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Blog Entries from June 2013

Spotlight on Commerce: Frederick Steckler, Chief Administrative Officer, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Frederick Steckler, Chief Administrative Officer, USPTO

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.

Guest blog post by Frederick Steckler, Chief Administrative Officer, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

As the Chief Administrative Officer for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) I am responsible for the delivery of all administrative service support functions for the USPTO including human capital strategy, human resource management, telework policy and programs, facilities management, safety and security, transportation, asset and records management.  I am fortunate to work with a team of nearly 200 professionals in the delivery of these vital services to our colleagues at the USPTO.  My team and I pride ourselves on being a customer-centric and service-oriented team.  

I was born in Cleveland, Ohio and when I was nine years old, after one particularly bad Cleveland winter, my mother, grandmother and I moved to Boca Raton, Florida. So I really grew up there.  I am a proud graduate of Boca Raton Community High School.  

After high school, I attended Duke University and earned a Bachelor’s degree in economics. Growing up near the water led to being interested in a career with the U.S. Navy. I was a member of the Duke Navy ROTC battalion and upon graduation was commissioned as an ensign in the U.S. Navy. My first station was as part of the commissioning crew of the USS Vandegrift (FFG-48). I later went on to serve as Second Company Officer at the U.S. Naval Academy and Executive Assistant to The Commandant of Midshipmen. I left the Navy in 1989 and went to work as a junior consultant for Coopers & Lybrand and while working earned a Master of Business Administration from The George Washington University. Today, I am married to my partner of 20 years, Robert Murphy, and we live in the District of Columbia with our black lab, Sammi Jo.

Penny Pritzker Sworn in as 38th U.S. Secretary of Commerce

Pritzker greeted employees as they entered the Herbert C. Hoover Building

Penny Pritzker was sworn in yesterday as the nation’s 38th Commerce Secretary. As a key member of President Obama’s economic team, Secretary Pritzker will lead the U.S. Department of Commerce in carrying out the important work that gives entrepreneurs and businesses the tools they need to create jobs and keep the American economy growing, two of the administration’s highest priorities. She will also work extensively with the business community, bringing their concerns and ideas to the forefront.  

“I am pleased the Senate took bipartisan action to confirm Penny Pritzker as our next Commerce Secretary,” said President Obama. “Penny is a proven leader, a successful entrepreneur, and one of the most accomplished and highly-respected women in business today. She knows what it takes to build companies from the ground up, and she shares my belief in doing everything we can to help businesses and workers succeed and make America a magnet for good jobs. Penny will be a key member of my economic team as we continue to work to grow our economy and strengthen the middle class.” 

“It is an honor to join President Obama’s economic team as Secretary of Commerce,” said Secretary Pritzker. “The Department of Commerce provides many unique assets that are critical to strengthening our economy, creating jobs, and ensuring America’s competitiveness–from support for manufacturing and exports, to the promotion of innovation, to the economic data that startups and businesses rely on. Our Department stands ready to serve as an active partner to the business community as we work together to continue building a 21st century American economy.”  Background

EDA Investments: Supporting Entrepreneurship and Job Creation

Map of U.S. showing entrepreneurship rates

What do the states of Montana, Vermont, New Mexico, Alaska, and Mississippi have in common? They are, according to a report published this spring by the Kauffman Foundation, Index of Entrepreneurial Activity, 1996–2012, the states that posted the highest rates of entrepreneurial activity in 2012.

According to the Kauffman Foundation report:

• Montanans operate 530 businesses per 100,000 adults, Vermonters and New Mexicans operate 520 businesses per 100,000 adults, and Alaskans and Mississippians operate 430 businesses per 100,000 adults.

• A most important measure—the formation of businesses with employees—held steady from 2011 to 2012: At 0.11 percent (meaning 11 employer businesses per 100,000 individuals), an average of 193,000 new employer businesses were formed each quarter in 2012.

This is important, and good, news about our economy. And these states should be applauded for what they are doing to foster entrepreneurship, which is a driver of economic growth and prosperity.

Support for entrepreneurship is a central part of the Economic Development Administration’s mission as it works to establish a foundation for sustainable job growth and the building of durable regional economies throughout the United States.

Spotlight on Commerce: Ronald Lorentzen, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Import Administration, ITA

Photo of Lorentzen at his desk

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.

Guest blog post by Ronald Lorentzen, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Import Administration, International Trade Administration

As the career official responsible for the day-to-day management of Import Administration, I perform many roles: making the budgetary ends meet; acting as policy adviser plenipotentiary; being an “executive sponsor” of various projects; and serving frequently as a diplomatic counselor or empathetic ear to our organization’s staff and external stakeholders.

Import Administration’s core mission is to administer our nation’s antidumping and countervailing duty laws, which provide a remedy–typically, via a special import tariff–to help U.S. industries that are injured as a result of unfairly traded imports.  These remedies are determined through quasi-judicial investigations conducted under the close scrutiny of the courts and the World Trade Organization. While the process is sanctioned by international trade rules and receives broad support from the Congress, the outcome of any given investigation can displease the domestic industry, the foreign exporters, the foreign government(s) and–in many cases–all of the above. You have to have a thick skin to do my kind of work. But the work itself can be intellectually fascinating, impinging upon some of the most controversial trade policy issues and of make-or-break importance to the survival of many U.S. businesses and the livelihoods of many Americans.

How did I get here? I was born in northeastern Ohio and grew up in Indiana and Illinois, graduating from Bradley University in Peoria, IL, with a B.A. in French and international relations. I had no clue when I was in high school that one could specialize in such a field, but I think that my sense of being “different” led me to explore that possibility and the options that it might present. That led to a junior year of college at the Sorbonne in Paris, which in turn convinced me that I must continue in this field and find another chance at further study abroad. I was accepted by the Johns Hopkins School of International Studies M.A. program and packed my bags for a year at SAIS’s center in Bologna, Italy, with my second year bringing me to Washington–my home ever since. I can see more clearly now that my scholarly interests spoke to the calling that I had to understand and interact with people of different cultures, but the experience of living abroad was profoundly transformative in liberating me from my own, often self-imposed limitations as a gay man.

MBDA’s Business Centers Expand Reach

MBDA logo

Celebrated since 1963, National Small Business Week recognizes the contributions of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners. Entrepreneurship is an integral part of our country’s DNA and increasing numbers of minorities are becoming entrepreneurs. However, starting a business can be challenging in that the majority of small- to medium-sized businesses often lack access and visibility to helpful resources.

Through a national network of nearly 40 business centers and a wide range of domestic and international strategic partners, the Minority Business Development Agency provides minority-owned businesses with technical assistance and access to capital, contract opportunities and new markets to create new jobs and support the economy. Nationwide MBDA Business Centers help provide heightened visibility and access to valuable opportunities for minority-owned firms through partnerships with multi-national corporations, industry coalitions, and government agencies.

For Kevin Robinson, CEO of RFS Group, LLC, in Indianapolis, IN, hard work and determination helped get his full service janitorial company off the ground. However, taking the business to the next level required some help. Robinson contacted the MBDA Business Center in Indianapolis for direction. The Center provided Robinson with procurement assistance and business counseling. As a result, RFS secured several contracts valued at $16,700, and it was able to hire eight additional employees. Within six months of partnering with the Center, RFS saw its revenues increase by 10 percent.

Acting Secretary Cameron Kerry Honored to Serve the American Public Alongside His Brother

Acting Secretary Cameron Kerry is joined by his brother, Secretary of State John Kerry, in the Secretary's Office

Guest blog post by Acting Secretary of Commerce Cameron Kerry.

Earlier this month, I was honored to take the helm at the Department of Commerce as Acting Secretary. Having served as the Department’s General Counsel for the last four years, I have come to know and cherish the exceptional work that the people at Commerce do to promote innovation and economic growth, provide world-class science for the benefit of the American people, and expand our exports and global trade. I’m proud to have been called on to lead this work as Acting Secretary.

While taking the leadership role at the Department of Commerce is a very special point in my career, my tenure as Acting Secretary also marks the first time in U.S. history that two siblings have served together in the President’s cabinet, as the Boston Globe pointed out in a piece this week. My older brother John, of course, is the U.S. Secretary of State.

Siblings throughout history have served in Administrations simultaneously – such as the Dulles brothers, who served as Secretary of State (John Foster Dulles) and CIA Director (Allen Dulles) during the Dwight D. Eisenhower Administration. But never before have two brothers served in the Cabinet – which includes the Vice President and the heads of 15 executive departments – at the same time.

Protecting the Nation’s Critical Infrastructure

NIST logo

Guest blog post by Patrick Gallagher, Under Secretary  of Commerce for Standards and Technology and Director, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Just about everything these days—from banking to health care to the electricity powering our homes—is rooted in cyberspace. This any time, any where interconnected world unfortunately brings with it a constantly evolving set of security challenges. 

That’s why President Obama directed the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to work with industry on a voluntary cybersecurity framework for better protecting the nation’s critical infrastructure.

The idea is to use existing standards, guidelines and best practices to reduce cyber risk across sectors and develop capabilities to address the full-range of quickly changing threats. The framework will provide a flexible toolkit any business or other organization can use to gauge how well prepared it is to manage cyber risks and what can be done to strengthen its defenses.

It is vital that companies understand their digital assets and accurately assess the maturity of their cyber protections so they can properly allocate resources.  These needs stretch across a spectrum from maintaining awareness of existing threats to preventing, detecting, and responding to attacks to recovering from them.

Commerce Bureaus Play Key Role in Intellectual Property Accomplishments and Future Priorities

The Obama administration today released its 2013 Intellectual Property Enforcement Joint Strategic Plan. Since the issuance of its first Joint Strategic Plan for Intellectual Property Enforcement three years ago, the administration has made major accomplishments toward strengthening intellectual property (IP) enforcement, including increasing its use of trade policy tools, reducing online infringement and supporting American entrepreneurs and intellectual property-intensive industries that strengthen our economy.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), International Trade Administration (ITA) and the Office of General Counsel's Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP) all play important roles in these efforts.

The USPTO undertakes a wide range of policy, legal, operational and regulatory efforts and initiatives that enhance intellectual property protection both at home and abroad. For example, USPTO provided technical assistance to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to ensure that Colombia, Korea and Panama implemented IP rights enforcement provisions in our free trade agreements with the three countries. USPTO has also conducted several capacity building initiatives and training programs, including several with foreign judges, countries and organizations to facilitate more effective IP rights enforcement systems abroad.

To help small and medium-sized American businesses interested in doing business in China, the USPTO has conducted several events nationwide providing information on patents, trade secrets, trademarks, copyright and enforcement. The USPTO also has IP attachés who actively work to improve the protection of U.S. intellectual property rights overseas. In addition to experts in the U.S., these attachés have sponsored training seminars teaching best practices in applying and enforcing intellectual property laws with representatives from nearly 20 countries. To assess the impact of intellectual property on the U.S. economy, the USPTO collaborated with Commerce’s Economic and Statistics Administration (ESA) to publish the Intellectual Property and the U.S. Economy: Industries in Focus report, which found that the top IP-intensive industries in the U.S. support at least 40 million jobs and contribute more than $5 trillion to U.S. gross domestic product.

Commerce’s Economic Data Is a Goldmine for Small Businesses

Graphic of Econmic Census

Public data is a valuable national asset whose value is multiplied when it is made easily accessible to the public. For example, the public release of weather data from government satellites and ground stations generated an entire economic sector that today includes the Weather Channel, commercial agricultural advisory services, and new insurance options. Similarly, the decision by the U.S. Government to make the Global Positioning System (GPS), once reserved for military use, available for civilian and commercial access, gave rise to GPS-powered innovations ranging from aircraft navigation systems to precision farming to location-based apps, contributing tens of billions of dollars in annual value to the American economy.

The Department of Commerce makes available to small businesses economic data that are important for key business decisions such as where to locate, where to manufacture a product and where to sell that product.

For example, AmFor Electronics, a second-generation, family-owned manufacturer in Portland, Oregon, is the market leader in the manufacturing of alternator and starter testers, which are sold to auto parts stores, auto repair shops, and alternator and starter rebuilders. Using Commerce data like that available in the Assess Costs Everywhere tool, AmFor decided to enter the wire harness sector and chose to locate their manufacturing facility domestically rather than overseas because it provides a shorter turnaround times with fewer defects that ultimately leads to a reduction in costs. These successes have translated into new customers and the hiring of 50 employees.

International Trade Administration’s Commercial Service Makes Exporting Easier for Small Businesses

U.S. Commercial Service Logo

In early 2011, Vanport Outfitters received its first commercial overseas order from Japan. That is when they started working with the U.S. Commercial Service, which assisted them throughout the export process. Some challenges Vanport faced included building brand awareness and finding quality contacts overseas to do business with. To address these issues, Vanport used U.S. Commercial Service business matchmaking services. “As a small company, few have heard of us, and are already selling competing products from better known firms. We find that we have to work hard to demonstrate that we’re serious about our craft. We really enjoyed working with the U.S. Commercial Service and found that the services provided helped make selling our goods outside the country easy, and we are continuing to build our brand awareness,” said Thomas Craig, Business Manager at Vanport Outfitters.

The company decided to focus on their export potential and actively pursue other markets, and in doing so, relied on assistance provided by the Trade Information Center, including market research, trade counseling, and assistance with export regulations. The result was that Vanport Outfitters has received additional orders from ten different countries, and is planning to export into East Asia, Oceania, Europe, and Canada.