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Blog Entries from 2011

President Obama Names Commerce Secretary John Bryson as Co-Chair of White House Office of Manufacturing Policy

President Obama today announced that Secretary John Bryson would join National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling as co-chair of the White House Office of Manufacturing Policy. The Office of Manufacturing Policy is part of the National Economic Council in the White House and works across federal government agencies to coordinate the execution of manufacturing programs and the development of manufacturing policy.

“At this make or break time for the middle class and our economy, we need a strong manufacturing sector that will put Americans back to work making products stamped with three proud words: Made in America,” said President Obama. “I am grateful that Secretary Bryson and Gene Sperling will head up this office to continue our efforts to revitalize this great American industry and fight for American workers and jobs.”

“John Bryson brings to this role decades of business leadership, a passion for manufacturing, and a strong understanding of its importance for jobs and our nation's economic competitiveness. He will play a key leadership role for the president and his economic team on these critical issues,” said Gene Sperling.

“Supporting the manufacturing sector will further our ability to innovate at home and compete around the world while generating more high-wage American jobs,” Secretary Bryson said. “Since day one, President Obama has been focused on supporting the entire United States manufacturing sector but especially small- and medium-sized businesses on the cutting edge of advanced manufacturing. We are introducing an ‘all hands on deck’ approach that coordinates all of our assets - public and private, federal, state, and regional.”

The White House Office of Manufacturing Policy will convene Cabinet-level meetings to aggressively implement the administration’s priority manufacturing initiatives. Release

Census Bureau Releases Most Up-to-Date Statistics for Every Community Nationwide

Data collected from the American Community Survey are used by transportation planners to improve roads and modes of transportation and reduce traffic congestion

The U.S. Census Bureau today released findings from the American Community Survey — the most relied-on source for detailed, up-to-date socio-economic statistics covering every community in the nation every year — for the combined years from 2006 to 2010.

Consisting of about 11 billion individual estimates and covering more than 670,000 distinct geographies, the five-year estimates give even the smallest communities timely information on more than 40 topics, such as educational attainment, income, occupation, commuting to work, language spoken at home, nativity, ancestry and selected monthly homeowner costs.

“These estimates are ideal for public officials to use to make key decisions,” Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said. “School boards will find them helpful in forecasting demand for classroom space, teachers and workforce training programs, and they will be a tremendous asset to planners in identifying traffic concerns and building roads and transit systems to ease commutes. Local governments will also find them useful in forecasting needs for services such as police and fire protection.”

Today's release is based on completed interviews with almost 2 million housing units each year from 2006 through 2010. By pooling several years of survey responses, the American Community Survey can generate detailed statistical portraits of smaller geographies. The Census Bureau issues new sets of these five-year estimates every year, permitting users to track trends in even the smallest of areas over time.

Visitors to the Census Bureau website can find their community's estimates in the American FactFinder database. Release

Economic Partnership with Saudi Arabia Will Help U.S. Expand Trade, Blank Tells Saudi Business Forum

Acting Deputy Secretary Blank addresses the U.S.-Saudi Business Opportunity Forum

On Tuesday, Acting Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank addressed the growing economic importance of Saudi Arabia at the U.S.-Saudi Business Opportunities Forum. In her remarks, Blank stressed the value of a U.S.-Saudi commercial relationship that benefits both Americans and Saudis.

Blank praised King Abdullah for the steps he has taken to encourage economic partnership with the U.S., citing greater public participation within the political system and the appointment of the first woman to lead Saudi Arabia’s education system. These political and social advancements have led to Saudi Arabia’s jump to 12th in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Survey, up from a rank of 64th only a few years ago. Saudi Arabia is committed to expanding and diversifying its economy beyond oil and into new knowledge-based industries, a commitment evidenced by over $750 billion of infrastructure investment to take place over the next five years.

In her speech, Blank reminded us that this progression within Saudi Arabia helps the U.S. expand trade and economic cooperation across our borders. As our 22nd largest market worldwide, Saudi Arabia’s rapidly expanding population and industrial base will continue to provide investment and employment opportunities for American citizens. Last year alone, Saudi Arabia supported more than 1,000 American companies, including some 500 small- and medium-sized businesses. Blank insisted that partnering with Saudi Arabia will be conducive to meeting President Obama’s National Export Initiative goal of doubling exports by the end of 2014.

A Year of Extreme Weather

Aerial view of Burlington, North Dakota inundated with flood waters from the Souris River on June 25, 2011

Guest blog post by Assistant Administrator for Weather Services and Director of the National Weather Service Dr. Jack Hayes

As the extreme weather year of 2011 comes to a close, I want to reflect back on this year’s events and look ahead at ways to reduce the devastating impacts of weather on our society.

Crippling snowstorms in the Northeast and Midwest, violent tornadoes in the South, massive river flooding in the Central U.S., Hurricane Irene in the mid-Atlantic, and the epic drought in the Southern Plains accompanied by heat waves and devastating wildfires in some areas have all combined to make this a record-breaking year.

This is the first year since NOAA began keeping records that 12 separate weather events each caused more than $1 billion in damage.   The real story is not the number of events, but the severity of the impacts. Total economic losses from these 12 events have reached nearly $52 billion, and there have been more than 1000 weather-related death this year.

Could some of these deaths have been prevented; could the economic losses be reduced?   I think so and that is why we have launched a new initiative to build a Weather-Ready Nation.  This effort is designed to improve America’s responsiveness to weather events with the ultimate goal of saving more lives and livelihoods.

Powerful NIST Detectors on Hawaiian Telescope to Probe Origins of Stars, Planets and Galaxies

A composite image of the Whirlpool Galaxy (also known as M51).

The world’s largest submillimeter camera—based on superconducting technology designed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)—is now ready to scan the universe, including faint and faraway parts never seen before.

Mounted on the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii, the NIST technology will help accelerate studies of the origins of stars, planets and galaxies.

The new 4.5-ton SCUBA-2 camera, which contains more than 10,000 of NIST's superconducting sensors, is far more sensitive than its predecessor SCUBA (the highly productive Submillimeter Common-Use Bolometer Array), and will enable astronomers to map the sky hundreds of times faster and with a much larger field of view. SCUBA-2 will produce better images and sky maps, image new targets, and support deeper and broader surveys.

The product of an international research collaboration, SCUBA-2 will image objects ranging from comets in the Earth’s solar system to galaxies at the far ends of the universe. The camera is sensitive to objects associated with very cold gas and dust clouds, which absorb visible light (and therefore look black to optical telescopes) but emit the barest whiffs of submillimeter radiation—at wavelengths below 1 millimeter, between the microwave and infrared bands. Submillimeter light oscillates at terahertz frequencies, hundreds of times faster than cell phones.

“The submillimeter is the last frontier in astronomical imaging,” says NIST physicist Gene Hilton, who developed the fabrication method for the NIST instrument. “It’s been very difficult to develop cameras that work at this wavelength, so the submillimeter is largely unexplored. We’re excited to see what SCUBA-2 will reveal.”  Watch this video on how NIST is making a difference in viewing young stars, planets and galaxies.  Release

Working with Florida’s Construction Leaders to Build New Opportunities for Communities

Sánchez speaking at LBA event in Miami

Guest blog post by Francisco J. Sánchez, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Secretary, Department of Commerce

Entrepreneurs are a major key to U.S. economic growth. Their ideas, creativity and pioneering spirit are among our nation’s greatest resources, and are helping to pave the road to recovery. 

That’s why the Commerce Department, under the leadership of Secretary John Bryson, is firmly committed to supporting American business owners in every way we can.  And, our partnership with the private sector is essential to this work which is why I traveled to Miami, Florida earlier today to meet with the Latin Builders Association (LBA).

Founded in 1971, the LBA is the largest Hispanic construction association in the United States. They have shaped skylines, built neighborhoods and made a significant impact on the South Florida area. And, every day, leaders like them are doing great work on the ground to do more than just rebuild our communities; they are committed to building a better and stronger America.

Obama Administration Investment Promotes Job Growth and Mitigates Environmental Risk in Tribal Communities

Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development John Fernandez Participates in the Third Tribal Nations Conference at the White House

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

This year, President Obama hosted the third White House Tribal Nations Conference to hear directly from tribal leaders about their priorities. I had the opportunity to address some of the representatives of federally recognized tribes during a series of briefings and listening sessions hosted by the White House.

The President is committed to strengthening the government-to-government relationship with Indian Country and partnering and investing to find solutions to complex issues and to win the future for Indian Country.

Environmental challenges are affecting tribal economies. The Obama administration has taken significant steps to mitigate environmental risks and strengthen the capacity of reservations to meet the training and economic needs of their communities.

Native Americans living on reservations experience higher incidences of environmentally-related health issues than other groups, including in the upper Missouri River basin. This includes 19 reservations in Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota, along the Missouri River system and its tributaries where minerals and wildlife are abundant both in water and on land. Unfortunately, as concerns about the environment have plagued these communities, the response has not been timely or meaningful. These are areas of the country where the norm is economic depression and generational unemployment. In some cases unemployment rates approach 90 percent. The impacts of environmental degradation have contributed to stagnant business growth in these rural communities and severely limited opportunities for workers.

America on its Way to Hitting Administration’s Exporting Goals, Blank Tells ITAC Leaders

Michael C. Camuñez addresses the business leaders of the ITAC

Today, Acting Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank participated in an event in the Department of Commerce that thanked business leaders for their service in Industry Trade Advisory Committees while also noting that their hard work was greatly aiding the private sector to export in record numbers.

Blank told ITAC representatives that while traditional drivers of U.S. economic growth – like consumer spending – are currently facing headwinds, exports remain a vital avenue to get Americans back to work. ITACs, public-private partnerships managed by the Commerce Department and the U.S. Trade Representative,  work tirelessly to help U.S. companies and employees across the country compete and win in the global economy by engaging business leaders in formulating trade policy.

NOAA Issues Annual Report Card Outlining Changing Conditions in the Arctic

NOAA Issues Annual Report Card Outlining Changing Conditions in the Arctic

The Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration today announced findings from the annual Arctic Report Card, a report prepared by an international team of scientists from 14 different countries. These scientists monitor the rapid changes in the Earth’s northern polar region say that the Arctic is entering a new state–one with warmer air and water temperatures, less summer sea ice and snow cover, and a changed ocean chemistry. This shift is also causing changes in the in the region’s life, both on land and in the sea, including less habitat for polar bears and walruses, but increased access to feeding areas for whales.   Release  |  Watch the Arctic Report Card 2011 video

Among the 2011 highlights are:

  • Atmosphere: In 2011, the average annual near-surface air temperatures over much of the Arctic Ocean were approximately 2.5° F (1.5° C) greater than the 1981-2010 baseline period;
  • Sea ice: Minimum Arctic sea ice area in September 2011 was the second-lowest recorded by satellite since 1979;
  • Ocean: Arctic Ocean temperature and salinity may be stabilizing after a period of warming and freshening. Acidification of sea water (“ocean acidification”) as a result of carbon dioxide absorption has also been documented in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas;
  • Land: Arctic tundra vegetation continues to increase and is associated with higher air temperatures over most of the Arctic land mass.

Honoring Individuals Who Help Promote Peace and Commerce

Steve Calderia and Jack Earle with Acting Deputy Secretary Blank and Under Secretary Sanchez

Cross post by Cory Churches is a Communications and Outreach Specialist with the Office of Public Affairs in the International Trade Administration.

Today we recognized a few of the recipients of a unique award bestowed by the Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Francisco Sánchez. Eight individuals and organizations received the International Trade Administration’s Peace through Commerce Medal Award for 2011.

Jerry Levine, President of Mentor International, Steve Calderia, CEO of the International Franchise Association and Jack Earle, CEO of the International Franchise Association were on hand to receive their awards and spoke highly of the efforts of the Commerce Department and partners in promoting exports and jobs across America.

The award, reintroduced by Sánchez, recognizes an individual, group, or organization, either domestic or abroad, whose actions have significantly promoted and developed U.S. export initiatives, encouraged innovative approaches, and improved overall U.S. trade relations.