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U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Kicks Off First Meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Innovation and Entrepreneurship

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker today kicked off the first organizational meeting of the 2014-2016 National Advisory Committee on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE). Secretary Pritzker delivered remarks focused on the importance of entrepreneurship, innovation, and industry-driven job skills training in helping communities, businesses, and the workforce become more globally competitive. 

During the meeting, NACIE members are convening strategic planning sessions and providing preliminary plans for projects to undertake during their two year term to Secretary Pritzker for feedback.   

Secretary Pritzker announced the 27 individuals selected to serve on NACIE in October. The members will advise the Secretary of Commerce on issues related to accelerating innovation, expanding entrepreneurship, and developing a globally competitive workforce. Established in 2010, NACIE is supported by the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, housed within the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration. 

Remarks As Prepared for Delivery 

First, I want to thank all of you for agreeing to serve on NACIE. I recognize this effort puts many demands on your time, but we appreciate having the benefit of your experience, know-how, and entrepreneurial spirit.  

I want you to know up front that your work on this Council will have a direct impact on the day to day work of the Department of Commerce and the Administration’s efforts to create the conditions for economic growth. 

As the President’s point person on entrepreneurship, my role is to advance the country’s innovation agenda at home and around the world. While I am proud of the successes we have achieved so far, I know we can do even better. The reality is that we are just skimming the surface of what we can do to make American businesses, individuals, and communities more competitive in the global marketplace. 

This is where you – the people in this room – come in. We need your help to make a real impact. The President has asked me to use your talent and expertise to help guide our country’s economic policy. 

Since the beginning of my time as Secretary, I have made a concerted effort to bring business leaders, academics, and entrepreneurs to the table – to help us identify the challenges and opportunities facing our economy and determine the best possible solutions. Do not underestimate the importance of your voice. You understand the inner workings of our economy better than anyone else. And your concrete recommendations will play a critical role in our Department’s approach to the three key areas of focus for this Council: entrepreneurship, innovation, and industry-driven job skills training. 

On entrepreneurship, the Commerce Department already stands front and center in advancing several new initiatives to strengthen America’s place as the global economic leader. We lead the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship program, which brings together 11 of America’s top entrepreneurs to use their stories and knowledge to mentor and inspire young people and start-ups across our country and around the world; and I recently participated in the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Morocco, where the world’s foremost innovators gathered to exchange best practices, learn from their peers, and hear the stories of successful and inspiring business leaders. 

These efforts are a start, and we clearly need to do more. America has the best ecosystem in the world for supporting new start-ups and business creators, and our entrepreneurial spirit is one of the greatest assets we can share with other nations. 

I need to know from all of you what else we can do. Your experience as innovators and doers is an invaluable resource, and I am looking for concrete actions we can take to move the needle for America’s entrepreneurs. 

On innovation, we must find ways to catalyze the commercialization of our best ideas and inventions. We invest more than $130 billion in research, yet we have still barely scratched the surface in using that research to drive economic growth. Through the Economic Development Administration, we have invested more than $200 million since 2008 to fund incubators and accelerators across the country and spur innovation in our communities. 

One of the best parts of my job is getting to travel around the country, visiting these incubators, and meeting local entrepreneurs – seeing the results of our investments firsthand. I know some of the people in this room have been recipients of these funds, and what I need to know is: What else is needed to turn American ingenuity into economic prosperity? What other support could our Administration provide to help young people and innovators launch new ventures? 

Finally, on workforce development, I am particularly excited that NACIE will focus on the imperative to better train and prepare our workers to meet the needs of business and help them compete in the 21st century economy. 

This issue is personal for me; I have worked on it for many years. My friend Marie Lynch – who is here today – knows this better than anyone else. Marie and I worked together on an organization called Skills for Chicagoland’s Future, which was modeled on national initiative called Skills for America’s Future. Both of these public-private partnerships aimed to help employers find employees who are properly trained for available positions. 

These types of partnerships are happening in communities across the country – whether in South Carolina, Wisconsin, at ASU, or elsewhere. These efforts are absolutely essential to our nation’s prosperity – because we all know that skilled workforce is central to our successful economic future. But they are only part of the solution. 

That is why, for the first time ever, the Department of Commerce has made skills and workforce development a top priority – and why we need your help in identifying innovative solutions. With this Council, we are not looking to duplicate past or ongoing efforts to strengthen our workforce. We are asking you to be our partners in initiating a fundamental change in our DNA – in how our country thinks about educating and training our students and workers. 

Businesses and industry must drive the solutions. And we want to know what we can do to drive a systematic and sustainable shift in our approach to workforce development. We need your ideas and insights into how this Administration can make sure America’s employers have access to the best talent available. 

I am confident that, with your help and guidance, we can make a real difference in each of these three areas. But we must also face the reality of our present time: there is just over two years left in this Administration, and it is imperative that you focus on actionable recommendations – steps that we have a chance to implement right away. 

This does not mean we should only focus on the immediate future. We have a responsibility to lay the foundation for progress in innovation and entrepreneurship for the next President and the next team of leaders at the Department of Commerce. Yet we only have a brief window to begin our work and start implementing your recommendations. We must get the ball rolling right now. 

The intelligence, expertise, and networks represented here are astounding. Let’s use that power to figure out what our economic legacy will be. And let’s ensure that NACIE does its part to keep America open for business. 

Thank you again for your leadership, your commitment, and your time. I look forward to coming back this afternoon to hear your ideas on how NACIE can best make an impact over the next two years, and about the great work we will do together.