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Blog Entries from August 2014

EDA: Helping Communities Build Economic Resilience

EDA: Helping Communities Build Economic Resilience

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

Since taking office, President Obama and his administration have worked to help communities and regions impacted by natural disasters and major economic challenges respond and rebuild stronger than before.

This week, on a visit to Colorado, I was pleased to have the opportunity to announce two Economic Development Administration investments that support those efforts in two communities.

In Estes Park, a picturesque town located at the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, residents are working diligently to rebound from severe flooding that hit them hard as they were preparing for the busy snow season – and the economic tourism boon that comes with it - last fall. 

To help the town following the federally-declared flood disaster, I was honored to announce a $300,000 EDA investment to help the Town develop a strategy that will guide their economic diversification and resiliency efforts. One key component of this grant is developing specific actions to make use of Estes Park’s existing fiber optic ring to deliver improved broadband services to the town and surrounding region. By working with other affected communities – including nearby Loveland and Lyons – this strategy will help the region diversify while strengthening their existing established industry clusters.

In Colorado’s central western region, the recent closure of Oxbow Elk Creek coal mine has resulted in a regional economic emergency. 

To help the region respond, I announced a $245,000 EDA grant to the Region 10 League for Economic Assistance and Planning of Montrose, Colorado, to help create a strategy that aims to improve and enhance the economic resiliency and sustainability of Delta and Gunnison counties.

Resiliency is critical to economic prosperity: all communities—whether in a position likely to weather significant natural disasters, or struggling to deal with immediate or pending catastrophes—must have or be able to develop strategies that can mitigate an economic downturn and support long-term recovery efforts.

I am proud of the important role EDA plays in helping communities get back on their feet stronger than before.

Welcoming Investment from South America

Profile photo of Aaron Brickman, Deputy Executive Director, SelectUSA

Guest blog post by Deputy Executive Director, SelectUSA Aaron Brickman

Not only is South America the birthplace of soccer greats and the location of natural wonders, it is also an important and rapidly growing source of foreign direct investment (FDI) to the United States. According to the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), more than 85,000 men and women go to work each day at South American companies operating in the United States.

The SelectUSA South America Road Show this week connected U.S. economic development organizations (EDOs) directly with inversores and investidores in Santiago, Chile; Sao Paulo, Brazil; and Bogota, Colombia to build opportunities for even more South American companies to succeed in U.S. cities and regions.

Why did SelectUSA’s first South American Road Show focus on Chile, Brazil, and Colombia?

  • These three countries accounted for nearly a quarter of inward investment from Latin American sources in 2013.
  • Brazil is the largest source of investment from South America, with a total stock of nearly $15 billion in 2013. Brazilian companies such as JBS, Embraer, Braskem, and Chilli Beans have made significant investments in the United States over the past several years. The annual growth rate of Brazilian investment averaged 19.6 percent between 2009 and 2013, making Brazil the ninth-fastest global source of investment to our country. There is robust interest from a diversity of sectors: 325 Brazilian firms took part in our seminar and one-on-one meetings with EDOs.
  • As of 2013, the stock of FDI from Chile into the United States stood at $983 million. Investment from Chile, with which we have a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), has been growing at a compound annual growth rate of 11.9 percent since 2009. More than 130 Chilean firms registered for the Road Show, and we were joined by Arauco and Elecmetal – two well-known Chilean companies who shared their experience investing in the United States.
  • Colombia, another FTA partner, was the source of over $2 billion of FDI stock in the United States as of 2013. A recent example includes Fehr Foods, a subsidiary of Grupo Nutresa, which announced earlier this year that it will invest an additional $32 million and create 105 jobs in its U.S plant. Many more Colombian firms are looking to find success in the United States, as evidenced by the 190 participants in the Road Show in Bogota. FDI from Colombia to the United States from 2009 to 2014 grew at a compound annual growth rate of 14.6 percent.

Profile America: Facts for Features - Labor Day 2014

Cross Post: U.S. Census Bureau

Labor Day 2014: Sept. 1

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

Who Are We Celebrating?

155.6 million

Number of people 16 and over in the nation's labor force in May 2013.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Table A-1 <>

Our Jobs

Largest Occupations May 2013Number of employees
Retail salespeople4,485,180
Combined food preparation and serving workers,
   including fast food
Office clerks, general2,832,010
Registered nurses2,661,890
Waiters and waitresses2,403,960
Customer service representatives2,389,580
Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers, hand2,284,650
Secretaries and administrative assistants, except legal
   medical, and executive
Janitors and cleaners, except maids and housekeeping

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupations with the Highest Employment, May 2013, <>

Historic Forum Yields Significant Gains for Africa-U.S. Business Ties

Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Stefan M. Selig speaking with Elizabeth Littlefield, President & CEO of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum

Guest blog post by the Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Stefan M. Selig

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Commerce and Bloomberg Philanthropies co-hosted an event showing that Africa is one of the world’s next great sources of economic growth.

The first-ever U.S.-Africa Business Forum brought together American and African business leaders with the heads of nearly 50 African nations to exchange ideas and create partnerships that will promote trade, accelerate job growth, and encourage investment.

And this was not just an academic discussion. We built the kind of relationships that will help usher in a new level of success for the growing economies and businesses of Africa, as well as spur real gains for U.S. companies.

Several American companies, among others, announced new partnerships in Africa, resulting in multi-million and multi-billion dollar deals:

Also, as part of the White House’s Power Africa initiative—which pledges to invest $7 billion and create an additional 10,000 megawatts of cleaner electricity over the next five years— American company Contour Global secured a $120 million contract to rehabilitate an existing Senegalese power site and construct a new one. That deal will provide another 53 megawatts of electricity to Senegal’s citizens.

As excited as my colleagues and I are about these deals, contract signings weren’t the only highlights of the forum.

Travel Journal: There’s No Place Like Nome!

Secretary Pritzker reviewing plans in Nome, Alaska with Joy Baker, Col. Christopher Lestochi and NOAA Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan

Last week, I embarked on my first trip as Commerce Secretary to Alaska to see how the Last Frontier directly contributes to our economy, and how the U.S. Department of Commerce can help further support Alaskan communities.

The Arctic’s importance to the Nation continues to grow as the impact of global climate change and loss of sea ice make the region much more accessible. This accessibility has inspired strong interest for new commercial initiatives in the region, including energy production, increased shipping, scientific research, tourism, and related infrastructure development. Last year, the Obama Administration introduced  the National Strategy for the Arctic Region, not only in recognition of the growing interest in and vulnerability of the region, but also to prioritize and integrate efforts across the Federal government to explore emerging opportunities – while simultaneously exploring efforts to protect and conserve this pristine environment.

During my trip, I explored the city of Nome, which is located on the edge of the Bering Sea on the northwest side of the 49th state. Once a gold mining town, Nome is one of the most remote communities in Alaska, with a population of 3,500.

My first stop was the Port of Nome. Joy Baker, Special Projects Director and former Harbormaster of the City of Nome, led me and my staff on a tour and described the economic impact and infrastructure challenges associated with increased Arctic shipping.  Although originally from San Antonio, Texas,  Joy has worked for the City of Nome for almost 25 years. Her passion for the city was obvious, and she explained how satisfying it was to see the expansion and development of the facility as the successful end result of many years of work and input about additional infrastructure needs in Nome.

After the port tour, we saw U.S. Arctic port infrastructure and vessels, ranging from small gold dredges to industry ships, giving us a better understanding of how the Department of Commerce’s work in implementing the Community Development Quota program in 1992 has been able to grow and further support economic development and achieve sustainable and diversified local economies in the region.

Having enjoyed the outdoors, we moved inside for a roundtable focused on new economic opportunities that are emerging as the impacts of climate change are felt in the Arctic region, including maritime transportation, fishing, and oil and gas activities. Various Alaska Native corporations, industries, and local, state, and federal officials offered a variety of perspectives which gave me a better sense of how the Department of Commerce can further our efforts to support the region.

We wrapped up the day with another productive and engaging roundtable centered on the threats from climate change, which are already impacting some Alaskan communities. These threats include exacerbated erosion and inundation frequency; and the shrinking of sea ice habitat affecting marine mammals.

While we face these challenges, my hope is that the Department can continue to do its part to facilitate trade and investment, assist with the development and management of natural resources, and provide the data and environmental intelligence that are critical to the safety and prosperity of individuals, communities and businesses that are dealing with a changing environment.

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Alaska, and I look forward to strengthening our partnerships in Alaska and across the Arctic region in the coming months and years.

Commerce and NOAA Data Provide Critical Environmental Intelligence to Alaska

Secretary Pritkzer and NOAA Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan  visited the Alaska Weather, Water and Ice Center which is the National Weather Service’s (NWS) main operations center in Anchorage, Alaska

From supplying daily weather forecasts, severe storm warnings and climate monitoring, to managing fisheries management, supporting coastal restoration and promoting marine commerce, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) products and services are critical to the country’s economic vitality. NOAA maintains a presence in every state, and has a particularly robust team in Alaska.

Secretary Pritzker visited Anchorage this week to see first-hand how Commerce helps Alaska stay “open for business” by supplying the environmental intelligence that citizens, planners, emergency managers and other decision makers rely on. Secretary Pritzker was joined by NOAA Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan on her first trip to Alaska.

Unlocking more of the Department of Commerce’s vast stores of data is one of the key pillars of the Department’s “Open for Business Agenda." In Alaska, the Department's data is critical to the safety and prosperity of individuals, communities and businesses that are dealing with a changing environment.

Secretary Pritzker and Dr. Sullivan visited the Alaska Weather, Water and Ice Center which is the National Weather Service’s (NWS) main operations center in Anchorage. The Center is also among the largest consolidated NWS operations centers in the country, containing four specialized operational units: the Weather Forecast Office including the Sea Ice desk; the Alaska Pacific River Forecast Center; the Alaska Aviation Weather Unit and the Volcanic Ash Advisory Center. No other forecasting operation is positioned to deliver such integrated information services – from marine weather and sea ice to hydrology to public and aviation forecasts – making it incredibly beneficial to Alaskan and Arctic decision makers.

In addition to the NWS Center and various forecast offices, NOAA facilities in the state include four marine laboratories, an atmospheric observatory, and a satellite command data acquisition station.

Later in the day, Secretary Pritzker and Dr. Sullivan met with about 75 NOAA employees to learn more about their work and thank them for their service. NOAA team members had the opportunity to provide their perspectives and discuss Alaska-specific issues.

Examples of Commerce data and research in Alaska include the following:

  • NOAA’s fisheries research and management programs, which are both vital to promoting sustainable use and conservation in light of a changing climate. Fishing is a $5.8 billion industry in Alaska, and supports 100,000 jobs. Fishery-related tourism also brings in more than $300 million annually for the state;
  • NOAA’s sea ice research which strengthens the forecasts of both ice and weather conditions, and helps build a better understanding of the direct links between sea ice and climate change;
  • NOAA essential decision support services that provide regional decision makers with forecasts and warnings for events like extratropical storms, tsunamis, floods, droughts, and volcanic ash;
  • Important NOAA services like mapping and charting, for coastal communities which improves safe Arctic maritime access and prepares communities for intensifying weather.     

Secretary Pritzker: Commerce Department Helps Keep Alaska Open for Business

Secretary Pritzker meeting with CEOs representing the Alaska Native Corporations

The Department of Commerce is focused on creating the conditions for businesses to grow, hire, and strengthen the economy in all 50 states. This week, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker is in Alaska to showcase how the Department keeps the Last Frontier open for business.

Secretary Pritzker met with business leaders in Anchorage this morning to discuss challenges and opportunities facing the business community in the state and resources for Alaska businesses that are looking to grow. Among the roundtable participants were representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, as well as the transportation, logistics, and travel and tourism industries.

During their conversation, they discussed workforce development challenges, the need for infrastructure development to seize the economic opportunities of a changing Arctic, and the importance of making it easier  for visitors to enter the United States. With more than 1.9 million visitors during fiscal year 2014, Alaska’s expanding travel and tourism industry is critical to economic growth and job creation in the state.

She also highlighted the Commerce Department’s “Open for Business Agenda,” of which trade and investment is a key pillar. Alaska’s merchandise exports have grown from about $3.2 billion in 2009 to $4.5 billion in 2013, but the Commerce Department wants to help Alaska reach even more international buyers. Secretary Pritzker announced that the Commerce Department is getting ready to reopen the U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC) in Alaska in the coming weeks. USEACs around the country connect U.S. companies with international buyers, provide them with market intelligence and trade counseling, and facilitate business matchmaking and commercial diplomacy support.

Quarterly Gross Domestic Product by State, 2005–2013 (Prototype Statistics)

Percent Change in Real GDP by State, 2013:III-2013:IV

Cross Post: Bureau of Economic Analysis

  • The quarterly GDP by state prototype statistics for 2005-2013 provide a more complete picture of economic growth across states as they evolve from quarter to quarter. 
  • The quarterly GDP by state statistics are released for 21 industry sectors and are released in both current dollars and inflation-adjusted chained (2009) dollars. 
  • Nondurable-goods manufacturing was the largest contributor to U.S. real GDP by state growth in the fourth quarter of 2013. This industry was the leading contributor to real GDP growth in 31 states in the fourth quarter. 
  • Professional, scientific, and technical services was the second largest contributor to U.S. real GDP growth in the third and fourth quarters of 2013. This industry contributed to the growth in 49 states and the District of Columbia in the fourth quarter of 2013. 
  • Wholesale trade contributed to real GDP growth in 48 states and the District of Columbia in the fourth quarter of 2013. 
  • Construction subtracted from real GDP growth in 47 states and the District of Columbia in the fourth quarter of 2013.

Read the full report.

NIST to Establish Research Center of Excellence for Forensic Science

A NIST Standard Reference Material 2460 "standard bullet" mounted on a blue stub. Each one has six signature markings typically found in a fired bullet. SRM 2460 is intended primarily for use as a check for crime laboratories to help verify that the computerized optical equipment for bullet imaging and profiling is operating properly.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has announced a competition to create a Forensic Science Center of Excellence dedicated to collaborative, interdisciplinary research. The center’s mission will be to establish a firm scientific foundation for the analytic techniques used in two important branches of forensic science, pattern evidence and digital evidence.

The seminal 2009 National Research Council report Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States – A Path Forward called for a thorough examination of the techniques used in forensic analysis to better understand their strengths and limitations. It also called for establishing scientifically rigorous standards and practices, including the development of tools and methods to better standardize analytical protocols.

Forensic investigations involve the collection of evidence, measurements of the evidence, analysis of those measurements and the determination of conclusions of known validity. One important goal is to develop so-called “probabilistic methods”—techniques that produce a quantifiable assessment of the likelihood that a given method produced a correct result. Forensic DNA analyses, for example, typically report the probability that an apparent match between two separate samples could come about by chance.

The new NIST-sponsored center will focus on developing probabilistic methods for dealing with pattern evidence and digital evidence. Pattern evidence encompasses much of what is typically thought of as forensic evidence: fingerprints, shoeprints, tire marks, tool marks, shell casing or bullet striations—anything that relies on comparing two sets of markings. Digital evidence includes such things as the data on cellphones or personal computers.

The planned center will work on scientific advances in probabilistic methods and information technology tools, as well as the necessary infrastructure to educate and train forensic science practitioners in using the new methods. The center will help expand NIST’s expertise in the field and promote interactions between NIST, academia and various stakeholders in the forensic science community.

This Center of Excellence is one of several NIST plans to establish to provide an interdisciplinary environment where researchers from NIST, academia, industry and government can collaborate on emerging areas of basic and applied research and innovations in measurement science. On Dec. 3, 2013, NIST announced the establishment of a Center for Hierarchical Materials Design (CHiMaD) under a consortium led by Northwestern University that will pursue advanced materials research. A second NIST Center of Excellence to be focused on community disaster resilience is the subject of a current competition.

MBDA National Director Concludes Trip Connecting California Minority-Owned Businesses with Commerce Department Resources

MBDA National Director Alejandra Castillo addressing the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Yesterday, MBDA National Director Alejandra Castillo concluded her week-long tour of California where she spoke to local businesses and community leaders about the Obama Administration’s work to spur continued economic growth and job creation through support of exporters, entrepreneurs, and small, women- and minority-owned businesses. 

Earlier this week, Castillo joined U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker in Oakland where the Secretary delivered remarks highlighting a number of Commerce Department resources available to help foster economic growth among minority-owned businesses. The Secretary also discussed the Commerce Department’s “Open for Business Agenda,” a bold policy agenda focused on boosting trade and investment, supporting innovation and entrepreneurship, and unleashing more government data. 

Following the Secretary’s remarks in Oakland, Castillo led a panel discussion on economic development that helped to connect local business leaders and economic development organizations with the expertise of the Department and its resources. The forum featured Overseas Private Investment Corporation’s (OPIC) Director of Corporate Development, Alison Germak; Port of Oakland’s Director of Aviation, Deborah Ale Flint; Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson and Oakland Mayor Jean Quan. 

U.S. Commerce Department Invests $2.8 Million to Foster Innovation in Louisiana and Massachusetts

U.S. Commerce Department Invests $2.8 Million to Foster Innovation in Louisiana and Massachusetts

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker today announced $2.8 million in Economic Development Administration (EDA) investments to support projects that will foster innovation and entrepreneurship in Louisiana and Massachusetts.

“The Obama Administration and Commerce Department have prioritized supporting American innovation, which is the key driver of U.S. competitiveness, job growth and long-term economic growth,” said Secretary Pritzker. “The EDA investments announced today will support critical infrastructure and manufacturing projects that use innovation to help attract investment and create jobs in Louisiana and Massachusetts.”

The investments announced today include the following:

  • In Vidalia, Louisiana, EDA is investing $1.2 million to help construct the 5,700-square-foot Vidalia Technology Center that will function as an incubator to help entrepreneurs to compete globally and create viable employment opportunities in the region. The EDA grant will also support the building of a more robust high speed broadband infrastructure with alternative power sources. Given its relative isolation from major markets and employment hubs, this Mississippi Delta region town needs adequate Internet connectivity to better prepare for and respond to natural disasters. The increased access to broadband communication and back-up power sources will make both the public and business sectors more resilient and strengthen the speed of future recovery efforts.

5 Takeaways about Doing Business in Africa

In case you missed it during the U.S.-Africa Business Forum last week, the International Trade Administration (ITA) published a report that shows that the U.S. trade relationship with Africa is growing at an increasing rate.

ITA’s Report on U.S.-Africa Trade and Investment examines the economic statistics related to U.S. commercial involvement in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) – one of the world’s fastest-growing economic regions. The report is part of the Doing Business in Africa (DBIA) campaign, through which federal trade agencies are joining forces with U.S. businesses to take advantage of the growing export and investment opportunities available in the region.

Here are the five key takeaways of the report:

1. Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the fastest growing regions in the world. Average GDP growth has surpassed 5.2 percent three straight years. The International Monetary Fund estimates that this will increase in both 2014 and 2015.

2. U.S. exports to SSA are at record levels. Merchandise exports reached $24 billion in 2013, an increase of $8.8 billion from 2009. The past decade saw the largest increase in value of U.S. exports to sub-Saharan Africa in history; U.S. goods exports have increased by 130 percent since 2000, or an average of 6.7 percent annually.

3. Small and medium-sized businesses are finding success in SSA. More than 92 percent of businesses exporting to Africa are considered small and medium-sized enterprises—those with fewer than 500 employees. They accounted for a 53 percent increase in the value of exports to the region from 2009-2012.

4. Most export growth originates from Texas, Louisiana, New York, Illinois, New Jersey and Georgia. In total, these states accounted for 60 percent of total exports and more than 70 percent of growth in exports to SSA in 2013. Mineral fuel and oil drilling, automotive parts and supplies, precious metals, and boilers and machinery parts are the top export sectors to SSA common among these states.

5. Total U.S. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Africa has grown by 37.5 percent since 2009. While world foreign direct investment position in 2012 was 27 percent greater than in 2009, U.S. FDI position grew by 40 percent during that period.

As evidence of the report’s positive outlook for U.S. trade with Sub-Saharan Africa watch this short video of many of the deal signings that happened last week at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum. 

If your business is ready to do business in Africa, visit or contact your nearest Export Assistance Center.

Census PoP Quiz Mobile App Challenges Knowledge of State Statistics

Census PoP Quiz Mobile App Challenges Knowledge of State Statistics

The U.S. Census Bureau today released Census PoP Quiz, a new interactive mobile application that challenges users’ knowledge of demographic facts for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The new app, which draws from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, aims to raise statistical literacy about the U.S. population.

Census PoP Quiz provides an introduction to the statistics that define our growing, changing nation and is  a great way for everyone to learn facts about all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the nation in a fun, relevant way.

With each state challenge completed, users will earn a badge to show their knowledge of various state demographic characteristics. After earning badges from every state, the app will unlock the final U.S. challenge. Throughout the quiz, players can share their badges on social media sites including Facebook and Twitter.

The app is free and available for both iPhone and Android smartphones and tablets. Features include:

  • Challenges that test knowledge of topics such as population, housing and commuting.
  • Questions that span locations in all 50 states and the nation’s capital.
  • Badges to share with contacts via social media connections.

Census PoP Quiz is the third in a series of Census Bureau mobile apps. The mobile initiative is one example of how the Census Bureau is working to make America’s statistics available anywhere, anytime to everyone and on any device — consistent with the Department of Commerce’s open data priorities and the federal government’s Digital Government Strategy.

NOAA-U.S. Coast Guard Exercise Aims to Improve U.S. Response, Capabilities to Deal with Future Contingencies in the Arctic

NOAA-U.S. Coast Guard Exercise Aims to Improve U.S. Response, Capabilities to Deal with Future Contingencies in the Arctic

As multi-year sea ice continues to disappear at a rapid rate, vessel traffic in the Arctic is on the rise. This is leading to new maritime concerns, especially in areas increasingly transited by the offshore oil and gas industry, cruise liners, military craft, tugs and barges, and fishing vessels. Keeping all of this new ocean traffic moving smoothly is a growing concern for safety's sake. It's also important to the U.S. economy, environment, and national security. But what happens if there’s a major incident such as an oil spill in this remote region?

This month, researchers from NOAA’s National Ocean Service and NOAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program are taking part in an Arctic exercise aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy that is part of an annual effort to ensure the Arctic remains a safe, secure, and environmentally protected region.

During the month-long ‘Arctic Shield’ mission, the USCG’s Research and Development Center will simulate an oil spill once the Healy makes it far enough north to test technologies at the ice edge.  The team will test a variety of technologies, including unmanned airborne and underwater sensing platforms.

The NOAA components of this exercise focus on testing technologies to improve oil spill reconnaissance and mapping to enable faster and safer decision-making while operating from a ship—a likely platform for responding to a spill in the Arctic due to lack of infrastructure and accommodations.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker Shares Economic Development Opportunities in California

Representative Barbara Lee, Secretary Penny Pritzker, Clifton Burch, President at Empire Engineering & Construction, Inc. and MBDA National Director Alejandra Castillo

Last year, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker unveiled the Commerce Department’s “Open for Business Agenda,” a bold policy agenda focused on boosting trade and investment, supporting innovation and entrepreneurship, and unleashing more government data. Yesterday, she took the Agenda on the road to California. Along with Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) National Director Alejandra Castillo, Secretary Pritzker spoke to local businesses and community leaders about the Obama Administration’s work to spur continued economic growth and job creation through support of exporters, entrepreneurs, and small, women- and minority-owned businesses.

Secretary Pritzker joined Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), a strong advocate for minority economic development and trade policy, at a regional economic development forum at the Oakland Airport, hosted by Lee. The Secretary delivered remarks highlighting a number of Commerce Department resources available to help foster economic growth. Noting that exporting is an essential tool for economic development, she discussed the Commerce Department’s NEI/NEXT initiative, a data-based, customer-driven effort to help U.S. companies increase their exports to international markets. Secretary Pritzker also talked about the work of the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership to help manufacturers boost productivity and growth, as well as investments by the Economic Development Administration (EDA) to help attract new industries and create jobs. Through these and other tools, the Commerce Department is helping businesses in California and across the country to grow and hire. 

Following the Secretary’s remarks, MBDA National Director Castillo led a panel discussion on economic development that helped to connect local business leaders and economic development organizations with the expertise of the Department and its resources. The forum featured OPIC’s Director of Corporate Development, Alison Germak; Port of Oakland’s Director of Aviation, Deborah Ale Flint; Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson and Oakland Mayor Jean Quan. 

Before the event, Secretary Pritzker also participated in a roundtable discussion with East Bay business leaders, hosted by Rep. Lee. They discussed regional economic development, supplier diversity and the importance of gender and ethnic diversity in corporate leadership. Earlier in the day, Secretary Pritzker and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee met with leaders of local technology companies, including Twitter, Yelp, Kiva, and others, ​to discuss the Department of Commerce’s expanding role as “America’s Data Agency." Secretary Pritzker specifically asked how the government can most effectively make additional data available, and what public-private partnerships are currently serving as strong models that can be replicated when it comes to data dissemination.​ 

AAR Lands Multi-million Dollar Supply Chain Deal with Kenya Airways with Help of U.S. Government Advocacy Efforts

For the first time since the Obama administration’s “Doing Business in Africa” initiative went into effect, an aviation company has landed a multi-year deal in Africa. AAR, a global aerospace, government and defense contractor, recently announced a five-year deal with Kenya Airways. Under the conditions of this multi-million dollar accord, Kenya Airways agrees to provide power-by-the-hour component support for its fleet of 737NG aircraft, while AAR places inventory on site in Nairobi and offers rotable pool support from its newly established supply chain in Brussels.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s leadership and staff from Washington D.C., Chicago and the U.S. Embassy in Kenya aided the finalization of this arrangement by connecting AAR’s top executives with African government and business officials during a visit to Nairobi, Kenya. The successful advocacy strategy was also supported by several inter-agency partners including the U.S. State Department.

Deals like these are one of the key reasons the U.S. Department of Commerce and Bloomberg Philanthropies hosted the inaugural U.S.-Africa Business Forum on Tuesday. The event, part of President Obama’s U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit, focused on trade and investment opportunities on the continent. The Forum highlighted U.S. private sector engagement in Africa in the areas of finance and capital investment, infrastructure, power and energy, agriculture, consumer goods, and information communication technology. Heads of state engaged with business executives from both sides of the Atlantic in conversations about successes and solutions to build greater access for trade and investment in Africa. The day served as a catalytic opportunity for American companies to increase economic partnerships and investment in Africa and ended with the announcement that U.S. companies plan to invest more than $14 billion in the continent.

While these announcements and deals are exciting moments, they take great preparation and negotiation. For example, AAR contacted the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Advocacy Center for assistance in reaching decision-makers at Kenya Airways, including the CEO. Over the course of several months, AAR representatives were provided with assistance on meeting legal requirements, establishing business protocols, and cultivating key business relationships in Kenya. The advocacy effort was brought to the attention of then-Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank, who in late 2012, personally advocated on behalf of AAR to Kenya Airways and government officials during her trip to Nairobi, Kenya; providing an additional measure of support which helped secure the business deal for AAR.

Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Highlights U.S. Commitment to Doing Business In Africa

Secretary Pritzker Joins Mayor Bloomberg and President Obama at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum

Yesterday, at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker highlighted a number of Commerce Department efforts to help more American businesses explore opportunities in Africa’s fast-growing markets. The Forum, focused on trade and investment opportunities on the continent, was part of President Obama’s three-day U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, the largest event that any U.S. president has ever convened with African heads of state or government.

Co-hosted by the Department of Commerce and Bloomberg Philanthropies, the U.S.-Africa Business Forum was created to encourage greater U.S. investment in Africa, foster business deals, and help create jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. During remarks at the Forum, President Obama announced that U.S. businesses have already committed to investing $14 billion in clean energy, aviation, banking, and construction projects, among other commitments totaling more than $33 billion that support economic growth in Africa and thousands of U.S. jobs.

The Commerce Department leads the Doing Business in Africa (DBIA) campaign, which was launched in 2012 as part of the President Obama’s “U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa.” DBIA aims to increase U.S. trade promotion to Africa, address market barriers, expand the availability of trade financing, and attract more American companies to explore sub-Saharan Africa trade and investment opportunities.

In an op-ed published by Forbes, Secretary Pritzker and Michael Bloomberg touted the business deals signed during the forum and made the case for Africa as a prime investment location. “We know what is possible when American companies work hand-in-hand with African counterparts: we can help raise living standards and pave the way for future growth.” One example of the benefits of these partnerships can be seen through IBM, who opened Africa’s first major commercial technology research lab in Kenya to pioneer consumer-facing innovations aimed at African markets. This forum was only the beginning, and highlighted American companies willingness to increase their economic partnerships and investment in Africa.

Secretary Pritzker Highlights the Work by the Commerce Department to Improve Trade and Investment with Africa at the Historic U.S.-Africa Business Forum

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker delivered opening remarks at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum, a day focused on trade and investment opportunities on the continent. In her remarks, Secretary Pritzker stated that the U.S.-Africa economic relationship is fundamental to our mutual peace and prosperity. She discussed the work that the Commerce Department is doing to advance President Obama’s vision for the future of U.S.-Africa relations, including expanding the Foreign Commercial Service presence across the continent. She announced that the Department of Commerce and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency will lead 10 new trade missions to Africa and 10 reverse trade missions to the United States by 2020. She also announced the start of NIST’s Global Cities Challenge to catalyze the development of “smart cities,” as well as the launch of a new web portal for American businesses to explore opportunities in Africa. We want to make doing business in Africa easier for every business. Noting that increased trade and investment in Africa will spur growth on both sides of the Atlantic, Secretary Pritzker expressed her hope that the business and government leaders will keep the U.S.-Africa partnership open for more growth and success.

MEP Launches Competition to Fund Manufacturing Centers in 10 States

Making an Impact on U.S. Manufacturing

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) today opened a competition to award new cooperative funding agreements for its Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) centers in 10 states. The competition is the first in a multiyear effort to update the funding structure to better match needs with resources in MEP's network of 60 centers. The MEP centers help small and mid-sized U.S. manufacturers create and retain jobs, increase profits, and save time and money.

The current competition will fund awards for centers in Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. The awards will provide half of each center's first-year operating funds, which the centers must match with funding from nonfederal sources. MEP anticipates awarding a total of nearly $26 million for the 10 centers.

Established in 1988, MEP is a public-private partnership that delivers a high return on investment to taxpayers. For every one dollar of federal investment, MEP helps businesses generate nearly $19 in new sales growth and $21 in new client investment. This translates into $2.2 billion in new sales annually. For every $1,978 of federal investment, MEP helps create or retain one manufacturing job.

Each MEP center works directly with area manufacturers to provide expertise and services tailored to their most critical needs, ranging from process improvement and workforce development to business practices and technology transfer. Through local and national resources, MEP centers have helped thousands of manufacturers reinvent themselves, increase profits, create jobs and establish a foundation for long-term business growth and productivity.

Commerce in the Community: Jail Education Solutions (JES) utilizes innovative workforce development model to reduce recidivism and prepare inmates for reentry into the job market.

Brian Hill, Co-Founder of Jail Education Solutions

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 Brian Hill, co-founder of Jail Education Solutions (JES). Prior to starting JES, Brian worked for General Mills and served as a business consultant. He received his undergraduate degree from Brigham Young University in Provo, UT and is currently finishing his JD/MBA at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL.

Q1: Tell us about Jail Education Solutions (JES). What is your mission and main focus?

JES is dedicated to improving inmate outcomes during incarceration and after release by incentivizing educational and vocational progress through tablet technology in correctional facilities. Investment in inmate education leads to reduced recidivism and lowers taxpayer liability. However, educational programming in correctional facilities is extremely limited and does not currently meet inmate demand. JES grants inmates access to an immense collection of resources, which would otherwise be unavailable, such as k-12 education, GED and college readiness; employment and other community resources; exploratory educational material; cognitive behavioral therapy and treatment and legal information. It does so at no additional cost to the institution or taxpayer. 

Q2: How did Jail Education Solutions get started?

The initial interest happened when I was young, and came from my father. He was a psychology professor at Folsom Prison, and his bedtime stories were his student’s papers. I saw so much human potential locked up, but at that age had no idea about the magnitude of the problem. It wasn’t until later in my first year at Northwestern Law School when I began work on a Social Impact Bond initiative for Cook County's Jail (Chicago) that I was reminded of the great need for opportunity. This passion, bolstered by the very innovative Sheriff Tom Dart, provided the space to test, learn, and create JES.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Joins U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue

Secretary Penny Pritzker Joins U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue

On the final day of her visit to India, Secretary Pritzker and Secretary of State John Kerry met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss opportunities for strengthening the U.S.-India commercial relationship. Their trip was the first U.S. Cabinet-level visit to New Delhi since Prime Minister Modi was elected.

Secretaries Kerry and Pritzker were in New Delhi for the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue, which took place July 31. Launched in 2010, the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue is the highest level regularly scheduled dialogue between the two governments and provides a forum to discuss U.S.-Indian relations. Secretary Pritzker led discussions aimed at strengthening the commercial and economic ties between the U.S. and India, focusing on ways the U.S. can collaborate with India’s new government to promote growth in both nations. Secretary Pritzker underscored the desire of U.S. firms to do more business in India, and discussed how U.S. businesses can collaborate with India in the areas of infrastructure and manufacturing to help the country meet its development goals.

While in New Delhi, Secretary Pritzker joined the AmCham Infrastructure Committee at a breakfast meeting focused on receiving U.S. industry feedback on the opportunities and challenges that they face in the Indian infrastructure sector.

Secretary Pritzker also met with several other Indian government officials, including her counterpart, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman. During their discussion, Secretary Pritzker pressed forward on plans to create an infrastructure platform that will help U.S. firms serve as a partner on significant infrastructure projects in India. Secretary Pritzker also joined the Indian Minister of Finance, Defence, and Corporate Affairs Arun Jaitley for a joint bilateral meeting with Secretary Kerry. In addition, Secretary Pritzker met with Indian Minister of Power Piyush Goyal and discussed how American firms can use their capabilities and expertise to help India meet its ambitious energy-development goals.

Commerce Department Recognizes Minority Business Community Champions

Deputy Secretary Bruce Andrews, National Director of the Minority Business Development Agency Alejandra Castillo, and MBDA Public Affairs Team Lead Velicia Woods congratulate a MED Week Award winner

Today, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Bruce Andrews recognized the 2014 National Minority Enterprise Development (MED) Week Award winners during a ceremony at the annual MED Week Conference in Washington, D.C. MBDA awarded 13 organizations, businesses and individuals who have demonstrated leadership and commitment in advancing the minority business community.

As one of the longest running Minority Business Enterprise events in the United States, the National MED Week Conference recognizes the outstanding achievements of leading minority entrepreneurs and organizations while positioning business owners for opportunities that drive growth. Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) National Director Alejandra Y. Castillo and U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet delivered remarks to kick off the one-day conference this morning.

The conference provided opportunities for small business owners and entrepreneurs to connect with senior public officials, industry executives and leaders from all over the country and learn about cutting-edge tools that can give their business a more competitive advantage.

The Obama Administration and Commerce Department have been laser-focused on helping businesses create good-paying jobs, particularly small and medium-sized businesses. On July 25, President Obama issued a proclamation declaring this week Minority Enterprise Development Week, during which Americans are celebrating the essential role that minority entrepreneurs and businesses play in our economy and communities.

Commerce Department Achieves FY 2013 Small Business Federal Contracting Goal

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) today announced that the federal government met its small business federal contracting goal for the first time in eight years – awarding 23 percent, or $83.1 billion, of all federal small business eligible contracting dollars to small businesses in fiscal year 2013.

The Commerce Department played a significant role in that achievement – exceeding its goal of awarding 39 percent of funds to small businesses and receiving an overall “A” rating from SBA for the fourth straight year in a row. In FY13, the Department also surpassed overall federal government and statutory goals for prime contractors who are small disadvantaged businesses, women-owned small businesses, and service disabled veteran-owned small businesses.

U.S. small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and the Commerce Department works to both support those businesses and ensure they know about our many services that can help them grow.

For example, just a couple months ago, Commerce awarded five small businesses with a contract that is expected to save up to $25 million in taxpayer dollars over the next five years. In addition to saving money, contracts that make our work more efficient and effective enable Commerce to focus more resources on our primary mission, including making investments that help businesses of all sizes create jobs and help grow our economy.

To that end, the Department offers a wide array of services to our small businesses and entrepreneurs. For example, Commerce’s National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) has a Manufacturing Extension Partnership program with centers based around the country who work with small and medium-sized manufacturers to transform their business plans, access new technology and increase exports. As part of the department’s ‘Open for Business Agenda,’ we are working to make more of our data accessible to more people, which supports start-ups and powers small companies.

NTIA Broadband Program Supports Workforce Preparation Across the United States

Las Vegas Urban League: Young visitors to the Doolittle Community Center use the free Internet access to work on school projects.

Cross blog post by Laura Breeden, program director for public computing and broadband adoption, National Telecommunications and Information Administration

Last week, President Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act aimed at creating a more flexible and responsive system of workforce development to meet the needs of employers looking to fill 21st century jobs. Ensuring U.S. workers are able to compete and succeed is a key priority at the U.S. Commerce Department. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker served on a task force with Vice President Biden that recently released a report looking at solutions for making the nation’s workforce and training system more job-driven, integrated and effective.

At the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), workforce development is a priority of our broadband grant programs. Grant recipients have helped unemployed and under-employed people learn to use computers and the Internet for job searching, skill-building, resume development and networking. Today, in keeping with the Department’s commitment to helping match skilled workers with good jobs, we are releasing four case studies on employment-related impacts of our broadband projects. The reports, prepared by independent contractor ASR Analytics, examined the effectiveness of the more than $450 million in matching grants, provided under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, to establish or upgrade public computer centers and initiate innovative broadband adoption programs in underserved communities.

The first report focuses on Workforce West Virginia (WFWV). The agency is responsible for promoting employment and job growth in West Virginia, which has chronically high rates of poverty and unemployment. The grantee upgraded 19 workforce centers and 75 additional centers in locations such as libraries and veterans’ support organizations, with new computers and Wi-Fi. In addition to serving thousands of low-income and unemployed patrons each week, the WFWV centers experienced measurable productivity gains as a result of patrons’ ability to search for jobs, prepare resumes and practice computer skills more independently. This has allowed staff to spend more time focusing on specialized assistance. The high-speed network has also made intra-agency communication and technology management faster and more reliable.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Makes First Official Trip to India for U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Makes First Official Trip to India for U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue

The commercial relationship between United States and India has long stood as a core pillar of the alliance between our two countries. The United States is committed to reinvigorating ties with India and expanding our economic partnership.  That is why U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker traveled to India this week, where she joined U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue in New Delhi. Their trip marks the first U.S. Cabinet-level visit to New Delhi since the new Indian government was elected. Earlier this week, Secretary Pritzker visited Mumbai for meetings with Indian business leaders to discuss new avenues to reinvigorate economic ties between our two nations.

While in Mumbai, Secretary Pritzker delivered remarks at an event hosted by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), focused on the U.S. commitment to partner with the newly-elected Indian government, especially in areas of infrastructure, manufacturing, and business investment. Founded over 115 years ago, CII is one of the most important business groups in India and plays an active role in India’s development process. 

As part of efforts to advance the U.S.-India economic partnership, Vinai Thummalapally and Chairman & Managing Director of Export-Import Bank of India Yaduvendra Mathur signed a Memorandum of Intent (MOI) between SelectUSA and the India’s Export-Import Bank. This MOI will encourage collaboration to attract Indian investment to the United States. SelectUSA is the first U.S. government-wide program to promote and facilitate business investment in the United States. Export-Import Bank of India directly supports Indian foreign direct investments abroad.