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Blog Entries from June 2012

Acting Secretary Blank Participates in U.S.-Poland Business Summit in Warsaw, Poland

Acting Secretary Blank Participates in U.S.-Poland Business Summit in Warsaw, Poland

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank and Poland’s Deputy Prime Minister Waldemar Pawlak welcomed participants in the U.S.-Poland Business Summit and Business Roundtable in Warsaw yesterday. This important event fulfills an agreement made during President Obama’s visit to Poland last yearto bring together U.S. and Polish business and government leaders to identify and promote new commercial opportunities and strengthen and expand commercial relations between the two countries.
 
Blank and Pawlak co-chaired the Business Roundtable at an informal session with American and Polish businesses and government officials. They discussed increasing bilateral investment and expanding energy sector cooperation. In her remarks, Acting Secretary Blank called for more cooperation between the two countries to continue vital strides towards creating good paying jobs that will help both economies flourish.
 
In her remarks to the summit, Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank talked about increasing U.S.-Poland economic and commercial ties. She said that over the past ten years, U.S. bilateral trade with Poland has nearly quadrupled and today the U.S. is doing more than ever to link with the E.U.’s fastest growing economy. Complete Readout

U.S. Outdoor Recreation Industry Found to Boost the Economy

The Outdoor Recreation Economy

Guest blog post by the International Trade Administration's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Services Kenneth E. Hyatt.

If you haven’t heard the news, the U.S. travel and tourism industry is on pace for a record-setting year of creating American jobs and growing the economy.

In fact, a new report (PDF) released today by the Outdoor Industry Association shows the impressive impact of America’s outdoor recreation on the economy.  

The study found that the outdoor industry has created 6.1 million jobs nationally and puts $646 billion into the U.S. economy each year. The study also shows that each year, three out of four Americans participate in active outdoor recreation—activities like fishing, hunting, hiking, running, swimming and camping all contribute to refueling the economy.

This new study comes on the heels of new Commerce Department data released last week, which showed that international travelers are spending more while visiting the United States—and that the receipts for U.S. businesses are reaching record highs. International visitors spent an estimated $14 billion on travel to, and tourism-related activities within, the United States in April 2012—$1.5 billion more (or a 12 percent increase) than was spent in April 2011. International visitors have spent an estimated $54.6 billion in 2012 so far, which is an increase of 13 percent when compared to the same four-month period last year.

USPTO Hosts FIRST Lego League Innovation Award Ceremony

Teasm members seated at table

Yesterday, the Commerce Department’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) hosted the second annual First Lego League (FLL) Award Ceremony, where two teams of young inventors ages six to 14 each won an FLL Global Innovation Award and a $250,000 investment to help develop their ideas for the marketplace. Both teams invented products related to this year’s theme: food safety.

The Dublin, Ohio team Moderately Confused, inspired by food spoilage caused during delivery, created the “Erasable Barcode”; if the temperature of an environment becomes unsafe for food, ink attached to the barcode will obscure a portion of the label so that the spoiled product cannot be sold.

Similarly, after witnessing massive power outages caused by natural disasters like Hurricane Irene, the team S.I.S. Robotic Revolution of Shelton, Conn., created a “Smart Sticker” that attaches to food packaging and changes color when the package has been exposed to unsafe temperatures

Guest Blog Post: Commerce Comes to Your Town – Pittsburgh

Lyn Doverspike, Director of the Commercial Service Pittsburgh Office, Harlan Shober, Washington County Commissioner, Under Secretary Francisco Sanchez, Nate Nevela, District Field Director for U.S. Congressman Tim Murphy , Dennis Gray, Aquatech Vice President of Operations and R.Suresh Kumar, Vice President (Projects) Infrastructure – Major Projects.

Ed. note: Cross-posted from ITA Tradeology blog by Francisco Sánchez, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade

Yesterday I toured Aquatech International’s facility in Canonsburg, right outside of Pittsburgh. The company has been working with Commerce Department staff to export more of their products, and it was great to see up close the great work being done at their facilities.

Established in 1981, Aquatech is a global leader in water purification technology for the world’s industrial and infrastructure markets, with a focus on desalination, water reuse and zero liquid discharge. Aquatech is also a socially responsible company. Their products help to solve the problem of water scarcity abroad. They also help support numerous nonprofits that work to provide clean water to those without access to drinkable water.

Our visit to Aquatech is a part of wider Department of Commerce campaign, announced last month, called “Commerce Comes to Your Town.” Here at the International Trade Administration (ITA), we stand ready to provide American businesses the tools and resources they need to export their goods and services all around the globe, grow their businesses, and create more good-paying manufacturing jobs for Americans.

I can’t stress enough how important exports are for America’s economic future. Forty-one companies that successfully grew their exports recently received the President’s “E” Award during a ceremony at the White House. As part of “Commerce Comes to Your Town,” I’ve spoken in towns across the country and met with business leaders to get their input and spread our message. In fact, earlier in the day, I attended the TechBelt Export Summit in Youngstown, Ohio, where I was able to speak about how important exports are to that region.

Commerce on Track to Meet Most Federal Energy and Sustainability Goals

Department of Commerce Sustainability and Energy Scorecard

Last week, as part of the administration’s initiative to reduce energy use, waste and costs in Federal operations, the Commerce Department joined the other Federal agencies in releasing our annual updates on energy and sustainability performance. In October 2009, President Obama issued Executive Order 13514 (PDF), directing Federal agencies to lead by example in clean energy and to meet energy, water, pollution, and waste reduction targets. These performance scorecards benchmark annual agency progress and enable us to target the best opportunities to improve efficiency, reduce pollution and eliminate waste.

Growth and Opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa

Logo: African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA)

Crossposted from ITA's blog, Tradeology.

Guest blog post by Nicole Y. Lamb-Hale is the Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing and Services within the International Trade Administration

This week I am participating in the 11th Annual U.S.-Sub-Saharan Trade and Economic Forum, hosted this year in Washington, D.C. The event is mandated by the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and is the U.S. Government’s premier high-level, bilateral event with Sub-Saharan Africa. This year’s theme is “Enhancing Africa’s Infrastructure for Trade.”

The AGOA Forum brings together over 600 participants, including senior U.S. and African officials, as well as U.S. and African members of the private sector and civil society.

I am honored to be co-chairing a session with Humberto Brito, Minister of Tourism, Industry and Energy, Cape Verde focused on ways to create an attractive regulatory environment to attract renewable energy investment.

Sub-Saharan Africa is a continent of opportunities for U.S. businesses with overall projected growth rates of approximately six percent in 2012–some of the highest in the world. In looking at the world’s ten fastest growing economies from 2001-2010, six were in Africa. This trend accelerates in 2011-2015 with seven of the ten world’s fastest growing economies being in Africa. In the World Bank’s Doing Business 2012: Doing Business in a More Transparent Worldan impressive 36 out of 46 economies in Sub-Saharan Africa improved business regulations this year–a record number since 2005. Of the economies that improved the most in the ease of doing business in 2010/2011, with improvements in three or more areas of regulation measured by Doing Business, four of the twelve are Sub-Saharan African countries.

NIST: Creating Jobs with Innovation

Image: NIST Under Secretary and Director Patrick Gallagher tours Omega Plastics

Guest blog post by Patrick Gallagher, Under Secretary  of Commerce for Standards and Technology and Director, National Institute of Standards and Technology

We’ve been hearing a lot about manufacturing, especially advanced manufacturing, these days. Things like U.S. manufacturing :

  • Is critical to innovation since it’s responsible for most of our private sector research and development;
  • Is increasingly about sophisticated computer-driven, highly productive worksites requiring skilled workers; and
  • Is a growing source of good jobs.

What we don’t hear about as often are specific cases where U.S. manufacturers are using new technologies to diversify their markets, improve their products, and create or retain jobs. I was fortunate today to visit one such company, Omega Plastics Inc., located in Clinton Township, MI, about an hour outside Detroit.

The event was part of a “Best Practice Tour” sponsored by the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (MMTC), an affiliate of NIST’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP).

New $6 Million Strong Cities, Strong Communities Challenge to Spur Economic Growth in Six Cities

Economic Development Administration-banner

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

Today, at the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Orlando, Florida, I joined Erika Poethig, the Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), to launch the latest key components of the Obama administration’s Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) initiative, which was announced in July 2011 to help strengthen local capacity and spark economic growth in local communities while ensuring taxpayer dollars are used wisely and efficiently.

The Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA)—an SC2 Federal partner—announced the $6 million Strong Cities, Strong Communities Visioning Challenge to help economically distressed cities leverage innovative strategies to spur local economic and job growth.

The challenge will start with the competitive selection of six cities, one in each of EDA’s regions. Each of the winners will receive up to $1 million to conduct their own two-phase competitions. In the first phase, winning cities will encourage teams of experts in such fields as transportation planning, economic and community development, business incubation, and engineering to submit economic development proposals for their city or region. The highest-rated proposals, as evaluated by a city-appointed review panel, will receive cash awards. In the second phase, the finalists from the first round will compete for a cash prize by developing comprehensive economic development plans.

NIST Effort Could Improve High-Tech Medical Scanners

Microarrayer machines (A) now can mix colors and deposit them on microscope slides, which can be used to calibrate hyperspectral imagers (HSI) for use in medical applications. The finished slides can be custom-colored (B) to calibrate HSIs to find specific types of tumors or disease tissue. Close up, they resemble dot-matrix printwork (C). Photo: Clark/NIST

A powerful color-based imaging technique is making the jump from remote sensing to the operating room—and a team of scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have taken steps to ensure it performs as well when discerning oxygen-depleted tissues and cancer cells in the body as it does with oil spills in the ocean.

The technique, called hyperspectral imaging (HSI), has frequently been used in satellites because of its superior ability to identify objects by color. While many other visual surveying methods can scan only for a single color, HSI is able to distinguish the full color spectrum in each pixel, which allows it to perceive the unique color "signatures" of individual objects. Well-calibrated HSI sensors have been able to discern problems from diseases in coral reefs to pollution in the atmosphere as determined by the distinct spectral signature at a location.  NIST Tech Beat item

Acting Secretary Blank Highlights Competitions As a Tool For Improving American Competitiveness

This morning, Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank spoke before the Department of Energy’s National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition. The competition is part of the Obama administration's Startup America Initiative, the White House campaign to inspire and promote entrepreneurship. Launched in December 2011, the National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition included six regional competitions that served as platforms for college students to present business plans that transform great clean energy ideas into great businesses. The goal of building regional networks of student-focused businesses, as well as its inclusion of corporate leaders in the clean energy and venture capital sectors, builds squarely on existing partnerships with the Department of Commerce to spur domestic innovation and entrepreneurship.

Blank told the audience, which included the six regional winning teams, that the key to America’s success is innovation. . . new products, new processes, new ways of thinking.  Since the 1940s, over two-thirds of America’s economic growth has been directly related to increased productivity due to innovationthat’s both new products and new production processes.