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Blog Entries from February 2012

Working with Florida Businesses to Create an Economy Built to Last

Sánchez speaking with Vaughn after a White House Hispanic Community Action Summit

Guest blog post by Francisco Sánchez, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade, International Trade Administration

It’s always good to be back in my hometown of Tampa, Florida.

This morning, I was proud to participate in a powerful and productive discussion at a White House Hispanic Community Action Summit, which took place at the University of Tampa. It was another great opportunity for Obama administration officials and community leaders to exchange thoughts and perspectives about the challenges currently facing our nation.

Although a number of topics were discussed, there was one that was near the top of everybody’s agenda—the economy.

Sure, there’s been a lot of good news lately; all of us were very encouraged by today’s jobs report which showed that 257,000 private sector jobs were created in January and the unemployment rate fell to 8.3 percent.

Thanks to President Obama’s leadership, the United States has had 23 straight months of private sector growth, for a total of 3.7 million jobs over that period.

But, there’s still a lot of work to do to ensure that everybody who wants a job can get one.

Commerce Secretary John Bryson Visits Patent and Trademark Office Headquarters

USPTO Director Kappos gives Secretary Bryson a tour of the Alexandria campus. Several other staff members were also on the tour.

Secretary John Bryson stopped by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia on Friday to meet with employees and tour the facility. It was the first time he had visited the USPTO office since being confirmed as Commerce Secretary in October of last year.

While he was there, the Secretary congratulated the USPTO for its work on the implementation of the historic America Invents Act, which encourages innovation by making the first set of major reforms in the U.S. patent system since the 1800s. The America Invents Act allows businesses to get new ideas to market faster by reducing the time it takes to review applications for new patents to 12 months. By working to implement this law and rebuilding America’s intellectual property system from the ground up, the USPTO is making it easier for businesses to invest in new technologies, launch new industries, and create new jobs—in a 21st century global market.

Bryson also had the opportunity to discuss the USPTO’s efforts to improve patent quality. The USPTO has issued new guidelines that will clarify and tighten the standards for the issuance of patents. The new guidelines offer a more comprehensive measurement of the quality of patent examinations to ensure high standards in our patent process.

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.

Census Bureau and National Urban League Host Forum on Black Population

High and members of the panel

The Commerce Department's U.S. Census Bureau today hosted a forum with the National Urban League on the black population at Black Entertainment Television studios in Washington, D.C. The event highlighted statistics from the 2010 Census, providing a portrait of the black population in the U.S. Following the presentation, an expert panel discussed the statistics and their implications. Kristal Lauren High of Politic365 moderated.

Joining Census Burea Director Robert Groves and other Bureau officials were National Urban League officials, including Marc Morial, chief executive officer and president. Experts on the panel from public and private universities and centers for population, political and economic studies responded to questions submitted via Facebook and Twitter and broadcast on the Census Bureau's Ustream channel.

In his remarks, Groves noted that today is the beginning of Black History Month. In 1976, as part of the nation’s bicentennial, the original 1926 Black History Week was expanded into a month. Each year, U.S. presidents proclaim February as National African-American History Month. The U.S. Census Bureau has gathered data and facts relating to Black History Month in its Facts for Features: February 2012.

Secretary Bryson Travels to Pittsburgh to Tour Energy Company and Meet with Business Leaders

Secretary Bryson Travels to Pittsburgh to Tour Energy Company and Meet with Business Leaders

Secretary Bryson is in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania today, where he has a busy day. He started his day meeting the Western Pennsylvania District Export Council (DEC) over breakfast. He shared the President’s outline for ensuring more items are made in America. The President has proposed an end to tax breaks for businesses that outsource, additional tax relief for those that bring jobs back, and lowering the tax rates for manufacturers, especially high-tech manufacturers. DEC members shared with him what they are hearing from their fellow business leaders about the challenges and successes of exporting into new and expanding markets.

After thanking DEC members for their hard work, Bryson toured Aquion Energy, a Carnegie Mellon University spin off and battery technology company. Bryson was joined by Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Aquion CEO Scott Pearson. They toured the development lab, the manufacturing floor, and battery assembly room. Aquion Energy is working on bringing new battery technology to market. This technology is a sodium-ion battery optimized for stationary storage applications with a targeted commercial release of 2012 in applications such as micro-grid support, off-grid generator optimization, and grid-level energy services.

Bryson and Mayor Ravenstahl then headed over to Carnegie Mellon University to participate in a discussion with business leaders and Carnegie Mellon Vice President of Research Rick McCullough. Bryson highlighted the President’s call for new energy economy and the Department of Commerce’s support for manufacturers. To compete in a global economy, U.S. businesses need to build it here and sell it everywhere, which is why Secretary Bryson has agreed to co-chair the national office for the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership. He is also relentlessly advocating for increasing America’s exports and investment in America’s companies, workers and ideas.