department of Commerce is working to attract investment to the United States through SelectUSA and the first-ever SelectUSA summit that will take place this fall.

Secretary Pritzker concluded her day at a meeting with local business leaders on the need to pass comprehensive immigration reform, which is key to the country’s economic growth. Secretary Pritzker referenced a recent White House report citing the economic benefits of comprehensive immigration reform.  Nearly one-fourth of the labor force is foreign-born and about 30 percent 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 heads to Atlanta, GA tomorrow for the next leg of her listening tour.