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Blog Entries from 2012

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.

Commerce's ITA Releases Data Showing International Visitor Spending Continues at Record-Setting Pace

Graph: U.S. Travel and Tourism-Related Exports

Rate is twelve percent increase over last year

Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA) today released tourism data revealing that 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 (12 percent) than was spent in April 2011.

The new data reaffirms the importance of the Obama administration’s efforts to increase travel and tourism in the United States and comes on the heels of the release of the National Travel and Tourism Strategy (PDF) last month. The National Strategy is a blueprint for the Federal government to welcome 100 million international visitors each year by the end of 2021. The visitors would spend an estimated $250 billion per year, supporting more jobs and spurring economic growth in communities across the country.  Read the full ITA release here.

Acting Commerce Secretary Blank Promotes U.S.-India Commercial Relations

This morning, Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank delivered remarks to the U.S.-India Business Council in Washington, DC as part of their 37th Anniversary Leadership Summit, in advance of the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue.

Within the next 20 years, it is estimated that India will become the most populous country in the world, and total yearly income of Indian urban households could reach four trillion U.S. dollars. With their middle class growing bigger each day, India is poised to continue playing a major role in the global economy.

Acting Secretary Blank spoke to the Council about these important economic opportunities and the ways that the United States and India can work together to strengthen their economic relationship.

First, Blank praised the success of the U.S.-India trade relationship. From 2009 to 2011, U.S. goods exported to India grew over 30 percent to a record $21.6 billion.

$6 Million i6 Challenge to Spur High Growth Entrepreneurship and Expand Proof of Concept Centers

i6 Challenge logo

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

The Obama administration has unveiled several actions that are designed to speed up the growth of new, job-creating companies. Today, a new $6 million i6 Challenge, the third round of the national innovation competition, was announced. Six winning teams from around the country will get awards of up to $1 million this fall for innovative proposals to create and expand Proof of Concept Centers, such as the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Stevens Institute for Innovation at the University of Southern California.

Centers like these incorporate a range of services—such as technology and market evaluation, business planning and mentorship, and early-stage access to capital—that are critical to regional economic growth and job creation.

The i6 competition series has generated great momentum since it was first introduced as part of the roll-out of the White House’s Startup America initiative last year. Projects funded in 2010 and 2011 are already starting to show results.

Census Innovation Day: Government at the Speed of Business

Groves address the adience

Guest blog post by Robert Groves, Director of Commerce's U.S. Census Bureau

I’m blogging from the Census Bureau’s Innovation Day event. We’re highlighting for all our staff the newest tools and techniques that we’re developing to do our work more efficiently.

These are the fruits of programs that seek ideas from every staff member, from the newest to the most senior, about how to do our work for less money, to do it faster, and to complete it with higher quality. Hundreds of proposals were submitted and scores of projects are underway to introduce the new procedures. The depth of creativity within the staff rivals that of any organization.

What are we up to?

The Census Bureau produces most all information we know about the socioeconomic and demographic characteristics continuously. We also are the key supplier of information on the economy—retail sales and other service sector volume, manufacturing, foreign trade, state and local government finances, and a host of others. Almost every week, information that answers the question, “How are we doing?” is released.

Assistant Secretary Michael Camuñez Concludes U.S.-Mexico Border Trade Policy and Promotion Week Visit

Assistant Secretary Camuñez is joined by public and private stakeholders after recognizing the New Mexico Border Authority for their efforts to support the local community.

Guest blog post by Michael C. Camuñez, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Market Access and Compliance, International Trade Administration

During this past week, in my official capacity as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Market Access and Compliance, I had the privilege of leading a high-level delegation of U.S. and Mexico government officials on a tour of the U.S.-Mexico border region, which, with $460 billion in trade passing across it each year, is one of the most economically significant borders in the world. As a native New Mexican, I was especially proud to highlight the vast commercial benefits that the border region generates for both countries. The trip included stops in San Diego/Tijuana; NM/Santa Teresa; El Paso; Laredo/Nuevo Laredo; and Monterrey, Mexico. 

At each stop, stakeholders repeated the theme that we—government and business—must work together to change the narrative about the border. The goal is not to diminish awareness of the fact that real security challenges exist; rather, we need to increase awareness that there is more to the border story. Both countries are critical to the economy of the other, and one of our goals for this trip was to highlight the fact that new commercial opportunities exist and that the border serves a critical role in facilitating the essential flow of goods and people between Mexico and the U.S.

Our delegation consisted of U.S. and Mexico government officials and members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. We conducted stakeholder outreach events related to the border trade facilitation efforts under the U.S.-Mexico 21st Century Border Management initiative, which was established by Presidents Obama and Calderon in May 2010 as a vehicle to develop and promote a more secure and seamless border between our two countries. These events provided us with an opportunity to share information with stakeholders about the ongoing work and accomplishments of the initiative and to receive important, on-the-ground feedback from them, which can be incorporated into the 21st Century Border Management work streams.

U.S. Experiences Second-Warmest May, Hottest Spring on Record

Map of U.S. with significant weather events for April-May

Lower 48 also experienced record warm year-to-date and twelve-month periods

The average temperature for the contiguous U.S. during May was 64.3°F, 3.3°F above the long-term average, making it the second-warmest May on record. The month's high temperatures also contributed to the warmest spring, warmest year-to-date, and warmest 12-month period the nation has experienced since recordkeeping began in 1895.

The spring season's (March-May) nationally-averaged temperature was 57.1°F, 5.2°F above the 1901-2000 long-term average, surpassing the previous warmest spring (1910) by 2.0°F.

Precipitation totals across the country were mixed during May, with the nation as a whole being drier than average. The nationally-averaged precipitation total of 2.51 inches was 0.36 inch below average. The coastal Southeast received some drought relief when Tropical Storm Beryl brought heavy rains to the region late in the month. | See the full Climate Report

Secretary Bryson Encouraged by President’s Export Council Recommendations to Help Strengthen U.S. Economy

Secretary Bryson addresses the President's Export Council

Yesterday, Secretary John Bryson met with the President’s Export Council (PEC) with two goals in mind: to discuss further ways to strengthen the U.S. economy; and to update PEC members on the actions taken by the Department and the administration to increase exports.

As the principal national advisory committee on international trade, the PEC provides a forum for public-private interaction at all levels of government and business. It is responsible for advising the president on government policies and programs affecting U.S. trade performance, covering topics that range from export promotion to deliberations over specific trade challenges in various industries and sectors.

Since the PEC last met, the Obama administration has made great strides in creating jobs, increasing exports and growing the economy. For example, the U.S.-Korea and U.S.-Colombia free trade agreements were implemented earlier this spring, and will drive billions of dollars in additional annual exports and create tens of thousands of American jobs.

A Collaborative Effort to Support Ogden, Utah’s Growing Software Applications Sector

EDA logo-banner

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

Today, I joined Mayor Mike Caldwell in Ogden, Utah, to announce a $1 million investment by the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) with the Ogden City Corporation to help create a lab that will train workers and provide space for business startups in the growing field of software applications for mobile computing devices.

This new facility will be strategically located in Ogden’s downtown and will be operated by a consortium of experienced, capable partners, including the city of Ogden, Weber State University, the Weber State University Research Foundation, and private-sector industry leaders. It is exactly the type of collaborative partnership that EDA is excited to invest in.

Over a 10-year period, the new facility is expected to create 750 jobs and generate up to $4.6 million in private investment, according to grantee estimates. Its focus on software applications is very timely: You can’t walk down any street today, or sit in any coffee shop for long, without seeing smart phones and tablet computers all around you. And while it’s only been a few years since these devices first came on the market, they’ve been a runaway hit ever since: Demand for them has skyrocketed, and with it the demand for applications, or “apps,” that run on them.