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Blog Entries from May 2012

R&D, Patents are Key Manufacturing Drivers Chief Economist Mark Doms Tells National Association for Business Economics 2012 Conference

SME Companies Share of Total US Goods Exports 2000-2010

This afternoon Chief Economist Mark Doms addressed the 2012 National Association for Business Economics (NABE) Industry Conference, themed “Making it in America: Manufacturing Matters” in Cleveland, OH.  Hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, this NABE industry conference focused on “the changing dynamics and rebalancing of U.S. manufactures in the global economy, focusing on its rejuvenation and new challenges and opportunities.” He previewed an upcoming ESA report showing that many communities depend critically on manufacturing, and these communities are spread all across the United States. That is because manufacturing provides the basis for many middle class jobs with good benefits.

  • Much of our country’s innovation comes from the manufacturing sector: close to 70 percent of our research and development and 90 percent of our patents.
  • Since the trough of manufacturing employment, firms have added about a half million new jobs. 
  • The manufacturing industry has been one of the leading contributors to GDP growth over the last two years, accounting for 38 percent of total economic growthIn 2011, the U.S. exported over $1.26 trillion worth of manufactured goods, more than double the amount in 2002.  Also, since the trough in 2009, manufactured goods exports are up 38 percent.
  • In particular, small and medium sized companies are increasingly contributing to our export growth, and they now make up over a third of total exports. 

That is why the Administration’s focus on manufacturing is so important. Doms highlighted what the Commerce Department is doing to help.

The Importance of Culture, Partnerships, and Perspective in Regional Economic Development

Economic Development Administration seal

Guest blog post by Paul J. Corson, Deputy Director of the U.S. Commerce Department Economic Development Administration’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Recently, as part of our ongoing series of public conference calls with members of the National Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE), we spoke with Dr. Christina Gabriel, president of the University Energy Partnership, a nonprofit organization that was founded jointly in 2010 by five major research universities in the Pittsburgh area, and Dr. Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan. Dr. Gabriel and Dr. Coleman, who both play leading roles in regional-based economic development in promoting the commercialization of research, stressed similar themes, including the importance of culture, partnerships, and perspective in regional economic development.

During her call on May 22, Dr. Gabriel emphasized the importance of leveraging local strengths. She noted that while foundations historically have embodied a regional perspective when it comes to economic development, many universities have only recently begun to do so. Universities possess very rich and diverse strengths that are best leveraged by applying them to difficult problems in collaborative efforts. For example, the University Energy Partnership was set up to leverage broad research efforts and applied technology developments in the energy space that has been developed over many years—not just in the Pittsburgh region, but throughout the four neighboring states.

In order to achieve success in regional cooperatives, Dr. Gabriel recommended that institutions focus on what their region is good at, and to build around that. She cautioned against blindly following the latest fad and hiring consultants to try and steal companies from other regions. By focusing on regional strengths, she said, even regions that have fewer resources—including those that have lost human and industry resources—can slow, and even reverse, these declines.

Plan to Stay in Business

Weston Markeplace was flooded when Tropical Storm Irene hit the state. FEMA is providing assistance to those who were impacted by Tropical Storm Storm Irene hit Vermont in 2011. Storm Irene hit Vermont in 2011. Irene. Photo by Annette Foglino/FEMA

Guest blog post by Dan Stoneking, Director, Private Sector, FEMA Office of External Affairs

I used to own a small business called Stoneking Graphic Design. I know first-hand how hard it was to build it in my small town in New Hampshire: Long hours. Little security. So I was particularly moved to hear about the Weston Market place in Vermont that was flooded last year during Hurricane Irene.

As a new hurricane season is upon us, I worry about the Weston Markets in other towns. Disasters not only devastate individuals and neighborhoods, but entire communities, including businesses of all sizes. For small business owners, having a business continuity plan can help protect their company, keep their employees safe, and maximize their chances of recovery after an emergency or disaster.

Ready Business, an extension of the Ready national disaster preparedness campaign, helps owners and managers of small- and medium-sized businesses prepare their employees, operations and assets in the event of an emergency. Ready Business asks companies to take three simple steps: plan to stay in business, encourage your people to become Ready, and protect your investment. The Business section of Ready.gov contains vital information for businesses on how to get started preparing their business and their unique needs during an emergency.

Spotlight on Commerce: Hari Sastry, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Resource Management

Hari Sastry, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Resource Management

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.

As Deputy Assistant Secretary for Resource Management, my main responsibility is to support the Office of the Secretary to link Budget, Performance, and Risk Management with the strategic direction of the Department. The budget for the Department of Commerce is approximately $8 billion and contains numerous Presidential priorities including trade promotion and advance manufacturing as well as programs of national security such as weather prediction and export control enforcement. Furthermore, we are working with each bureau to create a uniform enterprise risk management framework to improve Department’s ability to understand the status of major programs and make decisions based on that information. Our office plays a critical role in supporting the President’s agenda, as we use performance and risk information to formulate the budget in accordance with the Administration’s priorities. My favorite part of this job is that both policy formulation and implementation come together as budgets are formulated, allowing me to get a complete picture of how public policy works.

I was born and grew up in Chicago, IL. My parents emigrated from India in the early 1970s and have lived in the Chicago area for most of my life. I received a BS in Mathematics from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI, a Masters in Public Health from the University of Illinois-Chicago with a focus in Epidemiology, and moved to DC in 1997 to get a Masters in Public Policy from Georgetown University with a focus on health policy. I worked at the Office of Management and Budget for 11 years on veterans and military health issues prior to joining the Department of Commerce.

Spotlight on Commerce: Nishith Acharya, Director, Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship and Senior Adviser

Nishith Acharya, Director, Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship and Senior Adviser

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.

As Director of the Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship, my main responsibility is to manage and coordinate efforts to commercialize more of the research that is funded by the federal government.  The US government provides about $150 billion in research funds to universities, labs and companies annually, and we are finding ways for support greater commercial application of that research to create successful companies and jobs. We support the President’s Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, work with over 500 universities around the country on issues of innovation and entrepreneurship, and run the i6 Challenge, which is a $1 million award to six different winners each – focused on creating more commercial ventures at our research institutes.

Our office plays a critical role in supporting the President’s agenda.  America’s greatest advantage is its innovation infrastructure and its deep culture of entrepreneurship.  Our office supports the development and implementation of programs and policies to enhance that.  This includes funding for innovation centers, coordination with universities and federal labs, and communication with entrepreneurs directly to understand their challenges and needs from the Administration.  Supporting innovation is critical for sectors such as manufacturing and energy, and entrepreneurship can never be taught too early.

I grew up in Wayland, MA, just outside of Boston.  My parents emigrated from India in the 1960’s and have lived in the Boston area for most of my life. I got my BS in Political Science and Economics from Northeastern University in Boston, MA. and then moved to DC to get my Master’s in Public Administration from the George Washington University with a specialization in international development.

Nationwide Adoption of NIST-Developed Test Predicted to Cut Death Toll Due to Cigarette-Caused Fires

Examples of results of the Standard Test Method for Measuring the Ignition Strength of Cigarettes (ASTM E2187) are shown. Non-filter (top) and filter (left) cigarettes "failed," having burned the full length in the test. The cigarette that extinguished before burning its full length (right) passed. The test calls for performing 40 such determinations for each cigarette and reporting the number of full-length burns. Cigarettes are positioned on the standard ASTM E2187 test substrate.

In 2003, New York became the first state requiring cigarettes sold within its borders to pass a fire safety standard based on a test developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to reduce the risk of igniting upholstered furniture and bedding, a major cause of residential fires.

Last year, when Wyoming enacted a law similar to New York’s, a milestone with lifesaving consequences was achieved: all 50 states had made the Standard Test Method for Measuring the Ignition Strength of Cigarettes (ASTM E2187) a regulatory requirement.

A new study projects that, with nationwide adoption, deaths due to fires ignited by cigarettes or other tobacco products will drop 30 percent below the total number of such fatalities in 2003, the last full year before the ASTM E2187 was first implemented in a state. The projected decrease translates into about 200 lives saved annually.  More from NIST

Spotlight on Commerce: Karen Hyun, Senior Policy Adviser

Karen Hyun, Senior Policy Adviser

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.

At the Commerce Department, I have the privilege to serve as Secretary Bryson's senior policy adviser on energy and environment issues.  

My parents emigrated from Korea over forty years ago with a couple of suitcases and an incredible work ethic.  They eventually landed in a small town in eastern Pennsylvania, halfway between my dad's small business fixing electric motors and the Veterans' Administration medical center where my mom was a doctor.  My sisters and I were products of our parents' focus on education, independence, public service, and proximity to a good public school system.   

When I was in elementary school, my dad used to wait with me at the bus stop until the bus came to pick me up.  The only days when this did not happen were election days because my parents were already waiting in line at the polls.  Early on, they instilled in us the right and responsibility to vote.  Although it was years before I could vote, my curiosity on how democracy works was piqued at an early age.  

My parents probably wanted me to follow in their footsteps and be an engineer or a doctor, but I chose a major in Earth Systems at Stanford University.  Earth Systems is a major in environmental science and policy and I chose to focus on our ocean ecosystems.  This was my first foray into learning about public policy that led to a Ph.D. from the University of Rhode Island and several years on the Committee on Natural Resources in the U.S. House of Representatives.  

$26 Million Competition to Help Accelerate Growth of Advanced Manufacturing and Clusters

$26 Million Competition to Help Accelerate Growth of Advanced Manufacturing and Clusters

Guest blog post by Matt Erskine, Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, and Dr. Patrick Gallagher, Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology

Manufacturing, especially advanced manufacturing based on new technologies, is a sector of vital importance to America’s economic viability—both to businesses and the people they employ. A recent study conducted by the Department of Commerce bears this out: Manufacturing is responsible for 70 percent of our private-sector research and development (R&D), 90 percent of our patents, and 60 percent of our exports. And the benefits accrue to manufacturing workers, since they earn pay and benefits that are about 17 percent higher than average.

That is why the $26 million Advanced Manufacturing Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, supported by 14 Federal agencies and announced today by the Obama administration, is so important.

The Advanced Manufacturing Jobs Accelerator is a competition to help grow industry clusters by strengthening connections to regional economic development opportunities; enhance a region’s capacity to create high-quality sustainable jobs; develop a skilled advanced manufacturing workforce; encourage the development of small businesses; and accelerate technological innovation. 

At the Department of Commerce, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Economic Development Administration (EDA) are leveraging resources, along with the Departments of Energy and Labor, the Small Business Administration (SBA), and the National Science Foundation, to support public-private partnerships to spur economic and job growth in manufacturing clusters. Approximately 12 projects are expected to be chosen. This is the third in a series of multiagency Jobs and Innovation Accelerator challenges since 2011.

Winners of the 2011 challenge, which was funded by EDA, the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, and the SBA, have already begun to foster business growth and create jobs. For example, in the Greater Kansas City area, eight regional organizations joined together to form the Kansas City Jobs Accelerator. This organization is helping the advanced manufacturing and information technology cluster in the bi-state region by identifying game-changing technologies and processes and putting them in the hands of small businesses and talented entrepreneurs. Their tactics include coordinating research resources, helping prepare workers for careers in advanced manufacturing, and creating a clearinghouse for regional cluster and commercialization information.

Enhancing Global Commerce Through The America Invents Act

Implementation of the America Invents Act--the most significant overhaul to U.S. patent law in more than a century--beyond our borders is an essential response to an evolving intellectual property terrain impacting our global economy. It is a terrain being shaped by cross-disciplinary technologies—from computers to mobile phones to life-saving drugs—that are a growing part of everyday life. And that terrain continues to be shaped by our key trading partners around the world, including China.

These efforts are important in keeping the momentum toward meeting President Obama’s National Export Initiative (NEI) goal of doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014, which will support millions of good-paying U.S. jobs. Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos recently met with China’s leading IP stakeholders, providing an overview of the significant changes to the U.S. patent system resulting from the agency’s ongoing implementation of the 2011 America Invents Act. He outlined the progress the USPTO is making in its implementation; the need for further harmonization of the world’s patent laws; and the benefits of a worksharing process that enables patent applicants to simultaneously pursue patent protection in multiple countries, known as the Patent Prosecution Highway, or PPH 2.0.

With an increasing emphasis on innovation in the U.S. and China, Kappos noted the importance of harmonizing our patent processes and advancing our worksharing initiatives—not just to ensure the smooth and efficient operation of our respective IP systems, but also to cultivate and commercialize new technologies blooming in the labs of both countries.

Memorial Day: A Look at Veterans in America Today

NPS/Andersonville National Historic Site. Flags decorate the graves in Section E of the Andersonville National Cemetery

Guest blog post by Melissa Chiu, Chief of the Industry and Occupation Statistics Branch, U.S. Census Bureau

As we honor those soldiers who have given their lives to their country this Memorial Day, we can also take the opportunity to better understand America’s veterans. The American Community Survey provides a profile of our 21.8 million veterans.

So, who are our veterans in America? U.S. veterans are made up of every gender, race, ethnicity and almost every age group. There were more women veterans in 2010 than twenty years ago; this group has grown by 3 percentage points since 1980 to 1.6 million in 2010.  It is important to recognize that women constitute 19 percent of veterans in the age group 18 to 34.  There were 9 million veterans 65 and older in 2010 and, at the other end of the age spectrum, 1.7 million were younger than 35.

We find that veterans age 18 to 34 are more racially and ethnically diverse than older veterans. Non-Hispanic whites account for 17.5 million veterans. In addition there were 2.4 million black veterans, 1.2 million Hispanics, 265,000 Asians, 157,000 American Indians or Alaska Natives and 28,000 Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders in 2010.