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Blog Entries from May 2012

Europe Travel Log: Secretary Bryson’s Meetings and Events in Berlin, Germany

Photo of Bryson and others on elevated walkways

On May 24-25, U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson visited Berlin, Germany–the final stop on his European trip this week–to meet with senior business and government leaders and to address a major conference on trans-Atlantic trade. The Secretary delivered remarks on the importance of trans-Atlantic trade and a strong bilateral investment relationship between the United States and Germany. He also highlighted Germany's vocational training system, which he witnessed first-hand earlier in the week, as an important model for the United States.

‪While in Berlin, Secretary Bryson also met with Minister for Economics and Technology Philipp Roesler, State Secretary Harald Braun of the Foreign Ministry, and Chancellor Merkel's Senior Economic Adviser Lars-Hendrik Roeller. These meetings focused on how the U.S. and Germany can work together to advance economic growth and increase jobs by reducing barriers to trans-Atlantic trade.

‪Secretary Bryson also met with Hans-Peter Keitel, Chairman of the Federation of German Industries (BDI) along with representatives from companies across various sectors, ranging from industrial to IT to automotive and manufacturing. The Secretary encouraged the businesses to consider further investment in the United States, highlighting the attractiveness of the investment climate, including the resources provided by SelectUSA, the first coordinated effort by the U.S. government to attract new business investments to America.


Exports, Foreign Direct Investment, and Greener Fuel to Jumpstart Georgia’s Economy

Image of Georgia biomass facility

Guest blog post by Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Matt Erskine

As they search for opportunities to grow their economies and create jobs, no region in the United States can really choose to ignore the global marketplace—in fact, it just makes common sense. The latest export numbers bear this out: Since 2009, record-breaking levels of U.S. exports have supported an additional 1.2 million American jobs. And in March, the latest figures show that U.S. exports increased 2.9 percent, the largest increase since July 2011.

The benefits of increased engagement with world markets is something that the city of Waycross, Georgia, has experienced firsthand. In 2010, local authorities successfully concluded negotiations with a German energy firm, RWE Innogy, to build a new $135 million wood pellet manufacturing plant in the Waycross–Ware County Industrial Park. The pellets, which are produced from locally-sourced wood, are used as a cleaner-burning substitute for coal in the generation of electricity. A challenge was making sure that these pellets could be shipped quickly and cost effectively to major transportation hubs. A $1.3 million grant from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) resolved this by funding the construction of a new rail spur, ensuring that the pellets could be shipped to the port of Savannah and from there to overseas buyers.

NOAA Predicts a Near-Normal 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season

Satellite image of Hurricane Irene, 2011

Anniversary of Hurricane Andrew underscores necessity to prepare every year

Conditions in the atmosphere and the ocean favor a near-normal hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin this season, Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced today from Miami at its Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, and home to the Hurricane Research Division.

For the entire six-month season, which begins June 1, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center says there’s a 70 percent chance of nine to 15 named storms with top winds of 39 mph or higher, of which four to eight will strengthen to a hurricane with top winds of 74 mph or higher, and of those, one to three will become major hurricanes with top winds of 111 mph or higher, ranking Category 3, 4 or 5. Based on the period 1981-2010, an average season produces 12 named storms with six hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.

“NOAA’s outlook predicts a less active season compared to recent years,” said NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D. “But regardless of the outlook, it’s vital for anyone living or vacationing in hurricane-prone locations to be prepared. We have a stark reminder this year with the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew.” Andrew, the Category 5 hurricane that devastated South Florida on August 24, 1992, was the first storm in a late-starting season that produced only six named storms.

Favoring storm development in 2012: the continuation of the overall conditions associated with the Atlantic high-activity era that began in 1995, in addition to near-average sea surface temperatures across much of the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, known as the Main Development Region. Two factors now in place that can limit storm development, if they persist, are strong wind shear, which is hostile to hurricane formation in the Main Development Region, and cooler sea surface temperatures in the far eastern Atlantic.  Full NOAA press release

Europe Travel Log: Secretary Bryson Takes Key Meetings in Dusseldorf and Visits Training Facility in Berlin, Germany

Consul General Janice G. Weiner; Commerce Secretary John Bryson; NRW Economics Minister Harry K. Voigtsberger; U.S. Ambassador to Germany, Philip D. Murphy.

Following his visit to Paris, France earlier this week, U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson visited Dusseldorf, Germany on Wednesday, before taking off for Berlin. Secretary Bryson is in Europe this week to meet with government and business leaders, reaffirm the United States’ commitment to lowering trade barriers, and encourage European businesses to invest in the U.S.

In the morning, Secretary Bryson led a roundtable discussion with key members of the U.S. and German business community, including representatives from UPS, FedEx, and the American Chamber of Commerce, among others, as well as the Economics Minister of North Rhine Westphalia. The group discussed successes and challenges in trade and investment, as well as opportunities for continued cooperation and public-private partnerships, such as the Commerce Department partnerships with FedEx and UPS, to promote exports and build greater awareness of Commerce programs and initiatives to help small businesses. Secretary Bryson took the opportunity to encourage further German investment in the United States, highlighting the attractiveness of the investment climate and resources for potential investors, including SelectUSA, the first coordinated effort by the U.S. government to attract new business investments to America.

2010 Census: On-Time, Under-Budget, and Extremely Accurate

Image of Census bureau with social medai icons and website address

Guest blog post by Commerce Deputy Secretary Rebecca M. Blank

Yesterday's U.S. Census Bureau report shows that not only was the 2010 Census delivered on time and significantly under budget–but even more important, it was extremely accurate. I am proud of the extraordinary accomplishment by the Census Bureau and the Commerce Department in its success with the massive 2010 Decennial Census effort that gathered data vital to understanding our nation’s population and to allocating equal representation in our democratic system. The accuracy of the 2010 Decennial Census is particularly impressive considering outside predictions of failure. The Census was able to reverse a decades-long decline in survey response rates with its 2010 count.

The data released yesterday are from a post-enumeration survey of the 2010 Census called the Census Coverage Measurement (CCM) program, which measures the accuracy of the coverage of the nation’s household population (excluding the 8.0 million people in “group quarters,” such as nursing homes or college dorms). It surveys a sample of the 300.7 million people living in housing units and then matches the responses to the census, providing an estimate of exactly who was or wasn’t counted in the census. The results found that the 2010 Census had a very small net overcount–just 0.01 percent–which is statistically virtually the same as zero, and a significant improvement over the 0.49 percent overcount in 2000 and 1.61 percent undercount in 1990. You can learn more about how the Census Bureau conducts the CCM survey after the census to help measure its quality.

Europe Travel Log: Secretary Bryson Travels to Paris, France

This week, U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson visited Paris, France for the first leg of a European trip to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to lowering trade barriers and encouraging European businesses to invest in the U.S. In France, Bryson is meeting with several key members of the U.S. and French business communities, as well as with a minister in the new French government. These meetings focused on increasing French investment in the United States, supporting U.S. companies with operations in France, and learning about the new government’s economic policy plans.

On Monday, Secretary Bryson met with the leadership and key members of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in France to discuss investment and trade issues facing U.S. industry and to support U.S. company operations and interests in France. He also met with the leadership and key members of MEDEF, a major French business association, to highlight the attractiveness of the investment climate in the United States and learn about the successes, concerns and problems of current and potential investors. Bryson also took the opportunity to introduce French investors to SelectUSA, the first coordinated effort by the U.S. government to attract new business investments to America.The Secretary later met with the head of the French export agency, UBI France, and the CEOs of three French small businesses that are entering the U.S. market.

Crimes Against Marine Mammals Exhibit Opens at D.C.'s Crime Museum

Image of entangled seal

Celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Marine Mammal Protection Act through an eye-opening exhibit that showcases different violations of the Act, how law enforcement agents investigate those violations, and how you can help protect marine mammals. Created by Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries and the Crime Museum in Washington, D.C., the exhibit opens today at the museum and runs through September 3, 2012.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act  was passed in 1972 and prohibits, with certain exceptions, the take of marine mammals in U.S. waters or by U.S. citizens on the high seas, and the importation of marine mammals and marine mammal products into the U.S.  More at NOAA Fisheries release

International Buyer Program Announces 2013 Roster of Trade Shows

IBP B2B Matchmaking at Pack Expo 2010

Guest blog post by Gary Rand, Acting Director of the International Buyer Program

If you’re a U.S. company, your chances of finding the right international business partner greatly increases at a trade show that has been selected as a venue for the International Buyer Program. You’ll not only meet more international buyers, representatives and distributors, but your products and services can be listed in the Export Interest Directory distributed to all international visitors to the show. In addition to assistance from our experienced U.S. Commercial Service staff, you will also have access to an on-site International Business Center, where your company can meet privately with prospective international buyers, sales representatives and business partners.

That’s why I am pleased to announce the 30 U.S. trade shows in 2013 to which the International Buyer Program (IBP) will bring prospective international buyers. Thanks to our rigorous competitive selection process, I am confident these 30 trade shows will provide excellent B2B matchmaking venues for U.S. companies looking to expand their international sales to new markets, or to start exporting.

The advantage of the IBP versus other B2B matchmaking service offerings is it enables U.S. companies to meet a breadth of pre-screened prospective buyers from around the world all in one domestic venue. In fact, last year the IBP recruited nearly 13,500 prospective buyers from international markets to come to U.S. trade events to meet U.S. exporters. As a result, the IBP generated over $900 million in exports in 2011–a 10 percent increase over 2010. Over 49 percent of these successes were by U.S. firms that exported to a new market. There are still over 25 trade shows for remaining in 2012. For those U.S. companies planning to exhibit at any of these shows, the IBP is a great way to maximize your trade show investment.

The International Buyer Program is a joint government-industry effort designed to increase U.S. export sales by promoting international attendance at major U.S. industry exhibitions. The IBP provides practical, hands-on assistance to U.S. exhibitors interested in exporting and making contacts with prospective overseas trade partners. This assistance includes export counseling, marketing analysis, and matchmaking services. The IBP is an important part of our implementation of the Obama administration’s National Export Initiative which aims to double the value of U.S. exports over the next five years.

NIST: Improving Safety Measures and Measures of Safety for World Metrology Day 2012

NIST engineer Kate Remley holds two Personal Alert Safety System (PASS) devices with wireless alarm capability (Photo copyright Paul Trantow/Altitude Arts)

Sunday, May 20, was World Metrology Day, a celebration of the signing of the Treaty of the Meter on that date in 1875. By signing the treaty, representatives from 17 nations, including the United States, recognized the importance of worldwide uniformity of measurements and established a collaborative global framework for the advancement of measurement science. The theme of this year’s celebration is “Metrology for Safety.”

Measurement plays a key role in ensuring that products—e.g., cars, paints, food and medicines—and processes such as medical procedures, are safe. As the U.S. national metrology institute, the Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) creates standard reference materials, improves measurement tools, develops performance metrics and advances metrology so that the nation has the best safety measures and measures of safety.

Deputy Secretary Blank Advocates Public Service in Commencement Speech

Guest blog post by Commerce Deputy Secretary Rebecca M. Blank

This morning, I had the privilege of delivering the commencement address to graduate students at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) commencement ceremony.

I was also deeply honored to receive an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree during the ceremony for my work as a public servant, including the leadership I provided in my previous job at Commerce, overseeing the nation’s premier statistical agencies, the Census Bureau (during the 2010 Census) and the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The commencement speech provided an opportunity to give advice to the graduate students and to encourage them to use their expertise and experience to find solutions to the pressing problems facing our world. UMBC is particularly well-known for its scientific training. Science, technology, engineering and math–STEM fields–are particularly important, and it is STEM-related research that will drive innovation in the years ahead. In fact, STEM jobs have grown three times faster than other jobs, indicating the need for more workers with these skills.