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Blog Entries from May 2011

Digital Literacy Initiative Aims to Help Americans Build Online Skills

Guest blog post by Anneesh Chopra, White House Chief Technology Officer, and Lawrence E. Strickling, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information at the Department of Commerce

Today, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke launched DigitalLiteracy.gov, a new online portal to help Americans find jobs and obtain the 21st century skills being sought by today’s employers.

The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) developed DigitalLiteracy.gov in partnership with nine Federal agencies, with the goal of creating an online hub for librarians, educators, and other digital literacy practitioners to share content and best practices. Through DigitalLiteracy.gov, NTIA is making available to all Americans the methods for improving broadband adoption that are being developed by Recovery Act projects.

Secretary Locke Announces Digital Literacy Initiative

Secretary Locke Announces DigitalLiteracy.Gov

Locke visits Recovery Act-funded public computer center in Baltimore, unveils new website to improve computer and Internet skills in America

At a public computing center in Baltimore, Md., today, Secretary Gary Locke announced a digital literacy initiative that works to expand economic and educational opportunities in America. Locke was joined by U.S. Senators Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD) and Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) to unveil www.DigitalLiteracy.gov, a new website that provides libraries, community colleges, schools and workforce training centers with a variety of resources and tools for teaching computer and Internet skills, which are increasingly important to success in today’s global economy.

Prior to the unveiling, Locke and the senators toured a computer lab and saw first-hand how people in the Baltimore community are using this new website to find free training resources on a range of digital literacy topics at various skill levels, including assistance in searching for and applying to jobs online.

“In a globalized, 21st ccentury economy, when you don’t have regular access to the high-speed Internet – and the skills to use it – your education, business, and employment opportunities are narrowed,” Locke said. “The tools we are unveiling today will help more Americans gain valuable job skills and augment the Recovery Act investments we are making to expand broadband access and adoption nationwide.”  Press release  |  Fact sheet

Learn more and see how you can enhance your digital literacy at www.DigitalLiteracy.gov.

Spotlight on Commerce: Gary Locke, Secretary of Commerce

Secretary Locke Addresses the Committee of 100

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of winning the future through their work.

Gary Locke is the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

As we continue to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islanders Heritage Month, it is important for us to reflect on our past – the difficulties we had growing up in immigrant families, the accomplishments our community has achieved and the barriers we still need to knock down.

Being an Asian American now is certainly different from when I was growing up.  In the Ozzie and Harriet era in which I was born, I thought I had to choose between being Chinese and being American.  I remembered that most mornings, my grade school teacher would ask us what we had for breakfast.  If we had eaten anything that was considered “un-American” – in my case, it was the rice porridge with fish and vegetables that my mother gave me – my teacher would slap our hands with a ruler. 

When I was young, I constantly struggled between my desire to be more “American” and my parents’ attempt to make me more “Chinese”.  It took the civil rights movement to teach me that I could be both Chinese and American.  I could be Chinese-American.  I could be myself.  I could be loyal and patriotic to the Star-Spangled Banner and still eat with chopsticks. 

Commerce’s EDA Launches New Website to Accelerate Regional Innovation

The Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) today announced the launch of a new website designed to connect Venture Development Organizations (VDOs) in America’s regions to accelerate economic development efforts that promote growth and job creation. The Regional Innovation Acceleration Network (RIAN) will bring VDOs together to share best practices and leverage resources that will strengthen regional economic ecosystems. 

Speaking at the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Southwest Region Conference on Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Albuquerque, N.M., Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development John Fernandez made the announcement, noting “The Regional Innovation Acceleration Network builds on President Obama’s national innovation agenda by bringing Venture Development Organizations within America’s regions together to help increase business development and competitiveness.  Across the nation, these organizations are helping to grow local economies and create jobs, and this new network will enhance their impact and efficiency.”  EDA press release

Commerce's Chief Economist: ESA Releases Report on 'U.S. Trade in Private Services'

Report on “U.S. Trade in Private Services.”

Guest blog post by the Department of Commerce's Chief Economist Mark Doms.

Today the Commerce Department and ESA released a brief report on “U.S. Trade in Private Services.” The report (PDF) shows that the United States has consistently run a record services trade surplus that is driving overall exports growth and topped half a trillion dollars in 2010.

Most of the time when you hear about trade, it is about trade in goods, in part because it is easier to wrap our minds around the idea of goods (pictures of large container ships help, and we often notice the markings on products that note where they were made).  However, the United States exports a sizable amount of services (non-tangible items of value, such as school tuition or an airplane ticket), and they are leading the way toward doubling U.S. exports in support of several million new jobs under President Obama’s National Export Initiative.

A few reasons why greater emphasis should be placed on our trade in services: 

  1. Services make up a big part of the economy: 80 percent or so depending on how you define it.
  2. In 2010, we exported over a half trillion dollars (wow) of services, an all-time high.
  3. The trade surplus in services in 2010 topped $526.6 billion. 
  4. Services jobs represent high-skill, high-wage jobs.
  5. From 2002-2008, our private services exports grew at an annual average rate of 11.1 percent.
  6. Many services are “tradable”, especially in today’s increasingly globalized world: legal services can be traded, computer services can be traded, engineering services, medical services, etc.
  7. Exports of services are likely to show continued growth, taking advantage of the skill of the U.S. workforce and supporting living-wage U.S. jobs. 

Cross-posted at ESA's blog.

Secretary Locke Attends Productive Meetings During the Third Meeting of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue

Secretary Locke and Chinese Minister of Commerce, Chen Deming, Pose For a Photo During Their Meeting

On Monday and Tuesday, Secretary Locke, along with Secretary Clinton and Geithner, engaged with their Chinese counterparts at the third meeting of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. Since becoming Commerce secretary, Locke has played a key role in the Obama administration’s efforts to improve the commercial environment in China and open up its markets for U.S. businesses. Locke, who co-chaired two sessions of the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, led a clean energy trade mission to China and Indonesia in May 2010 and accompanied President Obama on his visit to China in November 2009, has worked to level the playing field for U.S. businesses and promoted American-made products and services in the Chinese market, in order to create good-paying American jobs and advance President Obama’s National Export Initiative. 

On Monday, Secretary Locke attended the opening session with Vice President Joe Biden and participated in both the economic and strategic track sessions of the Dialogue.  During the meetings, Locke discussed top U.S. government priorities regarding China, including transparency, intellectual property rights protection and China’s policies toward its state-owned enterprises and national champions.  He spoke about prospects of cooperation with China on issues related to marine living resources, ocean policies and environmental protection.

On Tuesday, Locked hosted a meeting with Chinese Minister of Commerce Chen Deming to continue their ongoing engagement to strengthen U.S.-China commercial relations. In the afternoon, he joined Secretaries Clinton and Geithner in a small group lunch at the Blair House with U.S. and Chinese CEOs and business leaders to engage the business communities of both countries and discuss ways to improve the U.S.-China economic relationship.

MBDA National Director Highlights Opportunities for Partnerships as a Global Growth Strategy at London Symposium

David Hinson, Director of MBDA

The Commerce Department’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) National Director David A. Hinson traveled to London this week to discuss mergers and acquisitions as a global growth strategy for middle-market minority businesses. At the Third Global Merger & Acquisition Symposium: The New Economics for the Private Middle Market, Hinson explained that minority-owned businesses offer international investors above average return prospects and a powerful market entry vehicle into the United States and other countries.

“Within every market there are hidden and often undervalued opportunities that support both market entry and the potential for outsized profit,” Hinson said. “One of these hidden opportunities within the United States is called the minority business community.”

The U.S. minority business community represents $1 trillion of U.S. economic output, and if measured against the size of countries around the world, it would be the 17th richest nation. The minority business sector has also shown the greatest growth dynamics in the U.S. economy in terms of gross receipts, growing at 56 percent based on the latest Census Bureau data.

Now totaling 5.8 million, minority-owned companies in the United States have over $2.46 trillion in total annual purchasing power.

“Partnering with a U.S. minority-owned firm and leveraging not just the firm’s U.S. market presence but the “Made in America” brand can be a winning proposition for a new entrant to a foreign market.”

Spotlight on Commerce: Victoria Tung, Associate Director for Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs

Victoria Tung, Associate Director for Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of winning the future through their work.

Victoria Tung is the Associate Director for Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs and Senior Advisor on Asian American and Pacific Islander Affairs.

In my role, I advise Secretary Locke and our Assistant Secretaries on legislative issues and congressional relations, as well as outreach to state and local government. I manage these efforts and the Department’s relationships with eight congressional committees of jurisdiction across my portfolio, which includes economic development, census/economic analysis, minority business development, innovation and entrepreneurship and recovery act implementation.  Additionally, I advise Secretary Locke on Asian American and Pacific Islander issues and am working closely with the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to increase access to and participation in federal programs for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI).

Today, and throughout this entire month, we commemorate the courage and contributions of early Asian American and Pacific Islanders who journeyed to the United States, set up lives here against unbelievable odds and laid out roots for future generations.  I know that I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for my great grandparents and grandparents who left China after the war in search of a better life for our family in America.  Their strength and perseverance continues to inspire me and is the story of many Asian American families in this country.  During Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we honor the pioneers, the laborers, the veterans, the entrepreneurs, the trailblazers and the families – all who worked hard to open the doors of opportunity to a new generation.

Plato, Mo. Celebrates Recognition as the 2010 Census U.S. Center of Population

In the photo are (left to right) Dr. Robert Groves, Juliana Blackell & Bob Biram  - Village Chairman.

Townspeople, elected representatives, government officials and hundreds of students today celebrated the naming of Plato, Mo., as the 2010 Census U.S. center of population. Amid music, speeches, banners and cheers, village chairman Bob Biram welcomed the crowd, saying, “We’re proud of our village. As one of our students said, ‘we were in the middle of nowhere; now we are in the middle of everywhere.’"

At the event, U.S. Census Bureau Director Robert Groves and Juliana Blackwell, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Geodetic Survey, revealed a survey disc, commemorating the national center of population as calculated by the Census Bureau and measured by the National Geodetic Survey.

Each decade after tabulating the decennial census, the Census Bureau calculates the mean center of population for the country, as well as for each state and county. The national center of population is determined as the place where an imaginary, flat, weightless and rigid map of the United States would balance perfectly if all 308,745,538 residents counted in the 2010 Census were of identical weight.  Press release

NIST’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership Delivers Results

Program Helps Create and Retain Jobs, Generating $32 in Sales for Every $1 Spent

Today’s release of the latest employment statistics from the Department of Labor—244,000 jobs added in April—makes you wonder, where did these jobs come from? While we know most jobs are created by the private sector, government agencies often do have a role in fostering this job creation.  The Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program at the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology has done just that. 

As a public-private partnership, MEP delivers a high return on its investments to American taxpayers. In 2009, MEP helped businesses create or retain 72,075 jobs, and for every one dollar of federal investment, generated $32 in new sales growth (PDF). This return on investment translates to $3.6 billion in new sales annually among MEP clients. And for every $1,570 in federal investment, MEP creates or retains one manufacturing job. Such impressive results come from a survey of MEP clients by private marketing firm Turner Marketing, Inc.

How did MEP achieve such a large return on its investments?  First, a little history.  Congress established MEP in 1988 to help small- and mid-sized manufacturers increase growth, cut costs, and create innovative new products and services.  NIST, the federal partner in MEP, works with local and regional manufacturing experts across the United States to build a nationwide network of resources for America’s manufacturers.  Several dozen NIST staff leverage over 1,400 technical experts across the nation in every state, focused on solving manufacturers’ biggest challenges and identifying opportunities for growth.