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Blog Entries from September 2012

Acting Secretary Blank Announces Grants to Establish Proof of Concept Centers for Emerging Technologies

$7 million invested in seven communities to help entrepreneurs out-innovate the world and create American jobs.

Today, Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank visited the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va. today, where she announced the winners of the third round of the i6 Challenge, a national competition to advance American innovation, foster entrepreneurship, increase the commercialization of ideas into viable companies, and create jobs. The initiative seeks to accelerate innovative product development, spur the formation of start-ups, and create small businesses by supporting Proof of Concept Centers at universities and research consortiums across the country, which are helping to jumpstart the production of emerging technologies and revolutionize manufacturing processes.

In her remarks, Blank noted that job creation remains the Administration’s top priority, noting a number of economic studies suggesting that innovative new products and processes account for about two-thirds of U.S. economic growth since World War II. Innovation also drives increases in productivity and rising incomes. The Proof of Concept Centers funded by the i6 Challenge grants support innovation by providing the tools and the support entrepreneurs and researchers need to take new products to market, launch businesses, and to create jobs. Proof of Concept Centers incorporate a range of services, such as technology and market evaluation as well as business planning, that are critical to regional economic growth and job creation.

ITA: Metro Exports Driving Economic Growth

Map of U.S. highlighting metro areas

Ed. note: Cross-posted from ITA's Tradeology blog by Michael Masserman and Ashley Zuelke of the Office of  Export Policy, Promotion & Strategy

Here’s a fact:  the 100 largest metro areas in our country make up just 12 percent of land area—but they make up 65 percent of our population and 75 percent of our nation’s GDP. So when it comes to export growth, it should come as no surprise that metro areas are leading the way.

What may surprise you, is that 13 smaller metropolitan areas across the U.S.—from Asheville, N.C., to Green Bay, Wisc., to Yakima, Wash.— for the first time joined the club of metropolitan markets that exported more than $1 billion in merchandise to the world. These metro areas exported U.S. goods such as machinery, transportation equipment, and computer and electronic products which are in great demand all over the world.

The achievement of these thirteen metropolitan areas and recently released national data for 2011 metropolitan exports confirms the historic progress we are making toward reaching the President’s National Export Initiative (NEI) goal of doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014.

Commerce's U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Implements Most Provisions of the America Invents Act

Vice Chief Judge Jay Moore of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board explains provisions of the AIA (file photo)

The most significant reform to the U.S. patent system in more than a century is a major step forward as numerous provisions of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act of 2011 are now in effect. The new rules will spur innovation and economic growth by streamlining the patent application process and introducing new procedures to ensure patent quality. Seven reforms to U.S. patent law went into effect one year after the signing of the bipartisan patent reform legislation by President Barack Obama on September 16, 2011. 

Some of the new rules include three new administrative trial provisions—inter partes review, post-grant review, and the transitional program for covered business method patents—will offer third parties timely, cost-effective alternatives to district court litigation to challenge the patentability of an issued patent; a supplemental examination provision that allows applicants to submit additional information relevant to the patentability of an issued patent to the Office in a new procedure that may protect the patent from an inequitable conduct charge; an inventors oath and declaration provision that for the first time allows assignee filing of a patent application; and a citation of prior art and written statements provision will enable the Office to treat the claims in a patent consistent with how a patent owner represents its claims to the courts or in other Office proceedings.

U.S. Population Reaches 314,395,013 on Constitution Day 2012

Image of Constitution with Census authorizing phrase, "in such manner as they shall by Law direct"

Commerce’s U.S. Census Bureau reports that the U.S. population reached 314,395,013 at noon today—the 225th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution on September 17, 1787, in Philadelphia. Twenty-five years ago, on the 200th anniversary, the population was 243,636,172. The very first census of 1790 counted 3,929,214 residents. 

Today, September 17, is recognized as Constitution Day and Citizenship Day to commemorate the creation and signing of the supreme law of the land and to honor and celebrate the privileges and responsibilities of U.S. citizenship for both native-born and naturalized citizens. The U.S. Constitution empowers the Congress to carry out the census in "such manner as they shall by Law direct" (Article I, Section 2). Read the Census in the Constitution

Job-Creating Culinary Center Opens in Philadelphia with EDA Support

Artist's rendering of exterior of the new Center

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

Providing office space and support for budding entrepreneurs to develop and grow their businesses while boosting the synergies offered by their developing ideas, skills, and products is a critical economic development strategy.

This is exactly what I saw today in Philadelphia, when I attended the opening of the new Dorrance H. Hamilton Center for Culinary Enterprises (CCE), an innovative facility that will provide shared business space for food entrepreneurs from throughout the Philadelphia region. This center was developed by Philadelphia’s The Enterprise Center, a business accelerator that since 1989 has supported local entrepreneurs and spurred economic growth in Philadelphia, and the Economic Development Administration (EDA), which in 2010 provided $1.5 million to support the construction of the CCE.

The new CCE building contains 13,000 square feet of space, and includes four state-of-the-art commercial kitchens that will be available for rent to culinary entrepreneurs, an eKitchen Multimedia Learning Center, and retail space for tenants.

Exports Hit Record Highs in 200 Metro Areas

Map of U.S. highlighting metro areas

Guest post from Natalie Soroka, Economist in the Office of Industry Analysis within the International Trade Administration

2011 was a good year for U.S. Metropolitan Area Exporters. Of the 367 metro areas with available data (due to Federal disclosure regulations), 206 saw record-high merchandise exports in 2011. Overall, exports from all metropolitan areas increased by 16 percent from 2010 to total $1.31 trillion in 2011. New York was the top exporter, accounting for $105.1 billion. 

While export value is concentrated in the top metro areas (like New York, Houston, and Los Angeles), exports are an important economic driver nationwide. In 2011, 150 metro areas exported more than $1 billion of goods, thirteen of which reached this mark for the first time.

Overall, many areas experienced significant export growth in 2011, with exports increasing by more than $1 billion in 36 metro areas. Larger exporters such as Houston and New York showed the highest dollar growth, each growing by more than $20 billion compared to the previous year, but growth was not contained to big cities. Of the top 50 metro exporters in 2011, Corpus Christi showed the fastest growth, nearly doubling its goods exports since 2010. Much of this growth, along with other fast-rising metropolitan areas in Texas and Louisiana, was due to higher exports of petroleum and coal products. Higher commodity prices benefitted many cities in 2011, with major exporters of crops (Minneapolis, New Orleans, Portland), primary metals (Salt Lake City, New York), and petroleum and coal products (Houston, New Orleans, New York, Corpus Christi) showing high growth. In addition to commodities, exporters of manufactured goods such as chemicals (Houston) and transportation equipment (Detroit) showed high growth in 2011.

Jacob Taylor, NIST Physicist, Receives Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal for Public Service

On Thursday evening, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) physicist Jacob Taylor received a Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal (Sammies) for his advanced scientific research, which has potential for advances in health care, communications, computing, and technology. Presented the award by Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank, Taylor was one of just nine winners chosen from nearly 400 nominees for awards honoring excellence in public service.

A fellow at the Joint Quantum Institute, Taylor has already developed a number of original theories on the cutting-edge of theoretical physics. One such idea is a way to allow magnetic resonance imaging to more effectively be utilized on the molecular level. This holds the promise of providing more detailed health information, better diagnoses, more targeted medical treatments, and more rapid discoveries of new drugs.

Taylor also has a pending patent on a process that would increase the quantity of data that could be sent through the Internet while using less energy, and his theory on computing has the potential to advance scientists much closer to the goal of achieving quantum computing—an extraordinary development in the field of physics that would allow for unprecedented increases to calculation speed.

NIST Unveils Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility to Improve Testing of Energy-Efficient Technologies

Grass seed falls from a ribbon as officials celebrate the opening of the Net-Zero Residential Test Facility on NIST’s Gaithersburg, Md., campus.

In a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday, the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) unveiled a new laboratory designed to demonstrate that a typical-looking suburban home for a family of four can generate as much energy as it uses in a year. Following an initial year-long experiment, the facility will be used to improve test methods for energy-efficient technologies and develop cost-effective design standards for energy-efficient homes that could reduce overall energy consumption and harmful pollution, and save families money on their monthly utility bills. 

The unique facility looks and behaves like an actual house, and has been built to U.S. Green Building Council LEED Platinum standards—the highest standard for sustainable structures. The two-story, four-bedroom, three-bath Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility incorporates energy-efficient construction and appliances, as well as energy-generating technologies such as solar water heating and solar photovoltaic systems. Full release  |  Video

Acting Secretary Blank Delivers Remarks at National Automobile Dealers Association Conference

Acting Secretary Blank Addresses the National Association of Auto Dealers

This morning, Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank delivered remarks at the National Automobile Dealers Association Legislative Conference. In her remarks, the Acting Secretary discussed how the Obama administration is working to strengthen the U.S. automobile industry, grow the economy and create jobs.

New car sales are beating expectations, having just seen the best August sales since 2009—nearly 1.3 million cars and trucks were sold last month. So far this year, sales for new cars are up 20 percent and sales for light-duty trucks are up more than 10 percent. Blank noted that, compared to the lowest point in 2009, the number of people employed in auto dealerships has risen by more than 85,000.

She also highlighted Cash for Clunkers, a $3 billion investment that stimulated our economy at a critical time when we needed consumers to go ahead and buy new cars, instead of holding back.  Not only did Cash for Clunkers help auto dealers get through a tough patch, but it also helped auto manufacturers and suppliers who were struggling to keep their workers employed and put safer, cleaner cars on the road.

2011 Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States Report

Cover: Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States Report

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released its report on Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States in 2011.

As we continue to fight back from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage report released today provides further evidence of how critical it is that we implement policies that benefit and create security for struggling families and our middle class—and not just the wealthiest Americans. 

Today’s report shows that while too many American families are still struggling, the nation’s poverty rate fell and the percentage of Americans with health insurance coverage rose in 2011. It is clear that had President Obama not taken swift and aggressive action to grow our economy and create jobs, today’s report would have shown much higher poverty rates, lower incomes, and a greater share of the population without health insurance. 

Though our poverty rate remains unacceptably high, this report shows that the poverty rate ticked down in 2011 after rising for several years in the wake of the Great Recession. Poverty fell for all age groups, including children, elderly, and non-elderly adults. A key reason for this decline was that 2.2 million more people had full-time jobs last year, in part because unemployment fell by 0.9 percentage points from December 2010 to December 2011. Government programs also continued to provide a vital safety net.