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Blog Entries from February 2, 2012

Acting Deputy Secretary Blank Visits SolarDock to Highlight President's Clean Energy and Manufacturing Initiatives

SolarDock founder Scott Johnson and MJM Fabrications President Mike Molder give Lt. Gov Matt Denn and Acting Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank a tour of their facilities

Today Acting Deputy U.S. Commerce Secretary Dr. Rebecca Blank today visited SolarDock, a Wilmington, Delaware-area company that designs, manufactures and installs next generation solar power systems. She met with SolarDock founder Scott Johnson, partner Edward O’Brien, and employees and tour the manufacturing facility, along with Delaware Lieutenant Governor Matthew Denn.

Blank’s visit highlighted the President’s plans to strengthen U.S. manufacturing and foster a new era of American energy development. In the State of the Union, the President proposed reducing tax rates for American manufacturers and doubling the tax deduction for high-tech manufacturers. He also called for Congressional action on clean energy tax credits and laid out a proposal for new incentives to encourage manufacturers to make energy efficiency upgrades that would save $100 billion on the nation’s energy bills.

Blank discussed the Department’s efforts to support American manufacturers, so they’re better able to build their products in America and sell them all around the globe. The Commerce Department currently helps support manufacturers in several ways, including recently creating the National Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Program Office to bring together stakeholders and drive investments and initiatives in advanced manufacturing. Meanwhile, the Department’s trade specialists, who are located in offices throughout the country and in more than 70 nations around the world, work daily to connect U.S. businesses looking to export to buyers overseas, and Commerce’s U.S. Patent and Trademark Office helps businesses and entrepreneurs transform their ideas into new products and innovations.

Watch WHYY's video of her visit.

NIST Builds Enclosure to Display and Protect the 1297 Magna Carta for the National Archives

NIST’s Brian Yanick (left) and Jay Brandenburg inspect the Magna Carta platform’s rear side after machining.  The special “nest” for the wax seal is the keyhole-shaped object at the bottom center.

On Feb. 2 when many people were focusing on groundhogs and their shadows, the National Archives focused on high-tech conservation and the freshly conserved 1297 Magna Carta, including its state-of-the-art encasement designed and built by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

The first Magna Carta was signed in 1215 by King John of England after an assembly of barons forced him to put in writing for the first time the traditional rights and liberties of the country’s free persons. In 1297, King Edward I was forced to reissue the Magna Carta. This time it was entered into the official Statute Rolls of England and became the foundation of English Law. Centuries later it inspired the writers of the U.S. Constitution.

Unveiled at a briefing for the news media, the encasement is a controlled environment, something NIST’s Fabrication Technology Group builds regularly for lab research. Its cover is made of a special laminated glass with antireflective coatings to ensure maximum visibility of the document while protecting it. The tightly sealed case is filled with argon gas—which will not react with and damage the parchment as oxygen would. The encasement will be continuously monitored to ensure oxygen stays out.

NIST engineers and crafts people also built the platform on which the document sits within the protective encasement. They used a three-dimensional laser scan of the Magna Carta and its wax seal to guide a computer-controlled milling machine that cut away 90 percent of what began as a six-inch thick block of aluminum. The result is a nest of sorts to hold the parchment and its original wax seal (which still bears the likeness of Edward I). The nest makes sure the seal does not put any strain on the ribbon that attaches it to the delicate parchment document.

Census Bureau Reports Post-Recession Growth in 10 of 11 Service Sectors

Graphic of motion picture and video industries change (graph: Census Bureau)

The Department of Commerce's U.S. Census Bureau today released its 2010 Service Annual Survey, which shows that of the nation’s 11 service sectors, 10 showed an increase in revenues for employer firms between 2009 and 2010. These figures are the first findings from this survey to track the revenues of services after the December 2007 to June 2009 recession.

The statistics cover multiple service sectors: the information services sector; the health care and social assistance sector; the finance and insurance sector; and the arts, entertainment and recreation sector. The information sector increased from $1.08 trillion to $1.1 trillion. Within this sector, Internet publishing and broadcasting continued to see increased revenues, up 11.3 percent from $19.1 billion to $21.3 billion in 2010. Television broadcasting increased 12.0 percent from $31.6 billion to $35 billion. Cable and subscription other programming as well as wireless telecommunications carriers also saw increases in revenue of 7.3 percent and 5.3 percent, respectively, to $55.2 billion and $195.5 billion.

See the complete list on their full press release.

This growth within the service sector mirrors a May 2011 report that showed the record services trade surplus that continues to grow. U.S. trade in private services totaled $526.6 billion in 2010, representing a trade surplus that is growing, rising from $66.7 billion in 2003 to $168 billion in 2010.