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Blog Entries from 2012

Commerce Department Declares Winners in the Commerce Business Apps Challenge

An online application that allows businesses to compare themselves to their competitors, locate their competition, customers, and suppliers, and find the best places to advertise and their developer team of four won the Commerce Department’s first prize and $5,000 in the nationwide Commerce Business Apps Challenge sponsored by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The winning apps use at least one Department of Commerce data set that assists businesses and/or improves the service delivery of Business.USA.gov to the business community. BusinessUSA is a centralized, one-stop platform to make it easier than ever for businesses to access services to help them grow and hire. All of these winners equip businesses with tools to be more competitive around the world, while creating jobs here at home.

The First Place winner, SizeUp, is a business intelligence tool that uses data from hundreds of sources including the Census Bureau, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, IRS records, county courthouse filings, Yellow Pages and White Pages, business publications, the U.S. Postal Service, and corporate annual reports to provide a comprehensive overview to small- and medium-sized  business about their competitiveness and where to find resources to improve. This will improve the success of small businesses so they can prosper and create new jobs.

The $10,000 contest challenges app developers to find innovative ways to utilize Commerce and other publicly available data and information to support American businesses. 22 entries were submitted to the high-profile judging panel that included Vint Cerf, Chief Internet Evangelist at Google; Tim O’Reilly, founder and CEO of O'Reilly Media and Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer at Facebook among others who selected the three winners.

The Commerce competition awarded a First Place winner ($5,000), a Second Place winner ($3,000) and a Third Place winner ($2,000).

Government Coming to Entrepreneurs

Ali Ansary, co-founder of SeventyK

Guest blog post by Ali Ansary, co-founder of SeventyK.

Ed. Note: SeventyK’s mission is to change cancer care by educating patients, families, and their healthcare providers through innovative ways about age-appropriate treatment and the unique needs of the adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer patient. Unlike pediatric and older adult cancer patients, for over two decades the rate of survival for AYA cancer patients has not improved.

Last Thursday I was honored to be part of a panel at the Colorado University Denver Anschutz Medical Campus where Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank discussed the importance of opening four new USPTO offices, including one in Denver.

As Acting Secretary Blank spoke to the new opportunities and growth that will spur from opening new USPTO offices, two quotes came to mind:

#1: "No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it" (Albert Einstein). 

For the first time, new offices outside of Washington, D.C. will be part of the solution to accelerate innovation in this country—an important recognition that innovation doesn’t happen in one place—it happens across the country. Now entrepreneurs who need to protect their innovation have a direct line to the government locally. A strong move when seeing that IP-intensive industries account for nearly 35 percent of the FY2010 U.S. GDP.

Acting Secretary Blank Speaks About Innovation Imperative at GlobalWIN’s Luncheon

Acting Secretary Blank Enjoys a Laugh With Members of the Global Women’s Innovation Network (Photo by Ben Droz - bendroz.smugmug.com)

Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank delivered remarks at the Global Women’s Innovation Network (GlobalWIN)’s third annual Innovation Luncheon at the Library of Congress today. GlobalWIN provides a forum for women executives and women working in academia, government and business in innovation-related fields. In her remarks, Dr. Blank highlighted the importance of women’s leadership in advancing America’s innovation agenda to compete and create jobs.

Blank emphasized that to be competitive in the 21st century, America needs to encourage students to enter science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. These fields produce many of the inventors and leaders who bring new ideas from the lab to the marketplace. Even though STEM jobs pay about 25 percent more than others, only about 13 percent of U.S. college graduates got degrees in the STEM fields. Blank affirmed that one reason America has so few STEM workers is because women are seriously underrepresented in these fields. Women make up nearly half of America’s labor force—but less than one-fourth of our STEM workforce. Some women lack information, others lack role models or mentors, while others may lack opportunity.

To provide opportunities, the Obama administration launched Educate to Innovate in 2009. This campaign brings together the federal government with private-sector partners with a particular focus on inspiring more girls, women and minorities to explore science and technology. Another example is Race to the Top, made possible by the Recovery Act. With about $4 billion in funding, Race to the Top provides competitive grants that support and reward states with high K-through-12 achievement with the only extra preference allowed in this competition is for states that focus on STEM. A third example of the president’s commitment came this week when he dedicated $100 million for a new corps of high-quality STEM teachers at 50 sites around the U.S. These teachers will get up to $20,000 on top of their base salary in exchange for making a multi-year commitment.

Blank reminded the audience that in the long run, America’s ability to innovate and compete as a nation will determine what kind of economy—and what kind of country—we pass along to the next generation.

EDA: By Attracting Investment in America, We Create New Jobs

Today, Acting Assistant Secretary for Economic Development Matt Erskine joined Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, Rochelle Mayor Chet Olsen, and Members of Congress at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for this new Nippon Sharyo railcar production facility in Rochelle, Illinois

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

Attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) to the United States, and the jobs that come with it, has been a priority of the Obama administration since it came into office. Business programs from every federal agency have been thoroughly ramped up, and a new initiative targeting foreign companies thinking about locating in the United States, SelectUSA, was launched in 2011.

The United States is already the largest recipient of FDI in the world. In 2010, such investment totaled $228 billion, up from $153 billion in 2009, supporting more than five million jobs throughout the country. Those workers made up 4.7 percent of total private-sector employment in the United State, with an annual payroll of $410 billion.

Success in attracting FDI doesn’t happen without a lot of hard, collaborative work on the part of states, municipalities, development agencies, and the federal government. I saw an excellent example of this today in the city of Rochelle, Illinois, where I participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the opening of a new manufacturing facility for Nippon Sharyo U.S.A., the U.S. subsidiary of a Japanese manufacturer of railcars.

NIST: University, Industry Experts Recommend Steps to 'Invigorate' U.S. Manufacturing

Alternate TextReport: University, Industry Experts Recommend Steps to Invigorate U.S. Manufacturing (cover of report)

A new report by a national committee of U.S. industry and university leaders details 16 recommendations "aimed at reinventing manufacturing in a way that ensures U.S. competitiveness, feeds into the nation's innovation economy, and invigorates the domestic manufacturing base."

The report was prepared by the 18-member steering committee of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP) that was launched by President Obama in June 2011 and co-chaired by Susan Hockfield, now president emerita of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Andrew Liveris, president, chairman and chief executive officer of The Dow Chemical Company.

The AMP Steering Committee Report to the President on Capturing Competitive Advantage in Advanced Manufacturing (PDF) was formally adopted today by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

It addresses needs in three broad categories:

  • enabling innovation,
  • securing the talent pipeline, and
  • improving the business climate.

The recommendations include a call to establish a national network of manufacturing innovation institutes; an emphasis on investment in community college training of the advanced manufacturing workforce; an approach to evaluate platform manufacturing technologies for collaborative investment; a plan to reinvigorate the image of manufacturing in America; and proposals for trade, tax, regulatory, and energy policies that would level the global playing field for domestic manufacturers.  Full NIST release

Women in the Financial Sector: A White House Forum on Economic Growth

Acting Secretary Blank Presenting to the Women in the Financial Sector: A White House Forum on Economic Growth

Guest blog post by Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank

This morning I spoke with around 100 women from across the U.S. financial services industry at the White House. The forum included business executives as well as stewards of institutional funds.

I’m an economist by training and I’ve studied the role that women play in the workforce. When it comes to decision-making, in the boardroom or anywhere else, the best decisions get made when there is more diversity of perspectives and opinions at the table. So it was great to hear from these leaders.

We talked about the U.S. economy and some of the challenges we face, and I highlighted some of the things that President Obama is pushing for to help strengthen our economy, build on our global competitiveness, and create even more jobs.

Already, GDP has grown for 11 straight quarters and more than 4.4 million private sector jobs have been created over the past 28 months. That’s good news, but clearly we must do more.

For example, we need to expand support for states and localities to hire more teachers, police, and firefighters. We need to expand infrastructure investment, and put unemployed construction workers back to work. We need to reward firms that insource—bringing jobs back to America—and eliminate tax benefits for companies that outsource. And we need to extend tax cuts for middle class families.

In addition, everyone agreed that Americans should be as concerned, perhaps even more concerned, with long-term investments that assure long-term American competitiveness. For example, the president has called on Congress to support more research and development as well as tech transfer in America’s top universities and labs along with investments that will help to increase the skills of the U.S. workforce, provide greater access to higher education and enhance our nation’s educational infrastructure.

Acting Secretary Blank Delivers Remarks at BIS Update Conference on Export Controls and Policy

Acting Secretary Blank gestures from the dais

On Tuesday, Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank delivered the keynote address at the Conference on Export Controls Policy, hosted by the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security. This annual conference is the U.S. Government’s major export control outreach and education event of the year.

In her remarks, Dr. Blank highlighted progress on President Obama’s Export Control Reform Initiative and the National Export Initiative, saying that success in both areas is important for strengthening the American economy and creating more jobs, which are the president’s top priorities.  

Blank emphasized that the United States must have a strong, effective export control system through the powerful partnership between federal agencies like BIS and American companies that sell cutting-edge products, calling such a system “a national security imperative.”

The last major changes to export control regulations took place over 15 years ago, and those changes were more organizational than substantive. Through the President’s Export Control Reform (ECR) initiative, this is changing.

This initiative has at its core a continued commitment to national security, to prevent key goods and technologies from falling into the wrong hands, Acting Secretary Blank said. The proposed changes over controls on less-significant military items do not mean that key items will be “de-controlled.”  In fact, the departments of Commerce, Justice and Homeland Security will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute illegal exports to countries and end users of concern.

Acting Secretary Blank noted that these export control reforms will not only enhance national security by focusing resources on the greatest threats, but will also generate other benefits, including increased U.S. interoperability with allies, reduced incentives for foreign companies to avoid American-made parts that in turn will strengthen the American defense industrial base, and, importantly, reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens, expenses and red tape on American exporters.

Driving Broadband Adoption in the Latino Community

Anna Gomez (left), Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and Deputy Administrator, at the recent NALEO conference.

Cross-posted from NTIA blog by Anna M. Gomez, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information

I recently had the opportunity to speak to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) about NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) and the work it is doing to promote broadband adoption in the Latino community.

A high-speed Internet connection can provide access to everything from online job postings to educational opportunities to valuable healthcare information. But too many Latino households remain cut off from these important benefits.

NTIA, in collaboration with the Census Bureau, conducts some of the most extensive survey work on broadband adoption trends in the U.S. Our most recent survey, in October of 2010, found that 72 percent of White households nationwide subscribed to broadband, compared with only 57 percent of Hispanic households. The survey also found that socioeconomic factors such as income and education do not fully explain the gap. Even after accounting for these factors through regression analysis, Hispanic households still lag White households in broadband adoption by 11 percentage points on a nationwide basis.

Department of Commerce Conducting Time and Travel Survey

Recently, you may have received a letter from the Department of Commerce with a set of questions called the Time and Travel Survey. This important survey is part of a larger study of how people spend their time and their business and leisure travel.

We are now conducting the first stage of this scientific study. For the results to be most useful, we are asking all households who receive this short questionnaire to complete it and send it back. Your input is important because the Department of Commerce will use it to assist a number of state and federal agencies in making decisions about how to manage resources. Your answers are voluntary and will be kept confidential to the fullest extent of the law. Your answers will be used for statistical purposes only in accordance with the Privacy Act of 1974.

We may select someone from your household to ask them some additional questions. Thank you again for your help in this important study.

Acting Secretary Blank Cuts Ribbon to Open U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Detroit, Michigan

Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank cuts the steel ribbon, officially opening the Elijah J. McCoy USPTO Satellite Office

Acting Secretary Blank wrapped up her 3-day Innovation Tour with a stop in Detroit, Michigan today to participate in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially launch the Elijah J. McCoy USPTO Satellite Office. She was joined by USPTO Director Kappos, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, U.S. Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, U.S. Representatives John Dingell, John Conyers, Jr., Gary Peters, and Hansen Clarke, and local businesses and entrepreneurs.

During the ceremony, Acting Secretary Blank swore in the office’s first seven USPTO Board Judges who will review patents and help speed up the patent process. The Detroit USPTO satellite office will create approximately 120 highly-skilled jobs in its first year of operations.

In her remarks, Blank said:

And now, today, with this new office, we’re making another critical investment in the future of Detroit, the state of Michigan, and the U.S. as a whole.

With the help of the McCoy office, we’re creating a stronger, more efficient patent system. That’s important because patents are the fuel for innovation.

Patents protect the intellectual property of Americans who have game-changing ideas. Patents help put those ideas to work in our economy. And patents help us out-compete the rest of the world.

We’ve already made great progress in improving our patent system. Even though patent filings grew five percent last year, we were able to actually reduce the patent backlog by 10 percent.

The McCoy office will help us continue to expand our patent system’s capacity and productivity.

Blank noted that the new office is just a beginning. An innovation-driven economy demands more support of R&D, help for universities like Michigan, Michigan State and Wayne State to push their research discoveries into the marketplace, and to ensure young people can succeed in science, technology, engineering and math—the STEM fields.

Blank reiterated the President's call that we must stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas and start helping those that are trying to keep jobs here or bring them back. Citizens and government must use all of the tools at their disposal to ensure that America will continue to drive innovation and be a magnet for good jobs for the middle class. The ability to innovate and compete as a nation will determine what kind of economy—and what kind of country—is passed along to the next generation.