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Blog Entries from June 2014

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Opens New Satellite Office in Denver, Colorado to Speed up the Patent Process and Create Local Jobs

Acting Deputy Secretary of Commerce Bruce Andrews (L) is joined by Senator Bennet, Deputy USPTO Director Lee, Mayor Hancock and others at the ribbon cutting for the USPTO's Denver office

Today Acting U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Bruce Andrews and Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee opened the permanent location for the USPTO Rocky Mountain Regional Office in in Denver’s central business district to help the region’s entrepreneurs advance cutting-edge ideas to the marketplace, grow their businesses, and more efficiently navigate the world’s strongest intellectual property system.

Through the ‘Open for Business Agenda,’ the Commerce Department is actively investing in communities across the country to build their capacity to spur innovation. They strongly support innovative startups and enterprises throughout their lifecycle because those companies produce economic growth, support good-paying jobs, and benefit America’s middle class. The Department also believes that this new USPTO satellite office will help the Rocky Mountain region’s inventors and entrepreneurs speed up their innovative products and technologies into the marketplace.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office hopes that by retaining and hiring more talented examiners locally they can further improve the overall quality and transparency of their operations while continuing to reduce patent pendency on a national scale. 

The new Rocky Mountain Regional Satellite Office is expected to create an estimated 130 high-quality, good-paying jobs, that will eventually house patent examiners, Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) judges, and outreach officials in a 45,000-square-foot space located in the Byron G. Rogers Federal Building.

The American Community Survey: Best Quality Data with the Least Public Burden

The American Community Survey: Best Quality Data with the Least Public Burden

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

“Better Data for Better Decisions” is my mantra as I crisscross the country talking to people about making the data we collect easier to find, understand and use.  Making government data more accessible or “open” to improve government, business and community decisions is a major initiative in the Commerce Department’s “Open for Business Agenda.”  The open data initiative has the potential to fuel new businesses, create new jobs and help us make better policy decisions. 

One of our best data sources is the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS).  The ACS is truly a unique, national treasure, producing a wealth of data on which our country relies to make important decisions.  The ACS is used to inform disbursement of over $400 billion a year in Federal funds.  State and local decision makers rely on the ACS information to guide tough choices about competing funding priorities, such as locating hospitals, funding programs for children, building roads and transportation systems, targeting first responders, supporting veterans, locating schools, and promoting economic development. In short, our community leaders use ACS data to analyze how the needs of our neighborhoods are evolving.  And, our business users rely on ACS data to make key marketing, location and financial decisions to serve customers and create jobs. 

The value of the ACS is immense. It makes our businesses more competitive, our governments smarter, and our citizens more informed. 

This value comes from the fact that the ACS captures so much information so comprehensively.  But, this also means that the value of the ACS depends critically on the people responding to the survey, known as the respondents.  I met recently with members of the ACS Data Users Group, an organization dedicated to sharing innovations and best practices for ACS data use, to discuss how to get the best quality data with the least amount of respondent burden. This is of paramount importance.  A survey seen as too lengthy, burdensome and intrusive will produce lower response rates and could undermine both the quality of the data and value of the survey. But reducing the length of the survey could reduce the amount of information available for decision-making. 

Evaluating the American Community Survey: The ACS Content Review

American Community Survey Brochure

Cross-post, U.S. Census Bureau's Director's Blog by John H. Thompson

Every month of every year, and in every county across the nation, a relatively small number of households receive notice that they have been randomly selected to receive the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

The American Community Survey, or ACS, is the lesser known part of the every-ten-year census. To produce more timely statistics between census years, the former “census long form” questions were moved to this rolling survey format after the 2000 Census.

Many of the detailed socio-economic and housing questions on the American Community Survey can trace their genesis back to the 19th century, some even earlier. James Madison, Father of the Constitution and fourth U.S. president, ensured that the Constitution authorized Congress to include questions in the census that provided the level of detail needed to effectively govern the new country.

“In order to accommodate our laws to the real situation of our constituents,” he explained, “we ought to be acquainted with that situation.”

Today, the American Community Survey provides the objective basis for the distribution of more than $400 billion in federal programming decisions. ACS statistics are used by all communities to more clearly plan for investments and services.

Quality ACS statistics are dependent on the participation of all households in the survey. The survey takes time to fill out, with more than 70 questions on dozens of topics.

Secretary Pritzker Joins PAGE Member Steve Case on Cincinnati Leg of “Rise of the Rest” Road Tour

Secretary Pritzker Joins PAGE Member Steve Case on Cincinnati Leg of “Rise of the Rest” Road Tour

Today U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker visited Cincinnati, Ohio for the “Rise of the Rest” Road Tour to celebrate America’s entrepreneurial spirit and bring attention to emerging startup economies in communities across the United States. The four-city tour, taking place this week in Detroit, Pittsburg, Cincinnati and Nashville is hosted by Chairman and CEO of Revolution and Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE) member Steve Case. PAGE is a first-of-its-kind collaboration between eleven of America’s most inspiring and prominent entrepreneurs who are using their experience and expertise to help spur business creation in the United States and around the world.

Entrepreneurship is a key driver of economic growth and job creation. Startups account for 20 percent of new jobs created in the United States and are responsible for adding net new employment to the economy. Secretary Pritzker’s visit to Ohio today is part of the Commerce Department’s ongoing efforts to support and highlight America’s thriving entrepreneurial spirit, celebrate our startup culture, and inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Secretary Pritzker began the day in Cincinnati by delivering remarks about the importance of entrepreneurship at a breakfast event with Cincinnati business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs. In her remarks, she discussed the Administration’s efforts to engage with business leaders and local leaders to foster an economic environment that encourages innovation and entrepreneurship, which spur job growth and competitiveness and promote economic development.

Secretary Pritzker then hopped on the bus and headed to Dotloop, a web-based company focused on creating a platform that would simplify real estate transactions. She then toured Cintrifuse a start-up incubator in downtown Cincinnati where she met with a number of entrepreneurs looking to turn their ideas and inventions into new products and technologies. After her Cintrifuse visit, Secretary Pritzker and Steve Case visited Roadtrippers, a web and mobile app for planning road trips. All of the sites Secretary Pritzker visited today demonstrate the power and potential of great American business ideas.

Later in the day Secretary Pritzker and Steve Case sat down for a fireside chat with Rich Boehne CEO of E.W. Scripps Company at the Brandery, a seed startup accelerator. Speaking before an audience of Cincinnati entrepreneurs, they offered practical advice for young companies from their own experiences building businesses and shared more about what the Administration is trying to accomplish by supporting entrepreneurship through the PAGE initiative. ​

As the Nation Ages, Seven States Become Younger, Census Bureau Reports

As the Nation Ages, Seven States Become Younger, Census Bureau Reports

The median age declined in seven states between 2012 and 2013, including five in the Great Plains, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates released today. In contrast, the median age for the U.S. as a whole ticked up from 37.5 years to 37.6 years. These estimates examine population changes among groups by age, sex, race and Hispanic origin nationally, as well as all states and counties, between April 1, 2010, and July 1, 2013.

"We're seeing the demographic impact of two booms," Census Bureau Director John Thompson said. "The population in the Great Plains energy boom states is becoming younger and more male as workers move in seeking employment in the oil and gas industry, while the U.S. as a whole continues to age as the youngest of the baby boom generation enters their 50s."

The largest decline in the nation was in North Dakota, with a decline of 0.6 years between 2012 and 2013. The median age in four other Great Plains states — Montana, Wyoming,South Dakota and Oklahoma — also dropped. Alaska and Hawaii also saw a decline in median age. (See Table 1.) In addition, the median age fell in 403 of the nation's 3,143 counties, many of which were in the Great Plains. Williams, N.D., the center of the Bakken shale energy boom, led the nation with a decline of 1.6 years. Next to Alaska, North Dakota had a heavier concentration of males (51.1 percent of the total population) than any other state.

The nation as a whole grew older as the oldest baby boomers became seniors. The nation's 65-and-older population surged to 44.7 million in 2013, up 3.6 percent from 2012. By comparison, the population younger than 65 grew by only 0.3 percent.

These statistics released today also include population estimates for Puerto Rico and its municipios by age and sex.

Our nation is a study in contrasts when it comes to local age structure. There was a more than 42-year difference in the median ages of the county with the highest median age — Sumter, Fla., at 65.5 — and the county with the youngest median age — Madison, Idaho, at 23.1.

Intellectual Property Key to Protecting Pharma and Biotech Innovation

Intellectual Property Key to Protecting Pharma and Biotech Innovation

Did you know the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office plays an important role in getting biotechnology and pharmaceutical products to market? Biotech and pharma are major areas of patenting for the USPTO. In fact, since 2009, the USPTO granted more than 31,000 patents in the “Molecular Biology and Microbiology” classification, and about 30,000 in the “Drug, Bio-Affecting and Body Treating Compositions” classification. There has also been a significant increase in recent years in patents granted for medical devices. In 2012, the USPTO granted more than 16,000 patents in that category, a 157 percent increase in five years. 

On Wednesday June 25, Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee spoke at the BIO International Convention in San Diego, California on the importance of patents in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. Read Deputy Director Lee’s speech. 

“When you do find that one-in-a-hundred success—that drug that truly works—it’s critical that you have the patent protection necessary to get that drug to market and recoup your investment on the 99 attempts that didn’t succeed,” said Lee. 

The importance of intellectual property in innovation is exemplified through the pioneers and patent holders who were recently inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, a program managed by the USPTO in partnership with the non-profit Invent Now. 

One of these inductees, Dr. Richard DiMarchi,has received international recognition for the discovery of peptide-based polypharmacy directed at the treatment of diabetes and obesity. He received a patent for Insulin LisPro, better known by its trademarked name, Humalog®, which is currently used daily by more than a million patients with Type 2 diabetes. Dr. DiMarchi continues to engage in research, and recently said that one of his unachieved goals is to focus on a disease like Alzheimer’s, reduce it to a molecular target, and then design a drug that will work in human clinical studies. 

Strong intellectual property is key to protecting innovation in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries, and the USPTO continues to work on the White House executive actions to issue the highest quality patents possible, add transparency to our patent system, and level the playing field for all players. 

Secretary Pritzker Discusses the Importance of a Globally Competitive Workforce at the 2014 CGI America Annual Meeting

Secretary Pritzker Discusses the Importance of a Globally Competitive Workforce at the 2014 CGI America Annual Meeting

At the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) America 2014 Annual Meeting today in Denver, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker spoke about the Commerce Department’s efforts to catalyze job-driven training initiatives and the Obama Administration’s focus on fostering a 21stcentury workforce. Following remarks by former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary Pritzker spoke on a panel moderated by Chelsea Clinton, Clinton Foundation Vice Chair, titled “Charting a New Course: Education and Employing America’s Future Leaders.”

Workforce training is a personal issue for Secretary Pritzker, and she has heard from many CEOs that finding the right workers to fill available jobs is one of their top concerns. That is why Secretary Pritzker has made workforce training a top priority for the Department of Commerce for the very first time.

As Secretary Pritzker noted during the panel, training initiatives must be industry-driven in order to succeed in creating the 21st century workforce that businesses need. The Commerce Department leads a number of initiatives that have already seen progress towards equipping the American workforce with the skills for available jobs. For example, the Department recently launched a membership call for the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE), an advisory council that will assists the Department in finding new approaches to industry-led skills training. Secretary Pritzker also recently joined President Obama and Vice President Biden to announce a combined $600 million in Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) and apprenticeship grants, which will enable a number of communities to train workers for careers in cutting edge industries, such as advanced manufacturing, IT, and healthcare.

Commerce in the Community: Rising Tide Capital works to improve traditionally disadvantaged communities by empowering local entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses.

Alex Forrester, Co-Founder and Cheif Operations Officer of Rising Tide Capital

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 Alex Forrester, Co-Founder and Chief Operations Officer of Rising Tide Capital, a nonprofit organization that provides high-quality business education and consulting to low- and moderate-income entrepreneurs in Northern NJ. Rising Tide Capital has achieved national recognition for its approach to economic empowerment of low-income individuals and communities through entrepreneurship. In 2009, Rising Tide Capital was selected as a CNN Hero and recognized by President Barack Obama in a White House speech on innovative non-profit organizations.

Q1: Tell us about Rising Tide Capital. What is your mission and main focus?

Rising Tide Capital is a nonprofit organization committed to the economic empowerment of low-income families and communities through entrepreneurship. By providing high-quality business education and consulting services and by partnering with local microfinance agencies, our goal is to help create jobs and economic opportunity in the neighborhoods that need them most by investing in the success of the talented men and women who live there.

We believe in the value of the work we do at Rising Tide Capital because it leverages an immense amount of entrepreneurial activity that is already going on in low-income neighborhoods and tries to invest in those efforts in ways that can confront the extremely challenging context of working poverty in modern America. Due to unemployment, underemployment, and low-wage work, many urban communities have large numbers of poor and working-poor families. These families struggle with financial self-sufficiency and often have difficulty covering basic expenses like rent and electricity. The emotional and psychological stress of financial insecurity—and the anxiety and depression that so often develops—is at the root of what keeps poor communities poor.

Response to NOAA's data RFI - "let's get started." And we are!

National Weather Service Data Visualization

Did you know that NOAA gathers 20 terabytes of data every day - twice the data of the entire printed collection of the United States Library of Congress? This environmental intelligence comes from a wide variety of sources including: Doppler radar systems, weather satellites, buoy networks and stations, computer models, tide gauges, real-time weather stations, as well as ships and aircraft. This network provides valuable and critical data that are instrumental in protecting lives and property across the country. But only a small percentage is easily accessible to the public and, as demand increases for this data and information, NOAA recognized it needed to find ways to effectively and efficiently distribute this data to decision makers and industries.

With that in mind, this past February NOAA announced a new effort to unleash the power of its data to foster innovation, create new industries and job opportunities. NOAA issued a Request for Information, or an RFI, to engage private industry to help make NOAA's data available in a rapid, scalable manner to the public. Through this process, American companies were asked to provide possible solutions for NOAA to be able to turn this untapped information into usable products or services.

So what does this mean to the economy? According to a 2013 McKinsey Global Institute Report, open data could add more than $3 trillion in total value annually to the education, transportation, consumer products, electricity, oil and gas, healthcare, and consumer finance sectors worldwide. If more of this data could be efficiently released, organizations will be able to develop new and innovative products and services to help us better understand our planet and keep communities resilient from extreme events.

NOAA received more than 70 responses to the RFI that closed on March 31st.  Responses came from industry and academia and ranged from single organizations to broad, integrated teams. NOAA has reviewed the responses and is continuing to engage with industry to elicit feedback for the best way to make this data accessible and useful.

Overall, respondents to the RFI provided a clear message - get started. And we heard this again at the Open Data Roundtable last week at the White House. So NOAA is talking to other agencies and formulating a plan for implementing a new, innovative model of public-private partnership around open government data, all in support of the Obama administration’s efforts to make data more accessible. NOAA intends to incrementally implement this partnership by enabling the government and industry to work together by testing the best methods for not just making data available, but creating an ecosystem around the data that will make a meaningful and lasting impact on the economy.

Secretary Pritzker Swears in New Commercial Service Officers

Secretary Pritzker Swears in New Commercial Service Officers

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker today swore in 24 new Foreign Commercial Service Officers and one Intellectual Property Attachè at the Commerce Department. . The ceremony marked an exciting beginning to these officers’ careers in overseas and domestic markets where they will work to strengthen the American economy by supporting U.S. businesses in the global marketplace.

The administration is committed to increasing U.S. exports, which support millions of jobs.  U.S. exports have set records for four consecutive years, reaching $2.3 trillion in 2013. These exports now support 11.3 million jobs in the United States. The recent launch of the NEI/NEXT campaign by Secretary Pritzker has built on the momentum of the recent growth to encourage American companies to take their business to overseas markets.

Expanding trade and investment is a central part of the Department’s ‘Open for Business Agenda’ and having an overseas presence is one critical way to support U.S. businesses seeking to grow in foreign markets.

During a recent trip to Burma, Secretary Pritzker announced the Department of Commerce will expand its overseas resources to help U.S. businesses navigate additional global markets and sell their goods and services to customers all over the world. The Department’s International Trade Administration will add a total of 68 new positions and open offices in five new countries, including its first in Burma. The expansion is largely focused on fast-growing markets in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.  The Department of Commerce will soon add new offices in Africa and Asia in order to facilitate exports in these critical markets.

The new officers bring a wealth of knowledge and experience from their prior private or public sector service. Of the more than 3,800 candidates, these 25 men and women were chosen because of their constant resourcefulness, tenacity, and of course, diplomacy.

These new Commercial Service Officers play a vital role in the enhancement of American businesses. They support U.S. businesses in overcoming trade barriers, finding global business opportunities and partners, and attracting investment to U.S. shores. These officers will be the boots on the ground, leading the charge to open new markets and helping companies compete in the global marketplace.

Creating More Options to Improve Privacy and Security Online

Creating more options to improve privacy and security online

Guest blog post by Jeremy Grant, Senior Executive Advisor for Identity Management, National Institute of Standards and Technology

It’s well established that diversity of thought and backgrounds strengthens organizations of all kinds and that diversity is a key component of a strong economy. At the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) National Program Office (NPO), we believe diversity is also the key to establishing a vibrant marketplace of options to replace outdated passwords with reliably secure, privacy-enhancing and convenient ways to prove who you are online.

The Identity Ecosystem Steering Group (IDESG) was launched under the auspices of the NPO but is a privately led group laying the groundwork for that marketplace through policy and standards development. The group held its ninth plenary meeting this week at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Md. The meeting brought together a broad coalition of individuals and representatives from industry, privacy and civil liberties advocacy groups, consumer advocates, government agencies, and more, focused on giving people choices when they conduct secure transactions online.

Instead of giving up lots of personal information every time you go online, you could choose who gets what information about you by allowing a trusted third-party to verify your online identity and then assert specific attributes on your behalf—only as needed for a transaction.

At the IDESG meeting, we heard from pilot participant, which is collaborating with vendors such as Under Armour to provide discounts to military families and first responders. is in the process of receiving higher level certification for its solution so that users can access government services and medical records.

Listening to Our Data Customers at the Open Data Roundtable

Joel Gurin, Senior Advisor at The GovLab (left) and Acting Deputy Secretary Bruce Andrews

Guest Blog Post by Acting Deputy Secretary Bruce Andrews

It is not hyperbole to call the Department of Commerce,“America’s Data Agency.” Other departments may house major statistical agencies. But none can rival the reach, depth, and breadth of the Commerce Department’s data programs. Our data collection literally reaches from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun.

As a key pillar of our “Open for Business” agenda, bureaus and leaders across the Department of Commerce are determined to maximize the return on our data investments for businesses, government, taxpayers, and communities.

As Ginni Rometty of IBM has said, “Information will be to the 21st century what steam, electricity and fossil fuels were to prior centuries.” The entire team at our Department agrees.

For the first time, Secretary Pritzker has made data a top priority for Commerce – part of the heart and soul for our strategy to strengthen our economy and deliver the tools and information needed to bolster our businesses.

The Secretary knows, as we all do, that gatherings like today’s Open Data Roundtable are essential to building bridges with the private sector, gaining input and feedback, improving our data infrastructure, and developing a system that will outlast any single Administration.

Our goal is to unleash even more government data to help business leaders make the best possible decisions, while creating fertile ground for more startups. The best way to do that is to listen to suggestions from those already using our data – and to get the private sector’s guidance on where the federal government can unlock the greatest value in our data sets.

NOAA Harnesses Digital Technology to Empower Commercial Innovation in Nautical Charts

NOAA harnesses digital technology to empower commercial innovation in nautical charts

The nautical chart – that simple and so very complex map that enables safe navigation over millions of miles of coastal waters – is undergoing a revolution. For two hundred years, NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey has gathered ocean measurements and created the Nation’s nautical charts – on paper. NOAA pioneered digital charts in the 1990s, and demand has grown steadily since then. This year, NOAA decided to shift the focus of chart production to digital products, while still supporting an important (but declining) demand for paper. Using digital technology, cartographers can now use more data at a higher spatial resolution and richer attribution than was possible on paper nautical charts, giving the maritime industry greater navigational intelligence to manage risks.

Last year, Coast Survey beta tested MyNOAACharts, an app for Android tablets that allowed users to download NOAA nautical charts. Users could find their positions on updated charts; they could zoom in on any location, or zoom out for the big picture to plan a day of sailing. Hundreds of users commented during the beta test, providing essential insights, and Coast Survey listened. One key project insight was that Coast Survey’s distribution formats for nautical charts are not well suited to mobile apps. Coast Survey also recognized that there is an innovative and growing commercial market for mobile navigation apps.

With input from the user community in mind, Coast Survey decided to cancel further development of the app and instead refocused efforts on improving the distribution system for charts and other navigation data. This summer, for instance, Coast Survey will make it easier for app developers to use NOAA charts in their products by breaking charts into much smaller “tiles,” which are used widely in mobile apps, web maps, and commercial chart plotters. This will empower the next generation of app developers, chart redistributors and software entrepreneurs to create new navigation products, and speed updated chart information to U.S. boaters.

Secretary Pritzker Discusses Strategic Benefits of Reshoring at Inaugural SelectUSA Summer Forum

Secretary Pritzker speaks at the SelectUSA Summer Forum

Today, Secretary Pritzker co-hosted the first ever SelectUSA Summer Forum with U.S. Representative Frank Wolf (VA-10) at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center. Over 200 business leaders across a multitude of industries attended the Summer Forum to discuss how bringing manufacturing and other services back to the United States – a process called “reshoring” – makes practical and economic sense.

At the SelectUSA Summer Forum, Secretary Pritzker remarked that America’s greatest strengths – its hardworking, diverse, and educated workforce, strong protection of intellectual property rights, predictable and transparent legal system, relatively low taxes, highly developed infrastructure, and access to the world's most lucrative consumer market – have led to a strong trend of reshoring and reinvestment in America. Additionally, Secretary Pritzker praised the Commerce Department’s primary vehicle for attracting job creating investment into the U.S. – SelectUSA – for its achievements in promoting, attracting, retaining, and expanding investment to and within the United States. Attendees also heard from U.S. Representative Frank Wolf, an advocate for exporting and reshoring, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, and Jeff Fettig, CEO of the Whirlpool Corporation, who spoke about his company’s experiences moving jobs back to the United States and the resulting creation of jobs in the local economy.

An initiative established in 2011 by President Obama, SelectUSA acts as an advocate for business investment in the United States as well as a single point of contact for investors ready and looking to create jobs and establish production in America. Since its inception just two years ago, SelectUSA has facilitated over $18 billion in new investments for the United States and serviced over 1,000 potential investors this past year alone, bolstering America’s long-standing position as the world’s largest recipient of foreign direct investment.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Talks About Training a Modern Manufacturing Workforce

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Talks About Training a Modern Manufacturing Workforce

A skilled manufacturing workforce is central to America’s future economic success. In order to best equip workers for 21st century jobs, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker has for the first time made skills development a top priority for the Department of Commerce. As part of these efforts, Secretary Pritzker spoke today about the importance of industry-driven skills training at a conference titled “Skills Training for a Modern Manufacturing Workforce: Does the German Model Have Lessons for the United States?” Sponsored by the Aspen Institute, the German Embassy, the Representative of German Industry and Trade (RGIT), and the German Center for Research and Innovation, the conference highlighted successful U.S. and German approaches to workforce development and how the two countries can collaborate to strengthen the competiveness of both economies.

Skilled workers make businesses more productive, and expanded training opportunities boost workers’ average lifetime earnings. But matching training initiatives to industry needs can be a challenge. Germany’s “dual track” vocational training tradition successfully addresses the needs of both workers and businesses. Pairing classroom instruction with hands-on apprenticeship opportunities, the dual track system gives students the opportunity to gain real-life experience and supplies a pipeline of talent for businesses. In May 2012, the German Embassy launched its “Skills Initiative” to introduce Germany’s dual system of training to U.S. companies. The program brings together German companies with U.S. state and local government officials, education leaders, training providers, and other stakeholders to create workforce development programs best suited to German business needs in the U.S. market.

Assess Costs Everywhere – Now Even Better!

Under Secretary Doms (far right), leads a panel discussion with Chief Economist Sue Helper (from left to right), Hal Sirkin, Managing Director, Boston Consulting Group, and Katy George, Director, McKinsey & Co.

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

Where to locate your business or a new facility for your business is a complicated decision. Many variables are involved, and if you are considering a location outside of the U.S., there are many factors that may not be obvious. At Commerce, we have been focused on making this decision and all of its moving parts easier to digest, and a major part of that is Commerce’s ACE Tool.

First released in April 2013, the Assess Costs Everywhere (ACE) tool outlines the wide range of costs and risks associated with offshore production, and provides links to important public and private resources, so that firms can more accurately assess the total cost of operating overseas.

Today we have updated the data and deepened the analysis, but the original conclusions remain as fresh as ever. Multiple costs and risks--some visible and some hidden--accompany firms' decisions about where to set up a factory and the supply chain.

I have had the pleasure of meeting frequently with business owners from across the country. They talk about where their challenges are in growing and sustaining their businesses, and they also talk about how locating production abroad hasn’t always turned out as well as they had hoped. Not surprisingly, during our current economic recovery and expansion, news reports and private consultants have repeatedly echoed that thinking. Increasingly we hear that U.S. companies that previously took their operations or supply chains overseas are now reshoring, or insourcing, bringing operations and supply chains back home to America.

The ACE Tool is intended to help businesses think through this complicated decision, and provide easy access to innovative research and thinking on issues related to site selection and supply chains. The ACE Tool is grounded in the forward-thinking work of Harry Moser of and Rep. Frank Wolf, who called on Commerce to bring this effort to fruition. The Department of Commerce developed ACE in response to Rep. Wolf's call to help achieve our shared goals of boosting U.S. economic growth and ensuring that America remains competitive in manufacturing.

ACE explores 10 costs and risks:

Commerce in the Community: Watershed Capital Utilizes Impact Investing as an Innovative Approach to Sustainable Community Development

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 Shawn Lesser and Michael Whelchel, Co-founders and Partners at Watershed Capital Group. Prior to starting Watershed, Shawn sold institutional equities to European banks and Michael co-managed two private equity funds in the U.S.

Question 1: Tell us about Watershed Capital. What is your mission and main focus?
Watershed Capital Group ( is a boutique investment bank focused on the area of impact investments. Our mission is to scale impact investing with a specific emphasis on helping companies and funds raise capital and execute mergers and acquisitions. Over the past seven years, we've worked with over 20 sustainable companies and over 60 private equity funds.

Question 2: How is Watershed Capital Group working with the Department of Commerce to expand its impact?

In collaboration with the U.S. Department of Commerce around the Obama Administration's impact initiative, last October we organized the first impact and sustainable trade mission to Europe. Specifically, we brought together 10 US-based impact funds and introduced them to close to 90 European investors in London, Zurich and Amsterdam. The trade mission included high-level conversations about the impact investing space and was capped with a policy roundtable in London which brought together stakeholders both from the US and the UK.

Following up on the success of the first trade mission, last month we organized the second impact and sustainable trade mission to Nordic region with delegations meetings in Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Helsinki.  This October we will be returning to Europe the week of October 20th for the third impact and sustainable trade mission with delegation meetings in London, Zurich and Amsterdam.

International Statistical Update: Health- and Education-Related Travel Now Part of Travel Services

Cross-post, Bureau of Economic Analysis

You may have noticed some data on international travel services look a little bit different. With the release of the monthly trade report on June 4, spending on health- and education-related travel are now counted in the travel services category. Previously, both were included in a category called “other personal services.”

Expenditures on goods and services by border, seasonal, and other short-term workers, which were also previously included in other private services, are reclassified to travel as well.

While this change alone will not affect the overall trade balance, the category measuring travel services – both imports and exports – will be larger. However, BEA will also report quarterly on health- and education-related travel separately from other more traditional business and personal travel so that users can track travel spending in several ways. You can see the new travel services category as well as the subcategories in a new table that will be available on June 18. A template is available now.

This change is part of the Comprehensive Restructuring of BEA’s International Economic Accounts, which we discussed in a recent blog post.

An example of health-related travel is when a foreign person travels to the United States for surgery. In this case, health-related travel exports would include the cost of medical procedures the person receives, in addition to any accommodations and other expenses he or she incurs in the United States.

An example of education-related travel is when a foreign person travels to the U.S. to attend school here. In this case, education-related travel exports would include all costs the foreign student incurs in the United States, including tuition at a U.S. institution. Like other changes to BEA’s international accounts, moving health- and education-related travel to the travel services category brings the U.S. international accounts into closer harmony with data produced by our trading partners and was a recommendation of the International Monetary Fund’s Balance of Payments and International Investment Position Manual, 6th edition.

Data Driving Development: EDA Releases New Cluster Mapping Tool to Help Spur Regional Economic Growth

Data Driving Development:  EDA Releases New Cluster Mapping Tool to Help Spur Regional Economic Growth

Guest blog post by Jay Williams, Assistant Secretary for Economic Development

Earlier this week, U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker announced the launch of the U.S. Cluster Mapping and Registry project, a national economic initiative based at Harvard Business School’s Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness and supported by the U.S. Economic Development Administration.  The U.S. Cluster Mapping and Registry project aims to strengthen U.S. competitiveness by understanding the economic performance of clusters and regions across the United States.

EDA staff gets inquiries daily from different organizations looking for grant information. Every community we speak with has a plan it is developing to spur economic growth and create jobs. Some are more fleshed out that others, but EDA’s advice is always the same: look at the resources in your community and make sure this project fits with the economic strengths of your area. In short, identify your regional clusters.

Clusters are geographic concentrations of interconnected industries and supportive organizations that make regions uniquely competitive for jobs and private investment – like the automotive cluster in the South and the biotech cluster in the Northeast. Clusters are not top-down formulas aimed at being a panacea for all economic development needs. Nor are they intended to serve as a litmus test for qualifying or strictly characterizing good or bad projects. Clusters thrive and are critical in both urban and rural communities and provide a framework for understanding regional competitiveness and drivers of private investment and job creation. They also help identify and prioritize opportunities for public investment and provide a platform for linking, leveraging, and aligning federal or state programs to get a better return on investment of taxpayer funds.

Engaging Indian Country to Help Create Conditions for Economic Opportunity on Trust Lands

Engaging Indian Country to Help Create Conditions for Economic Opportunity on Trust Lands

Guest blog post by Jay Williams, Assistant Secretary for Economic Development 

Traveling this week on my first official trip as Assistant Secretary for Economic Development, I was honored to participate in the National Congress of the American Indians mid-year conference “Claiming our Rights and Strengthening our Governance” in Anchorage, Alaska.
While there, I served on a panel with Kevin Washburn, Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior, Kevin Gover, Director of the National Museum of the American Indian and former Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, and James M. Olguin, Councilman, Southern Indian Tribe. We met with tribal leaders for a focused discussion on the importance of developing modern trust management systems and creating the conditions for economic growth on tribal trust lands. 
The Obama Administration has a long history of being actively engaged in helping tribal communities expand their economic footprint, and recent changes in federal laws and regulations have opened the door to development of tribal trust lands. As a critical part of our discussion, I explained how the U.S. Department of Commerce can work with Tribes to develop these lands and attract the private investment they need to create more jobs.
For nearly 50 years, the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration has partnered with Tribal communities throughout the United States to foster job creation, collaboration and regional innovation. In the last five years alone, EDA has awarded nearly $42 million in assistance to Indian tribes to help them plan and implement their bottom-up economic development strategies.

Secretary Pritzker Highlights Commerce Resources for New Hampshire Businesses

Secretary Pritzker addresses over 150 businesses at New Hampshire Business Day on Capitol Hill

Yesterday, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker participated in the 4th Annual New Hampshire Business Day Luncheon, hosted by U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen. The event, which brought together nearly 200 community and small business leaders from New Hampshire, aimed to provide the business community with information about the resources available to them through federal programs and agencies. Secretary Pritzker was joined by Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet, National Economic Council Chairman Jason Furman, and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

During the event, Secretary Pritzker shared her personal experience as a business owner for more than 25 years. Secretary Pritzker also highlighted U.S. Commerce Department tools and services available to New Hampshire businesses to help them grow and thrive.

For example, the Commerce Department has prioritized helping more businesses start exporting and expand their exports to new markets. Secretary Pritzker recently announced NEI/NEXT – the second phase of President Obama’s successful National Export Initiative (NEI) to help all businesses reach the 95 percent of consumers who live outside the United States. According to Commerce Data, an estimated 23,000 good-paying jobs in New Hampshire are supported by U.S. exports. NEI/NEXT will broaden and deepen the Department’s efforts to create an export-oriented business culture in New Hampshire and across the country.

In her remarks, Secretary Pritzker also talked about the Commerce Department’s efforts to support tourism, which is New Hampshire’s second-largest industry. Secretary Pritzker highlighted the President’s steps to increase the number of international travelers. International visitors contributed $139 billion to the American economy in 2013 and the United States has seen an increase of 15 million annual international travelers and this growth has supported roughly 175,000 American jobs. This increase means the United States is on target to attract a record 100 million international travelers a year by 2021, meeting an ambitious challenge to the nation laid out by President Obama two years ago.

The Commerce Department supports New Hampshire’s economic growth by directly investing in their communities, as well. The Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) provided a $400,000 grant in 2011 to help build the newly opened Regional Economic Development Center of Southern New Hampshire, which plans to house a business incubator, lending institution, and a training facility that will bring 1,500 jobs and $25.4 million in investment, according to the grantee.

The Manufacturing Extension Partnership in Concord, part of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), also provides resources to New Hampshire manufacturers to deploy new technologies and reduce energy costs, among others. And Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Sea Grant College Program at the University of New Hampshire helps encourage both conservation and economic growth along the coastline.

The Commerce Department is committed to continue working to provide resources that help New Hampshire businesses create more jobs, innovate, and compete in today’s global economy.

The Internet’s Next Big Idea: Connecting People, Information, and Things

Internet of Things (graphic credit: ©XtravaganT -

By Chris Greer, Senior Executive for Cyber-Physical Systems at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

In the early 1990s, a Web page consisted of crude, rainbow-colored, text-filled boxes that “hyperlinked” to more text. Today, your Internet-enabled smartphone not only gives you access to libraries’ worth of information, but also helps you navigate the physical world.

Cyber-physical systems, also called the Internet of Things, are the next big advance for our use of the web. They allow complex systems of feedback and control that can help a robot coordinate with a dog or human in a search-and-rescue operation or help health care providers evaluate the recovery of patients after they leave the hospital.

The Internet of Things is still in its infancy. To mature, it will require public-private collaboration across disciplines and economic sectors. Today, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., an event conceived by Presidential Innovation Fellows Sokwoo Rhee and Geoff Mulligan from the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is demonstrating what’s needed to make the Internet of Things a reality. At the event, 24 teams representing more than 100 organizations from academia, industry and government who responded to the fellows’ SmartAmerica Challenge are demonstrating how the Internet of Things can improve health care, emergency response, transportation and more while fostering jobs and economic growth. Some of the teams also showcased their ideas at the White House yesterday.

In addition to smart emergency responses, we could soon have smart manufacturing that brings production right to your neighborhood, getting you the parts you need faster while supporting local jobs. Affordable technologies could create smart homes that include automated safety alerts and a community awareness network to protect the elderly and other vulnerable populations. And smart vehicles could not only communicate with one another and traffic signals, but also with pedestrians to prevent collisions. These are just a few of the projects led by the SmartAmerica Challenge teams.

As a next step, we hope these teams and others across the United States and around the world will join NIST and collaborating organizations for the SmartAmerica/Global Cities Challenge. We’ll ask them to work together in creating the building blocks of smart cities. Our goal is to cut in half the time and money it will take for cities to deploy advanced engineering and information technologies to better manage their resources and improve everything from health and safety to education and transportation. Progress will require standard ways for all of these devices and systems to communicate, and that will take coordination among the people building the information technology, physical devices and communities.

Several SmartAmerica teams also announced today that they plan to continue their collaborations, expand deployments of their new technologies, and introduce new products. One team is even supporting a local version of the SmartAmerica challenge in Austin, Texas. This demonstrates the amazing power of a nation that is truly “open for business.”

It’s not a coincidence that these are public-private partnerships. The components of our everyday lives are becoming ever more interconnected. The smoke detector you buy from a private company may soon connect directly to your municipal fire department, just as heart-rate monitors now can communicate with your doctor’s office.

Such collaboration accelerates innovation and it means the Internet of Things will not need decades to mature as the Web did. It’s already bringing rapid changes to the way we live and work. And best of all, it’s bringing economic opportunity with it.

Join us for the SelectUSA Summer Forum

On June 17th at the Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Auditorium in Washington, D.C.

Announcing the "Reinvesting in America, Creating Jobs at Home" SelectUSA Summer Forum on June 17th at the Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Auditorium.

From large multinational corporations to family-owned small businesses, U.S. firms are discovering that bringing manufacturing or services back to the United States makes economic sense.

Join us to learn about the latest trends, discover resources to help businesses make the move, and hear directly from companies that have reshored successfully. NOTE: This event is FREE but only registered individuals will be admitted to the event.

See the agenda and sign up today!

Attention Developers: More Economic Statistics Added to BEA’s API

Developers, do you want to bring more detailed economic data to your next app? The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) recently added several data sets to the application programming interface (API) we launched last year.

The API now provides direct access to the gross domestic product (GDP) underlying detail tables. Those tables contain a wealth of statistics, including how much consumers spend on hundreds of items like furnishings, food and flowers and how much revenue the government takes in and spends.

Other newly added data to the API are BEA’s national fixed assets, which include statistics on fixed assets like factory equipment, buildings, intellectual property and durable goods for consumers. 

The new additions give you the ability to create an even richer, customized economic dashboard of your own.

The new data sets join BEA’s GDP and related national economic statistics and regional economic statistics, which have been available via API since the service launched in May 2013. In addition to expanding the amount of data available on the API, BEA published an updated User Guide, making it easier for developers to start using the service.

BEA’s API allows developers to build a service to search, display, analyze, retrieve, or view BEA statistics. For example, you can create a “mashup” that combines BEA data with other government or private data sources to create new services or give your users a different perspective on their communities. Or you can design a tool that gives your users new ways to visualize economic data.

The API includes methods for retrieving subsets of BEA statistical data and the meta-data that describes it using HTTP requests. It delivers data in two industry-standard formats: XML (Extensible Markup Language) and JSON (JavaScript Object Notation).

To use the API, you need to register first. Full documentation is available in the updated API User Guide.

More Data in the Census Bureau API to Help You #hackforchange

Guest blog post by Logan Powell, Developer Engagement Lead, U.S. Census Bureau

Two years ago, the Census Bureau launched its application programming interface (API), giving developers access to a variety of high value data sets, including our flagship 2010 Census and American Community Survey five-year statistics, providing information for every neighborhood in the nation. Since that initial launch, we have added key economic indicators, as well as the 1990 and 2000 Censuses, and additional American Community Survey data and key economic indicators.

By continuing to release new data sets into the API, and adding more of the Census Bureau’s rich economic statistics to our demographic products, we are giving developers greater flexibility to create new tools to better understand our communities and solve real world issues. Recently, we released even more data sets to the API. These include population estimates, establishment and payroll data from county business patterns, nonemployer statistics, and the latest statistics from the 2012 Economic Census. These statistics allow developers to create a variety of apps and tools, such as ones that allow business owners to find the latest establishment data needed to plan for new or expanded business.

We are continuing to work toward meeting the goals of the Digital Government Strategy for a more “customer-centric” approach. For example, the Census Bureau partnered with Data Innovation DC, a Washington, D.C. meet up group of 1,000 members composed of data scientists, data journalists, civic hackers and data-oriented entrepreneurs, and participated in this year’s National Day of Civic Hacking. We asked real-life data users to discuss their data-related problems. By directly engaging with our customers, we can develop strategies to make our statistics easier to use so that customers can make data-driven decisions. 

We will continue searching for ways to make more of our data available for developers to build apps that make our public data more accessible anytime, anywhere and on any device. By taking part in both local and national “civic hacking” events, we hope these relationships will help us to build stronger ties with our customers while reaching new audiences with our statistics.

I encourage you to visit our API, look for ways to combine our statistics with other sources, and create useful apps that will benefit the public. We look forward to what you will create. 

Manufacturing: A New Commerce Department Report Shows Renewed Expansion

Guest blog post by Dr.Sue Helper, Chief Economist, U.S. Department of Commerce

The U.S. manufacturing sector is rebounding at a rate unseen since the late 1990s.  For the first time in more than a decade, output and employment are steadily and simultaneously increasing. A new Commerce Department report, Manufacturing Since the Great Recession, provides an overview of the resurgence of this important economic sector, examining production, international trade and the labor market.

Some of the key findings included in the report are:

  • Manufacturing output has grown 38 percent since the second quarter of 2009 when the Great Recession ended, and accounts for 19 percent of the rise in real gross domestic product (GDP) since that time;
  • From March 2010 through May 2014, the manufacturing sector has added 646,000 jobs with an additional 243,000 positions yet to be filled. This is more than a cyclical rebound; the US has gained about four times as many manufacturing jobs since 2009 as would be expected from cyclical factors alone; and,
  • In 2013, average annual weekly hours for production workers in the manufacturing sector were at their highest level since the mid-1940s.

Manufacturing jobs are good jobs: workers earn 16 percent more in manufacturing jobs (in combined wages and benefits) than they would elsewhere. Not surprisingly, quit rates are also lower than in any non-government sector.

Celebrate our Natural Treasures During National Ocean Month

Celebrate our Natural Treasures During National Ocean Month

June is not only the beginning of summer, it’s also Oceans Month. President Obama proclaimed June as Oceans Month as a way to reaffirm our responsibility to keep our oceans and coastal ecosystems healthy and resilient. Our oceans are natural treasures, a source of food and energy, and a foundation for our way of life. U.S. fisheries play an enormous role in the nation’s economy. When stocks are rebuilt, they provide more economic opportunities for commercial, recreational, and subsistence fishing.

Many Americans depend on the oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes to earn a living and millions of tourists from all walks of life visit our natural treasures every year. Our oceans provide a habitat for scores of species. They are vital to our Nation's transportation, economy, and trade, linking us with countries across the globe and playing a role in our national security. Join us throughout the month of June as we celebrate National Oceans Month. Below are upcoming events NOAA is participating in to celebrate.

Every year, Capitol Hill Oceans Week (June 10-12) brings together Members of Congress, scientists, public-private stakeholders, community and federal leaders across interests to share their respective visions to shape our National Ocean Policy. Leaders will actively engage in dialogue that will help define how we live with our ocean and marine ecosystems. To learn more, visit

On June 16-17, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator, Kathryn D. Sullivan, Ph.D., Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, will participate in the State Department-hosted International Ocean Conference. NOAA is developing a Science on a Sphere presentation that will reflect conference themes: Ocean Acidification, Sustainable Fisheries and Marine Pollution, including Excess Nutrients. To learn more visit and following us on Twitter with the hashtag #OurOcean2014.

Commerce in the Community: increases access to healthy foods through innovation, technology and local partnerships

Commerce in the Community: increases access to healthy foods through innovation, technology and local partnerships

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 Gary Oppenheimer, the Executive Director and Founder of As director of a community garden in 2009, Gary learned about the wasted food in many plots and created a program called "Ample Harvest" to get the excess food to local food pantries. Realizing this as a nationwide problem, he created to use the Internet educate, encourage and enable millions of growers nationwide to share their ample harvest with local food pantries in all 50 states.

Question 1: Tell us about What is your mission and main focus?

While more than 50 million Americans live in food insecure homes (including a quarter of all children under the age of six), more than 42 million Americans grow fruit, vegetables, herbs and nuts in home gardens - often more than they can use, preserve or give to friends. It doesn't have to be that way. Struggling to feed their families, many Americans - both those chronically economically challenged as well as those now impacted by the economic downturn - have come to rely on the more than 33,500 food pantries (also called food shelves, food closets, food cupboards or food banks in some areas) across America to help feed their families. These food pantries, relying on donated and purchased foods, almost never have fresh produce and instead rely on canned or processed produce shipped from across the country at significant cost, both economic and environmental. At the same time, millions of home and community gardeners nationwide with an abundant harvest do not know that they can share their harvest, do not know how to share their harvest and do not know where to share their harvest. solves that for them. envisions an America where millions of gardeners eliminate malnutrition and hunger in their own community. To accomplish this,, moving information instead of food to diminish hunger and malnutrition in America, is educating, encouraging and empowering growers to share their excess harvest with the needy in their community instead of letting it rot in the garden. Our "No Food Left Behind" goal is a healthier and, by extension, wealthier America.

Collecting Reliable, Timely and Local Census Data

The map shows the percentages under the current, mandatory approach. As a mandatory survey, less than five percent of counties have 80 percent or more of their tracts with unacceptable levels of quality data. This impacts about 15 million people.

Cros-blog post by John H. Thompson, U.S. Census Bureau Direrector

I was pleased to recently participate in the inaugural conference of the American Community Survey Data Users Group. This conference brought together a diverse group of data-loving number crunchers from local governments, nonprofits, economic development agencies, researchers and private sector companies from across the U.S. Their common connection: the reliable, timely and local data about their communities provided by the American Community Survey.

Sessions included case studies on how the American Community Survey statistics are used by cities, rural communities and businesses to measure disaster impacts, create jobs and develop policy for transit, housing and health care. Data users said the ACS is the most authoritative source of data on these topics for communities of every size, and how they rely on the availability of a common source of reliable data.

I was also asked about the challenges to survey data collection, the availability of the data and the impacts to the American Community Survey. They asked me what would happen to the survey if it were not mandated by law. As we have explained in the past, we have looked at this question and our research shows that a voluntary survey would reduce the self-response rates significantly. To make up the shortfall, we would have to increase the number of households surveyed and conduct much more in-person follow-up, at an additional cost of more than $90 million annually. If we weren’t able to increase the number of households surveyed we would collect much less data and accuracy would decrease due to increased sampling variation. This would disproportionately affect the accuracy of the results that we produce for many small areas and small population groups.

The American Community Survey (ACS) is an ongoing survey that provides data every year -- giving communities the current information they need to plan investments and services. Information from the survey generates data that help determine how more than $400 billion in federal and state funds are distributed each year.  Data are used to help decide everything from school lunch programs to new hospitals.

American Firms are Key to Building Trade Relationship between U.S. and Burma

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker celebrated the growing commercial relationship between the United States and Burma on Friday, as part of her week-long commercial diplomacy mission to the ASEAN region.

Since President Obama visited Burma in 2012, the country has undertaken reforms to improve its business climate. Two years ago, the United States began allowing investment in Burma for the first time in 15 years, and shortly thereafter, Burma’s President signed a law to help attract more foreign commercial engagement. As a result U.S. foreign direct investment in Burma has now reached $250 million.

The U.S. government is encouraging American companies to evaluate growing mutually-beneficial opportunities in Burma, because responsible investment by U.S. firms can help facilitate broad-based economic growth and prosperity for the country’s people. American companies and products are among the finest in the world, and when U.S. businesses make investments, they bring with them the highest standards, including a commitment to corporate and social responsibility.

As a way to build on the growing trade and investment relationship between the U.S. and Burma, Secretary Pritzker formally announced that the U.S. Department of Commerce will soon open its first-ever Foreign Commercial Service office in the country, to be headquartered in Rangoon. Foreign Commercial Service offices, which are located in U.S. embassies all over the world, help American companies enter overseas markets so they can expand their operations and find new customers.

During her visit, Secretary Pritzker also highlighted the contributions that U.S. firms are already making in Burma. 

Secretary Pritzker Concludes Commercial Diplomacy Trip to ASEAN Region

Today in Rangoon, Myanmar, U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker concluded a week-long commercial diplomacy trip, after making stops in Hanoi, Vietnam; Manila, Philippines; and Naypyitaw, Myanmar. All three countries are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a region that is the United States’ fourth-largest export market and the fifth-largest overall trading partner. The ten dynamic countries that comprise ASEAN have an economy valued at $2.4 trillion.

The economies of Vietnam, the Philippines, and Burma present enormous opportunity for U.S. businesses, which is why a delegation of U.S. CEOs and the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council joined Secretary Pritzker to further commercial ties as well as strengthen our bilateral relationship in the region.

The Obama Administration has made a deliberate decision to deepen U.S. engagement with Asia, and throughout the week, Secretary Pritzker elaborated on the economic dimension of this commitment, which includes deepening trade and investment ties with existing partners, building the soft and hard infrastructure necessary to support the growth of emerging partners, and taking the steps necessary to level the playing field for commerce across the region.

Secretary Pritzker Affirms U.S. Support for Burmese Political and Economic Reforms

Good discussion on US business investment with Aung San Suu Kyi

As part of her week-long commercial diplomacy mission to Asia this week, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker met today with supporters of Burma’s transition to democracy and the ongoing national peace process. At a roundtable with Burmese civil society leaders, she took the opportunity to learn more about the complexities of political and economic reform and to hear their concerns and views about future challenges for Burma.

In her remarks at the roundtable, Secretary Pritzker affirmed the United States’ commitment to supporting positive political and economic reforms in Burma. She urged the Burmese government to build on that progress by implementing measures that increase inclusive economic development and promote government transparency and accountability. Noting that a strong and vibrant civil society is critical to institutionalizing reforms and ensuring government accountability, Secretary Pritzker applauded the efforts of Burmese civil society leaders to advance citizen interests in pursuit of democracy.

The Commerce Department takes these issues very seriously. Since 2010, training in human rights, rule of law, and corporate social responsibility has been mandatory for Foreign Commercial Service Officers. Attention to these critical social issues not only strengthens the Department’s culture, but enhances its ability to support American companies as they expand overseas.

The Apprentice: A Tale of Life, Love and Much Else

Guest blog post by Stacey Wagner, crossposted from the NIST Manufacturing Innovation Blog.

When I was growing up, I was fascinated by apprenticeships – really!  I was an avid reader of history, ancient and otherwise, and apprenticeships always meant adventure.  One could apprentice with Greek philosophers, British knights, Teutonic alchemists, and farmers, tradespeople and barbers (who were also doctors).  You could apprentice in a household or a business.  And once your apprenticeship was complete, you commanded respect as a trained and educated person with skills to play a useful role in society.

Apprenticeships have always been a stepping stone for both a good job and a great story.  Those tantalizing tales I read as a kid centered, mostly, on a young person’s indenture to some mysterious craftsperson and it always lead to mischief: wild chases, first-time love affairs, and messy screw-ups.  But they also led to the apprentice learning about life, love and labor – specifically the skills to be someone you weren’t before, but better.

The master-storyteller, Walt Disney, even got into the act when he produced the iconic movie, “Fantasia,” with a scene called The Sorcerers’ Apprentice, which to this day still spooks me.  There are also plenty of modern-day books about apprentices: “The Apprentice” (Lewis Libby), “The Apprentice” (Tess Gerritsen), “The Apprentice Series” (James Bryan Smith) and “Rangers Apprentice” (John Flanagan), to name just a few, and a TV show by that name as well (I know I don’t need to tell you who stars in that!). In the modern vernacular, the term sorcerers’ apprentice, was immortalized by “The Sorcerers’ Apprentice,” a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe written in 1797.

Spotlight on Commerce: Phu Huynh, Chief of Staff (Acting), International Trade Administration

Phu Huynh, Chief of Staff (Acting), International Trade Administration

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to the Open for Business Agenda Strategic Plan.

Guest blog post by Phu Huynh, Chief of Staff (Acting), International Trade Administration

I was born in Saigon, five years before the Vietnam War ended. My family made a tough decision, one that benefitted me for a lifetime. My mother, five aunts, one uncle, four sisters and I were airlifted to the U.S. as Saigon fell. When we arrived in Chantilly, Virginia, we had very little.  But, we had each other, the support of a local church and our public school. My mother and aunts taught us about our Vietnamese and Chinese heritages, which fortunately centered around great food. Just as important, they pushed us to learn English and become thoroughly integrated in the American experience. I’ve been given the opportunity in my lifetime to take the best from both worlds—from my Asian heritage and from the rich diversity that is America. The values I extrapolated from both backgrounds are so similar and are shared across the globe—dedication to family, hard work, respect of others and their cultures and faiths.  I’m as likely to watch a Washington Nationals game with either Vietnamese banh mi sandwich or a hot dog.

I graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in history, high hopes and no job.  I’d like to tell you that I’m here because I executed each element of my master plan perfectly or that I had good fortune. But, opportunities don’t just happen without context. I applied hard earned skills and landed an internship at the White House. I worked hard to perfect my technical skills, becoming expert on every administration department and agency.  I became a valued member of the team, in large measure, because no one else wanted to do the huge volume of detailed, non-political, technical work.  But I learned something else even more valuable—that leaders in politics are often in short supply, peace and prosperity don’t just happen and that enlightened leadership was more critical than the technical aspects of my work. I was genuinely willing to learn from those I believed were the best leaders, and they were willing to share their experience and wisdom with me. I got hooked on Washington and this inexplicable political world in which we operate.

Secretary Pritzker First-Ever Commerce Secretary to Visit Burma

As the first-ever U.S. Commerce Secretary to visit Burma, Secretary Penny Pritzker today encouraged Burmese leaders to continue making positive political and economic reforms to bolster U.S. private sector interest in the region.

Secretary Pritzker met Burmese President Thein Sein and discussed the ways our two countries can continue working together to improve the U.S.-Burma commercial relationship. Pritzker also met with Vice President Nyan Tun and various Burmese ministers and outlined ways in which the Commerce Department can help Burma increase trade with U.S. firms.  She reassured the Burmese leadership that U.S. businesses want to be part of the solution as countries across the region look to support a growing middle class, develop world-class infrastructure, unleash sustainable energy, and invest in their futures.

U.S. companies have made significant investments in the ASEAN region, which reached nearly $190 billion in 2012. That is more than U.S. investment in all of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) combined. ASEAN investment into the U.S. exceeds $27 billion and investment has grown over 1,400% and has increased 169% since 2001. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) estimates Burma’s GDP growth accelerated to 7.5 percent in 2013, and expects that growth to continue. As the economy in countries like Burma continues to open, 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 citizens.

Secretary Pritzker was joined by a delegation of U.S. CEOs and the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council.  Earlier this week, the delegation visited Vietnam and the Philippines where Secretary Pritzker met with government and business leaders and entrepreneurs to discuss the Commerce Department’s priorities for increasing trade and investment in the region.

Secretary Pritzker’s trip to the Asia-Pacific region demonstrates the importance of the region to the Obama Administration and the U.S. business community, and our shared commitment to increasing U.S. commercial activity with countries in the ASEAN region.

NTIA Releases Interim Progress Report on Administration’s Plan to Free Up More Spectrum

Cross-post by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration

NTIA today released the Fourth Interim Progress Report on the Obama Administration’s initiative to identify and make available 500 megahertz of federal and non-federal spectrum for commercial wireless broadband use by 2020. This report also includes a plan for federal agencies to conduct quantitative assessments of their actual spectrum usage in 960 megahertz of additional spectrum, as directed in President Obama’s June 2013 Memorandum.

America’s future competitiveness and global technology leadership depend on access to radio spectrum – the lifeblood of smartphones, tablets, and other data-hungry wireless devices.  That is why President Obama’s June 2010 Memorandum set a bold goal of nearly doubling the amount of spectrum available for commercial use by the end of this decade. Between October 2010 and September 2013, NTIA formally recommended or otherwise identified for potential reallocation up to 405 megahertz of spectrum.

On June 14, 2013, President Obama issued a second memorandum that builds on the Administration’s commitment to make additional spectrum available for wireless use.  The memorandum established a set of measures that federal agencies, in collaboration with industry and other stakeholders, will take to more aggressively enhance spectrum efficiency and enable access to more spectrum for consumer services and applications. Under the memorandum,  federal agencies  will be making quantitative assessments of their actual spectrum usage in certain bands that could potentially be made available for sharing with, or release to, commercial users, according to the plan set forth in this report.Today’s report outlines the progress made, in collaboration with the Federal Communications Commission(FCC) and other federal agencies, from October 1, 2012 through September 30, 2013. The key accomplishments last fiscal year include the following:

  • NTIA’s Commerce Spectrum Management Advisory Committee concluded its groundbreaking work to explore relocation alternatives and spectrum sharing arrangements between federal agencies and commercial mobile broadband systems in the 1695-1710 MHz and 1755-1850 MHz bands.
  • NTIA released regulations and guidance implementing changes to the Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act (CSEA) that provide eligible federal agencies incentives and financial assistance to facilitate the transition of the reallocated federal bands that the FCC will auction.
  • NTIA published an initial assessment on spectrum-sharing technologies and the risk to federal users if Unlicensed-National Information Infrastructure (U-NII) devices were authorized to operate in the 5350-5470 MHz and 5850-5925 MHz bands (5 GHz).

Secretary Pritzker Meets with Philippine President Aquino, Trade and Industry Secretary Domingo, and Finance Secretary Purisima

Secretary Pritzker meets with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III

As part of a week-long commercial diplomacy trip to the Asia-Pacific region, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker is in the Philippines to demonstrate the Obama administration's ongoing commitment to Asia. Along with members of the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council (USABC) and a delegation of U.S. CEOs, she is visiting the country to strengthen trade and investment and encourage deeper business-to-business ties.

The United States and the Philippines share a $24 billion per year trade relationship, one that was further bolstered by President Obama’s recent trip to the country in April. Today, Secretary Pritzker met with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, and yesterday with Philippine Secretary of Trade and Industry Gregory Domingo and Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, to build on that strong U.S.-Philippine relationship.

Secretary Pritzker congratulated President Aquino for his successful leadership and commended both Secretary Domingo and Secretary Purisima on the Philippines’ recent economic accomplishments and reforms, which have resulted in strong growth. In fact, the country has doubled its GDP growth rate from 3.6 percent in 2011 to 7.2 percent in 2013. In addition, Secretary Pritzker noted that the already strong trade relationship between the Philippines and the United States has continued to grow, with U.S. exports to the Philippines increasing over the past year.

During the meetings, Secretary Pritzker reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to the country and the ASEAN region and discussed opportunities for U.S. companies to support the Philippines’ infrastructure development needs, including the Clark International Airport. She also talked about outstanding U.S.-Philippine trade issues and steps the country could take to become an even more attractive destination for U.S. investment.

Data Expands the Tourism Industry

Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse at Sunset in Acadia National Park.  Photo: Jeremy Stevens (

Every year thousands of visitors flock to the United States to explore the country and experience the culture. The travel and tourism industry has grown exponentially from 55 million international visitors in 2009 to 70 million in 2013.

Understanding the importance of this industry, President Obama recently set a goal to increase the numbers to 100 million visitors annually by the end of 2021. It’s a daunting number that may seem impossible, but state tourism offices all over America are jumping at the opportunity to expand and grow local businesses.

But how can these local businesses and tourism offices figure out the best ways to attract more visitors to their states?

One word: Data

The U.S. Department of Commerce recently released its 2013 report on International Visitation to the United States which outlines international visitor data for the following five categories:

Secretary Pritzker Promotes Entrepreneurship in the Philippines

Secretary Pritzker Promotes Entrepreneurship in the Philippines

Innovation and entrepreneurship are key drivers of economic growth, in the United States and around the world. As part of her commercial diplomacy mission to the Asia-Pacific region this week with leading American CEOs, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker participated in a roundtable with Philippine entrepreneurs to learn more about the business environment in the Philippines and discuss ways that the Obama Administration can support business creation. The roundtable was hosted by Kickstart, a startup incubator, and IdeaSpace, a non-profit that supports technology entrepreneurs.

Two months ago, Secretary Pritzker launched the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE) initiative, which President Obama announced last fall. PAGE is a partnership between U.S. government and the private sector to inspire business creation in the United States and around the world.  As the inaugural members of PAGE, 11 successful American entrepreneurs committed to traveling the world to provide access to mentorship, education and other opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Today’s roundtable is part of a series of discussions that Secretary Pritzker is holding to learn more about the opportunities for new business creation, as well as the obstacles that entrepreneurs face in different countries.  During the Secretary’s trade mission to the Middle East in March, she sat down with 15 Saudi entrepreneurs in Riyadh and learned about their plans for growth and what they needed to foster an entrepreneurial community. Also, two weeks ago, she visited an incubator where Ghanian entrepreneurs were developing businesses that served customers in the United States and Europe. These forums are an invaluable chance for the Secretary to learn about barriers to things like capital and education.

Secretary Pritzker's trip demonstrates that United States is firmly committed to deepening U.S. engagement with the Asia-Pacific region, and recognizes that there is tremendous opportunity for mutually-beneficial growth in the ASEAN region. By helping to remove barriers to new business creation, the Commerce Department is working to unlock the entrepreneurial spirit that will generate prosperity for both the Philippines and the United States.

Research for 2020 Census Continues – Census Bureau Opens Temporary Office

Research for 2020 Census Continues – Census Bureau Opens Temporary Office

Guest blog post by John Thompson, Director, U.S. Census Bureau

Today, we marked an important milestone on the road to the 2020 Census with the opening of the Local Census Office for the 2014 Census Test. We will conduct the test in parts of Washington D.C. and Montgomery County, Md., and it was gratifying to see the community support for this important research endeavor.

Why is it so important to conduct this first of several field tests now? By investing in this research and testing, we can take steps to reduce the cost of the census and make it easier for people to respond. Those who are selected to participate in the 2014 Census Test are helping us produce a better census in 2020.

For the test, July 1, 2014, is Census Day, or the reference day for measuring the population of the test area. I strongly encourage you to participate, if selected, and be a part of building an innovative and cost-effective 2020 Census. Approximately 200,000 households will be included in the test. Respondents should fill out the questionnaire based on the people and circumstances of their household as of July 1, 2014.

Participating, if selected, is not the only way you can help us with the test. We are also hiring about 1,000 temporary workers locally to conduct it. If you live in the area and are interested in applying for a job, you can find more information here.

We will have a series of tests leading up to the 2020 Census and for the 2014 Census Test, some of our research will test Internet response. Although the 2010 Census did not offer it as an option, we have been using it for the American Community Survey and other surveys for several years now. Our enumerators will also use a smartphone app for quicker and more accurate data collection from non-responding households.

Promoting Opportunity for All Americans Through Mentoring

Last week, U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker participated in a Cabinet discussion with President Obama on My Brother’s Keeper – an initiative designed to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential. The President’s My Brother’s Keeper Task Force also released their first progress report with initial recommendations to the President, as well as a blueprint for action by government, business, non-profit and community partners. 

Since its launch in February 2014, the President’s Task Force has met with and heard from thousands of Americans who are already taking action on this front. Further, businesses, cities, organizations and individuals have made commitments to helping youth get a strong start in school and later connect them to support networks and specialized skills they need to find a good job or go to college and work their way up into the middle class.
In developing its recommendations, the Task Force identified key milestones in the path to adulthood that are especially predictive of later success, and where interventions can have the greatest impact. These recommendations included:
·         Getting a health start and entering school ready to learn;
·         Reading at grade level by third grade;
·         Graduating from high school ready for college and career; 
·         Completing post-secondary education or training;
·         Successfully entering the workforce; and
·         Keeping kids on track and giving them second chances.
Specific report recommendations also include launching a public-private campaign to recruit mentors for youth and improve the quality of mentoring programs, and to increase awareness about youth summer employment and use of pre-apprenticeships as good entry-level jobs.  

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Discusses Trade Ties with Vietnamese Government Leaders

Secretary Pritzker with members of the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council in Vietnam

Yesterday U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker was in Vietnam on the first leg of her Asia commercial diplomacy trip. Along with the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council (USABC) members and a delegation of U.S. CEOs, she is visiting Vietnam, as well as the Philippines and Burma later this week, to strengthen trade and investment and encourage deeper business-to-business ties and demonstrate the Obama administration's ongoing commitment to Asia.  

As part of this trip, Secretary Pritzker met with several government leaders to discuss opportunities for U.S. companies to do more business in Vietnam. This afternoon Secretary Pritzker met first with her counterpart Vu Huy Hoang, the Vietnamese Minister of Industry and Trade. The Secretary and the Minister discussed of ways to increase economic engagement between the US and Vietnam, specifically speaking about the investment climate for US firms and trade relations relations and the United States’ commitment to concluding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations. Secretary Pritzker and Minister Hoang then met with the USABC CEO delegation and talked about the U.S. private sector’s commitment to Vietnam.

Secretary Pritzker then met with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and reaffirmed President Obama’s commitment to opening a new phase of bilateral relations with Vietnam.  After discussing outstanding bilateral economic, trade and investment issues, the leaders were joined by the USABC delegation for a conversation about enhancing commercial ties between the United States and Vietnam and throughout the ASEAN region. 

Countdown to Net Zero: NIST Test House Pursues Energy Surplus in Final Month

Countdown to Net Zero: NIST Test House Pursues Energy Surplus in Final Month

Heading into the final stretch of a year-long trial run, the experimental net-zero energy house at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Md., must overcome an energy deficit of 154 kilowatt hours—equivalent to about $20—during the month of June.

The facility was designed to produce at least as much energy as it consumes over the course of a year. At the end of May, the research residence still owed on its total energy bill, which averaged less than $2.00 a month over the first 11 months. In contrast, the monthly expenditure for electric power alone averaged $129 for Maryland households in 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

So, the "countdown to net zero" is on. For those interested in keeping score, NIST is posting a running daily tally of net energy use through June 30. Each day's results will be reported on NIST's NZERTF web page, under Recent Research Results, and highlighted on NIST's Twitter account (use the hashtag #Countdown2NetZero). 

Commerce in the Community: Korean Churches for Community Development works to strengthen local communities through organizational capacity building, leadership development and local partnerships.

Hyepin Im, Founder and President of Korean Churches for Community Development

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 Hyepin Im, the Founder and President of Korean Churches for Community Development (KCCD), the largest Asian faith-based organization involved in church and community development initiatives in the United States.

Question 1: Tell us about Korean Churches for Community Development (KCCD). What is your mission and main focus?

Korean Churches for Community Development (KCCD) was founded in 2001 with the vision to serve as a light and a bridge between the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community and the greater community at large. We are today a national, award-winning nonprofit organization whose mission is to advance the Asian American community's participation, contribution and influence through faith-based and community partnerships. We are unique in that we are the only Asian American organization in the country working in the intersection of church and community development. We can summarize our work into three buckets - building bridges, building capacity, and building resources.

Contrary to the model minority image of AAPI communities, when you disaggregate AAPI community data, many AAPI communities are suffering at comparable or even higher levels of poverty, juvenile delinquency, sickness, low homeownership rates, high school dropout rates, low wealth and other economic indicators with other known communities of color. However, because of the model minority myth, the AAPI community is often overlooked by policy makers and funders in investment, funding and program decisions.