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Blog Entries from September 2012

Acting Secretary Blank Speaks With Council of Foreign Relations on Increasing the Level of Business Investment in the U.S.

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank Answers Questions After Her Remarks at the Council on Foreign Relations

This afternoon, Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank spoke before the Council on Foreign Relations about the Obama administration's initiatives to help businesses expand their investment in the United States and bring jobs back home. The Commerce Department works to attract investment across all sectors, but in her remarks Blank focused on manufacturing because that sector has added more than half-a-million new jobs since 2009, compared to the previous decade in which six million manufacturing jobs were lost. In addition after decades of watching American companies take jobs to other countries, more and more manufacturers are making the decision to keep factories and production facilities here in the United States and are bringing jobs back to the U.S. from overseas through insourcing.

Blank mentioned that the renewal of the manufacturing sector is driven by America’s quality infrastructure, skilled labor, and advanced research and innovation that are critical for manufacturers to thrive. Business leaders list a number of reasons why the U.S. looks so attractive to them right now, including the fact that domestic energy production is lowering the cost of oil and natural gas needed in manufacturing. A second reason for investing in the U.S. is a competitive edge in labor productivity. America’s manufacturing workers now produce about nine percent more each hour than they did in 2008.

Blank noted that the list of reasons that CEOs give for investing here is longer still. America has a strong rule of law and a good regulatory environment. Additionally, the U.S. has the strongest level of intellectual property protection–and our patent system is only getting better due to the 2011 passage and implementation of the America Invents Act. America has the best universities in the world, producing graduates that drive entrepreneurship and feed innovation into our private sector.

With EDA Assistance, Communities Have a New, Resource-Rich Tool to Help Them Recover from Disasters

RestoreYourEconomy.org

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

To coincide with National Preparedness Month, the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) has just launched the newly redesigned RestoreYourEconomy.org website.

Developed with funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), the website is a one-stop resource for economic development organizations and chambers of commerce seeking to assist businesses after a disaster, rebuild their local economy, and encourage resiliency among local businesses and government.

Since it was first established, EDA has played an important role in helping communities across the country recover from disasters by assisting them in reestablishing their local economies and implementing long-term economic recovery efforts. Earlier this year, EDA announced the availability of $200 million to help communities that received a major disaster designation in fiscal year 2011 with long-term economic recovery and infrastructure support.  Within the context of the administration’s National Disaster Recovery Framework (NDRF), EDA serves as the Coordinating Agency on behalf of the Department of Commerce for the Economic Recovery Support Function (RSF) to coordinate the activities of a diverse group of partner agencies supporting recovery in disaster-impacted communities. The activities consist primarily of improved information sharing and leveraging existing resources to make a positive impact for communities affected by disasters.

Populations Increasing in Many Downtowns, Census Bureau Reports

Image of cover of " Patterns of Metropolitan and Micropolitan Population Change: 2000 to 2010"

Commerce's U.S. Census Bureau today released a report that shows that in many of the largest cities of the most-populous metro areas, downtown is becoming a place not only to work but also to live. Between the 2000 and 2010 censuses, metro areas with five million or more people experienced double-digit population growth rates within their downtown areas (within a two-mile radius of their largest city’s city hall), more than double the rate of these areas overall.

Chicago experienced the largest numeric gain in its downtown area, with a net increase of 48,000 residents over 10 years. New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington, D.C also posted large population increases close to city hall. These downtown gains were not universal, however: New Orleans and Baltimore experienced the greatest population declines in their downtown areas (35,000 and slightly more than 10,000, respectively). Two smaller areas in Ohio—Dayton and Toledo—also saw downtown declines of more than 10,000.

These are just some of the findings in the new 2010 Census special report, Patterns of Metropolitan and Micropolitan Population Change: 2000 to 2010 (PDF). The report uses 2010 Census results to examine contemporary geographic patterns (as well as changes since the 2000 Census) of population density and distribution by race, Hispanic origin, age and sex for metro and micro areas collectively as well as individually. Metro areas contain at least one urbanized area of 50,000 population or more, while micro areas contain at least one urban cluster of less than 50,000, but at least 10,000.  Census release

NIST Director Gallagher Participates in Dedication of New Facility for Coral Reef Research

The new NSU Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Ecosystem Research in Hollywood, Fla. (Photo: Nova Southeastern University)

Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and Directory of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Dr. Patrick Gallagher today is helping dedicate the new Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Ecosystems Research (CoECRER) at Nova Southeastern University (NSU) in Hollywood, Florida.

Gallagher joins state and local officials, including Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, and other guests, including former Vice President Al Gore and Dr. Paul Sandifer, Senior Science Adviser to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in the opening celebration for the “only research facility in the nation dedicated entirely to coral reef ecosystems science.”

Among the unusual features of the festivities was a morning media tour, by snorkel, of one of the center’s off-shore coral “nurseries.”

The new research facility was funded in part by a $15 million grant from NIST as part of a competitive program under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to support the construction of new scientific research facilities at academic institutions and non-profit research organizations. (See “NIST Awards $123 Million in Recovery Act Grants To Construct New Research Facilities,” Jan. 8, 2010).

Acting Secretary Blank Announces $40 Million Initiative to Challenge Businesses to Make it in America

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank Announces $40 Million Initiative to Challenge Businesses to Make it in America (Photo: Roberto Westbrook and STIHL Inc.)

Yesterday, Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank traveled to Virginia Beach, Va., where she toured the STIHL manufacturing plant and announced a new initiative to strengthen the economy by supporting American businesses as they make things here in America and create jobs. The Make it in America Challenge is designed to accelerate the trend of insourcing, where companies are bringing jobs back and making additional investments in America. The competition, which is being funded by the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration and National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership and the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, will build upon the administration’s bottom-up approach to strengthening the economy and creating jobs by partnering with state, regional and local economies.

The national competition will help provide the critical infrastructure, strategic planning, capacity building, technical assistance, and workforce skills training necessary for American communities to be the desired home for more businesses. The Make it in America Challenge builds on the administration’s efforts to encourage companies—large and small, foreign and domestic, manufacturers and services firms—to increase investment in the United States.

Acting Secretary Blank also highlighted two ongoing efforts by the Department of Commerce to attract foreign direct investment. SelectUSA, a program the president launched last year, continues to showcase the United States as the world’s premier business location and to provide easy access to federal-level programs and services related to business investment. Also, Commerce’s Commercial Services officers have been trained to help foreign investors who want information about how to invest in the U.S and who want to link up with local and state economic development leaders to create jobs in America.

USPTO Deputy Director Rea Participates in University of Michigan Law School Panel

Deputy Under Secretary for Intellectual Property and Deputy U.S.Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Director Teresa Stanek Rea participated today in a panel titled, "The State of Patent Litigation: A Conversation with the Federal Circuit Court" at the University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor. The event included a keynote presentation by the Honorable Randall R. Rader, Chief Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

The America Invents Act (AIA) was the main topic of the panel discussion. Rea described how its historic reforms drive growth in both jobs and exports. Most of the AIA’s rules went into effect on September 16th, and create new avenues to ensure our patents are of the highest quality. The AIA was signed into law by President Obama last September. 

Given Ann Arbor’s proximity to Detroit, it’s not surprising that many audience members were curious to learn more about the USPTO’s first-ever satellite office in Detroit. It opened on July 13th, but examiners there are already working on patent applications from regional inventors. Rea also noted that the USPTO is hard at work looking to open additional offices in Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver, and Silicon Valley.

NOAA Ramps Up 'Weather-Ready Nation' Initiative in Nation's Capital

National Weather Service office building

Launches new project to enhance weather forecasts and support for D.C, Baltimore

On Friday, Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced service improvements underway at its forecast office in Sterling, Va., which provides weather forecasts and warnings and supports public safety decision-makers in the nation's capital and Baltimore. This is the latest in a series of six pilot projects NOAA launched over the past year as part of its Weather-Ready Nation initiative to improve the country's resilience to extreme weather.

The six Weather-Ready Nation projects focus on emergency response, ecological forecasting and enhanced support to officials who make public health and safety decisions when extreme weather sets in. Successful projects may be duplicated in other locations. NOAA release

Acting Secretary Blank Applauds Local Economic Development Efforts and Announces Strong Cities, Strong Communities Challenge Winners

With Blank are Denise Turner Roth, Greensboro City Manager and Robbie Perkins, Mayor of Greensboro

Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank traveled to Greensboro, North Carolina yesterday, where she discussed the Commerce Department’s initiatives to strengthen the city and the region, spurring economic development and creating jobs. Over the past few years, local officials have shared how the federal government could best help cities that were hit hard in the recession and in the years leading up to it. They suggested:

  • Combining federal, state and local resources to help cities that were poised to reinvent themselves;
  • Requiring effort and money by both federal and local governments;
  • Including an element of competition in order to make sure that the money went to the places that were best able to use it.

The result was the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Challenge. The goal of the competition is to generate innovative ideas, strategies, and perspectives that cities can use to develop long-term economic and job growth plans. Acting Secretary Blank announced that Greensboro, North Carolina; Hartford, Connecticut; and Las Vegas, Nevada are the winners of the Obama administration’s SC2 Challenge. These grants will contribute to stable, long-term growth that will benefit families and businesses in each city and throughout each state. 

Energy House in Delaware Is Retraining and Giving Former Auto Workers a Leg Up in the Job Market

Energy House at Delaware Technical and Community College’s Georgetown campus was built with financial support from the Economic Development Administration.

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

An impressive new training facility opened this spring at Delaware Technical and Community College’s campus in Georgetown and is expected to retrain former auto workers for new jobs in the emerging green sector. Energy House, designed to resemble an actual residence, serves as an educational lab where these workers can get a new start by learning about innovative energy-efficient technologies and renewable materials. Programs will fill a pressing need to train workers and will help strengthen the economic competitiveness of the Delaware region.

At the green building technology and alternative energy systems training center, students are being trained for the jobs and industries of the future. Participants are being prepared to work as skilled technicians who can install efficient heating and cooling systems and windows; retrofit homes to save electricity; and build and install solar panels, wind turbines, and other clean energy technologies. 

NOAA Announces $4.5 Million in Environmental Literacy Grants to Support K-12 Science Education and Stewardship Projects

Students and teachers explore global data visualizations with NOAA’s Science On a Sphere at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry (MSI).  The sphere will serve as a focal point for K-12 teacher professional development programs at MSI, which is one of eight new recipients of NOAA Environmental Literacy Grants.  (Photo credit:  MSI)

Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced Wednesday that it is awarding eight new education grants to enhance science education activities in classrooms, aquariums, museums and other institutions across America. These awards support six unique, multi-year projects and will share $4.5 million in grants from the NOAA Office of Education’s Environmental Literacy Grants Program. Projects are designed to increase stewardship and informed decision-making within a diverse pool of educators, students and the public to help promote environmental literacy.

“NOAA’s Office of Education is proud to partner with such an impressive group of organizations,” said Louisa Koch, director of education at NOAA. “It is only with the help of institutions such as these that we can successfully engage the public in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) topics while supporting NOAA’s mission of science, service, and stewardship."

The projects receiving grant funding focus on engaging formal and informal educators along with K-12 students. Project activities include formal K-12 educator training programs to help teachers incorporate NOAA data and other resources into experiential learning activities; service learning programs for K-12 students that combine standards-based learning with stewardship activities in students’ local communities; and professional development to enhance informal science educators’ effectiveness in increasing public understanding of complex ocean topics. The selected projects will partner with NOAA’s research laboratories, national marine sanctuaries, Climate Program Office, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Weather Service, Pacific Services Center, Coral Reef Conservation Program and Sea Grant.  NOAA release