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Blog Entries from February 24, 2012

Spotlight on Commerce: Michael Phelps, Director of the Office of Budget

Michael Phelps, Director of the Office of Budget

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 an America Built to Last.

I am currently Director of the Office of Budget at the Department of Commerce. That means I am the principal adviser to the Chief Financial Officer and Assistant Secretary for Administration and other Department officials on all things related to the planning, formulation, execution and defense of the Department’s budget.

I understand that not everyone is a numbers person, but I love this position because of public debates associated with supporting the president’s agenda and, more important, the roles and mission this Department plays in executing those objectives in helping to create an America built to last!

My entire professional career has been in public service. Prior to joining Commerce in March of 2011, I served 33 years in the United States Air Force. My last assignment was Director of Financial Management and Comptroller for Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base, Hampton, Virginia. As Chief Financial Officer for the largest operational command in the Air Force and the principal financial adviser to the Air Combat Command Commander, I led a 67-person financial management staff that supported a financial network of more than 1,100 people supporting 25 air wings, 1,100 aircraft and approximately 105,000 personnel. I retired from active duty as a colonel in February of 2011 and was given an opportunity to continue my service to the nation here at the Department of Commerce.

Secretary Bryson Encourages State Governors to Use SelectUSA and Attend SelectUSA Investment Summit

SelectUSA logo

Prior to President Obama attending the Democratic Governors Association Meeting, Secretary John Bryson addressed the assembled governors to discuss how the Commerce Department is working across the federal government to make every federal tool available to promote “insourcing” by U.S. companies and to attract more foreign direct investment.

Secretary Bryson reiterated the key advantages America has over foreign competitors. For example, the American workforce is among the most productive in the world. He also discussed how America continues to have the best universities, the strongest sources of R&D and manufacturing innovation, excellent supply chains, and the strongest IP protections.  He also noted that foreign direct investment rose nearly 50 percent from 2009 to 2010.

Bryson then emphasized that through SelectUSA, the Commerce Department wants to partner with more states to attract even more foreign direct investment to the U.S. SelectUSA is the first coordinated federal effort to aggressively pursue and win new business investments in the U.S. It will help investors navigate our rules and procedures and will help advocate for the U.S. when foreign businesses are deciding where to put their next facility and create jobs.

SelectUSA is already working with some city and state economic development organizations to produce results. Bryson personally invited the governors and their top economic officials to attend the 1st annual SelectUSA Investment Summit later this year. The Commerce Department will assemble companies from around the world and it will provide an excellent opportunity for states to explain why they are the best place to invest and to hire.

Census Bureau Releases National-Level Data on Education Levels, Bachelor's Degree Attainment Tops 30 Percent for the First Time

Census Bureau Releases National-Level Data on Education Levels, Bachelor's Degree Attainment Tops 30 Percent for the First Time

The U.S. Census Bureau yesterday released five data products that show many facets of educational attainment across the nation and present statistics on the levels of education achieved by various demographic characteristics. In March 2011, for the first time ever, more than 30 percent of U.S. adults 25 and older had at least a bachelor's degree, the U.S. Census Bureau reported. As recently as 1998, fewer than one-quarter of people this age had this level of education. In addition, more than one-third (20 million) of the nation's 56 million bachelor's degree holders held their degree in the broad field of science and engineering, including 4 million each in the social sciences and engineering and 3 million in biological, agricultural and environmental sciences.

This information comes from Educational Attainment in the United States: 2011, a collection of national-level tables from the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement (CPS ASEC). Historical tables go back to the late 1940s, when the CPS first began collecting data on attainment.

“This is an important milestone in our history,” Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said. “For many people, education is a sure path to a prosperous life. The more education people have the more likely they are to have a job and earn more money, particularly for individuals who hold a bachelor's degree.”

From 2001 to 2011, the number of Hispanics with a bachelor's or higher education increased 80 percent from 2.1 million to 3.8 million. The percentage of Hispanics with a bachelor's or higher education increased from 11.1 percent in 2001 to 14.1 percent in 2011. Overall, the increase in the proportion of the population with a bachelor's degree or higher went from 26.2 percent to 30.4 percent. Release

MBDA: Strengthening Support to Minority-Owned Firms

MBDA logo

Guest blog post by David A. Hinson, National Director, Minority Business Development Agency
 
Supporting the growth and global competitiveness of minority-owned businesses is a priority for the Department of Commerce and the Obama administration.

And we’re making good on that priority. Last year, the Department’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) registered the best annual performance in its 41-year history. It assisted minority-owned businesses in gaining access to nearly $4 billion in contracts and capital, supporting the creation of nearly 6,000 much-needed jobs. Over the last three years, our network of 39 MBDA Business Centers, has been largely responsible for generating $10 billion in contracts and capital while helping to create and save nearly 20,000 jobs.

Today, the challenge for MBDA–like so many organizations across the federal government–is to figure out how we build on that record while becoming more efficient.  A number of bureaus right here within the Commerce Department are facing a similar challenge, which has led, for example, to consolidating or otherwise cutting several programs in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), restructuring some units within International Trade Administration (ITA) and shifting the Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) emphasis to regional innovation strategies. So how do we at MBDA meet the President’s mandate to improve services to minority-owned businesses and entrepreneurs in an increasingly difficult budget environment?

The answer for our Bureau started with looking at the grassroots where MBDA interacts on a daily basis with minority business owners. Our front lines are our 39 MBDA Business Centers and related business development support services. Our plan is to strengthen connections at that level to enhance services and get more for your tax dollar.