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Blog Entries from 2012

Obama Administration to Strengthen Rural Alaskan Community Economy

Aerial view, Bristol Bay Lowlands (Alaska)

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

Over the last three and a half years, President Obama has committed his administration to make investments to strengthen rural economies and create jobs. That includes Alaska’s Bristol Bay region.

The Bristol Bay Jobs Accelerator Project, an economic growth effort by the Bristol Bay Native Association in Dillingham, Alaska is one of the winners of the multiagency Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, an initiative that pools the resources of 13 federal agencies to support innovation in rural regional industry clusters.

While Bristol Bay has a wealth of natural resources, it has struggled to leverage those assets to fuel long-term, sustainable growth. The area, for example, is one of the world’s premier fishing grounds for sockeye and king salmon, with millions of fish returning to Bristol Bay and its tributaries each year to spawn.

The Bristol Bay Jobs Accelerator Project, representing a consortium of 31 Alaskan tribes, will support the fisheries and seafood processing industry cluster located in Bristol Bay. The goal is to assist distressed rural communities in the region by leveraging local assets, building stronger economies, and creating regional linkages.

Commerce Joins Announcement on New Public-Private Partnership to Support Additive Manufacturing Innovation

Acting Secretary Blank signs her name next to Secretary Chu's on a robot designed by a high school team from Knoxville, TN that was built via additive manufacturing (3-D printing).

Today, Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank joined White House National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling, Undersecretary of Defense Frank Kendall, and other Obama administration officials to announce the launch of a new public-private institute for manufacturing innovation in Youngstown, Ohio as part of ongoing efforts to help revitalize American manufacturing and encourage companies to invest in the United States. This new partnership, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII), was selected through a competitive process, led by the Department of Defense, to award an initial $30 million in federal funding, matched by $40 million from the winning consortium, which includes manufacturing firms, universities, community colleges, and non-profit organizations from the Ohio-Pennsylvania-West Virginia "Tech Belt." The institute focuses on additive manufacturing, often referred to as 3-D printing, which will have implications in a wide range of industries including defense, aerospace, automotive, and metals manufacturing. In her remarks, Acting Secretary Blank discussed the role of American manufacturing in driving economic growth and creating good jobs in the United States.

Youngstown, Ohio and the surrounding region knows what happens when manufacturing production declines. But in this area once known as the "rust belt," investments like this new pilot institute demonstrate the potential within a region to bring together the capabilities of America’s companies and universities, in partnership with the federal government, to invest in the cutting-edge technologies and skills our manufacturers need to compete. With this initiative, Youngstown is poised to become the epicenter of burgeoning new industries from its leadership in additive manufacturing or 3-D printing.

Acting Secretary Blank Talks Administration Support for American Manufacturing

Guest blog post by Dr. Rebecca Blank, Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

I just returned from the White House Business Council American Economic Competitiveness Forum on Manufacturing where I had an opportunity to hear from a group of American manufacturers—representing businesses of all sizes from across the country—about how the Obama administration can continue to support them as they build things here and sell them everywhere. As we have seen in recent months, manufacturing is one of the bright spots for our economy. Over the past two and one-half years, more than a half-million manufacturing jobs have been created in the U.S.—the strongest job growth in that sector since the 1990s. In fact, just last month, an additional 25,000 new manufacturing jobs were added.

In terms of production, manufacturing output is up 20 percent since 2009, and increased again in July. One manufacturing sector that has been consistently strong is the motor vehicles and parts industry, which has added 165,000 jobs since June 2009a sector that might not even exist in the U.S. today if not for the assistance this administration gave to the U.S. auto industry in 2009.

This matters because we know that manufacturing jobs are good jobs that pay more than average and provide greater benefits. They strengthen economic security for middle class families.

There is a powerful link between America’s ability to make things and America’s ability to innovate, compete, and create good jobs. We have come to realize that you can’t separate innovation and production—they have to sit near each other. Manufacturers perform 70 percent of all private sector R&D, investing in and producing technological advances that accounted for 90 percent of U.S. patents.  Economic research indicates that innovation—in new products or new processes—was central to three-quarters of the nation’s economic growth since World War II and it is not an accident that the manufacturing sectors where America is most competitive are all advanced manufacturing, where new technologies, new products or new production processes are central to the success of specific firms.

Obama Administration Holds Rural Swing in North Carolina and Louisiana to Promote Jobs and Innovation

EDA Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge Logo

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

Over the next two days, I will join several colleagues for a rural swing in North Carolina and Louisiana to promote jobs and innovation. Along with Deputy Under Secretary for USDA Rural Development Doug O’Brien, Appalachian Regional Commission Federal Co-Chair Earl F. Gohl, and Delta Regional Authority Federal Co-Chairman Christopher Masingill, I will attend events in rural America and tour two projects that were among the 13 winners of this year’s Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge.

The Rural Jobs Accelerator—designed by the Taskforce for the Advancement of Regional Innovation Clusters and the White House Rural Council—is a joint effort of 13 federal agencies, working together to help accelerate economic and job growth across rural regions. It is a great example of collaboration across federal agencies to pool resources and identify new, innovative ways to create an economy built to last.

Since taking office three and one-half years ago, President Obama has been deeply committed to strengthening rural economies all across America—helping to create jobs, support business growth, and expand opportunity for rural Americans. The administration has advanced new policies and initiatives and made significant investments in rural communities. The Rural Jobs Accelerator builds on those goals, seeking to foster job creation and business innovation in these communities.

New Export Data Shows 34 States Reached Record Highs for Merchandise Exports in the First Half of 2012

U.S. map showing 34 states passing exports records

U.S. exports support nearly 10 million jobs across the country

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank announced today that U.S. merchandise exports totaled a record $773.4 billion in the first six months of 2012, up by $50.7 billion from the same period of 2011.

“Comprehensive data from the first half of 2012 demonstrates that exports continue to be a bright spot for America and that we’re making historic progress toward the president’s goal of doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014,” said Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank. “Despite a challenging global economy, these numbers show continued global demand for American goods. While the nation looks to be on track toward exceeding last year’s goods and services export total of $2.1 trillion, we are also seeing some individual states outpace the national average of seven percent growth in merchandise exports. This is good news for the economy, because we know that increased exports create jobs. The jump in exports since 2009 has helped the private sector create 4.5 million jobs over the past 29 months, and, in 2011, jobs supported by exports increased by 1.2 million over 2009. There’s more work to be done to strengthen the economy and put more Americans back to work, and we need to continue to do all we can to support American workers, exporters and businesses so that they can continue to help us rebuild this economy." Full release

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Helps Atlanta Kickstart Innovation Opportunities

Director Kappos addressing Startup Atlanta (Photo by Bytegraph.com. Used with permission)

Helping set a stage for success to Atlanta’s entrepreneurs, Under Secretary of Commerce and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) David Kappos was in the Georgia capital this afternoon to help launch Startup Atlanta. Created by the city’s economic development agency, Invest Atlanta, the initiative seeks to connect entrepreneurs with the resources they need to succeed.

A hallmark for Startup Atlanta is an online platform that will serve as a network for entrepreneurs while simultaneously mapping out valuable resources such as incubators, accelerators, service providers and connections.

At the event, Kappos addressed the importance of a vibrant local entrepreneur community. “Not only do the novel ideas of Georgia’s entrepreneurs have the potential to move the pulse of an industry or transform the welfare of a community,” Kappos said, “They can also attract critical resources and capital for additional research and development, creating a host of new markets and new opportunities.”

NOAA Provides Easy Access to Historical Hurricane Tracks

Map of U.S. with storm and hurricane trackings

Understanding historical hurricane landfalls is important in preparing for current storms

Seeing where hurricanes have hit and how often is one of the best ways to bring home a powerful hurricane preparedness message. A NOAA website, Historical Hurricane Tracks, lets users insert their zip code and see a map that contains more than 150 years of Atlantic hurricane tracking data. The site also contains global hurricane data from as far back as 1842.

“Knowing more about local hurricane history can help communities better understand their vulnerabilities so they can take steps to be more resilient if a future hurricane strikes.” says David Eslinger, Ph.D., an oceanographer with the NOAA Coastal Services Center and one of the site’s developers.

The Historical Hurricane Tracks website, http://www.csc.noaa.gov/hurricanes, includes tropical cyclone data and information on coastal county hurricane strike data through 2011 while also providing links to detailed reports on the life history and effects of U.S. tropical cyclones since 1958.

In addition to the tracks of storms, the site provides insight to the increasing numbers of the U.S. citizens and infrastructure at risk for hurricanes, detailing population changes for U.S. coastal counties from 1900 to 2000. As the population continues to grow, so too has the number of storms with multi-billion dollars in damages to coastal infrastructure and property. Seven of the top 10 costliest hurricanes in U.S. history have occurred in the past eight years, including seventh-ranked Irene last August with $15.8 billion in damages.

The site’s popularity with the public was evident as Hurricane Irene bore down on the U.S. East Coast. Tens of thousands of people used Historical Hurricane Tracks to compare the National Hurricane Center’s projected path of Irene with past storms. User traffic peaked at over 19,000 visits on August 26, the same day Irene swirled off the North Carolina coast heading towards New York City while saturating the East Coast and New England and leaving millions without power.

U.S. Businesses Going for the Gold

Gold Key Matching Services Logo

As the 2012 Olympic Games wind to a close, American athletes have racked up nearly 40 gold medals against the best of their international competition. They achieved those victories with hours of practice, dedication, and partnership with coaches and mentors. Like America’s Olympians, American businesses are also competing on the global stage, and the Commerce Department is partnering with them through our Gold Key Matching Service to help them win.

Gold Key Matching Services, run through the International Trade Administration’s U.S. Commercial Service, is a low-cost service for American businesses to expand their global reach by making contacts with foreign firms and potential business partners.

Before business leaders go oversees to meet with prospective trade partners, the Gold Key Matching Service arranges appointments with pre-screened overseas agents, distributors, sales representatives and business partners. This cuts the time and cost to businesses in locating and vetting prospective trade partners.

The Gold Key Matching Services provide a host of other benefits for U.S. companies, including market research, industry briefings with U.S. Commercial Service trade specialists, and assistance with travel, accommodations, and interpreter services. In addition, for business leaders who aren’t able to make a trip overseas, video services are available to meet with potential business partners via videoconferencing.

ITA: Exports Bring Jobs to the Twin Cities Region!

Congressman Keith Ellison (MN-5) and Under Secretary Francisco Sánchez take questions from local companies during a business round table event in Minneapolis.

Guest blog post by Francisco Sánchez, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade.

Since the 2012 Olympic Games began, Minnesotans have competed in sports ranging from basketball to fencing, proving that athletes from the North Star State can succeed on the global stage. The same can be said for Minnesota’s businesses.

Yesterday, I visited Minneapolis to meet with Congressman Keith Ellison, Mayor R.T. Rybak and business and community leaders. It was a great opportunity to see and hear firsthand how local entrepreneurs are designing and manufacturing quality products that are being exported all over the world.

For instance, I had the pleasure of visiting Accent Signage Systems, a small manufacturing company. A pioneer in innovative sign technology, Accent Signage is experiencing the direct benefits of exporting and has plans to increase its workforce by 25 percent in the near future. This is a gleaming example of a business that is successfully competing abroad, and, in doing so, is making a positive impact here at home.  

NOAA Raises Hurricane Season Prediction Despite Expected El Niño

Satellite image of Hurricane Ernesto taken on Aug. 7, 2012 in the Gulf of Mexico (NOAA)

Updated outlook calls for near- or above-normal Atlantic season

This year’s Atlantic hurricane season got off to a busy start, with 6 named storms to date, and may have a busy second half, according to the updated hurricane season outlook issued today by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service. The updated outlook still indicates a 50 percent chance of a near-normal season, but increases the chance of an above-normal season to 35 percent and decreases the chance of a below-normal season to only 15 percent from the initial outlook issued in May.

Across the entire Atlantic Basin for the season—June 1 to November 30—NOAA’s updated seasonal outlook projects a total (which includes the activity-to-date of tropical storms Alberto, Beryl, Debbie, Florence and hurricanes Chris and Ernesto) of:

  • 12 to 17 named storms (top winds of 39 mph or higher), including:
  • 5 to 8 hurricanes (top winds of 74 mph or higher),
  • 2 to 3 could be major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of at least 111 mph)

The numbers are higher from the initial outlook in May, which called for 9-15 named storms, 4-8 hurricanes and 1-3 major hurricanes. Based on a 30-year average, a normal Atlantic hurricane season produces 12 named storms, six hurricanes, and three major hurricanes.  See NOAA's full release