Commerce.gov is getting a facelift soon. See the new design.
Syndicate content

Blog Entries from 2011

Chatting with Citizens in Cincinnati about President Obama’s Job Plan

Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank enjoys Graeter's Ice Cream while on a tour with CEO Rich Graeter. Also enjoying the ice cream is Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory.

Guest blog post by Dr. Rebecca Blank, Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

First thing this morning, I’ll be on a plane to Cincinnati to join Mayor Mark Mallory for a visit to Graeter’s Ice Cream, a locally and family owned ice cream company founded in 1870. At Graeter’s, I'll explain the details of President Obama’s American Jobs Act, specifically how it will spur economic growth and accelerate job creation. 

After my tour (and hopefully a sample or two of that ice cream), I will host a White House Business Council roundtable discussion with local business leaders to discuss the jobs plan in further detail, challenges facing America’s business community, ways to improve U.S. economic competitiveness and the help that is available to businesses from agencies across the federal government. 

Before the end of the day, I’ll be sitting down with the editorial board of the Cincinnati Enquirer to answer all their questions about President Obama’s jobs plan.

The American Jobs Act is a set of ideas that have been supported by both Democrats AND Republicans that needs to be passed right away. This plan will put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of working Americans. As the folks in Cincinnati will attest, Americans are working hard each and every day to meet their responsibilities. The only question now is whether Washington will meet its responsibilities. The time for obstruction and gridlock is over. Congress needs to pass the American Jobs Act.

UPDATE: Read Acting Secretary Blank's remarks

EDA’s Smart Investments Generate Returns, Create Job & Economic Growth

Economic Development Agency Logo

This week, President Obama called for more robust job creation measures in his Joint Address to Congress.  To put Americans back to work, we must make smart investments to support the jobs and industries of the future, and that is what the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) does across the country.

As the only government agency with economic development as its sole mission, EDA leads the national bottom-up job creation and growth agenda by promoting American innovation and building strong regional economic ecosystems to accelerate long-term, sustainable economic prosperity. The agency’s investments have two major goals: creating higher-skill, living-wage jobs and attracting private capital investment. Its diverse portfolio of construction, technical assistance, finance, and investment planning assistance are designed to help communities build upon their regional assets to foster job creation and business expansion. 

The agency’s work is generating real returns. Every $1 dollar in EDA grant funding is expected to leverage nearly $7 dollars worth of private investment. In FY 2010, EDA awarded investments that totaled approximately $285 million, excluding supplemental funds. Of this amount, approximately $191.5 million funded construction projects that are expected to help create or retain about 48,500 jobs and generate nearly $6 billion in private investment, according to grantee estimates at the time of the award.

National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration: All Yours for Five Cents a Day

National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) logo

Science plays a pivotal role in our lives every day, stimulating the economy, creating new jobs and improving the health and security of Americans.

And at NOAA all things start — and end — with science. It is the foundation of our work and of the value the agency brings to the American people.

What kind of value are we talking about, in real terms?

For less than 5 cents a day per person, NOAA puts science to work for all Americans by providing essential services such as …

  • Severe weather forecasting, warnings and research;
  • Disaster preparedness, oil spill response and habitat restoration;
  • Seafood safety testing and satellite-aided search and rescue; and
  • Ensuring sustainable fisheries, healthy oceans and resilient coastal communities.

When you consider the portfolio of services, stewardship and information NOAA provides people — decision-makers, emergency managers, fishermen, businesses, state/tribal/local governments and the general public — 5 cents a day has never gone further.  

Commerce Emphasizing Innovation and Efficiency in IT Security Operations

Simon Szyman at pdoium

Guest blog post by Simon Szykman, Chief Information Officer, U.S. Department of Commerce

You missed it! The Department of Commerce's Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) hosted its inaugural Innovating Security Conference to increase knowledge and awareness of various initiatives, exchange information and ideas, and engage in discussions on ways to further protect and strengthen the security posture of the department’s information systems. Facing security threats that are evolving and growing in sophistication, while at the same time anticipating a constrained outlook for the future due to budget pressures, it is imperative for organizations across the department to pursue improvements in both efficiency and effectiveness by examining operations, collaborating on common objectives, improving information sharing, and identifying opportunities to leverage one another’s independent activities.

The two-day conference is one means of moving toward a higher level of efficiency and effectiveness by emphasizing internal collaborations and open dialogue. The conference included participation and invited speakers from Commerce, as well as from other federal agencies and the private sector, in order to leverage their best practices, lessons learned and knowledge in areas related to information system security. In addition to keynote and panel sessions, service offerings of Commerce internal service providers as well as industry vendors were highlighted during the event.

Acting Secretary Blank Celebrates Patent Number 8,000,000, Calls for Congress to Act Swiftly to Pass Patent Reform

Acting Secretary Blank Celebrates Patent Number 8,000,000

Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank and Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) David Kappos today presented patent no. 8 million to Second Sight Medical Products, Inc., for a visual prosthesis apparatus that enhances visual perception for people who have gone blind due to outer retinal degeneration. Following the signing, company President and CEO Robert Greenberg demonstrated the new product, Argus® II. 

The ceremony underscored the critical role the U.S. patent system plays in fostering American innovation and economic competitiveness and comes as Congress is acting to make the most significant reforms to the system in more than half a century. Patent reform legislation currently before Congress – the America Invents Act – will help create new jobs by simplifying the process inventors face for getting a patent, while making the system more transparent and reducing costly and time-consuming litigation. 

The bill is an essential tool to bring the patent system and the USPTO into the 21st century and to continue to unleash the innovation, ingenuity and creativity that has made America the envy of the world. Strong and clear patent rights are especially vital to small and new businesses, which create 2 out of every 3 American jobs. Successful inventors need to secure patent rights to access capital, hire employees and lift their companies off the ground. Put simply, patents are crucial to creating new jobs, new industries and new economic opportunities for Americans.

Specifically, the America Invents Act:

  • Allows the USPTO to set its own fees to recover the actual costs of the services it provides, and keep and reserve those fees exclusively for the USPTO’s use – a major part of ensuring that the agency has sufficient funding; 
  • Enables the USPTO to hire more examiners and bring its IT system into the 21st century so it can process applications more quickly and produce higher quality patents that are less likely to be subject to a court challenge;
  • Decreases the likelihood of expensive litigation because it creates a less costly, in-house administrative alternative to review patent validity claims;  and,
  • Adopts the “first-inventor-to-file” standard as opposed to the current “first-to-invent” standard. First inventor to file is used by the rest of the world, and would be good for U.S. businesses, providing a more transparent and cost-effective process that is consistent with the practices of our economic competitors.

Taken together, the reforms outlined in the America Invents Act create a better architecture for fostering American innovation and accelerating the delivery of innovative goods and services to the marketplace. It also gives the Patent Office the tools and resources it needs to serve America’s innovators by granting high-quality patents in a more timely fashion.

Green Building is Booming in Brazil

Lamb on tour photo

Guest blog post by Nicole Y. Lamb-Hale, Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing and Services, International Trade Administration

“It’s Brazil’s Time!”  I still can hear the clarion call of Rick Fedrizzi, President of the U.S. Green Building Council, from his opening speech during the Green Building Conference Brasil in São Paulo last week.  I was in Brazil to foster expanded commercial ties between Brazilian and American firms in the green building and energy sectors and advance the objectives of the U.S.-Brazil Strategic Energy Dialogue.  For a portion of the trip, I accompanied 14 companies participating in the Department of Commerce-certified, Brazil-U.S. Business Council-organized Trade Mission. These are innovative and forward-thinking small and medium companies interested and ready to export green building products to Brazil.

Fedrizzi also pointed out that Brazil was among the top five countries for LEED certifications, so there is definitely a market opportunity for these companies. It also helps that financing is available for construction of buildings designed to LEED specifications.  Brazil is rushing to get ready for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.

At No Cost to Taxpayers, ITA Helps Veterans Learn a New Career and Local Businesses Benefit

U.S. Department District Director Anne Evans, Congressman Joe Courtney, Andrew Lavery (Military Intern), and Connecticut State Representative Pamela Sawyer

One of the International Trade Administration’s (ITA) key efforts is to strengthen the competitiveness of U.S. industry while promoting trade and investment to ensure that every American who wants a job can find one. This work is done at ITA’s offices and US Export Assistance Centers (USEAC) throughout the United States. The USEAC in Middletown, Connecticut is entirely focused on helping local companies export and create jobs. The office only has two full time employees to meet the needs of the over 2500 Connecticut companies they assist. Even though their staffing levels have decreased in recent years, they are working smarter and are providing 300% more export assistance than 4 years ago.

One of the smarter ways the USEAC is meeting the increasing demands for export programs from their 2500+ clients is to rely on the support of volunteer interns.  These interns provide a valuable service to companies and the office, while learning new skills and a new career. Over the past 2 ½ years many of those interns have been transitioning service members and veterans. Our military interns are mission-focused and exceptional leaders. The Military Internship Program benefits Connecticut exporters and gives back to those who have sacrificed the most for our cherished freedom. The mission is to train our veteran interns in business skills in a business comfortable environment while supporting them in their transition to civilian careers. Upon completion of the program, with our help, each military intern has found full time employment.  At no cost to the taxpayer, companies are getting valuable exporting expertise and veterans are finding new careers in the private sector. This effort fits right into President Obama’s challenged to the private sector to hire or train 100,000 unemployed veterans or their spouses by the end of 2013. Just as many American businesses are finding creative ways to meet their bottom lines, so are the trade specialists in local offices around the country who serve the needs of their clients and provide training to our veterans who have served our country.

Creating Jobs For All Americans

Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Logo

In the 2011 State of the Union address, President Obama asked every American to take steps to ‘Win the Future’ by out-innovating, out-educating and out-building our global competitors.

The Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) of the United States Department of Commerce is the only federal agency tasked to create new jobs by expanding the U.S. economy though the nation’s 5.8 million minority-owned and operated businesses. The minority business community accounts for over $1 trillion in economic output to the nation and provides nearly six million jobs for U.S. citizens.

MBDA experienced record performance in 2010. The Agency created 6,397 new jobs by assisting minority-owned companies in obtaining nearly $4 billion in contracts and capital, an historic high. During the first two years of the Obama Administration, MBDA created nearly 11,000 new jobs and saved tens of thousands of existing jobs while helping minority-owned firms obtain nearly $7 billion in contracts and capital. In FY 2010, MBDA’s Return on Investment (ROI) was 125x, up from 102x in 2009 and from 70x at the end of the prior administration. This speaks to the increased operating efficiency of the agency during this Administration.

MBDA Opens New Business Center in Cleveland

Director Hinson and officials shown with presentation check

Cleveland is the home of the U.S. Commerce Department’s Minority Business Development Agency’s (MBDA) newest business center. On Thursday, Sept. 1, more than 250 people turned out for the Cleveland MBDA Business Center’s grand opening and press conference held at the Wyndham Hotel.

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, (D-Ohio) delivered remarks; and Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson presented a proclamation recognizing the center’s role in the city.

MBDA National Director David Hinson delivered remarks to the crowd, challenging business owners to take advantage of the new opportunities that will be available through the business center in creating access to capital, contracts and markets.

The $1,125,000 five-year federal grant check was presented to center operator Andrew Jackson, Senior V. P. and Executive Director of the Commission on Economic Inclusion, Greater Cleveland Partnership.

Following the open house and tour of the center, a select group of minority business owners and key economic development stakeholders were invited to a White House Business Roundtable, where business owners shared in a candid conversation about their issues and concerns.

Director Hinson challenged business owners to consider what their companies specifically need to create “one more job.”  

MBDA Business Centers assist minority entrepreneurs with strategic business consulting services. Centers work directly with minority business owners and managers at the local level and provide enhanced assistance through MBDA’s national strategic partners, both within the federal government and the private sector.  

The White House's National Science and Technology Council Recognizes NIST and USPTO for Open Innovation Efforts

The White House's National Science and Technology Council Recognized Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for their open innovation efforts [PDF]. NIST's efforts to encourage market transparency and USPTO's leadership in public/private data access have the potential to scale within and across Federal agencies through interagency policy and implementation groups. By leading in this open government initiative, NIST and USPTO set the stage for entrepreneurs to out-innovate our international competitors and win the future.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office was recognized for its efforts in democratizing government data, supporting President Obama's initiatives to usher in a new era in which the gap between the American people and their government would close. USPTO initially faced some problems in its effort to publish its data online in a free and open format. The Office had traditionally been providing data through a paid subscription service. It also didn't have funding for technology to publish information online in an open format that could easily be retrieved, downloaded, indexed and searched by commonly used web search applications.

The USPTO opted to partner with Google in a no-cost agreement in which Google agreed to disseminate USPTO's bulk electronic patent and trademark data to the public at no charge. The electronic data includes images and text of patent grants and published applications, trademark applications, patent classification information and patent and trademark assignments.

In the end, nearly two terabytes of data, representing patent and trademark data back to 1790, is now available to the public free of charge on Google, with some 13GB of new data added weekly.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology also received recognition for its efforts in encouraging market transparency with its ongoing coordination of standards for the Smart Grid, the next-generation U.S power grid currently under development. After being called upon by Congress in 2007 to take responsibility for this task, NIST, in collaboration with the Department of Energy, faced the challenge of ensuring the myriad products and services that could connect to the Smart Grid would be able to operate together seamlessly.