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Blog Entries from July 2014

The American Community Survey: Helping Decision Makers Assist People in Times of Need

The U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey provides statistics that communities use to make decisions about resources, such as after a natural disaster. These statistics are critical to emergency planning, preparedness and recovery efforts. For example, the American Community Survey provides detailed information on how many people in a community may need extra assistance during a disaster, such as the elderly or disabled or those who speak a language other than English. Knowing these specific details about local communities gives decision makers the information they need to plan and efficiently deploy resources and to accurately measure the impact of a disaster. Learn how by watching this video. 

U.S.-Africa Business Success Stories: How a Supplier of Powerboats to the U.S. Military Started Doing Business in Nigeria

Note: This post is part of the U.S.-Africa Business Success Stories series highlighting the work of the Department of Commerce to strengthen the economic relationship between U.S. and African businesses. This series will lead up to the U.S. Africa Business Forum on August 5th, the first of its kind event, which will convene African heads of state and government, U.S. government officials and business leaders to discuss trade and investment opportunities on the continent.

Hann Powerboats’ customers include the United States Air Force, United States Navy, and the United States Army Corps of Engineers – and now, because of assistance that the company received from the Department of Commerce, they can add another name to their impressive list: the Nigerian oil and gas company, MOP Marine.

U.S. businesses like Hann Powerboats are increasingly seeing tremendous economic opportunity in Africa, and the reason why is simple: Africa is thriving. From 1995 to 2013, Africa experienced an average annual GDP growth rate of 4.5 percent. In 2012, eight of the twenty fastest growing economies in the world were in sub-Saharan Africa, and, according to the IMF, in 2013, total U.S. two-way goods with the region were $63 billion. Africa’s potential to be the world’s next major economic story is why businesses in the United States, like Hann Powerboats, want to offer their products, services, and expertise to help unlock even more of Africa’s potential – that is why the Obama Administration and the Department of Commerce remain committed to assisting American businesses in finding opportunity in this economically expanding region.

Hann Powerboats became interested in expanding its business to Africa when it was approached by a potential client in Nigeria to secure MOP Marine’s need for patrol boats. Hann Powerboats asked for assistance from the Tampa Bay U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC) and the U.S. Commercial Service (CS) team in Lagos to help with vetting this potential partner, and CS Lagos was able to facilitate meetings between Hann Powerboats and MOP Marine. The Tampa Bay USEAC then helped put Hann Powerboats in touch with the Nigerian Embassy in Washington D.C. to help with them acquire proper documentation. The result of this assistance allowed Hann Powerboats to make sales to MOP Marine for over $4 million.

NIST Announces New Competition for Advanced Manufacturing Planning Awards

NIST Announces New Competition for Advanced Manufacturing Planning Awards

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) today announced a new competition for planning awards to support industry-driven consortia in developing research plans and charting collaborative actions to solve high-priority technology challenges and accelerate the growth of advanced manufacturing in the United States.

NIST's AdvancedManufacturing Technology Consortia (AMTech) Program anticipates awarding a total of $5.6 million in two-year grants during the young program's second competition. Awards will range between about $250,000 and $500,000, subject to the availability of funds. Applications are due Oct. 31, 2014, and selections will be announced during the first half of 2015.

Teaming and partnerships that include broad participation by companies of all sizes, universities and government agencies, driven by industry, are encouraged. Nonprofit U.S. organizations as well as accredited institutions of higher education and state, tribal and local governments are eligible to apply for the program.

AMTech's goal is to spur consortia-planned and led research on long-term, precompetitive technology needs of U.S. manufacturing industries. The program aims to help eliminate barriers to advanced manufacturing capabilities and to promote domestic development of an underpinning technology infrastructure, including high-performing supply chains.

AMTech is designed to address a serious weakness in the nation's innovation ecosystem, an issue identified by the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) and the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, among other bodies.

EDA and the International Economic Development Council Create User-Friendly Tool to Help Communities Recover Their Economy after Disasters

EDA and the International Economic Development Council Create User-Friendly Tool to Help Economies Recover after Disasters

Everyone sees the destruction caused by a natural disaster – the loss of life and property make headlines for weeks. But natural disasters can have lasting effects that don’t garner as much media attention. Beyond property and infrastructure costs, disasters impact the health of the business community. According to the Small Business Administration, as much as 25 percent of small businesses do not reopen after major disasters. Communities need to be prepared for all of the effects of a natural disaster, and there is a new tool available to help them be more resilient.

The International Economic Development Council (IEDC) recently launched "Leadership in Times of Crisis: A Toolkit for Economic Recovery and Resiliency" – a guide to help communities recover their economy after a disaster. The toolkit was funded in part by an Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant and is available for free download at It includes practical resources, proven how-to's, real world case examples, checklists and best practices to implement recovery programs following any type of disaster and to make preparations in order to be more resilient after potential future events.

"Leadership in Times of Crisis" provides strategies and tactics for community leaders to focus on for economic recovery and preserving jobs, incorporating useful information for convening private and public stakeholders to identify key economic recovery strategies, tips on how to navigate federal resources for response and recovery, and implementation of recovery initiatives.

A wide range of public and private sector officials that provide support to businesses and industries in the economic recovery process can benefit from using the toolkit, including economic development organizations (EDOs), chambers of commerce, business leaders, small business development centers (SBDC), community colleges and business schools, and community development financing institutions (CDFIs), among other organizations.

Building Bridges to Young Africa Leaders

Building Bridges to Young Africa Leaders

Guest blog post by U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Bruce Andrews

The United States understands the importance of creating opportunities for young people to succeed, both in this country and around the world. That is why yesterday, during a town hall with 500 exceptional young people who participated in the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders - President Obama announced the expansion of his Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). At the town hall, President Obama announced that the fellowship, the flagship YALI program, will be renamed the “Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders,” and will be doubled to reach 1,000 participants per year by 2016. Launched in 2014, YALI is a signature effort to support the next generation of African leaders and embodies President Obama’s commitment to invest in the future of Africa. The Washington Fellowship connects young African leaders to leadership training opportunities at some of America’s top universities to help expand their leadership skills and knowledge so they can foster change in their communities and countries.

At the Commerce Department, we are also working closely with young entrepreneurs to help spur economic growth by helping them gain the skills and connections they need to launch new businesses and create jobs in their communities. Entrepreneurship is a cornerstone of the global economy, giving people the power to unlock their economic potential and transform their communities. With the launch of the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE) initiative, chaired by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, the U.S. government is partnering with 11 prominent American business leaders to mentor the next generation of entrepreneurs. Africa is an area of interest for PAGE efforts. In fact, as part of a trade mission to West Africa this past May, Secretary Pritzker and PAGE member Nina Vaca, CEO of Pinnacle Technical Resources, visited the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) and the MEST Incubator program, which provides training, investment and mentoring opportunities for aspiring technology entrepreneurs in Africa. In addition, PAGE members Steve Case, Chairman and CEO of Revolution, and Alexa von Tobel, CEO of LearnVest, will be sharing their experiences and expertise on Wednesday on an “Enabling Inclusive Economic Development” plenary session, as part of the fellowship Summit.

The U.S. Partnerships and Initiatives Spurring Economic Growth in Africa

President Obama has called Africa “the world's next great economic success story.” According to the African Development Bank, Africa maintained an average GDP growth rate of 3.9 percent in 2013, exceeding the 3 percent rate for the global economy.  U.S. exports to the continent of Africa have grown 39 percent since 2009, reaching $50.2 billion in 2013. The brightest spot has been U.S. merchandise exports to sub-Saharan Africa, which have increased 58 percent since 2009.

Building on this progress, the Department of Commerce and Bloomberg Philanthropies are co-hosting the U.S. Africa Business Forum on August 5, a day focused on trade and investment opportunities on the continent. Part of the first-ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit taking place August 4-6, the Forum is part of the Administration’s efforts to explore Africa’s huge economic potential:

  • U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa: In 2012, President Obama announced the U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa, a comprehensive policy strategy to address the opportunities and challenges in Africa in a forward-looking way. The Strategy focuses on strengthening democratic institutions; spurring economic growth, trade, and investment; advancing peace and security; and promoting opportunity and development. 
  • Doing Business in Africa: As part of the Strategy, the Department of Commerce launched the Doing Business in Africa Campaign, which has helped U.S. businesses take advantage of the many export and investment opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa. As part of the campaign, Commerce has expanded trade promotion programs tailored toward Africa and dedicated an online Africa business portal directing businesses to federal resources.
  • Commercial Service expansion: To expand Commerce’s human resources footprint in Africa, Secretary Pritzker recently announced the opening of new U.S. Commercial Service offices across the continent. The U.S. Commercial Service helps U.S. businesses start exporting or increase sales to new global markets. By expanding its Commercial Service teams in Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, and Libya, and opening offices in Angola, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Mozambique for the first time, the Department of Commerce hopes to help U.S. businesses find their next customer abroad and create jobs in Africa.

Using Data to Connect Workers & Employers at Career Building Data Jam

Using Data to Connect Workers with Employers at the 21st Century Career Counseling Data Jam

Cross post by Mark Doms, Under Secretary for Economic Affairs

On Friday, I was part of the team from the Department of Commerce, Department of Labor, Office of the Vice President, and White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) who joined up with Baltimore’s Morgan State University (MSU) to "data jam" on how to get America’s youth connected to jobs and on the path to rewarding careers.

Labor force participation for America’s youth is at historic lows. Only about 1 in 2 people in their teens and early 20s are working or looking for work. While it is easy to point to increasing college enrollment as a reasonable explanation, the workplace offers the opportunity to gain skills to complement academic, career and technical training. The cost of young people staying out of the labor market is all too real. Failure to join the labor market means reduced financial self-sufficiency, lost opportunities to apply academic skills or gain occupation-specific experience, and acquire more general workplace skills such as teamwork, time management, and problem solving.

The Data Jam brought together entrepreneurs, technology leaders, and policy experts to explore ideas for tools, services, and apps for young job seekers to explore career options, training opportunities, and new industries. Technology can help young people find connections to the labor market; assess academic, career, and technical training information; and, simply learn more about the world of work. The proliferation of labor market and career information from federal and state governments and the private sectors can provide great content and inspiration for new tools and apps. So, it was fitting that MSU, with competitive STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) coursework and state of the art facilities, opened its doors to national technology experts, and regional and federal government leaders to connect young workers with the training and resources they need to identify and seize upon employment opportunities.

Commerce's NIST Leads Nationwide Effort to Provide Tools and Guidance to Help U.S. Communities Become More Disaster Resilient

Commerce's NIST Leads Nationwide Effort to Provide Tools and Guidance to Help U.S. Communities Become More Disaster Resilient

Guest Blog Post by Stephen Cauffman, NIST Lead for Disaster Resilience

When disaster strikes . . .

No other phrase may be more ominous, conjuring images of powerlessness, destruction, and an aftermath of painful, costly recovery. Think Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy; the Oakland firestorm of 1991; the Joplin, Mo., and Moore, Okla., tornadoes; or last year’s floods in Colorado and much of the Midwest.

Although communities cannot dodge hazardous events like these, they can take concrete actions in advance to minimize the toll that natural—and even human-caused—hazards inflict and to speed up the pace of recovery. Communities can make themselves more resilient to disasters.

Providing tools and guidance to help U.S. communities become more disaster resilient is the goal of a collaborative, nationwide effort led by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Carried out under the President's Climate Action Plan, this recently launched national initiative will yield a comprehensive, disaster resilience framework that will help communities develop plans to protect people and property before disaster strikes and to recover more rapidly and efficiently.

Focusing on buildings and infrastructure systems, such as communications and electric power, the framework will identify performance goals; document existing standards, codes, and practices that address resilience; and identify gaps that must be addressed to bolster community resilience.

As we prepare the draft framework, NIST is soliciting input from a broad array of stakeholders, including planners, designers, facility owners and users, government officials, utility owners, regulators, standards and model code developers, insurers, trade and professional associations, disaster response and recovery groups, and researchers.

Commerce in the Community: MDC utilizes effective partnership model to promote sustainable economic development and opportunity at the community level

David Dodson, President of MDC

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 David Dodson, President of MDC. Originally known as “Manpower Development Corp.”, MDC creates programs that employ integrated, sustainable solutions that connect people with the financial supports that can stabilize their lives, the education and training they need to get better jobs and the industries that will benefit from their labors and improve the entire community. David Dodson has been with MDC since 1987, where he has directed major projects to increase student success in public schools and community colleges, address regional economic decline, strengthen community philanthropy and build multiracial leadership across the South and the nation. Prior to joining MDC, David served as Executive Director of the Cummins Foundation and Director of Corporate Responsibility for Cummins Engine Company, a Fortune 500 manufacturer based in Columbus, Indiana.

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

MDC helps organizations and communities close the gaps that separate people from opportunity. We focus on education, employment and economic security and believe the pathway to opportunity is cleared by creating equity—removing the social, financial, and educational barriers that make it harder for those left behind to take advantage of the opportunities America has to offer.

Our programs focus on the American South. We work with policymakers, grassroots community leaders, business people, educators and nonprofits to create a will for change by getting to know a community or organization, connecting leaders across social and political lines and highlighting gaps through historical and statistical research. We then help them identify solutions with a high potential for success and mobilize leaders to address the issues raised.

Our theory of action— Education + Work+ Assets = The Pathway to Opportunity—produces our vision that “society benefits when everyone succeeds.”

Commerce Joins Federal Partners to Present Job Training Programs Review

Commerce Joins Federal Partners to Present Job Training Programs Review

Guest Blog Post by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker

A strong, skilled American workforce is essential to ensuring that U.S. businesses are able to compete in the global economy. In the 2014 State of the Union Address, President Obama asked that I join Vice President Biden, Secretary Perez, and Secretary Duncan to lead a review of federal training programs, to ensure that these programs prepare workers for the jobs that are available right now. On Tuesday we presented our findings and recommendations to the President at an event at the White House. President Obama also signed H.R. 803, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which will help improve business engagement and accountability across federally-funded training programs.

As a business leader of 27 years, I know the importance of hiring skilled workers. In our “Open for Business Agenda,” the Department of Commerce is making workforce development a top priority for the first time ever. While the Department does not directly fund job training programs, many of our initiatives support efforts to match workers to local industry needs. The Economic Development Administration (EDA) and National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) in particular have taken significant leadership roles in the Department’s skilled workforce policy. For example, the Economic Development Administration (EDA) funds critical efforts that help communities address local economic needs, including workforce needs. In addition, the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) works with manufacturers around the country to help them improve their processes and create and retain jobs.

Commerce is coordinating with other federal partners to leverage support for job-driven training initiatives. For example,  we are working in coordination with the Department of Labor (DOL) on their Center for Workforce & Industry Partnerships (CWIP), which will bring together key agencies across the federal government to support workforce and industry partnerships and form a common vision and approach to partnerships. To better align economic development and workforce development goals, EDA is working to develop stronger ties between EDA Regional Offices and Department of Labor (DOL) regional offices, and is incorporating job-driven training principles into its new Comprehensive Economic Development Strategies guidelines for economic development districts. Also, NIST MEP is working closely with DOL’s Registered Apprenticeships Program to spread awareness of their resources to common clients.  In fact, MEP and DOL co-hosted a webinar on these programs last week, and MEP helped DOL host an advanced manufacturing industry roundtable in Chicago last month to inform the upcoming solicitation for federal apprenticeship funding, one of the major announcements to come out of the Administration’s work on job-driven training.

We are also leveraging Commerce data to develop new tools for connecting job-seekers to available positions. Today, at the 21st Century Career Counseling Jobs Data Jam in Baltimore, Md., Under Secretary for Economic Affairs Mark Doms and Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez spoke with technology leaders and app developers to explore opportunities to use government data to help workers find jobs and training opportunities.

The Department of Commerce is leveraging our resources and will continue to collaborate with our other interagency partners, as well as businesses and educational institutions, to ensure that both workers and businesses get the best out of workforce skills programs. The report we presented on Tuesday offers a blueprint for our future actions to help more Americans climb the ladder of opportunity. 

U.S.-Africa Business Success Stories: A Kodak Moment: How the Department of Commerce Brokered a Deal between Eastman Kodak and an Egyptian Bank

Ed. Note: This post is part of the U.S.-Africa Business Success Stories series highlighting the work of the Department of Commerce to strengthen the economic relationship between U.S. and African businesses. This series will lead up to the U.S. Africa Business Forum on August 5th, which will convene African heads of state and government to meet with President Obama, Secretary Pritzker, and former Mayor Michael Bloomberg to discuss trade and investment opportunities for African heads of government and American business leaders.

When the Department of Commerce helped Eastman Kodak broker an exporting deal with one of Egypt’s largest state-owned banks, it was a true Kodak moment. American businesses like Kodak are becoming increasingly engaged in exporting to Africa, and the reasons why are clear:

  • Africa has made great strides towards achieving sustainable economic growth and widespread poverty alleviation.
  • Gross domestic product (GDP) in Africa is expected to rise 6 percent per year over the next decade.
  • Africa is set to have a larger workforce than India or China by the year 2040.
  • According to the World Bank, almost half of Africa’s countries have attained middle-income status.

Africa’s potential as the world’s next major economic story is why businesses in the United States, like Kodak, want to offer their products, services, and expertise to help unlock even more of Africa’s potential – and the Obama Administration and Department of Commerce are committed to helping these exporting businesses each step of the way.

Kodak, the company best known for pioneering photographic film products, has been an active client of the nearby Rochester U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC) for decades. This long-standing relationship connected Kodak with one of the largest state-owned banks in Egypt, Banque Misr. When the bank was about to place an order to purchase Kodak Scanners, Banque Misr was told that Kodak had encountered a financial problem not familiar to many outside the U.S.: Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

To better understand Kodak’s financial situation, Banque Misr contacted the U.S. Commercial Service in Egypt, which then contacted the Rochester USEAC. The Rochester USEAC  was able to confirm that Kodak was still operational and headquartered in Rochester. With the help of Tim McCall, a trade specialist in Rochester, and the U.S. Commercial Service, the bank received the proper paperwork and placed an order to Kodak which amounted to roughly $185,000 in export sales.

The Obama Administration and the Department of Commerce believe that Kodak’s and Banque Misr’s example can encourage other U.S. companies to do business in Africa. That is why, last year, President Obama announced the launch of Trade Africa, a partnership between the United States and East African Community (EAC) – Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. Trade Africa aims to increase exports from the EAC to the U.S. by 40 percent, reduce the average time needed to import or export a container from African ports by 15 percent, and decrease by 30 percent the average time a truck takes to transit certain borders, making it easier for businesses on both side of the Atlantic to trade. 

Businesses interested in learning more about exporting should contact their local U.S. Export Assistance Center.

New BEA Data Provide Insights on How Harsh Winter Impacted Industries in First Quarter

Real value added —a measure of an industry’s contribution to GDP—for agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting declined 31 percent in the first quarter, reflecting a drop in the production of farm-type products, including livestock and dairy.

How much did the harsh winter weather affect the U.S. economy in the first quarter of this year?

We know that the economy, as measured by gross domestic product (GDP), contracted at an annual rate of 2.9 percent over January, February and March, the first quarterly decline in three years. But how were different industries affected and was weather a factor?  New data released today by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis provide fresh insights on that front.

The economy’s downturn in the first quarter was widespread, with 19 of 22 major industry groups contributing to the drop in U.S. economic activity, the new BEA data show.  Some of the leading contributors to the downturn included industries that were impacted by the unusually harsh winter weather that hit most of the United States, including “agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting.”

Severe weather conditions can have both positive and negative (although mostly negative) effects on the Nation’s economic performance. For some industries this is intuitive, like “agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting” and “construction;” for other industries, like “mining,” and “nondurable-goods manufacturing,” the link may not be as intuitive.

Real value added —a measure of an industry’s contribution to GDP—for agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting declined 31 percent in the first quarter, reflecting a drop in the production of farm-type products, including livestock and dairy. 

Construction fell almost 9 percent, reflecting a notable decline in nonresidential construction activity that began in January and continued through March; unusually cold and wet weather hampered construction activity. 

Perhaps somewhat surprising, the utility industry also contributed to the decline in GDP in the first quarter.  While demand for additional utilities, for example electricity generation, was evident with the severe winter weather, a surge in the costs of the inputs used by the utilities industry—things like energy, materials, and purchased services used in the production process—caused real value added to drop over 16 percent in the first quarter. 

Working to Ensure Public Safety Has Cutting-Edge, Reliable Communications

Working to Ensure Public Safety Has Cutting-Edge, Reliable Communications

Guest blog post by Stephen Fletcher, Associate Administrator, Office of Public Safety Communications, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)

First responders know the deadly consequences of not having a communications network that is reliable and interoperable, a problem highlighted during the September 2001 terrorist attacks and Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.  

The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is working to ensure our nation’s first responders have access to the most advanced communications when responding to an emergency or natural disaster.

NTIA is working closely with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), an independent authority within the agency, as it works towards creating a nationwide public safety broadband network. In support of that effort, NTIA also is working to ensure states are prepared to take full advantage of this network once it is deployed.

NTIA awarded $116 million in grants to 54 states and territories to help plan for the broadband network that FirstNet will deploy. The State and Local Implementation Grant Program (SLIGP) is helping states prepare for the development and implementation of a more resilient broadband network, which will enable first responders to communicate efficiently and, consequently, save lives.

With the help of SLIGP funding, states and territories have begun to initiate collaborative relationships with public safety stakeholders through enhanced statewide governance, as well as by conducting education and outreach regarding the public safety broadband network, consulting with FirstNet, and identifying potential users. For example, FloridaNet, the team facilitating Florida’s broadband coverage needs, used SLIGP funding to host a listening tour – a series of eight, three-hour sessions across the state – and a webinar earlier this year to provide an overview of FirstNet and the role played by FloridaNet for law enforcement, fire, emergency medical services, emergency management, hospitals, Tribal Nations, and other stakeholders.

Going forward, NTIA will support its SLIGP grantees by engaging in outreach and technical assistance activities, such as holding webinars and conference calls, developing programmatic best practice documents, and conducting site visits. Through this work, and the work of many others, the United States is on its way to developing a public safety broadband network that stands tough in the face of crisis.

Supporting the Best Environment for U.S. Exporters

Supporting the Best Environment for U.S. Exporters

One way the International Trade Administration (ITA) supports U.S. exporters is through specific teams of specialists who focus on specific industry sectors.

From marine technology, to health care, to automobile manufacturing, ITA offers export support in a variety of sectors.

To promote professional development and to make sure our specialists stay on top of the latest business trends and opportunities, our teams come together to share lessons learned, study best practices, and discuss ways their industry is changing.

This month, the Environmental Technology team did just that.

Their week-long conference included various seminars which built on existing knowledge of export policies and emerging environmental technologies. These conferences benefit exporters because they keep the commercial service specialists up to date on the latest and greatest in their industry. The main focus of this year’s training sessions was ways the team can address pollution issues related to water, air, and soil, and to learn about new recycling technologies.

Other ways ITA supports environmental technology exporters are through programs such as;

The environmental sector is a large and growing industry. Environmental technologies make up a $735 billion global market with U.S. exports currently comprising about $45 billion of this market. Therefore there is much growth potential for U.S. envirotech exporters.

Industry-specific offices are just one of the ways ITA constantly works to make exporting easier for American businesses.

You can find out more about our industry teams and how they support exporters at Or you can contact the Environmental Technology Team so they can help lead you in the right direction.

SEWW Energy, Inc. Inks a $175 million deal spanning 7 years following West Africa Trade Mission with Commerce Department

SEWW Energy, Inc. David Ellis, SVP, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and Kevon Makell, Chairman, President, & Chief Executive Officer for SEWW Energy, Inc. while on the West Africa Trade Mission

Guest blog post by Kevon Makell, President & Chief Executive Officer of SEWW Energy, Inc.

Ed Note: This post is part of the U.S.-Africa Business Success Stories series highlighting the work of the Department of Commerce to strengthen the economic relationship between U.S. and African businesses. This series will lead up to the U.S. Africa Business Forum on August 5th, the first of its kind event, which will convene African heads of state and government, U.S. government officials and business leaders to discuss trade and investment opportunities on the continent.

The West Africa Trade Mission was a rousing success for SEWW Energy, Incorporated. Being selected to participate in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Trade Mission, with host Secretary Penny Pritzker, was a critical move for my company. It provided us an opportunity to realize years of groundwork that my team and I have labored over and prepared for, waiting for the right moment to execute. It was obvious when we landed that success was in the air as the first delegates stepped off the plane, landing in Accra, Ghana.

Accompanied by Vice President David Ellis, our tag team duo spent part of the first day with the Managing Director of Electricity of Ghana, moving our idea of West Africa electrification across the goal line. This was the defining moment we have waited for.  In anticipation, we worked through the night praying that preparation and opportunity would meet. My goal during this important trip was to confirm the signing of a major contract on day two.  All the strategy sessions, planning details, what-if scenarios, infrastructure analysis and playbook calls all came down to this moment. SEWW Energy was focused on carrying out the mission to serve the underserved with the “Power To” change lives and make a positive difference in West Africa.

The seven-day trip solidified SEWW’s vision of becoming an international player in developing micro and macro grids electrification systems for the Accra, Ghana region. We are ecstatic to be the first company to sign a solid contract to lead the upgrade and expansion projects in the Greater Accra Region spanning seven-years, at $25 million per year. The project is supported by the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) and will include efforts to improve the transmission and distribution of electricity, in the West African nation. 

Within the seven-year time frame, SEWW Energy has been authorized to provide products and services in support of the project that will include network transmission, the rebuilding of substations, and the design of smart grids. ECG has identified infrastructure challenges that have consistently troubled Ghana including: rapid energy demand growth, inadequate network capacity, network outages, and poor energy supply reliability. SEWW Energy will spearhead solutions to reduce the cost of power supply and address security, reliability, and efficiency. Additionally, we will train local citizens in Ghana to operate and maintain the new infrastructures.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you U.S. Department of Commerce, Secretary Pritzker and my wonderful Team SEWW. We are now moving full speed ahead to Power the World!


Businesses interested in learning more about the benefits of exporting should contact their local U.S. Export Assistance Center.

Please check back regularly for moresuccess stories about companies doing business in Africa.

NOAA and Partners Provide Real-time Information to Keep Economic Activity Flowing in Port of Jacksonville

The air gap sensor installed on the Dames Point Bridge in Jacksonville, Fla., ensured that Carnival Cruise Lines could continue serving the Port of Jacksonville while the bridge was undergoing repairs. According to a 2009 study completed by Martin Associates, the cruise industry generates more than $67 million in annual economic impact for Northeast Florida.

Our country’s port system is an essential driver of the U.S. economy and for connecting us to the rest of the world.  Every day, U.S. ports and waterways handle millions of tons of domestic and international cargo ranging from agricultural products to heating oil and automobiles.

As demand for U.S. goods and services increases, U.S. ports are responding by implementing innovative technologies. Today, the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its local partner, the Jacksonville Marine Transportation Exchange, dedicated the newest Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System, or PORTS®, in the country.  

Part of NOAA’s network of observational platforms, PORTS® puts real-time, actionable information, or environmental intelligence, into the hands of people who need it to make informed decisions.

The new Jacksonville PORTS®, the second largest ever established in the system, includes a broad suite of operational sensors with water level, meteorological, visibility, salinity, air gap (under bridge clearance), and tidal currents. These sensors are the new “eyes” for the Port of Jacksonville giving 20/20 vision to port operators, ship captains, shipping companies, and others. Jacksonville PORTS® will provide mariners with better maritime information about currents and water levels so they can navigate more efficiently and safely.

PORTS®, combined with up-to-date nautical charts and precise positioning information, can provide mariners with a clearer picture of the potential dangers in the water.  In addition, as ships increase in size and carry more cargo, PORTS® provides shipping companies with information to ensure they safely enter and exit our ports.

Census Bureau Releases Disability Facts and Figures in Recognition of ADA Anniversary

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Cross blog post from

In preparation for the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on July 26, the U.S. Census Bureau released its collection of the most recent data pertaining to Americans with disabilities. The numbers are striking. People with disabilities represented 19 percent of the U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized population. Persons with a disability have a physical or mental impairment that affects one or more major life activities, such as walking, bathing, dressing, eating, preparing meals, going outside the home, or doing housework. A disability can occur at birth or at any point in a person’s life.

  • Approximately 57 million Americans have a disability. There are more people with disabilities living in America than the entire population of Canada or the Caribbean.
  • More Americans with disabilities require the assistance of others to perform basic activities of daily living than the entire population of Greece.
  • If you take the population of Ireland and cut it in half, that’s roughly the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s or other neurocognitive disorders.
  • The number of Americans with vision impairments is comparable to the entire population of Switzerland, and there are more Americans with hearing impairments than in all of Denmark, Paraguay or Hong Kong.
  • By age in the U.S., 8 percent of children under 15 had a disability; 21 percent of people 15 and older had a disability; 17 percent of people 21 to 64 had a disability; and 50 percent of adults 65 and older had a disability.
  • West Virginia had the highest rate at 19% of the U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized population with a disability, the highest rate of any state in the nation. Utah, at 9 percent, had the lowest rate.

On July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodations, commercial facilities, telecommunications, and state and local government services.

U.S.-Africa Business Success Stories: How a Texas Oil Company Started Doing Business in Cameroon and Morocco

Note: This post is part of the U.S.-Africa Business Success Stories series highlighting the work of the Department of Commerce to strengthen the economic relationship between U.S. and African businesses. This series will lead up to the U.S. Africa Business Forum on August 5th, the first of its kind event, which will convene African heads of state and government, U.S. government officials and business leaders to discuss trade and investment opportunities on the continent.

The geographic distance between Texas-based Arnold Oil Company and Sub-Saharan Africa may be thousands of miles, but their economic relationship has never been closer. U.S. businesses like the Arnold Oil Company are increasingly finding economic opportunity in Sub-Saharan Africa: between 2001 to 2012, U.S. trade to sub-Saharan Africa tripled from $6.9 billion to $22.5 billion dollars. Africa is now home to six of the top ten fastest growing economies in the world, leading President Obama to call sub-Saharan Africa the “world’s next major economic success story.” That is why the Department of Commerce is working to facilitate and advocate for American businesses in this growing region, and U.S. firms are eager to help unlock even more of Africa’s economic potential.

A family-owned supplier of automotive and oil lubricant products, the Arnold Oil Company became interested in expanding its business abroad. They met with the U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC) in Austin to request assistance in developing an exporting and marketing plan for their products. After creating a plan that satisfied the company, the USEAC arranged for a meeting with a representative from the U.S. Export-Import Bank to assist the Arnold Oil Company with financing its exports.

But the USEAC took its assistance one step further, introducing the Arnold Oil Company to a buyer in Cameroon, who eventually was signed as a distributer. As a result of this relationship, the Arnold Oil Company was able to ship their first exports of oil lubricants to Morocco, generating revenue of more than $24,000 in 2013. With assistance from the USEAC, the Arnold Oil Company was able to expand its business into one of the most economically dynamic regions in the world.

FirstNet: Deploying a Resilient Broadband Network for the Nation’s First Responders

FirstNet:  Deploying a Resilient Broadband Network for the Nation’s First Responders

Guest blog post by TJ Kennedy, FirstNet Acting General Manager

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), an independent entity within the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, was established by Congress to develop a nationwide broadband network for the millions of first responders whose mission requires them to be resilient every time they are called to duty.  Whether they are responding to day-to-day emergencies – such as traffic accidents – or large-scale disasters like wildfires and hurricanes, the nation’s firefighters, law enforcement personnel, and emergency medical services are critical to ensuring our safety and security during all types of hazards.

A great deal of progress has been made to enhance emergency communications in light of the interoperability and operability challenges that hampered the rescue and response operations to the September 11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina.  But we owe it to our nation’s first responders to ensure they have reliable and interoperable communications all of the time.

To deploy a nationwide public safety broadband network, FirstNet is working closely with first responders in all 56 states and territories to ensure their communications needs are built into the nationwide network from day one, so they can seamlessly share information and communicate under all conditions.  And like first responders themselves, the network must be resilient:  it must be able to withstand the elements and recover rapidly from disruptions, including deliberate attacks, accidents, or naturally occurring weather situations.

Census Bureau Updates Interactive HIV/AIDS Database; New Prevalence Estimates from More Than 100 Countries

Census Bureau Updates Interactive HIV/AIDS Database; New Prevalence Estimates from More Than 100 Countries

The U.S. Census Bureau today released its annually updated interactive global resource on the prevalence of HIV infection and AIDS cases and deaths. First developed in 1987, the database now holds more than 164,000 statistics, an increase of approximately 5,900 new estimates in the last year, and is the most comprehensive resource of its kind in the world.

The Census Bureau database is maintained with funding from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The Census Bureau’s HIV/AIDS database is the world’s only resource that consolidates HIV/AIDS information for policymakers, academics and health care professionals who conduct research to help end the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The current annual updates and long time series of globally available findings in the database serve as a comprehensive and valuable resource for the many health care leaders throughout the world conducting research on HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment.

The tool consists of a library of statistics from more than 14,900 sources in international scientific and medical journals, individual countries’ annual HIV/AIDS surveillance reports, and papers and posters presented at international conferences. China represents 28 percent of the new records in the database, the largest increase by a single country.

The menu-driven access tool enables users to search for statistical information in countries and territories across the world, as well as by subpopulation, geographic subarea (such as urban and rural), age, sex and year from the 1960s to 2013.

HIV-related statistics for the United States are available separately from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Secretary Pritzker Underscores Importance of Innovation and American Manufacturing at Visit to Whirlpool Corporation

Secretary Pritzker receives a tour of the Whirlpool Corporate Headquarters by Chief Executive Officer Jeff Fettig

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker discussed the importance of innovation and American manufacturing to the U.S. economy during a tour and panel discussion with business leaders and CEOs at the Whirlpool Corporation’s headquarters in Benton Harbor, Michigan. As the world’s leading global manufacturer and marketer of major home appliances, the Whirlpool Corporation has effectively  integrated innovative thinking into its core values and mission.

Speaking on a panel titled “The Global Innovation Forum,” and moderated by Doug Rothwell, Chief Executive Officer and President of the Business Leaders of Michigan, Secretary Pritzker explained that one of the key priorities of the Commerce Department’s “Open for Business Agenda” is to strengthen American innovation, with a focus on supporting manufacturing. Secretary Pritzker also highlighted how the Obama Administration and the Department of Commerce are spearheading three manufacturing initiatives to accomplish this objective.

First, Secretary Pritzker talked about the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI), a bipartisan, industry-driven proposal to create a network of commercialization hubs owned and operated by universities and corporations. These hubs will conduct skills training and accelerate new technologies into the market, all aimed at benefiting a region’s manufacturing base, rather than just a single company.  In addition, Secretary Pritzker discussed the successes of the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP). IMCP is a federal designation that recognizes communities that should serve as models for the rest of the country – because they each have clear strategies to become magnets for manufacturing, along with coordinated efforts in key areas, like workforce training, supplier networks, research and innovation, infrastructure and site development, exporting, and access to capital. Recent research shows that communities who make these investments in a coordinated fashion experience higher growth in employment, wages, number of establishments, and number of patents.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Talks About Efforts to Boost Exports in the Rural Delta

Secretary Pritzker promoting rural exports in Memphis

Exports are an important tool for economic development and job creation, which is why the Obama Administration has made increased exports a central pillar of its strategy for economic growth. With the recent launch of NEI/NEXT, the next phase of the successful National Export Initiative, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Pritzker has made it a priority to expand the U.S. export base and to help more American businesses of all sizes – including rural businesses – capitalize on opportunities in foreign markets.

As part of this effort, Secretary Pritzker traveled to Memphis, Tennessee Thursday to participate in the “Made in Rural America” Regional Forum, focused on boosting rural exports. Hosted by the Delta Regional Authority (DRA), the forum convened small business owners, industry representatives, business support organizations, and local, state, and federal leaders to discuss ways to help rural businesses grow and reach the 95% of customers that live outside our borders. Secretary Pritzker participated in an armchair discussion with DRA Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill and discussed how we can all work together to enhance opportunities for businesses in rural communities and how we can focus on ways to increase exports from the Delta region’s many businesses. Today’s forum is the second of five regional forums to be held across the country, aimed at helping local businesses integrate exports into their economic growth strategies.

At the Forum, Secretary Pritzker discussed the Commerce Department’s resources to help rural businesses compete in the global marketplace. The Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration (ITA) has trade specialists in more than 100 U.S. cities and over 70 countries worldwide to help companies take advantage of business opportunities abroad and connect them to trade events, foreign buyers, and other partners. In fact, about 85 percent of ITA’s clients are small and medium-sized businesses, and on average 38 percent are rural exporters.

Since the launch of the NEI in 2010, 1.6 million more Americans are earning a paycheck from an export-supported job, bringing the total to 11.3 million jobs – the highest in 20 years.

Building Infrastructure to Strengthen Environmental Resiliency

Assistant Secretary Williams announces $1 million EDA investment to help build the Austin’s [re]Manufacturing Hub Eco-Industrial Park. (L-R): Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell,  Assistant Secretary Williams, U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett.

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

Environmental sustainability is a priority for the Department of Commerce and EDA. In the last 5 years alone, EDA has made more than 130 investments that support green projects and environmental resilience across the nation. As climate change becomes more pronounced, it is crucial that communities and regions factor in to their strategic plans new development and infrastructure to account for and mitigate the potential environmental impact.

Earlier this month, I had the honor of being joined by Congressman Lloyd Doggett and Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell in Austin, Texas to announce an EDA grant to the city. EDA is investing $1 million to build infrastructure to serve Austin’s [re]Manufacturing Hub Eco-Industrial Park, which will house recycling manufacturing firms and focus on recycling market development.  This grant checks some critical boxes by creating jobs and securing private investment. But, this particular investment will also help Austin achieve its Zero Waste goals and is an excellent example of how infrastructure can be used in an innovative way toward forward-looking goals. The Austin [re]Manufacturing Hub will be the nexus for green jobs in the recycling, reuse and repair industry to support Austin's Zero Waste goals and will provide the economic driver for jobs and investment through waste-based industry in the Central Austin region. The infrastructure will not simply provide utility service to this project, but will drive economic development opportunities along a currently underdeveloped corridor in Austin, ultimately leading to jobs for economically distressed areas of the city and unincorporated Travis County as well as Central Texas.

There are many other examples of EDA green investments – investments that enable alternative energies, help upgrade buildings to achieve LEED certification, or promote reducing a region’s carbon footprint.  We are proud to be supporting President Obama’s and Secretary Pritzker’s goals for environmental sustainability. You can learn more about EDA’s commitment to the environment and how economic development can aid conservation efforts in EDA’s April 2014 Newsletter.

Guidance Aims to Improve Community Resilience to Coastal Hazards

A view of the Pacific coastline along Santa Monica, California

Do you live on or near the coast? According to the latest population data, more than 39 percent of Americans lived in coastal shoreline counties and the number is growing. America’s coasts stretch along more than 95,000 miles. One downside to living along the coast is that climate change increasing many natural hazards, such as erosion, harmful algal blooms, big storms, flooding, tsunamis, and sea level rise.

Investing in infrastructure has never been more important. In addition to the clear economic benefits of building a world-class infrastructure system, the third National Climate Assessment NOAA released earlier this year confirms that the impacts of climate change are already taking a toll on our communities. To help communities withstand impacts from more extreme weather and increased flooding, President Obama announced a series of actions to respond to the State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience’s feedback to help state, local, and tribal leaders prepare their communities for the impacts of climate change by developing more resilient infrastructure and rebuilding existing infrastructure stronger and smarter.

President Obama’s focus remains on building on the progress America’s economy is making by helping businesses create jobs and expanding opportunity for all hardworking Americans. As part of those efforts, the President recently put forward a comprehensive plan to invest in America’s infrastructure in order to create jobs, provide certainty to states and communities, support American businesses, and grow our economy.

In 2011, 45 percent of our nation’s GDP – or $6.6 trillion – was generated in coastal and Great Lakes counties, supporting approximately 51 million jobs and $2.8 trillion in wages. Close to three million jobs directly depend on the resources of the oceans and Great Lakes. If the nation’s coastal watershed counties were an individual country, they would rank third in GDP globally behind the U.S. as a whole and China.It's no secret why so many of us choose to live in coastal regions. These are areas of great bounty and beauty.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Discusses Opportunities for U.S. Companies to Export

U.S. exports reached a record $2.3 trillion in 2013 and support a record 11.3 million U.S. jobs. Thousands of companies across the country made exporting a strategy to growing their business and in fact, exports have driven the economic recovery and job creation in a number of U.S. cities. Because of the critical role of exports, the Department of Commerce recently launched the next phase of the National Export Initiative, NEI/NEXT. Building on the success of the National Export Initiative, NEI/NEXT is a new customer service-driven strategy with improved information resources that will help American businesses capitalize on existing and new opportunities to sell Made-in-America goods and services abroad.

As part of this effort, U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker visited the Qualcomm headquarters in San Diego, Calif. yesterday, where she led a roundtable discussion on the importance of U.S. exports with the “Global San Diego Export Plan” team. This plan, which aims to integrate exports into San Diego’s economic development strategy, is being developed in close consultation with the Commerce Department's International Trade Administration (ITA) and the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program.

During the roundtable discussion, Secretary Pritzker met with local private and public sector leaders and learned more about the success of their export strategy and the challenges they still face. The partnership-driven export and investment strategy has made a big impact on the San Diego economy, but there are still more areas and opportunities for growth. One of the key objectives of NEI/NEXT is to promote exports as an economic development priority for communities across the country. San Diego’s export plan is an excellent example for how other cities and metropolitan areas across the country can partner with businesses and government to better facilitate exports.

Roundtable participants also spoke about the practical challenges they are facing including the role of small and medium sized businesses, infrastructure, retaining talent and branding. Secretary Pritzker discussed Department of Commerce resources and ways the Department and ITA could provide assistance to businesses and the Export Plan team to help overcome some of these challenges.

Since the launch of President Obama's National Export Initiative in 2010, the United States has seen strong export-driven economic growth and has broken export records four years in a row. Increasing U.S. exports remains a top priority for the Obama Administration, and the Commerce Department is ready to assist San Diego and other communities in making the most of their exporting potential.

Secretary Pritzker Discusses the Power of Government Data and Announces the Department of Commerce Will Hire Its First-Ever Chief Data Officer

Announces the Department of Commerce Will Hire Its First-Ever Chief Data Officer

Today, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker discussed the Department of Commerce’s expanding role as “America’s Data Agency” at the 2014 Esri International User’s Conference in San Diego, California. The annual conference, hosted by Esri, a geographic information systems (GIS) software development company is attended by 16,000 data experts, including those from federal, state, local, and regional governments; Fortune 1000 companies; small business owners; university scholars; and K-12 teachers. 

During her address, Secretary Pritzker described how the Department of Commerce’s data collection – which literally reaches from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun – not only informs trillions of dollars of private and public investments each year and plants the seeds of economic growth, but also saves lives. Because of Commerce Department data, Secretary Pritzker explained, communities vulnerable to tornados have seen warning times triple and tornado warning accuracy double over the past 25 years, giving residents greater time to search for shelter in the event of an emergency. The breadth of the Department’s data collection and dissemination, which touches of the lives of millions of Americans every day, is why many, including Secretary Pritzker call the Department of Commerce “America’s Data Agency.”

To develop and implement a vision for the next phase in the open data revolution, Secretary Pritzker announced that the Department of Commerce will hire its first-ever Chief Data Officer. This leader, Secretary Pritzker explained, will oversee improvements to data collection and dissemination in order to ensure that Commerce’s data programs are coordinated, comprehensive, and strategic. To bolster the Chief Data Officer’s efforts, Secretary Pritzker explained that the Department will create a data advisory council, which will be comprised of private sector leaders who will advise the Department on how to best use and unleash more government data.

Secretary Pritzker also announced the launch of the International Trade Administration’s “Developer Portal,” which will centralize data that is vital to exporting businesses across the country. Finally, Secretary Pritzker invited conference attendees to participate in a panel discussion later in the week in San Diego on how businesses can best utilize data from the American Community Survey (ACS), an annual statistical survey that helps guide $400 billion in federal spending each year.

New Commerce Department report explores huge benefits, low cost of government data

Fostering Innovation, Creating Jobs, Driving Better Decisions: The Value of Government Data

Cross post by Mark Doms, Under Secretary for Economic Affairs

Today we are pleased to roll out an important new Commerce Department report on government data. “Fostering Innovation, Creating Jobs, Driving Better Decisions: The Value of Government Data,” arrives as our society increasingly focuses on how the intelligent use of data can make our businesses more competitive, our governments smarter, and our citizens better informed. 

And when it comes to data, as the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs, I have a special appreciation for the Commerce Department’s two preeminent statistical agencies, the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis. These agencies inform us on how our $17 trillion economy is evolving and how our population (318 million and counting) is changing, data critical to our country. Although “Big Data” is all the rage these days, the government has been in this  business for a long time: the first Decennial Census was in 1790, gathering information on close to four million people, a huge dataset for its day, and not too shabby by today’s standards as well. 

Just how valuable is the data we provide? Our report seeks to answer this question by exploring the range of federal statistics and how they are applied in decision-making. Examples of our data include gross domestic product, employment, consumer prices, corporate profits, retail sales, agricultural supply and demand, population, international trade and much more.

Introducing ITA’s Trade Developer Portal

ITA's Trade Developer Portal.

Cross post by Kimberly Becht, Deputy Program Manager for Web Presence in the International Trade Administration.

In support of President Obama’s Open Government Initiative and the Commerce Department’s strategic plan, the International Trade Administration (ITA) has taken a major step in making its data open and accessible to the public through its Trade Developer Portal.

Announced today by Secretary Pritzker, the portal is a collection of application programming interfaces (APIs) that allow software developers to create web and mobile applications using information produced by ITA and other trade promotion agencies.

Making its data public to software developers is one more way ITA is helping U.S. businesses export and enabling foreign investment in American companies through the use of cutting edge technologies.

The Trade Developer Portal helps fulfill the Department’s top priority of making federal data open and available to third party developers in order to foster economic growth.

Currently, the developer portal includes:

  • access to information about trade events;
  • market research;
  • trade leads;
  • locations of domestic and international export assistance centers; and
  • trade news and articles.

Our developer portal can help developers show country-specific pages based on U.S. government data.

Over the next few months, we plan to add APIs around business opportunities, tariff information for goods and services covered under Free Trade Agreements, and frequent questions asked by exporters. We are continuously adding and enriching data sets with the long-term goal of sharing all publicly disseminated information produced by ITA and other trade promotion agencies.

Through the portal, we will engage developers by showcasing applications, providing access to our data owners, and soliciting input to help us improve the quality of public data. The picture on the left is just one example of what can be done using the information currently available in our Trade Developer Portal.

If you have any questions about the portal or need assistance using our APIs, please let us know.  We are excited to partner with you in the next phase of the open data revolution!

Five Things Small Businesses Should Know About Export Control Reform

Small businesses are growing at unprecedented rates. They employ about half – 55 million – of the nation’s private workforce and account for 99.7% percent of all employers in the U.S. Through exporting, they have the opportunity to grow even more: two-thirds of the world’s purchasing power is in foreign countries. In a 2013 survey of 500 small business owners, the National Small Business Association (NSBA) found that 63% of participants who did not already export said that they would be interested in doing so, but cited lack of information on exporting as an obstacle for small businesses.

In 2009, President Obama launched the Export Control Reform (ECR) initiative, a significant effort aimed at enhancing our national and economic security through reform of the export control system—a system that had not been comprehensively updated in decades. The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) administers export controls for commercial and some military commodities and technologies. Now, the President’s ECR initiative is transferring tens of thousands of less sensitive military items from the State Department’s jurisdiction to the more flexible Commerce regulations. Most are parts and components; many are manufactured by small businesses. Moving these items to Commerce benefits small businesses because BIS’s regulations allow for more nuanced distinctions among technologies, destinations, and end users than the State Department’s regulations.

  Here are five things small businesses should know about ECR:

  1. Who is affected? ECR affects second and third tier small and medium suppliers in the defense industry. These sectors include aerospace, military vehicles, marine vessels, space, satellites, and electronics.
  2. ECR eases the financial burden: Currently, exporters subject to the State Department’s International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) pay $250 per license to the State Department, even to export an item that sells for $200. In addition, all manufacturers and exporters have to pay a minimum registration fee of $2,250 per year, even if they don’t export. Commerce, however, is prohibited by statute from charging licensing and registration fees. For an estimated 60% of former State Department registrants whose products are moving to the Commerce Department then, there are no annual registration requirements or associated fees. This directly affects the bottom line.
  3. More flexible regulations: License Exception Strategic Trade Authorization (STA) establishes a license-free zone covering the first export transaction for many parts and components that have been transferred to Commerce. STA provides small businesses with an opportunity to ship license-free to 36 countries, so long as certain safeguards are observed.
  4. How can ECR help you? ECR helps small businesses by increasing the security of supply from small companies that are the second and third tier suppliers, facilitating timely and reliable supplier relationships between U.S. exporters and their foreign customer base, and enhancing their long-term health and competitiveness.
  5. Resources: BIS recognizes that this transition requires considerable outreach and education to affected industries. This is why we work with non-profit educational groups representing small defense exporters, conduct weekly ECR conference calls open industries and companies, and have added interactive tools to our website to help U.S. companies comply with the new regulations under the ECR initiative. In addition, we provide free counseling via phone (Washington DC:  202-482-4811; BIS Western Regional Office:  949-660-0144 and 408-998-8806). We host 30 seminars and events annually, and the BIS website also has a variety of online tools and resources in our Exporter Portal.

Improving Resilience by Building a Weather-Ready Nation

NOAA GOES East image of Hurricane Katrina, August 2005

NOAA's mission of reducing loss of life, property, and the disruption from high impact weather and water-related events has existed since its inception.  However, in recent years the significant societal impacts resulting even from well forecast extreme events have shifted the attention toward better decision support services for communities, businesses, and the public -- decisions ranging from years in advance such as coastal community planning to mitigate impacts from rising sea level, to farmers minimizing impacts from drought heading into growing season, to immediate lifesaving decisions such as a family seeking adequate shelter after their NOAA Weather Radio alerts them to a tornado warning.  

To this end, NOAA is committed to building a "Weather-Ready Nation" where society is prepared for and responds appropriately to these events. The Weather-Ready Nation strategic priority is about building community resilience in the face of increasing vulnerability to extreme weather, water, climate, and environmental threats.  NOAA also recognizes it is essential to work collaboratively with external stakeholders across all levels of government, industry, nonprofits, and academia.  In February, 2014, NOAA launched the Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador initiative to recognize organizations committed to working with NOAA and contributing to a Weather-Ready Nation.

What can you do?

  • Know your risk: Hurricanes, droughts, tornadoes, snowstorms, flooding – severe weather impacts every part of the country. The first step to becoming weather-ready is to understand the type of hazardous weather that can affect where you live and work, and how the weather could impact you and your family. 
  • Take action: Be Force of Nature by making sure that you and your family are prepared for severe weather. This includes creating a disaster supplies kit and making sure that you can receive emergency messages.
  • Be an example: Be a positive influence on your community by sharing your weather preparedness story. Be a Force of Nature by letting your friends and family know what you did to become weather-ready.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Visits Shanghai Ahead of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Visits Shanghai Ahead of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue

This week, U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker traveled to China, where she made a stop in Shanghai ahead of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) starting today in Beijing. At a roundtable with American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai on Tuesday, Secretary Pritzker met with a number of CEOs and business leaders from companies doing work in China. They discussed the business climate in China and ways the Department of Commerce can be effective in helping companies expand opportunities in China. Secretary Pritzker also discussed her visit to the Shanghai Free Trade Zone on Monday, as well as the upcoming S&ED and what she hoped would get accomplished during the upcoming talks.

Secretary Pritzker also met with the Commercial Service Officers at the consulate in Shanghai. The Commercial Service (CS), part of the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration (ITA), plays a vital role in helping American companies start exporting or expand their reach into international markets. CS helps U.S. businesses overcome trade barriers, find global business opportunities and partners, and attract investment to U.S. shores.

As part of President Obama’s deliberate decision to deepen U.S. engagement with Asia, Secretary Pritzker has been working to strengthen commercial ties with the region. In April, she delivered remarks at the John Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), outlining the Administration’s focus on strengthening the U.S.-Asia economic relationship. There, she also announced ITA’s plans to expand its presence in fast-growing markets in Asia and Africa and to open offices in five new countries, including its first in Burma. Then last month, Secretary Pritzker led a commercial diplomacy mission to Vietnam, the Philippines and Burma in conjunction with a delegation of U.S. CEOs and the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council, underscoring U.S. government support for high-level private sector engagement in the Asia-Pacific region. This week’s trip to China builds on these efforts to promote U.S. businesses and strengthen economic ties in the Asia-Pacific region.

Looking for Economic Information on Coastal Areas? Visit BEA’s Website

Recreational boats parked in a marina

How much economic activity is generated by a state in a coastal area? How much do people living in coastal areas earn?

A visit to BEA’s Economic Information for Coastal Areas section on its website provides you with that information – and much more.

You can get details on the sources of personal income, such as wages and salaries, how much income came from investments and how much came from transfer benefits such as unemployment checks and Social Security benefits. This information is available for coastal states and for coastal counties. You can also find out how much income per person was generated in coastal counties and states.

You also can find out earnings generated by people working in different industries for coastal states and coastal counties. For instance, you can look up earnings for people employed in fishing, hunting and trapping. Or for those employed in oil and gas extraction, food manufacturing or transportation. That information also is available on a state and county level.

Business owners and entrepreneurs can use BEA’s coastal economic statistics to help them make more informed decisions about investing and hiring in those areas.

The site, launched two years ago, stems from a joint project with the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Commerce's NIST to Host Next Meeting on Developing a Collaborative Nationwide Disaster Resilience Framework

Disaster Resilience Workshop

As part of President Obama's Climate Action Plan, Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is leading a collaborative nationwide effort to develop a framework that U.S. communities can use to prepare for, resist, respond to, and recover from hazard events more rapidly and at a lower cost. 

On July 30, NIST will host the second in a series of regional workshops devoted to developing a community-centric "disaster resilience framework" to minimize the impacts of hazards and quickly restore vital functions and services in the aftermath of disasters.  

The workshop will begin with a session on resilience lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy, the 2012 "superstorm" that affected many states along the Atlantic seaboard. Sandy killed more than 150 people, caused an estimated $65 billion in damage, and left millions without power for extended periods. The devastation also underscored the complex web of interdependencies and vulnerabilities of buildings and infrastructure systems.

In breakout sessions, participants will help to develop sections of the framework, which will focus on communities, buildings, and infrastructure lifelines. Topics will include buildings and facilities, transportation systems, energy systems, communication and information systems, water and wastewater systems, and social vulnerabilities.

NIST seeks input from a broad array of stakeholders, including planners, designers, facility owners and users, government officials, utility owners, regulators, standards and model code developers, insurers, trade and professional associations, disaster response and recovery groups, and researchers.

Secretary Pritzker Discusses Fostering a 21st Century Workforce with Walter Isaacson at the 2014 Aspen Ideas Festival

Today, at the 2014 Aspen Ideas Festival, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker spoke about the Obama Administration and the Commerce Department’s efforts to strengthen the American workforce and prepare our workforce for 21st century jobs through skills development. She discussed these efforts with Walter Isaacson, President and CEO of the Aspen Institute, during an armchair discussion titled “21st Century Workforce.”

Since taking office a year ago, Secretary Pritzker has spoken to over a thousand business leaders and more than one-third of Fortune 500 CEOs, and one of the top concerns that they have shared is finding the right workers to fill available jobs. To ensure the economy’s long term competitiveness, the United States must maintain a strong workforce with the skills that businesses need. That is why the Department of Commerce is making workforce development a top priority for the first time ever.

In her discussion with Isaacson, Secretary Pritzker talked about some of the initiatives that the Commerce Department is leading to equip the American workforce with skills for jobs in thriving industries. 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. This spring, Secretary Pritzker also 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 challenging careers in growing American industries, such as advanced manufacturing, IT, and healthcare.

The Fourth of July, 2014: Independence Day

The Fourth of July 2014

As we celebrate this Independence Day, we reflect on how America's Founders enshrined the importance of statistics in our Constitution as a vital tool for measuring our people, places and economy. Since 1790, the U.S. Census has been much more than a simple head count; it has charted the growth and composition of our nation. The questions have evolved over time to address our changing needs. Today, the 10-year census, the economic census and the American Community Survey give Congress and community leaders the information they need to make informed decisions that shape our democracy. These statistics are how we know how our country is doing.

On this day in 1776, the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence, setting the 13 colonies on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation. As always, this most American of holidays will be marked with red, white and blue flags, fireworks, parades and backyard barbecues across the country.

For fascinating figures on the Fourth’s fireworks, flags, cookouts, historical facts on the Declaration of Independence and more, see the Census Bureau’s Facts for Features.

Providing Information for Emergency Preparedness as Arthur Approaches

Providing Information for Emergency Preparedness as Arthur Approaches

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

As many Americans begin to prepare for Hurricane Arthur this week, the Census Bureau’s OnTheMap for Emergency Management tool helps provide federal, state and local officials and emergency planners with the information they may need about communities in the projected path of the storm.

OnTheMap for Emergency Management is a Web-based resource that provides a live view of selected emergencies in the U.S., 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It automatically incorporates real-time updates from federal sources so users can view the potential effects of Tropical Storm Arthur (and other disasters) on the U.S. population and workforce.

Through OnTheMap for Emergency Management, the Census Bureau provides information not just on the number of people affected, but also provides useful information on some of their characteristics (for example, whether they are 65 or older) and their work (such as their employment patterns). Following Super Storm Sandy, New Jersey planners were able to estimate the volume of traffic in effected areas.

As the storm continues to develop, the Census Bureau will work closely with our federal partners to make sure they have the information they need.

For those of you preparing for the storm, you can find hurricane safety tips at Visit the National Hurricane Center for the latest Arthur forecasts and remember to follow the National Weather Service for active alerts.

Lutheran Services in America Works to Strengthen Local Communities

Charlotte Haberaecker, President and CEO of Lutheran Services in America (LSA)

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 Charlotte Haberaecker, President and CEO of Lutheran Services in America (LSA), one of the nation’s largest health and human services networks. Prior to joining LSA in 2012, Charlotte was the number-two executive at Global Impact, a $110 million non-profit organization that provides funding for critical humanitarian needs at home and around the world. Previously, she held senior leadership positions at Price Waterhouse where she directed a management consulting practice and Fannie Mae where she led an industry transformation initiative. 

Q1: Tell us about Lutheran Services in America. What is your mission and main focus?

Lutheran Services in America ( is one of the largest health and human services networks in the country. Our more than 300 members provide a broad range of critical services from health care to children and family services, senior services, disaster relief, refugee services, disability support, housing, and employment support, among others.  Collectively, LSA members touch the lives of 1 in 50 Americans each year in thousands of communities across the United States.

Ranked at #25 on the Philanthropy 400, the LSA network represents close to $21 billion in combined annual revenues in the U.S. Our members employ close to 250,000 people in all 50 states and parts of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Our members provide services to all, regardless of their religious affiliation, race, or social or economic background.

LSA works to ensure our members’ resilience in an increasingly evolving environment. Our newly revised mission is to “build valuable connections, amplify our voices and empower our members,” and our vision is a network of “connected, strong and thriving” members that “transform the lives of people and communities.” A distinguishing characteristic of our network is the deep trust and sharing that come from a shared set of values and goals. Our network strives to help people become self-sufficient so they can lead more independent, secure and higher quality lives. The deep trust facilitates rapid innovation and scale.

We help our members to build resilience through specialized programming for CEOs and executives; we also work to help build the capacity and infrastructure of our member organizations, for example by exploring new business models that can create more sustainable revenue streams. We also find opportunities for our 307 members to work together to achieve outcomes they couldn’t achieve on their own so they can grow and continue to serve their communities for generations to come.

NIST’s Net-Zero House Provides All Energy Needs for Family, Saving Thousands in Utilities

Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility (NZERTF) in the snow

The net-zero energy test house at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in suburban Washington, D.C., not only absorbed winter's best shot, it came out on top, reaching its one-year anniversary on July 1 with enough surplus energy to power an electric car for about 1,440 miles.*

The 2,700 square-foot (252-square-meter) test house is built to U.S. Green Building Council LEED Platinum standards—the highest standard for sustainable structures. Its features include energy-efficient construction and appliances, as well as energy-generating technologies, such as solar water heating and a solar photovoltaic system.

Despite 38 days when the test house's solar panels were covered with snow or ice, the Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility's (NZERTF) sun-powered generation system produced 13,577 kilowatt hours of energy. That's 491 kilowatt hours more than used by the house and its occupants, a computer-simulated family of two working parents and two children, ages 8 and 14.

In terms of energy consumed per unit of living space—a measure of energy-use intensity—the NIST test house is calculated to be almost 70 percent more efficient than the average house in Washington, D.C., and nearby states.

In relation to cost, the NZERTF's virtual residents saved $4,373 in electricity payments, or $364 a month. However, front-end costs for solar panels, added insulation, triple-paned windows, and other technologies and upgrades aimed at achieving net-zero energy performance are sizable, according to an analysis by NIST economist Joshua Kneifel.

Commerce Co-Hosts Business and Community Partnerships Summit in Denver, Colorado

US Department of Commerce joined the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Mile High United Way, the Office of Governor John Hickenlooper, the Office of Mayor Michael Hancock and Opportunity Nation to co-host the Denver Business and Community Partnerships Summit.

Guest blog post Joshua Dickson, Director, Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, U.S. Department of Commerce

On Monday, the US Department of Commerce joined the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Mile High United Way, the Office of Governor John Hickenlooper, the Office of Mayor Michael Hancock and Opportunity Nation to co-host the Denver Business and Community Partnerships Summit. This first-of-its-kind event highlighted innovative ways businesses are partnering with nonprofits, faith-based organizations, institutes of higher education and the public sector to improve their communities. In addition to promoting effective cross-sector partnership models focused on workforce development, healthy communities, education and the environment, the Summit educated participants on resources offered by the federal government and provided people an opportunity to connect with others in their community interested in partnering to effect positive change. Leaders from more than 130 organizations, including over 50 businesses and more than 60 nonprofits, participated in this inaugural event. Jay Williams, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, joined Congressman Ed Perlmutter in delivering keynote remarks.

This was an important convening for the Commerce Department because it showcased the critical function that innovative partnerships between community-based organizations and the business community play in driving positive local development, particularly in the areas of skills and workforce training and education. The Summit also exhibited the significant contributions of multiple Commerce resources in facilitating effective community partnerships, including Economic Development Administration grants and Census data from the American Communities Survey.

New USPTO Office in Denver Will Spur Innovation and Accelerate Solving the World’s Problems

Steve Katsaros, Founder and CEO, Nokero International Ltd. holding his patent

Guest blog post by Steve Katsaros, Founder and CEO, Nokero International Ltd.

Ed note: Nokero (short for "No Kerosene") designs, manufactures and distributes safe, affordable, and environmentally-friendly solar based technologies. The solar lights and solar battery chargers are high-quality and low-cost, eliminating the need for harmful and polluting fuels around the world.


Yesterday, June 30, 2014, was the opening of the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) Rocky Mountain Satellite Office. We were joined at the opening ceremony by Deputy USPTO Director Lee, Acting U.S. Deputy Commerce Secretary Andrews, Commissioner of Patents Focarino, U.S. Senators Bennett and Udall, Denver Mayor Hancock, Members of the Colorado Congressional delegation, and others. 

I had the privilege of addressing a crowd of more than 200 and share my thoughts as a Colorado entrepreneur and beneficiary of the U.S. patent system.

To introduce my company and my vision, I ask you to imagine life without electricity. Picture yourself in a mud hut with a tin roof --soot so thick that you avoid touching the walls. Picture a lamp burning kerosene, its emissions of black carbon, unburned kerosene and known carcinogens filling the room. Do you smell the burning kerosene and taste the soot as it is pulled into your lungs? 

No human should live like this.

Nokero (short for No Kerosene) is a Colorado company that has globalized its inventions to tackle energy poverty.