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Blog Entries from 2013

Why Immigration Reform Matters

Secretary Pritzker visited the “Fast for Families” tent on the National Mall to show support for passing commonsense immigration

Guest blog post by Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker

This week, I visited the “Fast for Families” tent on the National Mall with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to show our support for passing commonsense immigration reform. I was humbled by the courageous men and women we spoke with, who are making a personal sacrifice to end the human suffering they have witnessed as a result of our current immigration system. 

The “Fast for Families” was launched by faith, immigrant rights and labor leaders on November 12 and has been ongoing since.  The dedicated leaders who have gathered to fast on the National Mall have been driven by their individual experiences, but they are united in their commitment to seeing Congress pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Those I met with included Rudy Lopez, who had already completed 21 days of his fast. I spoke with the son of Iranian immigrants, the daughter of migrant workers, and an undocumented immigrant from Mexico City who was on the fifth day of her fast. They each had a different story, but they all expressed their desire to live in a country that remains the source of hope and opportunity for people all over the world.

The fact is, the vibrant fabric of this nation has always been made up of immigrants. My great grandfather came to the United States in the 1800s from Czarist Russia, dirt poor, at the age of 10. He taught himself English, worked several jobs, earned his law degree at night, and opened a law practice at the age of 30 in 1902. His story is the story of countless immigrants to this country, who come to America seeking a better life and better opportunities. In doing so, they have contributed to our success as a nation.

In 2011, immigrants started 28 percent of all new businesses in the United States, though they only accounted for 13 percent of the U.S. population. And, more than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or children of immigrants.

The President and the Senate’s bipartisan proposal builds a smart, effective immigration system that continues efforts to secure our borders and makes sure that every business and every worker plays by the same set of rules. Estimates are that the Senate-passed immigration reform bill can grow the economy by $1.4 trillion over the next two decades and reduce the deficit by nearly $850 billion. Commonsense reform will also attract the best minds to America by providing visas to foreign entrepreneurs looking to start businesses here. As well, it will provide our nation’s best and brightest foreign students with an opportunity to pursue an education and stay in this country after graduation.  Immigration reform will also reunite families in a timely and humane manner.

I have traveled all over the country since I was sworn in as Secretary of Commerce nearly 6 months ago, and I have heard tremendous support for passing immigration reform. The business community understands the numerous ways in which immigrants to this country not only benefit our economy but enrich our nation. The passionate example set by the fasters – who are so dedicated to making their voices heard – is one we can all emulate. Their courage and commitment is shining a light on what is morally right for this country and the values we, as Americans, represent. 

Acting Deputy Secretary Gallagher Addresses First-Ever American Energy and Manufacturing Competitiveness Summit

Acting Deputy Secretary Patrick Gallagher yesterday spoke at the first-ever American Energy and Manufacturing Competitiveness Partnership Summit in Washington, DC. Co-hosted by the Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy Office and the Council on Competitiveness, the first annual gathering brought together leaders from government, academia, industry and more to address national priorities in energy and manufacturing.

Dr. Gallagher gave brief remarks on the importance of energy and manufacturing to the Administration, the Commerce Department, and to our country as a whole. For many reasons, including the generation of more renewable energy than ever before, the U.S. has become an increasingly attractive place for foreign direct investment.

Several Commerce agencies are working to help companies continue to deepen their investments in the United States in order to maintain the U.S. position as the world's leading producer of environmental technologies in the 21st century.  Specifically, Gallagher cited National Institute of Standards and Technology scientists who are reengineering America's electric grid and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's efforts to fast-track patent applications related to renewable energy and greenhouse gas emission reduction.

The Commerce Department is at the intersection of issues like energy, sustainability, the environment, innovation and competitiveness, whose links are becoming stronger and more complex. Manufacturing in particular is a key indicator of our country’s innovative capacity, which is why strengthening manufacturing is a major focus of the Commerce Department's recently released "Open for Business Agenda." As the federal agency responsible for leading the government’s manufacturing policy, Commerce plans to support manufacturing at every stage of the product life cycle. Specific initiatives include promoting pre-competitive collaboration among leading-edge manufacturers nationwide and investing in communities that develop comprehensive strategies that strengthen their competitive edge in attracting global manufacturers.

Travel and Tourism Leaders Provide Four Recommendations to the Secretary to Further President’s National Travel and Tourism Strategy

Guest blog post by Todd Davidson, Chair and Sam Gilliland, Vice Chair, of the United States Travel and Tourism Advisory Board

The United States Travel and Tourism Advisory Board (Board) serves as the advisory body to the Secretary of Commerce on matters relating to the travel and tourism industry in the United States. The Board held its final meeting this week and provided the following recommendations to Secretary Pritzker for priority issues to be examined over the next three years.

This week, the US Travel and Tourism Advisory Board had its final meeting with Secretary Pritzker and submitted our top priority recommendations to enhance travel and tourism to and within the United States. The President’s National Travel and Tourism Strategy last year identified the exciting and overarching goal of welcoming 100 million international visitors by the end of 2021. Here are our top priorities aimed at achieving this goal:

Visa and Entry Process. Our country will not get a second chance to make a positive first impression on international travelers, and long entry wait times at ports of entry are seriously undermining that impression. We need more Customs and Border Patrol officers, but we also need to use technology to move people more efficiently. We must commit to processing all visitors to our country within 30 minutes of their arrival. The travel and tourism industry supports passage of the Jobs Originated through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act. This legislation is chock full of goodness: it would reauthorize Brand USA, modernize and expand the Visa Waiver Program, facilitate the use of secure videoconferencing for visas, reduce visa wait times, and expand the highly successful Global Entry program.

Infrastructure Investment. With more international and domestic travelers visiting the United States, we must improve America’s transportation infrastructure, including our airports, rail system and highways. Substantial investment and new requirements for sustainable practices are urgently required. Commerce should identify and address the nexus between inadequate transportation infrastructure and hindered economic growth and create a public-private forum to formulate solutions. We need speedy investment and implementation of the Next Generation Air Traffic Control System (NextGen) and a public awareness campaign about how NextGen improves the travel experience by enhancing safety, reducing delays, saving fuel and reducing emissions. 

NOAA Issues Arctic Report Card: Long-Term Warming and Environmental Change Trends Persist in 2013

NOAA Announces 2013 Arctic Report Card

According to a new report released today by NOAA and its partners, cooler temperatures in the summer of 2013 across the central Arctic Ocean, Greenland and northern Canada moderated the record sea ice loss and extensive melting that the surface of the Greenland ice sheet experienced last year. Yet there continued to be regional extremes, including record low May snow cover in Eurasia and record high summer temperatures in Alaska.

The findings were released today by David M. Kennedy, NOAA’s deputy under secretary for operations, during a press briefing at the American Geophysical Union annual meeting in San Francisco. Kennedy stated the Arctic caught a bit of a break in 2013 from the recent string of record-breaking warmth and ice melt of the last decade.  Kennedy joined other scientists to release the Arctic Report Card 2013, which has, since 2006, summarized changing conditions in the Arctic. One hundred forty-seven authors from 14 countries contributed to the peer-reviewed report. 

In 2006, NOAA’s Climate Program Office introduced the State of the Arctic Report which established a baseline of conditions at the beginning of the 21st century. It is updated annually as the Arctic Report Card to document the often-quickly changing conditions in the Arctic. In addition, for the first time, scientists also released new information on marine fishes and black carbon.  

Secretary Pritzker to Lead Business Development Mission to Middle East

Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker will lead a senior-executive Business Development Mission to the Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC) of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar March 8-14, 2014.

The trade mission is critical to building on export growth and furthering the Obama Administration’s efforts to help U.S. businesses compete and succeed in the global economy. It is also an important component of the Department of Commerce’s “Open for Business Agenda,” which prioritizes trade and investment.

This mission will highlight export opportunities for U.S. businesses in three leading industry sectors with an emphasis on project management and engineering (including construction, architecture and design), renewable energy (solar, wind, waste-to-energy), smart grid and energy efficiency, and environmental technologies (including water/wastewater; air pollution control; and waste management).

Secretary Pritzker Announces Administration-Wide Initiative to Attract Manufacturing and Investment in American Communities

Secretary Penny Pritzker announced the launch of Phase 2 of the “Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership” (IMCP), an administration-wide initiative led by the White House and the U.S. Department of Commerce that will encourage communities to devise comprehensive economic development strategies that strengthen their competitive edge in attracting global manufacturers and their supply chains.

Pritzker announced the initiative during her opening remarks at the White House Mayor’s Manufacturing Community Summit. During this phase, communities will have an opportunity to compete for a special designation that will elevate them in consideration for $1.3 billion in federal dollars and assistance from 10 cabinet departments/agencies. These communities could also potentially receive catalytic additional federal investments to further support their economic development strategies.

The IMCP is a critical component of the Department of Commerce’s “Open for Business Agenda,” which prioritizes trade and investment. The initiative seeks to enhance the way we leverage federal economic development funds to encourage American communities to focus not only on attracting individual investments one at a time, but transforming themselves into globally-competitive manufacturing hubs.

During Phase One, 44 communities were awarded a total of $7 million to support the creation of economic development strategies that recognize the community’s comparative advantages as a place to do business, invest in public goods, and encourage collaboration between multiple entities to expand the area’s commercial appeal to investors.

Under Secretary Hirschhorn Highlights Benefits of Export Control Reform for Small Businesses

Under Secretary of Commerce for Industry and Security Eric L. Hirschhorn today highlighted the significant progress of President Obama’s Export Control Reform Initiative (ECR) during a conference call with members of the National Small Business Association and its international trade arm, the Small Business Exporters Association.  ECR is aimed at bolstering national security and improving the system used by businesses for exporting sensitive items.  Small and medium-sized businesses stand to benefit from ECR’s emphasis on helping to improve the strength of the U.S. defense industrial base.

Hirschhorn told the group today that over the past four years, the Obama Administration has sought, through export control reform, to achieve greater regulatory efficiency and rationality and focus controls on the most significant items and destinations.

ECR encompasses defense and high technology commercial goods and technology.  A private industry study suggested that ECR could create hundreds of thousands of jobs over the long term. As ECR moves forward, BIS will continue to engage industry leaders, small business owners, and other stakeholders on these efforts to enhance national security, increase U.S. interoperability with allies, strengthen the American defense industrial base, and importantly, reduce unnecessary burdens, expenses, and red tape on American exporters.

BIS has an active outreach program of seminars, webinars, and teleconferences like today’s event, to assist exporters in understanding and complying with changes related to the ECR. The current schedule for seminars around the country is regularly updated on the BIS website.

America Is Open for Giving

Combined Federal Campaign Logo for 2013

Guest blog post by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker

Cross-post from LinkedIn.

After Thanksgiving, you may have stood in long lines for Black Friday, supported your local businesses on Small Business Saturday, and clicked endlessly on Cyber Monday. And today, there is a relatively new tradition that demonstrates America’s incredible capacity for generosity – Giving Tuesday.

Along with businesses and charities worldwide, I am proud to support #GivingTuesday today, an event designed to support our communities by helping charities raise money online. Spearheaded by the United Nations Foundation and 92nd Street Y, a non-profit cultural and community center in New York City, #GivingTuesday allows you to support your favorite causes across the nation and around the world.

Last year, $10 million in online donations rolled in on the inaugural #GivingTuesday. The number of PayPal mobile donations jumped nearly fivefold over the previous year, and the value of those donations increased more than 200 percent. Clearly, Americans are showing that they are ready to use technology and innovation to give back.

This year promises to deliver much more in positive impact. Already, the number of #GivingTuesday partners has already tripled from 2,500 to 7,500, and I’m glad to see businesses like eBay, Johnson & Johnson and AT&T all have efforts to support Giving Tuesday. Some examples are Microsoft launching a campaign to raise $500,000 for Give for Youth to create education, employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for young people in conjunction with Giving Tuesday. And the Case Foundation is helping to host an online site where donors can support selected nonprofits and get their contributions matched. These are just a few of the many signing on.

Schools and community groups are also getting involved. This is the type of creative collaboration between public, private, and nonprofit entities that I love seeing.

Thanksgiving Day: Nov. 28, 2013: 150th Anniversary of Lincoln Proclamation

Image of Fall fruits and vegetables

In the fall of 1621, the Pilgrims, early settlers of Plymouth Colony, held a three-day feast to celebrate a bountiful harvest, an event many regard as the nation's first Thanksgiving. The Wampanoag, the Indians in attendance, also played a lead role. Historians have recorded ceremonies of thanks among other groups of European settlers in North America, including British colonists in Virginia in 1619. The legacy of thanks and the feast have survived the centuries, as the event became a national holiday 150 years ago (Oct. 3, 1863) when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November as a national day of thanksgiving. Later, President Franklin Roosevelt clarified that Thanksgiving should always be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of the month to encourage earlier holiday shopping, never on the occasional fifth Thursday.

  • 242 million: the number of turkeys forecasted to be raised in the U.S. in 2013.
  • 768 million pounds: The forecast for U.S. cranberry production in 2012. 
  • 2.6 billion punds: The total weight of sweet potatoes produced by major sweet potato producing states in 2012.

More Thanksgiving Facts for Features

Let's Talk Turkey: U.S. Turkey Production and International Trade

Map of U.S. showing top turkey production states

This year is the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation establishing Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Today we are presenting some data tidbits on U.S. production and international trade in turkeys and turkey products–the main course of many Thanksgiving celebrations. (The wild turkey would also have been our national symbol if Benjamin Franklin had had his way).  While we hope you find these facts tasty, our main motive is to showcase the vast amounts of delectable and highly detailed data on production and international trade that our federal statistical agencies harvest and dish out.  Read more