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Blog Entries from July 2011

Public Computer Centers Helping Los Angeles Job Seekers

Sophia Esparza, CEO of Chicana Service Action Center; Anthony Wilhelm, Director of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program at NTIA; Richard Benbow, General Manager of the Community Development Department; and Kev Kazanjian, Project Manager for LA CAN.

Guest blog post by Anthony G. Wilhelm, Director, Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)

Last week I visited a new WorkSource Center Satellite in South Los Angeles, where a Recovery Act investment by NTIA has funded 25 new computer stations that community members seeking jobs can use. Coupled with hands-on assistance and career counseling from trained personnel, this investment is creating economic opportunities in a neighborhood where poverty and unemployment rates are unacceptably high.  All told, NTIA’s $7.5 million grant to the City of Los Angeles for its Computer Access Network (LA CAN) project–part of a $4 billion Recovery Act investment to expand broadband access and adoption in communities nationwide–will upgrade more than 180 public computer centers in some of the city’s neediest neighborhoods.

The WorkSource Center Satellite is located with the Chicana Service Action Center, whose CEO, Sophia Esparza, told me how the project is preparing job seekers, not for yesterday’s jobs, but for the “green jobs” of the future. Customers, including returning veterans and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients, are benefiting from strong partnerships between the city and local employers to place solar installers, energy auditors, lead green technicians and electrical auto technicians into well-paying jobs. The center expects to serve about 150,000 jobseekers annually.

The project team illustrated for me how the Center is helping unemployed residents transition to the workplace. In recent months, for instance, a 51-year-old man who was receiving food stamps came to the Center in desperate need of a job. After attending workshops on basic computer literacy, resume writing and interview skills, he is now working as a sales representative and looking forward to his first pay raise. Another example: a 25-year-old single mother of two, who never held a permanent job and relied solely on government assistance, attended workshops and received one-on-one support from the Center. She is now employed as a data entry clerk. For many adults, free computer training can be a life-changing experience.

In fact, the LA CAN team is so committed to ensuring this Recovery Act investment benefits residents right away that they have found creative ways to accelerate the project schedule, aiming to finish ahead of their original plan. They know that to bring their community the jobs of the future, the community needs broadband access today.

Green Buildings, Green Jobs: A Closer Look at the Clean Energy Economy

Image of covered walkway (iStock photo)

Guest blog by Andrew Bennett, International Trade Specialist and Smart Grid Industry Analyst at Commerce's International Trade Administration in the Office of Energy and Environmental Industries.

With the Department of Commerce focused on winning the future and driving the president’s vision for a growing clean energy economy, it’s good to see early results from these efforts in the form of the green jobs of today. Green Buildings is a key sector where we’re laying the foundations for the green jobs of the future.

Last month, Siemens USA announced 400 new positions across 39 states in its green technologies division, which is focused on helping cities across the country reduce energy costs through the implementation of a host of green building technology systems.

Meanwhile, in Baltimore, MTC Logistics is working with Virginia-based solar energy services provider HelioSage and Southern Energy Management, a green building services company from North Carolina, to build one of the largest roof mounted solar installations in the state of Maryland.

These ambitious green building projects not only create jobs, they also drive innovation, cut costs for businesses and government and help achieve important environmental benefits.

Broadband Investment in Massachusetts Paving Way for Jobs of the Future

Anna M. Gomez with Mass. State Senator Ben Downing and Governor Deval Patrick at the MassBroadband 123 kick-off in Sandisfield, Mass.

Guest blog post by Anna M. Gomez, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and Deputy Administrator, NTIA

This week construction began on a fiber-optic network that will bring broadband Internet service to more than 120 communities in western and north central Massachusetts. Thanks in large part to a $45.4 million Recovery Act investment from NTIA, the project will help residents and businesses in these underserved parts of the state to better compete in today’s knowledge-based economy.

On Tuesday, I joined state and local officials, members of the project team at the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (a state-created organization that is our grantee), businesses, and others in the community to discuss the initiative, called MassBroadband 123. It will deploy broadband service to nearly 1,400 community anchor institutions, including schools, community colleges, libraries, healthcare providers, and public safety facilities – like the Sandisfield Fire Station where we met, and whose fire chief has emphasized the importance of up-to-date technology for keeping residents safe.

NOAA: Cultivating the Next Generation of STEM Workers, One Student at a Time

NOAA’s Ernest F. Hollings scholarship program students on Chesapeake Bay field study  (NOAA photo)

You’ve probably heard the term in the news of late. “STEM jobs” in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, are the new “It” jobs.

A report from Commerce’s Economics and Statistics Administration discussed recently in this blog had good news for present and future STEM workers. Among its key findings, the report notes that in the past 10 years:

  • Growth in STEM jobs was three times greater than that of non-STEM jobs;
  • STEM workers earn 26 percent more than their non-STEM counterparts; and
  • Job growth in these fields will continue to grow at a faster rate than other jobs. 

As the report confirms, STEM workers are driving our nation’s innovation and competitiveness and helping America “win the future” with new ideas, new businesses and new industries.

Enter Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

NOAA’s mission—to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts, to share that knowledge and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources—is central to many of today’s greatest challenges.  

Why? Climate change, extreme weather, declining biodiversity, and threatened natural resources all convey a common message: Now, more than ever, human health, prosperity and well-being depend upon the health and resilience of both natural and social ecosystems and resources.

That means we need skilled hands and inspired minds to help society prepare for and respond to weather-related events, to sustain healthy and productive ecosystems and to ensure resilient coastal communities and economies.

Standards Boost Business: Competing in a 21st Century Economy

Standards Boost Business logo

Guest blog post from S. Joe Bhatia, President and CEO, American National Standards Institute

From alternative energy and nanotechnology to electric vehicles, vast opportunities for U.S. innovation and economic growth are developing in new and expanding industry sectors. As the U.S. ramps up its efforts to create jobs for the 21st century economy, there is an incredibly powerful tool at hand that can help U.S. industry tap into these technologies and out-innovate competitors in the global market.

I’m talking about standardization – and there has never been a better time for American businesses to leverage standards and conformance to gain a powerful trade advantage. Standardization not only informs the direction of innovation, it impacts the strength of the American workforce. Standards have the potential to accelerate the idea-to-market cycle, increase the number of U.S. products and services, and save companies millions of dollars. In short, standards have the power to turbo-charge innovation and fuel business growth.

That’s why the U.S. standardization community has launched the Standards Boost Business outreach initiative – to help companies understand the strategic and economic value of standards to business and to our overall national competitiveness.

Acting Deputy Secretary Blank Meets with Business Leaders in Michigan, Stresses Value of Science and Innovation to Job Creation

Acting Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank and the BathyBoat

This week Commerce’s Acting Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank traveled to Ann Arbor, Mich., to visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory and meet with area business leaders as part of the White House Business Council Roundtable series. Engaging with local leaders, Blank discussed the region’s economic assets, challenges, and what can be done on local, state and national levels to boost economic growth and job creation throughout Michigan.

Senior administration officials across the federal government have participated in several business roundtables around the country to keep in touch with Main Street and hear from those who are doing the innovating and hiring that support our nation’s economy.

At the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, Blank addressed a Science Advisory Board meeting focused on Great Lakes research being conducted at two NOAA facilities. She highlighted the department’s recent release of a report profiling U.S. employment in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math – or STEM – and stressed the importance of supporting the next generation of scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs and the broad scope of work that organizations like NOAA do that are critically important to U.S. social and economic welfare.

The President has made a substantial commitment to furthering innovation and education in the STEM fields by setting a goal of investing 3 percent of our GDP in research and development and moving American students to the top of the pack internationally.  The President’s 2012 budget included a $206 million commitment toward STEM training and related programs – an investment that will pay off not just for students but for the country.

MBDA Helps Minority-Owned Businesses Win the Future

Workers installing solar panels on reservation building

Commerce's Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) is enabling job creation and growth within minority-owned companies as they expand through innovation and untapped resources. MBDA has 50 business development centers and regional offices throughout the country and is preparing to open its newest business center in Cleveland, Ohio, in September to continue to create an environment for support, technical training and access to capital, contracts and to markets for business owners there.

Knowing that many jobs of the 21st century will be in clean and renewable energy, green technology, and Healthcare IT, the MBDA Business Centers are reaching out to minority-owned firms so they can expand into those new areas and keep communities strong and workers employed.

For example, MBDA client Sacred Power Corporation Inc. based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is a Native-American-owned renewable and distributive energy manufacturer. Sacred Power operates on the principle that “the world in which we live can change its current direction and dependence on polluting energy sources and convert to renewable technologies that provide clean, long-term solutions to today’s energy problems.”

Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security Annual Update Conference Focuses on Export Control Reform

Conference logo

White House Chief of Staff and former Commerce Secretary William Daley delivered the keynote address to the Bureau of Industry and Security's 24th Annual Update Conference on Export Controls and Policy. Mr. Daley and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, who also addressed the conference, both highlighted the administration’s continued priority for the Export Control Reform Initiative as a national security imperative.  In his remarks, Under Secretary of Commerce for Industry and Security Eric Hirschhorn emphasized that the call for export reform by President Obama and Secretary Locke is real and long overdue.

 “The Obama administration’s commitment to export control reform reflects an overriding national security imperative. The current system—based on Cold War-era laws, policies, practices, and controls—is not responsive to current threats and emerging challenges of the twenty-first century. The administration launched ECR to rectify these shortcomings and to increase U.S. security and competitiveness.”

The annual Update Conference discusses reforms to the U.S. export control system that will strengthen national security and improve the competitiveness of key U.S. manufacturing and technology sectors.  White House statement

U.S. Seaports Join ITA in New Partnership to Increase Exports

Department of Commerce and American Association of Port Authorities sign memorandum of intent

Guest blog post by Francisco Sánchez, U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade

Just this week I traveled to the Port of Oakland to launch a new and exciting partnership.  The International Trade Administration (ITA) and the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) have entered into a new partnership to promote exports. During an event hosted by the Port of Oakland, Kurt Nagle, President of the AAPA and I signed a joint memorandum of intent to collaborate to help expand the reach of our export education efforts. This effort supports the National Export Initiative, President Obama’s goal of doubling exports by 2014. 

This was my first visit to the Port of Oakland and it is very memorable. The Port is the primary point of exit for exports from Northern California and its agricultural industries. Notably, it is the largest U.S. export port for wines handling over 52 percent of all U.S. wine exports (by value) in 2010.

On top of that, Oakland is the third-largest U.S. West Coast port for containers.  It is the United States’ 17th-largest export port overall and Oakland is one of the few U.S. seaports whose exports exceed their imports; nearly fifty-five percent of Oakland’s total cargo tonnage is exports. 

U.S. seaports are a critical conduit for most U.S. merchandise trade, with more than $455 billion in exports flowing through America’s sea ports in 2010.

Jobs of the Future Today

Logo for WET Center

Guest blog post by John Fernandez, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development

The U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is investing to create the jobs of the future today. 

In Fresno, California, for example, EDA provided $1.9 million to help the Central Valley Business Incubator, Inc. (CVBI) build the Claude Laval Water and Energy Technology (WET) Incubator located on the campus of Cal State Fresno.  This vital incubator provides start-ups access to active research within the university’s labs and state of the art facilities to advance cutting edge research in the use of water to support the agricultural sector while helping grow small businesses.

Since opening their doors four years ago in 2007, WET has helped create and sustain over 15 start-ups that are developing water and energy technology innovations. They are generating real returns, creating hundreds of new jobs for Central Californians and spurring $17 million in private sector investment to help fuel the nation’s economy. One of WET’s graduates recently sold its business for $30 million.

Startups and entrepreneurs like these bring an unparalleled wealth of transformative innovations to market, especially over the past three decades — think of everything from the airplane to the automobile to Amazon.com.  These small businesses are tackling the nation’s challenges in clean energy, medicine, national security, and other fields. They will build the leading industries and jobs of the 21st century.