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Blog Entries from 2013

Secretary Pritzker Tours Entrepreneur Center in Nashville, Tennessee

Secretary Pritzker receives a demonstration from one of the entrepreneur inside the Nashville Entrepreneur Center

Today, Secretary Penny Pritzker continued her successful nationwide listening tour with a stop at the Entrepreneur Center in Nashville, Tenn. This was her first stop in “Music City, USA” and provided her with an opportunity to hear how the center supports business start-ups and job growth.

The Entrepreneur Center (EC), a nonprofit business incubator, helps connect entrepreneurs with investors, mentors and resources that are crucial to accelerating the launch of their startup businesses. The EC houses 80 startups and was created through a public-private initiative, the Nashville Chamber of Commerce’s Partnership 2010, in 2007.

Following a catastrophic flood in May 2010, the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) invested $2.5 million in the EC in 2011 to renovate an historic building, the Trolley Barn, which tripled the facility’s capacity. The investment is also helping mitigate economic impacts of future disasters and helping build a stronger, more disaster-resilient economy.

Commerce Department Data Show U.S. Travel and Tourism Exports Contributed $87.1 Billion to U.S. Economy in First Six Months of 2013

Report cover: National Travel and Tourism Strategy

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration announced new data today that shows spending by international visitors to the United States in June 2013 totaled $14.6 billion, an increase of 5 percent when compared to June 2012.  International visitors have spent an estimated $87.1 billion on U.S. travel and tourism-related goods and services year-to-date in 2013 (January through June), an increase of 7 percent when compared to the same period last year.

Purchases of travel and tourism-related goods and services by international visitors traveling in the United States totaled $67.0 billion during the first half of 2013. These goods and services include food, lodging, recreation, gifts, entertainment, local transportation in the United States, and other items incidental to foreign travel.  Fares received by U.S. carriers (and U.S. vessel operators) from international visitors totaled $20.1 billion during the first half of 2013. The United States enjoyed a favorable balance of trade for the month of June in the travel and tourism sector, with a surplus of more than $4.3 billion.

The increase in international tourism to the United States is helping to achieve the goals of the National Travel and Tourism Strategy, launched last year by the Commerce Department and the Department of the Interior. The Strategy establishes an overarching goal of increasing American jobs by attracting and welcoming 100 million international visitors annually by the end of 2021, who are estimated to spend $250 billion while traveling in and getting to the United States. Release

Secretary Pritzker Speaks with More Than 100 CEOs in Her First Five Weeks

The Department of Commerce is Open for Business

In Secretary Pritzker’s first five weeks as Secretary of Commerce, she has met with or spoken to more than 100 CEOs and entrepreneurs. Since assuming the office of secretary, she has prioritized meeting and speaking with representatives of the business community to hear directly from them about how she can serve as a bridge to the business community. 

By calling top business leaders to discuss Commerce’s work in supporting American businesses and conducting small roundtable discussions, Secretary Pritzker is leveraging the opportunity to have an open dialogue and receive feedback from the business community about the commercial climates they encounter at home and abroad. Throughout these discussions, she has been hearing about the challenges companies face, the opportunities they see to increase U.S. competitiveness, and factors driving growth and investment in companies’ respective sectors.

In discussing inbound investment with CEOs of companies of all sizes, Secretary Pritzker has been talking about the upcoming SelectUSA Summit. She is amplifying what the President said last week; that this conference will connect business leaders from around the world with local leaders, “who are ready to prove there’s no better place to do business than right here in the United States of America.” 

The feedback gained from these conversations is vital to growing the partnership between business and government. Secretary Pritzker is appreciative of the input she has received from over 100 CEOs of small-and medium-sized companies she has encountered during her roundtables and phone calls, and taken their feedback seriously. As she continues her nationwide listening tour, she is hopeful to continue to gain invaluable input from business leaders throughout the country that will help shape her agenda as Secretary of Commerce.

New Census Bureau Interactive Map Shows Languages Spoken in America

New Census Bureau Interactive Map Shows Languages Spoken in America

Spanish, Chinese Top Non-English Languages Spoken; Most of Population is English Proficient

The U.S. Census Bureau today released an interactive, online map pinpointing the wide array of languages spoken in homes across the nation, along with a detailed report on rates of English proficiency and the growing number of speakers of other languages.

The 2011 Language Mapper shows where people speaking specific languages other than English live, with dots representing how many people speak each of 15 different languages. For each language, the mapper shows the concentration of those who report that they speak English less than "very well," a measure of English proficiency. The tool uses data collected through the American Community Survey from 2007 to 2011.

"This map makes it easy for anyone to plan language services in their community," said Nancy Potok, the Census Bureau's acting director. "Businesses can tailor communications to meet their customers' needs. Emergency responders can use it to be sure they communicate with people who need help. Schools and libraries can offer courses to improve English proficiency and offer materials written in other languages."

The languages available in the interactive map include Spanish, French, French Creole, Italian, Portuguese, German, Russian, Polish, Persian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tagalog and Arabic. After selecting one of these languages from the menu, users will see a national population density map, with each dot representing about 100 people who speak the language at home placed where these speakers are concentrated. The map also allows users to zoom in to a smaller geographic area, where each dot represents 10 people. The dots were placed in a random location within census tracts to protect the confidentiality of speakers.

Increase in Non-English Speakers

Also released today, the report, Language Use in the United States: 2011, [PDF] details the number of people speaking languages other than English at home and their ability to speak English, by selected social and demographic characteristics. It shows that more than half (58 percent) of U.S. residents 5 and older who speak a language other than English at home also speak English "very well." The data, taken from the American Community Survey, are provided for the nation, states and metropolitan and micropolitan areas.

The report shows that the percent speaking English "less than very well" grew from 8.1 percent in 2000 to 8.7 percent in 2007, but stayed at 8.7 percent in 2011. The percent speaking a language other than English at home went from 17.9 percent in 2000 to 19.7 percent in 2007, while continuing upward to 20.8 percent in 2011.

"This study provides evidence of the growing role of languages other than English in the national fabric," said Camille Ryan, a statistician in the Census Bureau's Education and Social Stratification Branch and the report's author. "Yet, at the same time that more people are speaking languages other than English at home, the percentage of people speaking English proficiently has remained steady."

Incentives to Support Adoption of the Cybersecurity Framework

Guest post by Michael Daniel, Special Assistant to the President and the Cybersecurity Coordinator. Cross-post from Whitehouse.gov

The systems that run our nation’s critical infrastructure such as the electric grid, our drinking water, our trains, and other transportation are increasingly networked. As with any networked system, these systems are potentially vulnerable to a wide range of threats, and protecting this critical infrastructure from cyber threats is among our highest security priorities. That is why, earlier this year, the President signed an Executive Order designed to increase the level of core capabilities for our critical infrastructure to manage cyber risk. The Order does this by focusing on three key areas: information sharing, privacy, and adoption of cybersecurity practices.

To promote cybersecurity practices and develop these core capabilities, we are working with critical infrastructure owners and operators to create a Cybersecurity Framework – a set of core practices to develop capabilities to manage cybersecurity risk. These are the known practices that many firms already do, in part or across the enterprise and across a wide range of sectors. The draft Framework will be complete in October. After a final Framework is released in February 2014, we will create a Voluntary Program to help encourage critical infrastructure companies to adopt the Framework. 

While this effort is underway, work on how to incentivize companies to join a Program is also under consideration. While the set of core practices have been known for years, barriers to adoption exist, such as the challenge of clearly identifying the benefits of making certain cybersecurity investments. As directed in the EO, the Departments of Homeland Security, Commerce, and Treasury have identified potential incentives and provided their recommendations to the President, through the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism and the Assistant to the President for Economic Affairs.

Why is Everyone Talking About Africa?

President Obama and Senegal President Sall at press conference. Photo by White House, Pete Souza.

Claudia Easton is an intern in the International Trade Administration’s Office of the National Export Initiative and Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee. She’s studying Economics and Political Science at Amherst College. Cross-posted from Tradeology.

With the President’s recent trip to Senegal, Tanzania and South Africa, as well as the announcement of two new trade initiatives, the spotlight is on Africa – and with good reason.

While speaking at the Business Leaders Forum in Tanzania, President Obama spoke of beginning a new level of economic engagement with Africa. The Doing Business in Africa Campaign (DBIA) is part of the president’s strategy, and the International Trade Administration (ITA) is proud to join other government agencies to support  DBIA initiatives that are helping U.S. businesses compete on the continent.

Trade Africa aims to facilitate expanded trade on the continent. Its initial focus will be on the East African Community (EAC), a market with increasingly stable and pro-business regulations. The plan will support increased U.S.-EAC trade and investment, EAC trade competitiveness, and regional integration. The United States seeks to expand this initiative to other regional economic communities on the continent.

Power Africa is intended to build on Africa’s enormous power potential to expand electricity access to the more than two-thirds of the population that is without power. The President pledged $7 billion in U.S. government support, in addition to $9 billion in private money, over the next five years to double access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa. Power Africa will help attract investment in Africa’s energy sector, build capacity for reform in the energy sector, and encourage transparent and responsible natural resource management.

Shark Week? At NOAA Fisheries, Every Week is Shark Week

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Sharks thrill us because they’re mysterious, powerful, terrifying, and beautiful. That’s why there’s a Shark Week. And, as top predators in the marine ecosystem, sharks are also vital to the health of the ocean. That’s why there’s a corps of NOAA Fisheries scientists and managers who are dedicated to researching and protecting sharks. This week, on the NOAA Fisheries website, you can meet our shark experts.

You can also check out a very cool and—don’t say we didn’t warn you—disgusting video of our expert, Antonella Preti, dissecting the stomach of a 12-foot-long, 1,300 pound shortfin mako shark. She specializes in the feeding ecology of sharks, or more specifically she studies what’s in their stomachs. By analyzing the contents of more than 2,000 swordfish and shark stomachs, Preti and her colleagues have built a database of who eats who in the ocean, an essential tool for managing fisheries. Preti shows us it really takes guts to be a scientist.

Also, meet Lisa Natanson, an expert on the life history of sharks, and see her role in analyzing the age of the shortfin mako. A shark backbone has rings much like those of a tree that can help a scientist determine a shark’s age. On Thursday, August 8, at 2:00 p.m. EST, Natanson and Preti will hold a live tweet chat to answer your questions about shark science and anything you might want to know about the shortfin mako.

John Carlson is a shark scientist whose research focuses on rebuilding vulnerable populations of sharks and sustainably managing shark fisheries. Listen to this podcast to hear Carlson discuss his research into whether sharks are more likely to survive if caught on a circle hook instead of the more common J hook.

You’ll also find loads of other shark content, from videos to photos to interviews with more experts.

At NOAA Fisheries, our goal is to sustainably manage shark populations so that we can continue to enjoy the economic and ecological benefits they provide. And we do that every week of the year. So visit our website at www.fisheries.noaa.govduring Shark Week, and learn what we’re doing to create a sustainable future for sharks.

Secretary Pritzker Visits the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Gaithersburg, Md., Campus

Secretary Pritzker tours the NIST Trace Contraband Detection laboratory with Acting Deputy Secretary and NIST Director Patrick Gallagher.  The laboratory helps law enforcement agencies protect the public and enforce the law by developing improved methods and standards for trace detection of drugs and explosives.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker visited the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Md., today, as part of her nationwide listening tour. The campus hosts approximately 2,700 NIST staff members, as well as visiting researchers, post-doctorate fellows and undergraduate students.

The Secretary met with NIST senior executives to discuss Commerce priorities and took a tour of a laboratory focused on the most effective ways to collect and accurately analyze small or trace amounts of contraband such as drugs or explosives. The NIST Trace Contraband Detection Program supports the deployment and effective use of detection devices throughout the United States. NIST scientists use their  existing expertise in particle analysis, analytical chemistry and chemical microscopy to study the explosives collection and detection process in detail and to help field methods.

Secretary Pritzker saw demonstrations of some NIST-developed devices that could speed the processing of airline passengers while accurately assessing them for trace contraband. A shoe-sampler uses air jets to blow samples off of shoes still on the wearer’s feet, while another device checks IDs for samples transferred on fingertips. She also learned about the program making use of a 3-D printing machine to rapidly create new devices for improving detection methods. Through these efforts, NIST supports standards that ensure detectors in the field today work as expected and develops the specialized measurement expertise that will be needed for the next generation of explosive detection equipment.

A One-Stop-Shop on the Health Care Law for Businesses Big and Small

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Cross-posted from the White House Blog by Valerie Jarrett 

As we implement the Affordable Care Act, we continue listening to the needs of the business community. Based on our many conversations with leaders of our nation’s businesses, large and small, today we are launching Business.USA.gov/healthcare, a one-stop-shop where employers of all sizes can go for information on the Affordable Care Act.

The new site includes a web-based tool that allows employers to get tailored information on how the health law may affect them based on their business’ size, location, and plans for offering health benefits to their workers next year. From tax credits for small businesses to help make coverage affordable, to measures to help slow the growth of health care costs, there are a variety of ways that the Affordable Care Act can help businesses expand health care coverage and compete.

The site leverages the resources of our partners across the federal government to ensure that business owners get comprehensive health care information and easy-to-use tools, such as a timeline of key implementation dates; information about the SHOP Marketplaces and small business tax credits; and resources to help calculate a firm’s number of full-time equivalent employees or determine if the coverage they already offer meets the law’s minimum value standards.

The administration is working with the employer community to ensure the site continues to be a helpful resource for businesses and their employees, including updating the site with additional, timely information, so stay tuned.

Commerce's Internet Policy Task Force Releases Report on Digital Copyright Policy

Report cover

Department Publishes Green Paper on Updating Copyright Policies for the Internet Age

The U.S. Department of Commerce today released a green paper on Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economy (Green Paper) to advance discussion on a set of policy issues critical to economic growth. The Green Paper discusses the goals of maintaining an appropriate balance between rights and exceptions as the law continues to be updated; ensuring that copyright can be meaningfully enforced on the Internet; and furthering the development of an efficient online marketplace.

The Green Paper released today is the most thorough and comprehensive analysis of digital copyright policy issued by any administration since 1995. The report is a product of the Department of Commerce’s Internet Policy Task Force (IPTF) with input from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Through the IPTF, the USPTO and NTIA will solicit further public comments and convene roundtables and forums on a number of key policy issues.

“Copyright law strikes a number of important balances in delineating what is protectable and what is not, determining what uses are permitted without a license, and establishing appropriate enforcement mechanisms to combat piracy, so that all stakeholders benefit from the protection afforded by copyright,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. “Ensuring that our copyright policy provides incentives for creativity while promoting innovation on the Internet is a critical and challenging task. The Green Paper released today is an important step toward ensuring that the United States’ creative industries continue to have a substantial impact on strengthening our nation’s economy.” 

Copyright has been a vital contributor to U.S. cultural and economic development for more than two hundred years, fostering the production and dissemination of the valuable expression that has put America at the forefront of the global creative marketplace. Maintaining a balanced and effective copyright system should continue to drive the production of creative works while at the same time preserving the innovative power of the Internet and the free flow of information. The Green Paper provides a comprehensive review of current policy related to copyright and the Internet, and identifies important issues that call for attention and development of solutions. The solutions may entail a combination of legal remedies, technology, private sector cooperation, and public outreach and education, along with the continued development of options to legally access copyrighted works.