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Readout of U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker's Listening Tour Stops in Nashville and Iowa

Thursday, August 9, 2013

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

Today, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker wrapped up the third leg of her nationwide listening tour, during which she is traveling across the country to meet with businesses and thought leaders, entrepreneurs, academics and Department of Commerce employees. While in Nashville, Tenn. and Pella and Des Moines, IA, she heard from various groups and industry representatives about their priorities, concerns and ideas on how the public and private sectors can work together to strengthen the economy and create American jobs.

“Nashville, Pella, and Des Moines epitomize the entrepreneurial spirit that is driving economic development and job creation in the United States,” said Secretary Pritzker. “From leveraging the creative economy to making investments in advanced manufacturing, businesses in these states are getting it right. As I continue my listening tour over the next few weeks, I’m looking forward to hearing more from businesses and entrepreneurs about how the Department can serve as a bridge to the business community to protect, promote, inform and anticipate what America needs to be competitive and innovative in the 21st century.”

In Nashville, Secretary Pritzker visited the Entrepreneur Center, a nonprofit business incubator that helps connect entrepreneurs with investors, mentors and resources that are crucial to accelerating the launch of their startup businesses. While at the EC, Secretary Pritzker toured the facilities with its president and CEO Dr. Michael Burcham and met with facility staff and young entrepreneurs working in a wide variety of fields, and heard how funds from a grant from the Department’s Economic Development Administration enabled them to expand capacity three-fold. The secretary was also joined by the team from Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency’s (MBDA) regional office in Memphis, and encouraged collaboration between MBDA and the entrepreneurs who work with the center.Following this visit, Secretary Pritzker participated in a roundtable discussion hosted by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). During the roundtable, Secretary Pritzker not only discussed how the music and entertainment industries are contributing to the health of the creative economy, but also the key role the Commerce Department plays in supporting and protecting intellectual property and innovation.

Recently, the Commerce Department’s U.S. Patent and Trademark Office released the green paper on Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economy. The green paper calls for multi-stakeholder dialogues and roundtables on pressing policy debates including the status of remixes, the reselling of digital copyrighted works, prosecution of individual file-sharers, and the role of government in the online licensing marketplace. In addition, Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) revised the way it counts the amount of money businesses invest in the production of such intellectual property as part of gross domestic product (GDP). On July 31, BEA began including the amount of money businesses invest in the production of intellectual property as part of gross domestic product, or GDP.

Secretary Pritzker then headed to Iowa where she visited Jaarsma Bakery and toured operations at Vermeer Corporation in Pella. Over its 65 year history, Vermeer has grown to become competitive on a global scale, earning a Presidential award for exports, in recognition of their efforts to increase exports. Vermeer serves customers with forage, specialty excavation, environmental and underground equipment products to more effectively and responsibly work farms and ranches, improve infrastructure, and manage natural resources. 

During a roundtable discussion with local business leaders on comprehensive immigration reform, Secretary Pritzker heard from representatives from the health care industry who favor immigration reform as a way to address the shortage of physicians in the area.  In Iowa, the labor force is 5.3 percent foreign born and these men and women generate $216 million in income for the state each year.

Next on the agenda for Secretary Pritzker was a visit to Dwolla, Inc., a startup tech company that allows business and people to send each other money.  Dwolla was founded in 2009 and currently has 55 employees and is expected to double its staff in the next year.  Dwolla has offices in Des Moines, New York, Kansas City and San Francisco.

Finally, Secretary Pritzker toured the opening day of the Iowa State Fair with Senator Tom Harkin and local businessman Bill Knapp.  The Iowa State Fair is the largest event in the state and one of the oldest in the country.  It attracts more than a million people each year.  While at the fair, Secretary Pritzker, saw the famous butter cow, barrel races, tried some Fair delicacies, and visited the animal learning center.