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Blog Entries from September 2011

Spotlight on Commerce: Francisco J. Sánchez, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade

Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Francisco J. SÁnchez Cutting a Ribbon at Trade Show in 2011

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.

Francisco J. Sánchez is the Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade.

I consider myself a lucky guy. 

Every day, I have the privilege of serving the American people as the Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade.  It is a tremendous honor to be able to give back to a country that has given so much to me.

My story is the American story.  My grandparents and father were immigrants from Spain; they believed in the American Dream, and worked hard to achieve it. 

We lived in Tampa, Florida.  Growing up, I learned a lot of lessons that serve me well today.  Through my father, who used to run a candy factory in Spain, I was able to learn how important small- and medium-sized businesses are to a community’s development.  My mother worked as the Director of one of the first Head Start programs in the country.  She wanted all children to get the best possible start in life and dedicated her time to helping others.  That’s why she is my hero.

Building a 21st Century Patent and Trademark Office

Director Kappos takes questions while at the Brookings Institute

Today, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) David Kappos addressed the Brookings Institution’s Center for Technology Innovation, outlining how comprehensive patent reform, signed into law by President Obama two weeks ago today, impacts American innovation, American jobs and American leadership. Representing the most significant overhaul of the U.S. patent system in a generation, the America Invents Act (AIA) transforms how patents are obtained, challenged, and valued in acquisition, licensing, and litigation settlement discussions.

In the centuries since the first patent examiner—Thomas Jefferson—reviewed and granted the first U.S. patent, our nation has observed sweeping revolutions in the pace of innovation—but with no comprehensive legislative adjustment in patent policy.

By building out the world’s only 21st century Patent and Trademark Office, equipped to manage the demands of a globalized economy, this new law enables a better resourced USPTO to grant intellectual property rights with greater speed, greater quality, greater clarity and greater enforceability. It also advances the President’s overall strategy of deploying American innovation to build businesses and build jobs.

Acting Secretary Blank Addresses Minority-Owned Businesses about the Importance of the American Jobs Act

Acting Secretary Blank Addresses MED Week 2011

This morning Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank addressed the 29th Annual Minority Enterprise Development Week Conference about the importance of Congress passing the American Jobs Act. Dr. Blank emphasized that the American Jobs Act will help a private sector in need of a little boost. It will create jobs. It will prevent the layoffs of teachers and first responders. And it will rebuild the roads, railways and airports that form the very backbone of Commerce. 

She noted that the Obama Administration knows government can’t solve all the problems facing our country. What it can do is help lay a foundation for growth and create smart incentives for minority entrepreneurs and all American businesses to build something special on top of that foundation.

As part of this commitment to business and job growth, among the programs the administration has created are:

  • The Startup America Initiative, which connects established private sector mentors to innovative entrepreneurs;
  • The Small Business Jobs Act, which is providing billions of dollars in lending support and tax cuts for small businesses;
  • The $33 million Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge to drive job growth through public-private partnerships in regions around the country, and we’re pleased to note that three MBDA centers were among the winners.
  • The National Export Initiative, which Commerce leads, is aimed at connecting small and medium sized enterprises with the 95 percent of the world’s consumer who live outside our border and doubling U.S. exports by 2015; and,
  • New aggressive steps by federal agencies, which are the nation’s largest purchaser of goods and services, to improve contracting with small businesses, including minority-owned firms.

The goal is simple. It is to improve the overall competitiveness of American business at home and abroad.

Spotlight on Commerce: Angela M. Manso, Chief of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs, U.S. Census Bureau

Portrait of Angela Manso

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.

Angela M. Manso is Chief of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs at the U.S. Census Bureau

As Chief of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs at the U.S. Census Bureau, I serve as the primary advisor to the Director of the Bureau regarding congressional and intergovernmental matters. 

I am one of three political appointees at the Census Bureau and one of nearly 15 Hispanic appointees at the U.S. Department of Commerce.  Growing up in the working class neighborhood of Villa Palmeras in Santurce, Puerto Rico, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would work for the President of the United States. 

While living with my grandmother, who read the paper and watched the evening news daily, I developed a healthy interest in current and foreign affairs.  The news reported about civil wars, dictatorships and coups happening all over Latin America and the Caribbean, and I couldn’t get enough of it.  I wanted to understand why these things were occurring and I haven’t stopped since. 

Manufacturing Council Ensuring We Build It In America

Acting Secretary Blank Chairs the 5th Manufacturing Council Meeting

Let’s build it in America.

That’s what we’ve done for generations.  And today, the private sector members of the Manufacturing Council had the opportunity to meet with Acting Secretary Blank, Under Secretary Sánchez, Assistant Secretary Lamb-Hale and others from the federal government to continue the discussion on how to enhance our global competitiveness and make the important investments necessary to ensure American manufacturers and communities across the country can continue to innovate here, manufacture here and have the skilled workforce they need to do it.

The Council and the team at Commerce and within the Obama administration are committed to helping businesses invest, grow and create jobs in America. We are tackling head-on the issues that the manufacturing industry, through the Council, have identified as most important. Some of these issues are a comprehensive energy strategy, passage of the trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panamaworkforce development initiatives and tax and regulatory matters.

And, we’re making progress. Today, Secretary Blank discussed the American Jobs Act with the Council, highlighting, in particular, the pieces on infrastructure investment, the extension of 100% business expensing and payroll tax holidays that the Council has addressed.

And, we’re also making strides toward connecting the key players in these areas so they join forces. The Council is working with Skills for America’s Future, Change the Equation, the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness and the Departments of Labor and Education to look at concrete next steps to address the workforce issues. The Commerce Department, along with partner agencies, announced the winners of our i6 Green Challenge. These winners will have the ability to leverage resources from five federal agencies to take their clean technology innovations and bring them to market.

Obama Administration Announces $12 Million i6 Green Investment to Promote Clean Energy Innovation and Job Creation

Map of all the i6 Green Investments

U.S. Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank today joined the Obama administration in announcing a national initiative leveraging resources of five federal agencies to advance clean technology commercialization. Six winners were announced today of the i6 Green Challenge, an initiative to drive technology commercialization and entrepreneurship in support of a green innovation economy, increased U.S. competitiveness and new jobs.

Projects in Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, New England and Washington will each receive up to $1 million from the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) and up to $6 million in additional funding and technical assistance from the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Science Foundation, and Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Winning i6 Green applicants will support emerging technology-based businesses as they mature and demonstrate their market potential, making them more attractive to investors and helping entrepreneurs turn their ideas and innovations into businesses.

First announced at the White House launch of Startup America in January, i6 Green follows last year’s inaugural i6 Challenge, which focused on accelerating high-growth entrepreneurship in the United States. This year's competition focuses on promoting Proof of Concept Centers methodologies, which support all aspects of the entrepreneurship process, from assisting with technology feasibility and business plan development, to providing access to early-stage capital and mentors that can offer critical guidance to innovators.  Release

NIST: In Unique Fire Tests, Outdoor Decks Will Be Under Firebrand Attack

Image of fiery NIST "dragon" (© DVARG/Shutterstock)

Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will unleash its Dragon—a NIST invention that bellows showers of glowing embers, or firebrands—at a unique wind tunnel test facility in Japan, where researchers will evaluate the vulnerability of outdoor deck assemblies and materials to ignition during wildfires, a growing peril that accounts for half of the nation’s 10 most costly fires.

In a new report, NIST researchers summarize suggestions for test designs and objectives offered by experts at a recent workshop convened in Los Angeles, Calif., with support from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and input from the Office of the California State Fire Marshal. This input is now being formalized into plans for experiments that will be conducted in early 2012 at Japan’s Building Research Institute (BRI) in Tsukuba.

There, NIST and Japanese researchers have merged two technologies, NIST’s Firebrand Generator (the “Dragon”) and BRI’s Fire Research Wind Tunnel Facility, which is devoted to studies of how wind influences fire. The combination gives them the singular capability to replicate a firebrand attack and expose structures to wind-driven showers of embers under experimentally controlled conditions.  NIST TechBeat story  |  Video clip of the "NIST Dragon"

Spotlight on Commerce: Anna M. Gomez, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and Deputy Administrator, NTIA

Photo of two outside

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.

Anna Gomez is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and the Deputy Administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

As Deputy Administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, I serve essentially as the Chief Operating Officer of the agency. Though much of my time is spent on management, I also work on public policy, especially the challenges of expanding broadband Internet use in underserved communities and improving communications for the nation’s first responders. I am honored to play a role in addressing issues that are so vital to our nation’s safety and economic future. 

My career path began early. I was born in the United States but spent most of my childhood in Bogota, Colombia, where my father’s family lives. I knew since childhood that I would one day become a lawyer because my mother always told me so. (I would like to think that she recognized in me a precocious talent for logic and deduction, but she was actually commenting on my willingness to argue a point!) I returned to the United States as a teen and did indeed go to law school. I am glad that I did because the law is a good foundation for a career in public service, though it is certainly not mandatory.

$102 Million in Wetlands and Barrier Island Restoration Awards for Louisiana

Acting Secretary Blank Announces $102 Million in Wetlands and Barrier Island Restoration Awards for Louisiana Photo Credit: Tracie Morris Schaefer

Earlier today, Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank announced $102 million for three Louisiana projects in the Barataria and Terrebone basins, to restore deteriorated wetlands and barrier island habitats along the state’s coast. These awards are funded by the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) program.  U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Director Garret Graves and Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Project Director Bobby Guichet also participated in the announcement.

Great Lakes Dredge & Dock and Weeks Marine have been contracted to restore beach, dune and marsh on Pelican Island in Plaquemines Parish, and West Belle Pass barrier headland in Lafourche Parish, respectively. The state of Louisiana will receive the third award to rebuild marsh and construct an 11,000-foot long protective ridge in the Bayou Dupont area in Jefferson Parish. The three projects will employ local citizens and generate further economic benefits for local businesses and coastal communities.

At the event, Blank also outlined help the American Jobs Act would provide Louisiana – putting people to work and boosting businesses. The plan would provide a significant new tax cut for small businesses, make major reforms to unemployment insurance to help get more Americans back on the job, and it would put more money in the pockets of Americans by reducing payroll taxes paid by workers.

The Jobs Act would complement the coastal restoration work funded by the awards announced by Blank today.

Spotlight on Commerce: William A. Ramos, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs

Spotlight on Commerce: William A. Ramos, Director of 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.

William A. Ramos is the Director of Intergovernmental Affairs

As Director of Intergovernmental Affairs in the Office of the Secretary, I have the privilege to serve President Obama and the Department of Commerce Secretary promoting their policies, programs and initiatives with state and local elected officials as it relates to the 12 bureaus within the department.  In a city where politics and government looks inward toward Capitol Hill, I have the unique opportunity to look toward the 50 states and five territorial capitals, the 3,068 counties, and thousands of cities, townships and villages and their governmental associations.  From the 2010 Decennial Census, promoting the National Export Initiative, to NOAA’s work with governors and mayors and everything in between, the work with these elected and appointed officials is important to the President, the Secretary and to our nation. 

I do this work with the assistance and collaboration of 12 very dedicated Bureau Directors of Intergovernmental Affairs, who stand ready to assist state/local and territorial officials and their staffs to improve the understanding of the Department of Commerce’s critical work across the country and around the world by conducting outreach and education activities.

Prior to my appointment to the Obama Administration, I was Director of the Washington, DC office of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund, leading a team that represented NALEO’s mission of empowering Latinos to fully participate in the American political process by advocating on Capitol Hill and the Administration on policy issues related to immigration, naturalization, the Census, voting rights protection and representation in the administration.  I began my career at ASPIRA of Florida, a youth leadership development organization, and have worked in governmental relations with America’s Promise – The Alliance for Youth and the YMCA of the USA here in Washington, DC.  I was also the Director of Policy and Legislation for a Miami-Dade County Commissioner.