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Blog Entries from May 2014

Reliable Electricity and Energy Independence: Exporting Game Changing U.S. Developed Solar Energy Storage Technology to West Africa

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and Alistair Jessop, Senior Vice President, Development, SolarReserve

Guest blog post by Alistair Jessop, Senior Vice President, Development, SolarReserve

SolarReserve has participated in two extremely well-organized and worthwhile business development trade missions led by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. The first mission was in March to the Middle East, focusing on export opportunities for U.S. companies in the infrastructure sector, including renewable energy. Based on the great success of the Middle East mission, the company enthusiastically joined Secretary Pritzker on a second mission – this time the destination was West Africa.

SolarReserve is a leading worldwide developer of utility-scale solar and hybrid power projects which include advanced solar thermal technology. We have more than $1.8 billion of projects in construction and operation, of which $800 million are in Southern Africa. Our aim for the West Africa trade mission was to better understand the renewable energy goals, requirements and timelines of both Ghana and Nigeria with a hope to form relationships with key decision makers and form strong long-term joint venture relationships with local companies.

SolarReserve’s world-leading, US-developed, patented solar thermal technology with integrated molten salt storage has the potential to provide both Ghana and Nigeria a cost-effective, reliable, on-demand, zero emission supply of electricity. This solar thermal technology (which can be delivered either alone or coupled with photovoltaics), can provide a cost effective 24/7 reliable alternative to fossil fuel generation with the enormous benefit of zero emissions.  This technology could make a huge difference in countries across Africa, with regular power cuts affecting both Ghana and Nigeria’s national productivity as well as the lifestyles of those living in these countries. It’s not surprising we find boundless enthusiasm in the region for reliable renewable energy alternatives.

The high calibre of the meetings was incredible, with access to top level government officials and decision makers. One particular high point during the mission in Ghana was meeting John Dramani Mahama, the Ghanaian President, where the group were given the opportunity to ask direct and frank questions - and received clear and fair responses. It was remarkable to have this level of access to the President and a number of the cabinet ministers, and to be able to talk frankly about business opportunities and issues. We left these meetings with confidence in doing business in Ghana.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Leads CEO Mission to Show U.S. Commitment to Asia

The United States is committed to its commercial relationship with Asia. The U.S. economic engagement strategy in the Asia-Pacific region has three key pillars: strengthening partnerships with long-established trading partners, helping develop the “hard” and “soft” infrastructure that moves goods and people, and building and strengthening regional mechanisms that promote a level playing field for all of our businesses. Recognizing that there is tremendous opportunity for mutually-beneficial growth in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region, the Commerce Department is focused on strengthening the trade relationship between the U.S. and ASEAN, and encouraging even deeper business-to-business ties.

As part of these efforts, next week U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker will join a delegation of U.S. CEOs and the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council on a trip to Vietnam, Burma, and the Philippines. These economies present enormous opportunity for U.S. businesses, and the trip is a huge step not only in furthering commercial ties, but also in advancing our overall relationship.

The delegation will stop first in Vietnam, where Secretary Pritzker will meet with government leaders and entrepreneurs to discuss the Commerce Department’s priorities for increasing trade and investment in the region. Vietnam’s economy is experiencing sustained growth following a rapid rate of expansion in the last decade. Energy is one industry sector with a number of opportunities for U.S. businesses in Vietnam. An upcoming reverse trade mission with the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) will connect U.S. companies with leaders in Smart Grid development and implementation. General Electric is already finding success in the country, signing a $94 million contract to bring 52 wind turbines to the Mekong Delta. This deal will support 245 U.S. jobs, and was supported by the International Trade Administration’s Advocacy Center

From Vietnam, the delegation will head to the Philippines, where Secretary Pritzker will deliver remarks on America’s economic engagement in the Asia Pacific region, as well as meet with government and business leaders. The economy in the Philippines has shown much resilience despite tragic natural disasters and volatile financial markets. Economic growth has been consistent during the last two years and is projected to remain so through 2016. Reconstruction efforts could lead to acceleration in the economy and present business opportunities for American companies with experience in sectors like construction and infrastructure.

The trip will wrap up with a final stop in Burma, where Secretary Pritzker will affirm the United States’ support for positive political and economic reforms in meetings with civil society leaders, government officials, and the Burmese business community. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) estimates Burma’s GDP growth accelerated to 7.5 percent in 2013, and expects that growth to continue. Business confidence also is improving, as reflected in a rapid increase in new business registrations – both domestic and foreign-owned. As the country develops, it is well positioned to leverage modern technology available from U.S. firms. U.S. exports to Burma have ranged from electrical machinery, optical and medical equipment, vehicles, and other machinery. As the economy continues to open in Burma, there will be expansive opportunities for U.S. companies to export more goods and services, supporting the modernization and development that will improve the quality of life for Burmese citizens.

Protecting Your IP Overseas – Three Things to Know

Protecting Your IP Overseas – Three Things to Know

Planning to export? Don’t forget about your intellectual property!

Some U.S. companies have found that foreign manufacturers have copied their products, packaging, and business plans, even though they had never done business abroad. Foreign counterfeiters can easily steal your product pictures, brochures and logos from your website, and apply for trademarks and patents in their country, if you have not registered them there already. For this reason, many U.S. small companies seek trademark and patent protection in large potential markets well in advance of actually exporting to those markets.

As World Trade Month 2014 comes to a close, here are three things to remember about protecting your intellectual property (IP) as you embark on making sales internationally.

  1. Contact an IP Attaché. Located in U.S. Embassies and Consulates around the world, they can explain options for protecting IP rights overseas.
  2. Take advantage of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). Under the PCT, an inventor, who has not publicly disclosed his invention, can file a single international patent application in one language to begin the process of seeking patent protection in up to 148 PCT member countries. The PCT gives applicants the flexibility of having more time to study the market to determine the countries in which a patent will be necessary.
  3. Similarly, the Madrid Protocol allows trademark owners to seek protection of their marks in multiple member countries by filing one international application with their home trademark office, in one language, with one set of fees, and in one currency. The owner designates the member countries in which they want trademark protection, and their application information is forwarded to each designated country to examine it according to their domestic trademark laws.

Learn more about how the United States Patent and Trademark Office can help you safeguard your intellectual property overseas.

Department of Commerce Open Government Plan Version 3.0 Published


Guest blog post by Dr. Catrina Purvis, Chief Privacy Officer and Director of Open Government

On January 21, 2009, President Obama issued the first executive memorandum of his Administration, entitled “Transparency and Open Government.”  This memorandum established three guiding principles for the conduct of government activities.  Government should be transparent.  Government should be participatory.  Government should be collaborative.

The Department of Commerce (the Department) is fully committed to these principles, and we are pleased to present the 2014 Department of Commerce Open Government Plan, version 3.0 (the Plan).  The Plan is updated annually, and this release represents its fifth publication.  It builds on the Department’s long history of information dissemination and the adoption of new tools and technology to facilitate a more transparent and accessible agency.  The Department will continue to encourage and strive for increased participation and collaboration among its employees, with other government agencies and the American people. 

This year’s Plan provides an overview of the Department’s new 2014-2018 Strategic Plan, describes Department program and functional areas which are critical to Open Government, features three “flagship” Open Government initiatives, and highlights Open Government happenings of ongoing initiatives and activities across the Department’s Bureaus and Operating Units (BOUs). It is available on the Department’s Open Government website at

We invite the American public to join in as the Department moves toward becoming a more open and effective provider of government services and information. Please feel free to provide feedback by submitting comments to open[at]doc[dot]gov.

Better Materials for Safer Sports: Time to Use Our Heads

A simple example of making a material fail "better": By fine-tuning the thickness of the connecting spokes in a sheet of acrylic, we can change how it transmits force when fractured. With thick spokes (left), fractures propagate in a straight line and concentrate the impact. Thin spokes (right) divert the fracture across the sheet, diffusing the impact.

Guest blog post by Dr. Laurie E. Locascio, Director of the Material Measurement Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology

On Thursday, the White House Healthy Kids and Safe Sports Concussion Summit, President Obama highlighted both the need for greater national awareness of the risks our young athletes face from traumatic brain injuries and the need for increased research on how to combat these potentially life-altering injuries.

In 2009, for example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, emergency departments in the United States treated more than 250,000 sports- and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries, including concussions, among children and adolescents—a figure that’s risen by 60 percent in the past decade.

At the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), we recognize that the use of advanced materials in protective equipment, such as helmets, can play a critical role in this effort. For that reason, NIST is investing $1 million per year for 5 years on tools to accelerate the development of advanced materials that can provide better protection against concussions for the athlete.

Sports equipment often leads the way in adopting new advances in materials—think of carbon nanotubes in high-end tennis rackets and golf clubs. But modern materials science offers the possibility of specifically designing new materials, from the ground up, that are tailored to the special needs of helmets and other protective equipment.

As an example, “shear-thickening suspensions”—specially designed particles suspended in a liquid polymer—can be a high-tech shock absorber that instantly adapts to offer greater resistance to stronger shocks. You’ve encountered a sheer-thickening suspension if you’ve ever tried to stir cornstarch in water quickly.

Other possibilities include micro- or nanostructured materials that either absorb shocks by crumpling in specific ways, rather like some automobile components are designed to protect passengers in a crash, or that selectively deform to channel the energy of shocks away from highly sensitive areas, like the skull. Self-healing polymers and shape-memory metal alloys can both provide reinforcement and extend the longevity of the equipment.

Working to Ensure Americans Remain Connected When Disaster Strikes

Cross-post by Stephen Fletcher, Associate Administrator, National Telecommunications and Information Administration

With the start of summer comes the beginning of the hurricane season along much of the U.S. coast. And with hurricanes comes the increased possibility that communications could be disrupted.

Less than two years ago, Hurricane Sandy left a trail of death and destruction including disrupted communications for millions of people and thousands of businesses along the East Coast. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has reported that about a quarter of cell sites across 10 states and the District of Columbia were knocked out of service during the peak of the storm.

As the Executive Branch agency primarily responsible for advising the President on telecommunications and information issues, the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has been working with other federal agencies to help Americans remain connected in the wake of natural disasters or other emergencies.

In its report released last August, the White House’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force called on NTIA and the U.S. Department of Energy to work with the FCC to develop recommendations that help facilitate improved resiliency for cell phone towers, data centers and other critical communications infrastructure in the event of a power disruption following a disaster. NTIA and the Energy Department expect to complete the recommendations later this year.

In the meantime, the FCC has developed some steps consumers can take to ensure they remain connected should disaster strike and power is lost. The recommendations, developed with the help of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), include charging your wireless phones and other wireless devices ahead of a coming storm and using text messaging instead of making a phone call to help alleviate network congestion during and after a storm strikes.

For more information on what to expect from the upcoming hurricane season, check out the latest predictions for the Atlantic and Central Pacific regions from NTIA’s Commerce sister agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Recognizing Those Supporting American Exports

Icelantic Skis was one of 65 companies and organizations recognized by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker with a President’s E Award for supporting U.S. exports.

Guest blog post by Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Ken Hyatt.

Cross posted from ITA's Tradeology blog.

We at the Department of Commerce produce a lot of numbers, but we always try to see behind the export numbers into what they create – jobs, growth, and development.

It was easy to see behind the numbers today, as I joined Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker to recognize and congratulate 65 companies and organizations that have supported the expansion of U.S. exports.

These companies and organizations earned the 2014 President’s E Awards, the highest honor bestowed upon those that are committed to expanding the U.S. economy through exports.

The awardees include an assortment of small and medium-sized businesses in a variety of states and business sectors. From Kansas-based Pioneer Balloon Company to California-based Robinson Pharma, both of which have expanded their exports with support from U.S. government agencies including the Department of Commerce.

EDA Investment Supports Business and Workforce Development in Southern New Hampshire

EDA Investment Support Business and Workforce Development in Southern New Hampshire

Guest blog post by Matt S. Erskine, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Development 

Today I was honored to join Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte, Representative Carol Shea-Porter, and a host of local economic and business leaders to celebrate the opening of a new business development and job training facility that will serve 41 towns and cities in Southern New Hampshire. 

The Regional Economic Development Center of Southern New Hampshire’s new business and job training center is a unique facility. Both business management and workforce training will be delivered in an efficient learning environment. Resources will be provided for entrepreneurs and small businesses to conduct research and receive technical assistance, and space will be available for start-up enterprises to conduct limited business in a professional environment. 

Supporting job-creating entrepreneurs and ensuring that America has a strong and skilled workforce is essential to our economic competitiveness. 

That is why Secretary Pritzker - a business leader with more than 25 years of experience - has made innovation a key pillar of the Commerce Department’s “Open for Business Agenda.” 

Secretary Pritzker is the first U.S. Secretary of Commerce to focus on how we can best prepare workers with in-demand job skills as part of efforts to continue innovating and remain globally competitive. 

The Commerce Department plays a key role in partnering with businesses to facilitate industry-driven training programs. 

Secretary Pritzker Highlights General Electric Investment in the Nigerian Community

Secretary Pritzker joins Jay Ireland, GE Africa President and CEO, after a roundtable discussion with representatives from General Electric (GE) Healthcare and the Government of Nigeria

While in Nigeria, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker participated in a roundtable discussion with representatives from General Electric (GE) Healthcare and the Government of Nigeria where she heard about what opportunities existed for U.S. companies to provide solutions to Nigeria’s health care issues, specifically in the areas of infant and maternal care. Before beginning the roundtable discussion, Secretary Pritzker was escorted by GE executives through a “Continuum of Care” walk through display which highlighted the many solutions GE is using to improve maternal and newborn health in the region.

After the walk-through, Secretary Pritzker sat down for a roundtable discussion where she heard more about the formation and the recently signed Healthymagination Mother & Child initiative. This first-of-its-kind, 5-year initiative, signed by GE, Nigeria’s Ministry of Health and USAID, will focus on increasing capacity in the primary health care system and providing affordable financing options to support the reduction of preventable child-maternal mortality in Nigeria. Specifically, the imitative is focused on bringing more mobile and alternative powered health technology to the region along with robust training and education programs for nurses and midwives to help reduce child mortality and improve maternal health. Both of which will help Nigeria meet its Millennium Development goals.

During the trade mission, Secretary Pritzker highlighted that U.S. businesses want to be in Africa. She discussed how American companies not only invest time and resources in countries like Nigeria, but they also make investments in the communities in which they operate as well.

GE is an example of one such company that has not only been investing in infrastructure and power projects in Nigeria, but has also been actively involved in ways to improve healthcare outcomes and efficiency, including maternal and infant Nigeria. both through its corporate social responsibilities platform as well as furthering its commercial interests. .

Commerce in the Community: The Women’s Veterans Resources Center partners with churches, business and government to provide needed support to women who have served their country

Rev. Dr. Helen Fleming, who leads the Women’s Veterans Resource Center

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Commerce in the Community series highlighting the work of community leaders and organizations that are strengthening the middle class and providing ladders of opportunity for all Americans.

Below is an interview with Rev. Dr. Helen Fleming, who leads the Women’s Veterans Resource Center. Rev. Dr. Fleming is pastor of the Douglas Memorial United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C., a post she has served in since 2005.

Question 1: Tell us about the Women’s Veterans Resource Center. What is your mission and main focus?

The Women’s Veterans Resource Center was created in 2010 following a speaking engagement for the Women’s Rock Rally. I learned about the injustice that was happening in the military around women’s issues and I became concerned about women veterans who were homeless. I also realized that many churches did not have a veterans program for women.  As a result of these realities, I created the Women’s Veterans Resource Center, which offers a variety of resources in 11 different churches.  Our mission is to be the support to military and veteran women who need benefits, jobs, mental health care, clothing, food, counseling, housing and spiritual guidance. Our main focus is to keep the doors open to these vets and to be there as a refuge in their hopelessness whenever we are needed.

Question 2: How are you partnering with other groups in the community to expand economic opportunity?

We collaborate with every level of government Veterans Affairs offices, non- profit organizations, the business community and service organizations to host events that supply services and supplies to our veteran women.  Each quarter, we hold events such as benefit conferences, job development sessions and job fairs and clergy training sessions on how to treat our veterans. We also provide the clothing for the Women’s Rock Rally on Veterans Day at the ARC Center. Some of the churches are offering their parsonages in order to develop housing for our homeless. Emory UMC is digging ground on a large facility that will offer housing to the homeless veterans and others in need of housing. We’ve also held workshops on interview techniques, social media, business development and social etiquette classes in order to build self-esteem and confidence. All of our events are joint efforts with entities ranging from the White House to the Federal Women Veterans Affairs Office, the Department of Labor Veterans Affairs Office, the Mayors Veterans Affairs Office, Veterans Hospitals and other veterans agencies.

Question 3: If people want to learn more about the Women’s Veterans Resource Center, what should they do?

Contact Douglas Memorial UMC at 202-397-1562 and we will respond in a positive manner.

NOAA Predicts Near-Normal or Below-Normal 2014 Atlantic Hurricane Season

2014 Atlantic hurricane outlook

In its 2014 Atlantic hurricane season outlook issued today, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a near-normal or below-normal season.

The main driver of this year’s outlook is the anticipated development of El Niño this summer. El Niño causes stronger wind shear, which reduces the number and intensity of tropical storms and hurricanes. El Niño can also strengthen the trade winds and increase the atmospheric stability across the tropical Atlantic, making it more difficult for cloud systems coming off of Africa to intensify into tropical storms.

The outlook calls for a 50 percent chance of a below-normal season, a 40 percent chance of a near-normal season, and only a 10 percent chance of an above-normal season.  For the six-month hurricane season, which begins June 1, NOAA predicts a 70 percent likelihood of 8 to 13 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 3 to 6 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 1 to 2 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher).

These numbers are near or below the seasonal averages of 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes, based on the average from 1981 to 2010. The Atlantic hurricane region includes the North Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico.

“Thanks to the environmental intelligence from NOAA’s network of earth observations, our scientists and meteorologists can provide life-saving products like our new storm surge threat map and our hurricane forecasts,” said Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., NOAA administrator. “And even though we expect El Niño to suppress the number of storms this season, it’s important to remember it takes only one land falling storm to cause a disaster.”

Investing in Data, Investing in America

Dr. Mark E. Doms

Cross-post by Mark Doms, Under Secretary for Economic Affairs

The Department of Commerce’s mantra is that America is “Open for Business.”  As President Obama highlighted at Tuesday’s Investing in America roundtable, this has never been more true.  Today, U.S. and foreign businesses appreciate the competitive advantages that come from locating operations here. The U.S. provides the total package: a skilled, world-class workforce; global leadership in innovation and invention; access to our growing domestic market; rich infrastructure easy access to export markets. The list goes on. (Check out the Assess Costs Everywhere tool to get a more complete list and discussion of the advantages of setting up shop in the U.S.) 

Business leaders from across the spectrum and across the world are making new investments here. Individually their stories are compelling, and they are echoed in data from our Bureau of Economic Analysis and captured in a joint report issued by the Department of Commerce and the White House. For example, business fixed investment from companies choosing to grow and invest in the United States accounts for more than 20 percent of the rebound in real GDP since mid-2009, and global investors have played a large part.  Since 2006, the United States has been the world’s largest recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI). And FDI inflows have swelled, totaling $1.5 trillion between 2006 and 2012. For 2013 alone, FDI inflows totaled $193 billion up from $166 billion in 2012. 

These investments are good for our economy, for investors, and for workers (such as the 5.6 million who work for U.S. affiliates of foreign firms and have average annual compensation of $77,000). We know this because the evidence is clear in the data. And while it is important to focus on the value of the inward investment and the jobs and growth that brings to our economy, it is also important to take a look at the data that tells us this, as well as the data which informs businesses when they decide to select the USA.

Coming Soon: A More Detailed Look at U.S. Trade and International Investment

International data will soon be getting a new look, giving users more detail on the U.S. economy’s relationship with the rest of the world in the most significant restructuring of the Bureau of Economic Analysis’ international data since 1976. The restructured accounts will provide greater and more complete information about the global financial picture and the United States’ place in it.

So when will you start seeing the changes?

• With the June 4 International Trade in Goods and Services report, the number of services categories available monthly will expand from seven to nine. Also, seasonally adjusted trade in goods and services will now be available for selected countries and areas.

• With the June 18 release of the quarterly International Transactions Accounts, users will get additional detail on trade in goods and services in the current account, while the financial account will be reorganized and expanded to include additional detail by instrument, by sector, and by maturity. For trade in services, the number of sub-categories available quarterly will expand from 10 to 20.

• With the June 30 release of the quarterly International Investment Position, users will get additional detail on the maturity of investment. Data on direct investment positions will be reported on an asset and liability basis, like a balance sheet.

These changes will align U.S. data more closely with updated international guidelines, such as the sixth edition of the Balance of Payments and International Investment Position Manual (BPM6). Keeping up with international guidelines makes it easier for users to compare U.S. data with data from our major trade and investment partners. Several industrialized countries have already incorporated these new standards into their international accounts.

More information on the upcoming changes is available here. BEA plans to host a webinar on May 28 starting at 2 p.m. EDT to highlight the biggest changes and answer users’ questions. For more information, click here.


Empowering West Africa

Empowering West Africa

Guest blog post by Harold “Hal” Pontez, President and CEO of HPI , and participant in the Commerce Department's West Africa Energy Business Development Mission

By no stretch of the imagination, I am a very lucky man. Aside from sharing a great life with my wife and daughter, I’ve had the great pleasure of waking up each day for 30 years excited to take on new challenges at a job that I love. 

Over the course of those years, some may say I’ve developed a bit of a routine: 

5:00 am – Turn on the lights (waking up the dogs), get dressed and head to the gym for a morning workout session. (Hopefully my iPod is charged or it’s going to be a brutal morning!). 

6:30 am – Brew a cup of coffee and power up the laptop to catch up on the morning headlines and email.

7:00 am – Breakfast- usually I pop a bagel in the toaster (the Lone Star State has perfected the art of creating larger bagels, but they’re still nothing like the ones in my home state of New York!).

While the intricacies of my mornings may be a snooze fest to some, there is one essential component that all of these tasks would be impossible without- power. 

It is estimated that over 600 million people (that’s two-thirds of the population) in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity. While countries in the region continue to see rapid commercial development, they have been plagued with electricity and gas shortages, directly impacting businesses, national GDP and quality of life throughout the country since 2009. Reliable power generation is essential to the development of countries like Ghana, where the country is expected to serve as an example for stability, and steady and diversified economic growth. 

Secretary Pritzker Tours Entrepreneur School of Technology and Meets Ghanaian Entrepreneurs

Secretary Pritkzer Tours Entrepreneur School of Technology and Meets Ghanaian Entrepreneurs

After meeting with Ghanaian Minister of Trade and Industry Haruna Iddrisu and Minister of Finance Seth Terkper, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker stopped by the Meltwater Entrepreneur School of Technology (MEST) to tour its facilities, interact with several of the resident start-ups, and gain more insight into the Ghanaian entrepreneurial culture. 

Established in 2009 and based in Ghana's capital city of Accra, MEST and its Incubator program provide training, investment and mentoring for aspiring technology entrepreneurs. Its goal is to create globally successful companies that spur prosperity and jobs locally in Africa. MEST offers aspiring African entrepreneurs a fully-sponsored, two year intensive program to learn the skills necessary to build successful tech businesses, including computer programming, software development, product management, finance, marketing, sales and leadership best practices. 
The Department of Commerce supports entrepreneurship through its "Open for Business Agenda," a set of strategic priorities focused on data, innovation, and trade and investment. As the primary voice of business in the Administration, the Department produces policies and initiatives that help in the establishment and success of new start-ups as well as the growth and competitiveness of existing businesses.
In April, President Obama and Secretary Pritzker announced the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE) initiative. PAGE - which is chaired by Secretary Pritzker -  is comprised of 11 well-known, successful American business leaders who have committed to sharing their time, energy, ideas, and experience to help develop the next generation of entrepreneurs both at home and abroad.

Secretary Pritzker Kicks Off Second Day of West Africa Energy Business Development Mission and Visits Electric Company of Ghana

Secretary Pritzker Visits Electric Company of Ghana

Today, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker kicked off her second day in Ghana at the Electric Company of Ghana (ECG) as part of the Commerce Department’s West Africa Energy Business Development Mission.  During the site visit, she spoke about the strong relationship between Ghana and the United States and the importance of partnering with private sector businesses to help Ghana reach its energy potential.

During the site visit, Secretary Pritzker specifically addressed the importance of the Administration’s Power Africa initiative and reiterated the U.S. commitment to improving economic prosperity in West Africa through investment in the energy sector.

President Obama announced Power Africa last year as an initiative to double the number of people with access to power in Sub-Saharan Africa.  With more than 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa lacking access to reliable electricity, the power development challenge is enormous. More than two-thirds of the population is without electricity, including more than 85 percent of those living in rural areas. According to the International Energy Agency, sub-Saharan Africa needs more than $300 billion in investments to achieve universal electricity access by 2030 – far beyond the capacity of any traditional development program.  As part of Power Africa, the United States will commit more than $7 billion in financial support over the next five years to this effort.

The trade mission, Secretary Pritzker’s third since taking office last summer, will promote U.S. exports to Africa by helping U.S. companies’ launch or increase their business in the energy sector in West Africa.  The firms joining the mission have the expertise to help African countries develop and manage energy resources and systems, as well as build out power generation, transmission, and distribution.

Africa is home to seven of the ten fastest growing economies in the world, and helping U.S. business expand their presence in these African markets is a top priority for the Department of Commerce and the Administration. 

Simple Steps to Expanding Your Business through Exports

Minority-owned firms employ nearly six million American workers and contribute one trillion dollars in annual economic output to the U.S. economy.

At the Department of Commerce and the Minority Business Development Agency we are dedicated to helping more minority-owned business leverage their competitive advantage and expand their business through exports. The most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau reveals how minority-owned firms employ nearly six million American workers and contribute one trillion dollars in annual economic output to the U.S. economy. This economic output includes significant exporting contributions. In fact, minority-owned firms are export leaders in 14 key industry sectors.

To celebrate World Trade Month we are kicking off a blog series to highlight valuable resources and information for minority businesses looking at exporting for the first time and firms looking to expand their existing exporting efforts. 

Here are six steps to start exporting:

Complete an export readiness self-assessment: Find out if you have what it takes to market your products or services into the global marketplace. Provide answers to nine questions and receive advice on your exporting potential.

Training and counseling: use online resources like webinars and training courses to learn the basics of exporting and increase your understanding of the exporting process. Access webinars and online courses from the International Trade Agency (ITA), U.S. Census Bureau Go Global Webinars, and the Small Business Administration (SBA).

Develop your Export Business Plan: Use the SBA Export Business Planner to work through the process of gathering information and setting SMART goals and objectives. The Export Business Planner will help your business explore exporting options.

Conduct Market Research: It is critical for you to find the best exporting prospects for your business success. The U.S. government has the latest information on market conditions around the world. You can also use the Trade Stats Express to identify potential markets.

Find Buyers: Leverage opportunities at the local, state, and federal government levels to meet potential foreign buyers. Use reverse trade mission hosted by the U.S. Trade and Development Agency or overseas trade mission hosted by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Many states government also host overseas trade missions check out your states business opportunities websites.

Investigate Export Finance Option: understanding the available grants, insurance and finance programs available to assist your firm as exporting options are critical to your exporting success. Start with federal resources at Export-Import Bank, Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and SBA Export Loans

Take your business to the next level and begin to go and grow globally. MBDA and our national network of more than 40 MBDA Business Centers are here to help. Contact a MBDA Business Center to learn more about how exporting can increase your bottom line.

Also, stay tuned to learn more about the next phase of the National Export Initiative –NEI/NEXT! 

Commerce in the Community: World Relief provides impactful entrepreneurship and job training programs for vulnerable populations at home and abroad

Commerce in the Community: World Relief provides impactful entrepreneurship and job training programs for vulnerable populations at home and abroad

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Commerce in the Community series highlighting the work of community leaders and organizations that are strengthening the middle class and providing ladders of opportunity for all Americans.

Below is an interview with Stephan Bauman, President and CEO of World Relief. Before coming to World Relief, Stephan served as Director of International Programs for World Hope International. He previously worked for Mercy Ships International directing programs and training for over 300 staff on the Anastasis, a hospital ship based in Africa. A Certified Public Accountant and minister, Stephen has also worked as a consultant for Anderson and Co. 

Q1: Tell us about World Relief. What is your mission and main focus? 

World Relief was founded in 1945 by the National Association of Evangelicals to provide humanitarian assistance in war-torn Europe. We have since evolved into an organization working in 14 countries around the world and in 25 cities in the United States to empower local churches to serve the most vulnerable.

Q2: How are you working to expand opportunity domestically and internationally? 

We believe in empowering the most vulnerable so that they can create their own solutions and meet their own needs. Through the power of Agri-business, Microfinance and Savings Groups, World Relief equips small business owners with the skills, capital and resources necessary to develop successful, self-sustaining businesses. We believe when given the tools to protect and leverage their financial assets, these entrepreneurs will be able to participate in the transformation of their local communities.

Secretary Pritzker Discusses Trade and Investment with Ghanaian President Mahama and Other Officials

President Mahama greets Secretary Pritzker on her first official visit to Ghana

Building on a strong bilateral relationship with Ghana, the United States is committed to partnering with the country as a beacon of stability and democracy in West Africa.

As part of that partnership, the United States is working to increase trade and investment, cornerstones of the Strategy toward Sub-Saharan Africa that President Obama announced in June 2012. On her trade mission to West Africa this week, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker is talking with Ghanaian leaders about the many opportunities available for U.S. businesses to partner with Ghana to help meet their energy development objectives.

This morning, Secretary Pritzker met with Minister of Trade and Industry Haruna Iddrisu. She discussed policies that would facilitate U.S. companies’ participation in developing Ghana’s energy sector and helping the country meet its goal of generating 5,000 megawatts of power by 2016.  Secretary Pritzker pointed out that the United States’ Power Africa initiative to double access to electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa aligns with Ghana’s broad goals to increase power generation capacity in the near term.

Secretary Pritzker also met with Minister of Finance Seth Terkper and discussed some of the challenges facing the business community in the current fiscal climate. Noting that the strong trade relationship between Ghana and the United States continues to grow, Secretary Pritzker highlighted some of the Commerce Department’s initiatives focused on expanding U.S.-Ghana trade. This week’s trade mission is an opportunity to build upon our two country’s strong trade relationship by facilitating introductions of U.S. companies eager to learn about the energy needs of Ghana.

Finally, in the afternoon, Secretary Pritzker met with Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama and discussed the strategic importance of strong U.S.-Ghanaian economic and commerce relations. Secretary Pritzker highlighted that U.S. companies have a lot to offer in terms of management and technical expertise, and capital that might prove to be very useful for Ghana. 

Secretary Pritzker and President Mahama briefly discussed the upcoming World Cup and the United States’ opening round match-up against Ghana. 

NOAA Kicks Off Hurricane Awareness Tour

NOAA Kicks Off Hurricane Awareness Tour

This week, NOAA hurricane experts will visit five U.S. Gulf Coast cities aboard a NOAA hurricane hunter aircraft to raise awareness about storm threats and the danger of being caught without a personal hurricane plan. The five-day tour begins today and advances NOAA's efforts to build a Weather-Ready Nation through outreach and effective communication on the steps necessary to prepare for a hurricane. 

National Hurricane Center Director Dr. Rick Knabb, along with senior hurricane specialist Daniel Brown and storm surge team leader Jamie Rhome, will travel with the NOAA crew when the aircraft visits Corpus Christi, Tex.; Houston, Tex.; New Orleans, La.; Tallahassee, Fla.; and Tampa, Fla. 

The hurricane hunter aircraft, also known as the NOAA WP-3D Orion turboprop aircraft, is used primarily by scientists on research missions to study various elements of a hurricane, flying through the eye of the storm several times each flight. The crew collects and transmits data by satellite directly to the National Hurricane Center so that forecasters can analyze and predict changes to the hurricane’s path and strength.  

The aircraft is part of our fleet of highly specialized research aircraft operated, managed and maintained by the NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations. The aircraft is piloted by officers of the NOAA Corps — one of the seven uniformed services of the United States — and based at the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center, located at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla. 

Staff from local emergency management offices and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, non-profit organizations such as the American Red Cross and the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, and several local NOAA National Weather Service forecast offices will be part of the team at each stop. 

Grow Your Business With U.S. Foreign Trade Data

Guest blog post by Omari Wooden, Senior Foreign Trade Advisor at U.S Census Bureau

In today's economy, businesses are continually looking for new ways to remain competitive and may not know there are resources available from the Census Bureau and the Commerce Department as a whole to help them understand international markets. Whether you need to evaluate your company's export potential or identify key foreign markets, you can make data-driven decisions through resources available from the Census Bureau.

Did you know that in 2013 American exports totaled $2.3 trillion, surpassing the previous record of $2.2 trillion in 2012? In 2013, our top three trading partners were Canada ($300B), Mexico ($226B) and China ($122B). However, between 2012 and 2013, the following countries had some of the greatest increases in imports from the United States: Monaco (1,818%), Brunei (254%), Equatorial Guinea (225%), and French Guinea (202%). U.S. businesses use our data to find the large markets, but they can also use this data to determine emerging markets.

On a monthly basis we release detailed information on over 9,000 export commodities and 18,000 import commodities. This information can be used to identify the global marketplace for your product and possible opportunities to expand your business. You can find more information here:

Another great resource is USA Trade Online, where you can easily explore trading trends and market outlook by product and country. You can also evaluate the current and historical trends of U.S. exports and imports. This level of market research can help you determine where there is a market for your product. Currently, we are offering free trials, so I would encourage you to register today at USA Trade Online.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Leads Energy Business Development Mission to West Africa

With more than 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa lacking access to electricity, the power development challenge is enormous. More than two-thirds of the population is without electricity, including more than 85 percent of those living in rural areas. According to the International Energy Agency, sub-Saharan Africa needs more than $300 billion in investments to achieve universal electricity access by 2030 – far beyond the capacity of any traditional development program.

Tomorrow, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker will leave for West Africa to lead 20 American companies on an Energy Business Development Mission with stops in Ghana and Nigeria. This mission will promote U.S. exports to Africa by helping American firms launch or increase their business in the energy sector in West Africa.  It will also help the African region develop and manage energy resources and systems, build out power generation and transmission, and distribution.  

Africa is home to seven of the ten fastest growing economies in the world, and helping U.S. business expand their presence in these African markets is a top priority for the Department of Commerce and the Obama Administration. There is tremendous potential for U.S. companies to sell their goods and services in countries like Ghana and Nigeria, which have energy needs that our firms have the goods, services, and expertise to address. Expanding trade and investment is a critical tool for economic growth and job creation in the U.S., and trade missions like this one are one way to help grow U.S. exports.

Acorn Energy, Inc., Joins Commerce Department Sponsored Trade Mission Because of Enormous Potential in West African Energy Market

Acorn Energy, Inc., Joins Commerce Department Sponsored Trade Mission Because of Enormous Potential in West African Energy Market

Guest post by Walter Czarnecki, President and COO of OmniMetrix, an Acorn Energy division.

On behalf of Acorn Energy, Inc., I am honored and excited to join US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker on her upcoming West Africa Energy Business Development Trade Mission to Ghana and Nigeria. Acorn Energy is an energy technology investment group and holding company focused on M2M/Internet of Things remote monitoring technologies and includes four divisions: OmniMetrix, GridSense, DSIT and US Seismic Systems. Our technologies are deployed globally, including sites in Kenya, South Africa, Turkey and elsewhere, and we see West Africa as an important international market in which to expand and serve.

We have been following the vast potential for market growth in Ghana and Nigeria for each Acorn technology. Last month Nigeria surpassed South Africa to become Africa’s largest economy, yet Nigeria experiences near-daily blackouts and plans to invest $3.5 billion this year to improve its energy and electricity infrastructure. Likewise, grid failures are common and have persisted for decades. GridSense, our transformer and distribution network monitoring division, works with utilities globally to specifically address this problem, and we look forward to exploring how GridSense can help West African utilities make their networks more reliable.

When utility power is lost, backup generators come online, and Nigeria has nearly 60 million backup generators. OmniMetrix, the Acorn division that provides M2M remote monitoring and control for backup generators, is well positioned to increase the reliability and reduce failures across Nigeria’s backup generator fleet. Backup generators globally fail 10-15% of the time when called upon. It is now possible to diagnose and predict common problems that prevent backup generators from running when needed. We look forward to exploring how we can eliminate this problem in Ghana and Nigeria.

ExporTech™ Helps Manufacturers Develop Strategies for International Markets

ExporTech™ Helps Manufacturers Develop Strategies for International Markets

With more than 80 percent of the world market residing outside the U.S., there is clearly great opportunity for U.S. companies to find new customers and grow. But it is much easier to enter or expand into new global markets with partners who have resources and can help guide the way.

As part of the Commerce Department’s efforts to help U.S. companies increase exports, the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP) and the International Trade Administration’s (ITA) U.S. Export Assistance Centers offer ExporTech™. Since 2007, ExporTech™ has assisted hundreds of businesses across the country to increase export sales, establish new partnerships, expand production facilities and hire more employees.

The program brings in partners such as District Export Councils, state trade offices and other federal, state, and local agencies to efficiently connect companies with a wide range of experts that help them navigate the export sales process.

Manufacturers can sign up for ExporTech™ through their local MEP center and, over the course of nine weeks, each company is guided through the development of an export strategy, both through group workshops and individual coaching. At the end of the program, the business has an export plan that is vetted by a panel of experts. Many participants generate export sales within six months of completing the program.

ExporTech™ builds connections to a team of export organizations that help participating companies find the right markets and implement their export growth plans. It amplifies the impact of other export programs, helping companies get the most out of tradeshows, ITA’s Gold Key services, country visits and trade missions.

To date, there have been more than 90 ExporTech™ programs in 28 states with more than 500 participating companies. Those companies have hired an average of five new employees, seen nearly $800,000 in average export sales increases, saved an average of $50,000 in costs and investments, and seen new and retained sales of $400 million.

ExporTech™ is just one example of the Commerce Department’s commitment to helping more American businesses export to more markets. Just yesterday, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker announced NEI/NEXT – a data-based, customer service-driven initiative that will build on administration-wide achievements under the National Export Initiative (NEI) to help all businesses reach the 95 percent of consumers who live outside the United States. To learn more about NEI/NEXT’s strategies to help U.S. businesses capitalize on new markets, visit

Commerce Department Supports Small Businesses

This week marks National Small Business Week – an opportunity to recognize the invaluable role entrepreneurs and small businesses play in America’s economy. It’s also a time to make sure our small businesses and entrepreneurs know about the services the Commerce Department – and entire federal government – has to offer.

U.S. small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and the Commerce Department is committed to supporting them.

Last year, Department-wide contracts with small businesses reached $3 billion, or approximately 40 percent of all contracts. And just a few weeks ago, Commerce awarded a contract to five small U.S. businesses: FCN, Force 3, Intelligent Decisions, Iron Bow, and Red River.

The new contract, which is for network equipment and maintenance, is expected to save up to $25 million in taxpayer dollars over the next five years. It also streamlines the procurement process, reduces the time needed to award hundreds of separate contracts to do the same tasks, and creates partners in companies that are capable of offering discounts and exceptional service.

In addition to saving money, these contracts support small businesses and the Department’s efficiency, enabling Commerce to focus more resources on our primary mission to support American businesses, help create jobs and strengthen the economy.

The Commerce Department is working to increase the number of small to medium-sized businesses that export by making it easier for them to access federal export assistance. That includes expanding access to small business trade financing and ensuring the most efficient delivery of services to small businesses.

For example, the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service, part of Commerce’s International Trade Administration, reported that 83 percent of the approximately 14,200 export successes they assisted with in fiscal year 2012 were achieved by small and medium-sized enterprises. Further, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker this week announced efforts to expand export opportunities for all American companies, including small businesses. This will help them businesses grow faster and help spread American ideas, innovation and value.

Commerce’s 11 other agencies also have a number of services available to small businesses. Just to name a few, the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) helps minority-owned businesses gain access to contracts and capital. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office helps entrepreneurs get their products to market more quickly. And the Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis produce statistics that help businesses make important decisions, like where to invest or build a new location.

To learn more about federal resources available to help small businesses, visit: or Also check out and shop at a local small business today!

NOAA Provides Environmental Intelligence to Keep Goods Moving Along Our Marine Highways

Today's massive ships push the depth limit of many ports and harbors. NOAA tools —such as nautical charts, accurate positioning services, and ocean and weather observations—play a key role in ensuring that shipments move swiftly and safely along our marine highways.

By weight, 75 percent of U.S. international trade moves through the nation’s ports and harbors. Those ports support, directly and indirectly, more than 13 million American jobs.

NOAA provides environmental intelligence to support safe, efficient, and environmentally sound navigation through U.S. ports. NOAA produces the nation’s nautical charts, which provide essential navigation information such as water depths; locations of dangers to navigation; locations and characteristics of aids to navigation; anchorages; and other features.

NOAA also integrates ocean and coastal observations, data, science, and services to provide actionable information, thereby improving informed choices.  Good decisions today protect lives and property tomorrow.

The agency monitors, assesses, and distributes tide, current, and water level products and services. Positioning information from NOAA provides a highly accurate, precise, and consistent  framework to help mariners safely navigate around obstructions in our nation's busy waterways.

NOAA’s role warning coastal areas of hurricane threats is well known, but the agency also plays a significant role after the storm.  NOAA moves quickly to help reopen ports. Navigation response teams survey ports and channels, searching for submerged debris and other dangers to navigation. NOAA aerial photography helps the public, decision makers, and insurance adjusters assess the extent of storm damage.

In addition, NOAA's Physical Oceanographic Real-time System (PORTS®) provides accurate real-time oceanographic information, tailored to the specific needs of local maritime communities. Knowledge of the currents, water levels, winds, and density of the water can increase the amount of cargo moved through a port and harbor by enabling mariners to safely utilize every inch of dredged channel depth. For example, an economic study showed that the Tampa Bay economy receives more than $7 million a year in savings and direct income from PORTS®. A second study calculated $16 million a year in savings for the Houston-Galveston region. 

Learn more at

What’s NEXT for U.S. exports?

New data-based, customer service-driven initiative to ensure that more American businesses can fully capitalize on markets that are opening up around the world.

Exports are critical to the U.S economy. They fuel economic growth in our communities, support good middle class jobs, and unlock opportunity for American companies, entrepreneurs, farmers, ranchers, and workers, enabling U.S. companies to compete in the growing global marketplace. By selling Made-in-America goods and services to international customers, U.S. businesses – including small and medium-sized and minority- and women-owned businesses – are able to grow faster, hire more employees, pay higher wages, and help spread American ideas, innovation and values.

Recognizing the many opportunities exports create for our economy, U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker today announced that the Obama Administration will build on the success of the National Export Initiative (NEI) by launching NEI/NEXT: a new customer service-driven strategy with improved information resources that will ensure American businesses are fully able to capitalize on expanded opportunities to sell their goods and services abroad. NEI/NEXT will help more American companies reach more overseas markets by improving data, providing information on specific export opportunities, working more closely with financing organizations and service providers, and partnering with states and communities to empower local export efforts.

In 2010, President Obama launched the National Export Initiative (NEI), a comprehensive government-wide effort to help U.S. companies increase exports, expand into new markets, and compete globally. Under the NEI, the United States has had four straight record-breaking years of exports – hitting an all-time high of $2.3 trillion dollars last year – up $700 billion from 2009. A new economic report released today by the Department of Commerce, shows that nearly one-third of the country’s economic growth since mid-2009 has been driven by exports. Nearly 30,000 businesses have started exporting for the first time. And most importantly, since 2009, the number of jobs supported by exports has grown by 1.6 million to more than 11.3 million – the highest in 20 years.

Even with all this success, far too many American companies remain focused on domestic markets. Less than 5 percent of U.S. companies export, and more than half of those exporters sell to only one market. To help bridge that gap, and look for new opportunities to help U.S. businesses export, the Department of Commerce, along with 20 federal agency partners last year began to take a fresh look at the NEI. This interagency group solicited extensive stakeholder feedback and incorporated lessons learned under the NEI, to develop an economic growth strategy that would help make trade a central part of America’s economic DNA. The end product of that interagency review, NEI/NEXT will take the NEI strategy to next level by institutionalizing our progress from the past four years and serving as a framework to guide the development of new, innovative initiatives.

NEI/NEXT will be implemented through the Export Promotion Cabinet and Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee (TPCC), which consists of representatives from 20 federal departments and agencies with export-related programs. The Secretary of Commerce chairs the TPCC.

Secretary Penny Pritzker Announces Next Phase of the National Export Initiative -- NEI/NEXT

Today, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker announced NEI/NEXT – a data-based, customer service-driven initiative to ensure that more American businesses can fully capitalize on markets that are opening up around the world. Through five core objectives, NEI/NEXT will build on Administration-wide achievements under the National Export Initiative (NEI), to help all businesses reach the 95 percent of consumers who live outside the United States.

If you missed her speech, below is a collection of tweets from her account and audience members that summarizes her remarks.

Census Bureau Kicks Off National Bike to Work Week and Releases First-Ever Data Focused on Biking and Walking to Work

Census Bureau Kicks Off National Bike to Work Week and Releases First-Ever Data Focused on Biking and Walking to Work

Guest blog post by Mark Doms, Under Secretary for Economic Affairs 

The U.S. Census Bureau today kicked off National Bike to Work Week and released the first-ever data on the number of people who bike and walk to work.  In addition, the Census Bureau released a new commuting edition of the interactive map Census Explorer that allows Web visitors easy click-and-zoom access to commuting statistics for every neighborhood in the U.S. It also shows how commuting has changed since 1990 at the neighborhood, county and state level — including how long it takes to get to work, commutes longer than an hour, and number of bikers.  

The Census Bureau report "Modes Less Traveled — Bicycling and Walking to Work in the United States: 2008-2012," found many U.S. cities are seeing an increase in bicycle commuters. Nationwide, the number of people who traveled to work by bike increased roughly 60 percent over the last decade, from about 488,000 in 2000 to about 786,000 during the 2008-2012 period. This is the largest percentage increase of all commuting modes tracked by the 2000 Census and the 2008-2012 American Community Survey. 

This report — the Census Bureau's first focusing only on biking and walking to work — is one of many that examines specific aspects of commuting, including workplace location, working from home, long commutes and specific travel modes. The report highlights the trends and socio-economic and geographic differences between motorized and nonmotorized commutes.

Commerce in the Community: The U.S. Black Chambers, Inc. works to strengthen businesses, increase exports and create jobs in communities around the country

Commerce in the Community: The U.S. Black Chambers, Inc. works to strengthen businesses, increase exports and create jobs in communities around the country

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Commerce in the Community series highlighting the work of community leaders and organizations that are strengthening the middle class and providing ladders of opportunity for all Americans. 

Below is an interview with Toya Powell, Vice President of Operations for the U.S. Black Chambers, Inc. (USBC). A former real estate economist at Property & Portfolio Research, Inc. (PPR), Toya previously served as a Business Opportunity Specialist at the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), an economist with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and a realtor in Washington, D.C., and Maryland. 

Q1: Tell us about US Black Chambers, Inc. What is your mission and what are your key priorities? 

The U.S. Black Chambers, Inc. (USBC) is led by our President & CEO, Ron Busby Sr., and supports 114 affiliated member Chambers in 25 states and 240,000 businesses through Five Pillars of Service: Advocacy, Access to Capital, Contracting, Entrepreneur Training, and Chamber Development. Our mission is to provide committed, visionary leadership and advocacy in the realization of economic empowerment. Through the creation of resources and initiatives, we support African American Chambers of Commerce and business organizations in their work of developing and growing Black enterprises. 

Q2: In what ways are you working to expand opportunity in hard-hit communities across the US? 

USBC is working to expand opportunity in hard-hit communities across the U.S. through our Solutions Series where we focus on connecting our chambers and businesses to the public and private sector resources they need to be successful through Access to Capital, Contracting, and Entrepreneur Development. Since we launched the Solutions Series in 2012, we have been to communities from coast-to-coast in Phoenix, AZ; Charlotte, NC; Miami, FL; Austin, TX; Columbus, OH; Las Vegas, NV; Atlanta, GA, Kansas, City, KS with more cities ahead. In addition, this year we will host our 4th annual signature conference - the USBC School of Chamber and Business Management - on Tuesday, July 8th through Friday, July 11th at the brand new Marriott Marquis in Washington, DC. This conference convenes our chamber leaders from across the country and our Top 100 business owners, helping them to refine their leadership skills and gain access to viable opportunities in the public and private sectors. 

Commerce and Department of Homeland Security: A new partnership built on shared principles

Guest Blog Post by Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker

About a month ago, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson  and I each sent our respective workforces (around 280,000 people combined) a declaration of joint principles we developed to capture our shared mission.

Today, I want to share this message more broadly. We all owe Secretary Johnson, his leadership team, and the more than 240,000 men and women of the Department of Homeland Security a debt of gratitude for their hard and often dangerous work securing our borders and keeping this country safe.

Secretary Johnson is also keenly aware of the essential role DHS plays every day in facilitating the lawful trade of goods and services—trade that is vital to our economic security and competitiveness, and that is at the core of Commerce’s mission.

DHS and Commerce are therefore key partners in the Administration’s economic growth agenda. During our recent meetings, Secretary Johnson and I have recommitted ourselves to personally overseeing progress in a variety of initiatives that are priorities of both Departments.

New Case Studies Show Schools, Libraries and Health Care Providers Play Key Role in Broadband Expansion and Adoption

Foundation for California Community Colleges helps students become digital literacy trainers and provides them with a free new laptop/tablet to help them share their skills with local community members.

Editor's note: This has been cross-posted from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration blog.

In 2010, as part of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), NTIA awarded more than $450 million in matching grants to establish or upgrade public computer centers and initiate innovative broadband adoption programs in underserved communities. Four years later, that investment has resulted in more than 3,000 new or improved public computer centers and produced 600,000 new household broadband subscriptions.

These grants complement the $3.4 billion in infrastructure investments from NTIA that have enabled BTOP grant recipients to connect more than 21,000 community anchor institutions with ultra-fast broadband, including 2,400 medical and health care providers, more than 1,300 libraries, and 8,000 K-12 schools. BTOP has provided a significant down-payment on President Obama’s ConnectED initiative to link all schools to high-speed Internet by 2018.

Schools, libraries, and health care providers were pivotal in making this rapid expansion possible. These anchor institutions already had close ties to their communities, recognized the enormous benefits high-speed Internet affords, and possessed skilled staff to organize classes and broker learning resources.

U.S. Economic Development Administration: Supporting Workforce Development in Rural Alaska

AVCP Vice President Michael Hoffman (far left) and General Counsel Carol Brown (second from right) pose with EDA Director of External Affairs Angela Belden Martinez and Aaron Trujillo, the Commerce Department’s Acting Senior Advisor on Native American Affairs following the announcement of an EDA investment to support workforce development in rural Alaska.

Guest Blog Post By Angela Belden Martinez, Director of External Affairs, U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration

It was my pleasure today to be joined by Aaron Trujillo, the Commerce Department’s Acting Senior Advisor on Native American Affairs - who serves as the primary liaison between the Department of Commerce and tribal leaders of federally-recognized tribes and regional tribal organizations – in welcoming some very special guests from the Association of Village Council Presidents (AVCP) of Bethel, Alaska.

During the meeting with AVCP Vice President Michael Hoffman and AVCP General Counsel Carol Brown, we informed them that AVCP is receiving a U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) investment to support workforce development in rural Alaska.

Specifically, the $697,991 EDA grant will help the AVCP purchase equipment that will be used to train workers in several mechanical disciplines to help the delta of the Yukon and Kuskokwin rivers region rebound from the impact of the commercial failures of area fisheries and tributaries.

Providing these new training opportunities for displaced workers is an important step to getting this rural, regional economy back on track. 

NIST Awards $9 Million in Grants for Advanced Manufacturing Technology Planning

Awarded to 19 industry-driven partnerships, NIST advanced manufacturing technology planning grants will support technology roadmapping efforts across a wide spectrum of industries and processes

The Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) today awarded 19 advanced manufacturing technology planning grants totaling $9 million to new or existing industry-driven consortia to develop technology roadmaps aimed at strengthening U.S. manufacturing and innovation performance across industries.

The grants, awarded to universities and other nonprofit organizations, are the first conferred by NIST's new Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia (AMTech)Program. They range from $378,900 to $540,000 for a period of up to two years.

The funded projects will identify and rank research and development goals, define workforce needs, and initiate other steps toward speeding technology development and transfer and improving manufacturing capabilities. Project collaborations span a wide variety of industries and technologies, from flexible-electronics manufacturing to biomanufacturing and from pulp-and-paper manufacturing to forming and joining technologies.

"The AMTech awards provide incentives for partnerships to tackle the important jobs of planning, setting strategic manufacturing technology goals, and developing a shared vision of how to work collaboratively to get there," said NIST Director Patrick Gallagher. "These are essential first steps toward building the research infrastructure necessary to sustain a healthy, innovative advanced manufacturing sector—one that invents, demonstrates, prototypes and produces here, in the U.S."

Technology roadmapping is a key component of all funded projects. Each consortium will engage manufacturers of all sizes, university researchers, trade associations and other stakeholders in an interactive process to identify and prioritize research projects that reduce shared barriers to the growth of advanced manufacturing in the United States.<--break->

Commerce Employees are Proud to Serve

For Public Service Recognition Week 2014, several of our Commerce employees talk about what public service means to them.

National Climate Assessment Underscores Urgent Need for Americans and Our Businesses to Prepare for Climate Change in the United States

Cover of the third U.S. National Climate Assessment report

Guest Blog Post by Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker

The effects of climate change on our planet are becoming more evident, and its impact on our communities, and key sectors of the economy, is becoming more profound.

As part of its overall efforts to provide scientific information about climate change, the Obama Administration released the third U.S. National Climate Assessment. This report – a key deliverable of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan – is a comprehensive, authoritative scientific assessment about climate changes that are happening now in the U.S. and further changes that we can expect to see throughout this century.

The report communicates the impacts of climate change according to geographic region of the U.S., and by economic and societal sector—including agriculture, energy, and health. These tailored findings help translate scientific insights into practical, useable knowledge that can help decision-makers and citizens anticipate and prepare for specific climate-change impacts.

Among the 12 key findings, the report concludes that evidence of human-induced climate change continues to strengthen and that impacts are increasing across the country. Over the next 100 years, we can expect these impacts to further increase unless the global emissions of heat-trapping greenhouses gases are stabilized or reduced. 

While these findings are indeed sobering and provide real-cause for concern, there is also reason for hope. Ultimately, the amount of climate change, severity of impacts, and how we will prepare for those impacts will be largely be determined by the decisions we make today. 

Commerce Department Recognizes Employees’ Service

This week marks Public Service Recognition Week – an opportunity to honor the men and women who serve our nation as federal, state, county and local government employees.

There are more than two million Americans who have answered the call to serve our country and many of them have dedicated their careers to making our government work better. Their tireless efforts many times go unnoticed or unrecognized – and this week is an occasion to highlight the important work they do and thank them for their service to our country and our citizens.

The Commerce Department has employees working in all 50 states and around the globe focused on strengthening our economy. Commerce employees, and the work of our 12 bureaus, touches the daily lives of the American people in many ways, with a wide range of services in the areas of trade and investment, economic development, innovation, entrepreneurship, environmental stewardship, and statistical research analysis. From National Weather Service weather forecasts, to the Census Bureau’s decennial census statistics, your work helps improve everyday life.

To recognize the incredible work of Commerce employees, Secretary Penny Pritzker, along with other Administration officials, and Commerce leadership will participate in a number of events with employees to honor their dedication and commitment to their work and thank them for their service. Commerce is also launching the “Coffee with the Secretary” series this week – an opportunity for 20 employees to meet informally with Secretary Pritzker for coffee and to share their thoughts and ideas.

Taking Action to Attract the World’s Top Talented Professionals

Guest Blog Post by Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker

Today, the Obama Administration announced new steps to make it easier for highly skilled workers and talented researchers from other countries to contribute to our economy and ultimately become Americans. These measures are part of administrative reforms first announced in 2012, and reflect our commitment to attracting and retaining highly-skilled immigrants, continuing our economic recovery, and encouraging job creation.

Specifically, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a proposed rule that would—for the first time—allow work authorization for the spouses of H-1B workers who have begun the process of applying for a green card through their employers. Once enacted, this proposed rule would empower these spouses to put their own education and skills to work for the country that they and their families now call home.  This rule change was requested in a “We the People” petition to the White House.

At the same time, DHS is also proposing another new rule to make it easier for outstanding professors and researchers in other countries to demonstrate their eligibility for the EB-1 visa, a type of green card reserved for the world’s best and brightest. Just as great athletes and performers are already able to provide a range of evidence to support their petition for an EB-1, professors and researchers would be able to present diverse achievements such as groundbreaking patents or prestigious scientific grants.

These measures build on continuing Administration efforts to streamline existing systems, eliminate inefficiency, and increase transparency, such as by the launch of Entrepreneur Pathways, an online resource center that gives immigrant entrepreneurs an intuitive way to navigate opportunities to start and grow a business in the United States.

Commerce in the Community: Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren on Public Service and Expanding Opportunity in Her City

Mayor Lovely A. Warren, Rochester, New York

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Commerce in the Community series highlighting the work of community leaders and organizations that are strengthening the middle class and providing ladders of opportunity for all Americans.

Below is an interview with Rochester, New York Mayor Lovely Warren. A Rochester native, Mayor Warren served as President of the Rochester City Council prior to the start of her first term as Mayor in 2014. This interview is part of the Commerce Department’s participation in Public Service Recognition Week.

Q1: What inspired you to pursue public service?

When I was in college, I never saw myself pursuing a career in public service.  In fact, I had a lifelong desire to become a prosecutor.  When I was 7 years old, my grandfather was shot while working security at a local grocery chain.  He almost died, but thankfully he pulled through.  From that moment on, I pursued a dream of becoming a prosecutor so I could bring people, like the man who shot my grandfather, to justice.

After college I went to law school and was still hoping to become a prosecutor.  But fate had other plans for me.  I took an internship with New York State Assemblyman David Gantt, and my life was forever changed.  Working for Assemblyman Gantt, I got my first introduction to the world of public service.  Not only did I see how laws are actually created and executed on the state level, but I also got to see how elected officials help their constituents.  People would call Assemblyman Gantt’s office when they were out of options, and we were their last hope.  I helped people who were about to lose their homes due to foreclosure,  people who needed guidance on how to navigate the legal system,  people who wanted to start a business, and people who were being taken advantage of by slumlords.  I was amazed at the incredible diversity of issues that are brought to elected officials.  But more importantly, I was impressed by the incredible potential elected officials have to positively impact the lives of so many people, particularly the poorest citizens, who often don’t have access to the knowledge and resources that more affluent citizens may enjoy.

That is still what motivates me to get up and go to work every morning; the opportunity to positively impact the lives of city residents.

Q2: As Mayor of Rochester, what are your key priorities for expanding economic opportunity?

NOAA Invites Citizens to “Come Visit Us” at the Coastal and Ocean Places It Helps Protect

Come Visit Us - kayak alongside a river bank

Conserving coastal places provides economic benefits to local communities. For example, across all national marine sanctuaries, about $4 billion annually is generated in local coastal and ocean-dependent economies from diverse activities like commercial fishing, research and recreation-tourist activities. NOAA’s National Ocean Service works to conserve marine areas — and preserve the economic benefits of these special places to local communities — through coastal management and place-based conservation programs such as the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, National Marine Sanctuaries, and the Coral Reef Conservation Program.

From May 5-9, NOAA’s National Ocean Service will celebrate these special coastal and marine places in conjunction with National Travel and Tourism Week. Their online campaign, Come Visit Us, highlights a variety of coastal and marine places that the National Ocean Service helps to protect, including

  • 28 national estuarine research reserves (1.3 million coastal and estuarine acres)
  • 13 national marine sanctuaries and 1 national marine monument (170,000 square miles of marine and Great Lakes waters)
  • coral reefs and marine protected areas in U.S. coastal waters

The campaign will include ocean facts, an audio podcast, videos, and even a guide to diving in our sanctuaries and reserves. And for those who can’t travel to our ocean and coasts in the near future, this visual campaign will help them virtually experience the coastal and marine places that NOAA strives to protect. Conserving these special places today is critical to ensuring future generations can enjoy and benefit from these valuable ocean and coastal resources tomorrow.

You can follow Come Visit Us on the NOAA Ocean Service Facebook or Twitter pages.

Commerce Department Collaborates with Regional Partners to Make the U.S. a Magnet for Advanced Manufacturing and Good Paying Jobs

This week, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker met with the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP) Steering Committee 2.0 and the Manufacturing Council to discuss issues affecting the health of America’s manufacturing industry, including progress on the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI).

In his 2013 and 2014 State of the Union Addresses, President Obama called for the creation of a nationwide network devoted to innovating and scaling-up advanced manufacturing technologies and processes to create good paying jobs and spur economic growth. These efforts, known as the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) consist of regional hubs, bringing together companies, universities, community colleges, and government to accelerate the development and adoption of cutting-edge manufacturing technologies for making new, globally competitive products. The President has asked Congress to authorize a one-time $1 billion investment—to be matched by private and other non-federal funds—to create an initial network of up to 15 hubs. Over the span of 10 years, he has proposed building out NNMI to encompass 45 such hubs.

Significant progress has already been made to accelerate the development of the NNMI. In January, President Obama announced the selection of the Next Generation Power Electronics Manufacturing Innovation Institute, headquartered at North Carolina State University, to lead a manufacturing innovation institute for next generation power electronics. It is focused on enabling energy-efficient, high-power electronic chips and devices by making wide bandgap semiconductor technologies cost-competitive with current silicon-based power electronics. President Obama also announced two additional institutes in February – the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute, headquartered in Chicago, and the Lightweight and Modern Metals Manufacturing Innovation Institute, headquartered in the Detroit area. These announcements build on the NNMI pilot – the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, now known as America Makes – launched in August 2012 in Youngstown, Ohio.

May is World Trade Month 2014

Guest blog post by Ken Hyatt, Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade.

Happy World Trade Month!

For years, May has been the time to not only recognize the benefits of international trade, but also for organizations around the country to support more American companies competing overseas.

For the United States, the benefits of trade have been great, as have our successes. We recently announced that for the fourth straight year, the United States set a record for annual exports in 2013, at $2.3 trillion. That is a 40 percent growth in total exports since 2009.

Behind those exports are millions of well-paying American jobs – a record 11.3 million jobs to be exact. That number is an increase of 1.6 million from 2009.

As more American businesses compete and succeed in the global marketplace, the entire national economy reaps benefit.