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Blog Entries from 2013

Spotlight on Commerce: Mary Saunders, Associate Director of Management Resources, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Mary Saunders, Associate Director for Management Resources, National Institute of Standards and Technology

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 Mary Saunders, Associate Director of Management Resources, National Institute of Standards and Technology

In my 26-year career at the Department of Commerce, I’ve found that the most interesting things in life generally happen at the intersections. It’s the connections between people, places, and things where true forward progress is often made.

I was born in Washington, D.C. and have lived in Northern Virginia most of my life. I guess given my beginnings, it’s not surprising that I chose to study politics, economics, and public policy. What’s more surprising is that I’ve ended up using that knowledge to support the nation’s scientific infrastructure.

Some background helps explain the links that led me to my current position as the Associate Director of Management Resources, one of three deputies to NIST Director Patrick Gallagher.

Building on the Strength of U.S.-Brazil Economic Relationship

Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank traveled to Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro for the U.S.-Brazil CEO

Last week Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank traveled to Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro for the U.S.-Brazil CEO Forum and other events aimed at strengthening the economic and commercial ties between the two nations.

The U.S.-Brazil CEO Forum was created in 2007 to bring private sector leaders from both countries together to develop joint recommendations on how to deepen our commercial ties, and to present those recommendations to the U.S. and Brazilian governments. The Forum has identified five areas as priorities: tax and trade issues; education and innovation; infrastructure; energy; and aviation.

Deputy Secretary Blank served as the U.S. Government’s co-chair for the CEO Forum along with Michael Froman, the Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs at the White House.  They were joined by their Brazilian co-chairs, Minister of Development, Industry, and Foreign Trade Fernando Pimentel and Presidential Chief of Staff Gleisi Hoffman.  

The meeting was led by about 20 CEOs from both countries, whose priorities for improving the economic and commercial relationship between Brazil and the U.S. set the agenda for the meeting.  As one of the U.S. Government’s co-chairs, Deputy Secretary Blank gave an update to the members of the CEO Forum on the progress that the two governments made to implement the recommendations that the CEOs made at their previous meeting last year.  The CEOs then led the main discussion and came up with several new recommendations that will be formally released in the coming weeks, including:

  • Calling upon the governments to take advantage of the momentum from the recently-approved Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) to take on additional tax issues that could eventually pave the way for a Bilateral Tax Treaty.
  • Continuing to make progress on Brazil’s participation in the Global Entry Program, making it easier for Brazilians traveling to the United States on business to get through immigration at U.S. airports.
  • Continuing efforts to increase cooperation in the area of infrastructure and take advantage of the U.S. infrastructure trade mission, scheduled for May, to create opportunities for U.S. and Brazilian companies to partner on infrastructure improvements.
  • Continuing to cooperate on education and workforce development issues by supporting programs like President Obama’s “100,000 Strong in the Americas” initiative and Brazil’s “Scientific Mobility Program.”
  • Building upon the work of the Strategic Energy Dialogue and involve the private sector in energy infrastructure and policy discussions.
  • Building on cooperation between the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and Brazil’s National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI) to engage in more formal worksharing efforts to support innovation.
  • Continuing work begun under the Aviation Partnership Agreement to advance aviation cooperation and use the Aviation Partnership as a model for other sectors.

In Rio de Janeiro, Deputy Secretary Blank met with more business leaders and also delivered remarks at a Columbia University event focused on innovation and economic development which was part of the launch of the university’s new Global Center in that city.   She emphasized the importance of U.S.-Brazil collaboration in areas such as infrastructure development, clean energy, student exchanges, and more.  Finally, she announced that U.S.-Brazil partnerships would continue to grow in the near future due to a high-level, infrastructure-focused trade mission to Brazil – as well as Colombia and Panama – that will take place in mid-May. 

Spotlight on Commerce: Katina Rojas Joy, Deputy Director, Office of Business Liaison

Katina Rojas Joy, Deputy Director, Office of Business Liaison

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 Katina Rojas Joy, Deputy Director, Office of Business Liaison

As Deputy Director in the Office of Business Liaison, my primary goal is to execute the Secretary's international trade missions. Our office executed an infrastructure trade mission to New Dehli, India last year, and we are currently planning a transportation and infrastructure trade mission to Colombia, Brazil, and Panama. The President wants to double U.S. exports by the end of 2014, and I am proud to play in role in meeting the President’s established export goal. During trade mission promotion and planning, much of my time is spent interfacing with US companies, small and medium sized businesses, U.S. embassies, and trade associations.  I have also served on several White House interagency and Commerce policy initiatives:  Summer Jobs +, Doing Business in Africa, the Affordable Care Act, Hurricane Sandy response and recovery and the expansion of Commerce’s patent and trademark field offices. These new field offices will speed up the patent process and help American businesses innovate, grow, and create jobs.

I grew up in the Bronx and Puerto Rico. My grandmother migrated to New York City in the 1950’s and found work in the garment industry, which at the time, along with manufacturing, was a booming industry in NYC. My mom, was born in Puerto Rico and raised my brother and I on her own and worked in clerical jobs at Local 1199 SEIU and Bronx Lebanon Hospital until she retired last October.

NOAA Predicts Mixed Bag of Drought, Flooding and Warm Weather for Spring

Cherry blosssoms (Photo: National Park Service

Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has issued the three-month U.S. Spring Outlook, stating that odds favor above-average temperatures across much of the continental United States, including drought-stricken areas of Texas, the Southwest and the Great Plains. Spring promises little drought relief for most of these areas, as well as Florida, with below- average spring precipitation favored there. Meanwhile, river flooding is likely to be worse than last year across the country, with the most significant flood potential in North Dakota.

"This outlook reminds us of the climate diversity and weather extremes we experience in North America, where one state prepares for flooding while neighboring states are parched, with no drought relief in sight," said Laura Furgione, deputy director of NOAA's National Weather Service. "We produce this outlook to help communities prepare for what's likely to come in the next few months and minimize weather's impacts on lives and livelihoods. A Weather-Ready Nation hopes for the best, but prepares for the worst."

The U.S. Spring Outlook identifies the likelihood of spring flood risk and expectations for temperature, precipitation and drought. The outlook is based on a number of factors, including current conditions of snowpack, drought, soil moisture, streamflow, precipitation, Pacific Ocean temperatures and consensus among climate forecast models. Full release

Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank Announces New Manufacturing Council Members

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank today announced the appointment of 26 members to the 2013 Manufacturing Council (Council). The Council, established in 2004 and directed by the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration, helps to ensure that there is regular communication between the U.S. government and the manufacturing sector.

The Council is comprised of up to 30 members that represent a diverse cross section of the manufacturing industry, including steel, textile, semiconductor, and medical manufacturers.  Their products support a wide range of industries such as the auto, apparel, aerospace, and energy efficiency sectors.

The Council advises the Secretary of Commerce on government policies and programs that affect U.S. manufacturing and provides a forum for proposing solutions to industry-related problems. The Council also works to ensure that the United States remains the preeminent destination for investment in manufacturing throughout the world. The Secretaries of Labor, Energy, and Treasury serve as ex officio members of the Council to better collaborate on cross-cutting issues the Council will address. See the complete list of members of the 2013 Manufacturing Council.

Two Civil War Sailors from the Ironclad USS Monitor Interred at Arlington National Cemetery

USS Monitor with sailors standing on board

151st anniversary of Battle of Hampton Roads

The remains of two unknown USS Monitor sailors, recovered by NOAA and the U.S. Navy in 2002 from the ship’s gun turret, were buried today, with full military honors, at Arlington National Cemetery. The USS Monitor sank in a New Year’s Eve storm just over 150 years ago, carrying 16 crew members to their deaths. 

“Just as the crew of the Monitor fought tirelessly to keep their ‘old-time knight in armor’ afloat, so have many worked tirelessly since her loss to keep their commitment to her, and to the 16 sailors who answered the call-to-arms of a young nation in peril, and paid the ultimate price,” said Kathryn D. Sullivan, Ph.D., Acting Under Secretary of Commerce  for Oceans and Atmosphere and acting NOAA administrator, in remarks at the memorial service. “One major step toward that was taken some 40 years ago, when the nation designated the place where Monitor lies as America’s first National Marine Sanctuary, marking it forever as a place of special national significance. We are gathered here today to take another major step, laying two of her sailors to rest in the hallowed ground of Arlington National Cemetery. As we do so, let us all reaffirm our own commitment to forever remember the work of the Monitor and insure her story is told to our children’s children.

“As keepers of the USS Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA is committed to protecting the final resting site of this ‘little boat’ and her valiant crew, and to assuring that the memory and the legacy of the Monitor and her crew are preserved and passed on to future generations,” she added. Full release.

Women in Silicon Valley Leading the Way

Deputy Secretary Blank speaks with female leaders at top venture capital firms in Silicon Valley

Guest blog post by Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank

Yesterday, I met with women who are fostering entrepreneurship and innovation in our economy through their leadership at top venture capital firms in Silicon Valley.

We discussed the need for more girls and women to be able to find opportunities in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, where women comprise less than one-fourth of the workforce. We also discussed how women are investing in and leading startups and businesses in key areas that support U.S. competitiveness, such as clean energy, healthcare, telecommunications, bioscience, and other fast-growing fields.

It's clear that women investors play a crucial role in helping ensure that the best private-sector ideas - including those coming from women entrepreneurs - get the resources they need to help build companies and create jobs.

Strengthening the role of women in business and technology is an important goal of the Obama Administration, supported by the White House Council on Women and Girls. The Commerce Department, for its part, offers post-doctoral research opportunities, scholarships, and unique experiences aimed at encouraging girls to consider fulfilling and rewarding careers in STEM fields. 

Businesses Need Common Sense Immigration Reform to Keep Growing, Creating American Jobs

Dr. Blank and members of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group (photo: Colin Buckner, Silicon Valley Leadership Group)

Guest blog post by Dr. Rebecca Blank, Deputy Secretary of Commerce

Yesterday, I was in California to talk with business executives who are part of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. We discussed key issues facing them as they continue to grow, create jobs, and drive both innovation and competitiveness here in the U.S.

They just completed an annual survey of their own membership. The biggest business challenge that they identified was their ability to attract and retain a skilled workforce.

I let them know that President Obama understands that we are in a global competition for talent and we want the best people right here in the U.S.

Prepare for Severe Weather, Urge NOAA and FEMA

WWeather Preparedness Week logo

Be a Force of Nature: Know your risk, take action, be an example

NOAA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have partnered again this year for National Severe Weather Preparedness Week. Severe weather is far more common than most realize. The five most dangerous severe weather hazards -- tornadoes, hurricanes, lightning, floods and winter storms, can be powerful and damaging. While spring is considered the height of season, severe weather occurs in every month of the year and in all 50 states. In 2012, there were more than 450 weather related fatalities and more than 2,600 injuries.

“Severe weather can happen anytime, anywhere,” said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate. “We urge everyone to take steps in advance and to pledge to prepare, take action and share what you have done with others. You can find information on how to prepare for severe weather at Ready.gov.”

Be a Force of Nature - Every one of us can help our communities prepare for extreme weather by following these guidelines:

  • Know Your Risk:  The first step to becoming weather-ready is to understand the type of hazardous weather that can affect where you live and work, and how the weather could impact you and your family. Every state in the United States has experienced tornadoes and severe weather, so everyone is exposed to some degree of risk. Check the weather forecast regularly and visitReady.gov/severeweather to learn more about how to be better prepared and how you can protect your family when severe weather strikes.

  • Take Action, Pledge to Prepare: Be a Force of Nature by making sure that you and your family are prepared for severe weather. Pledge to prepare at Ready.gov. Fill out your family communications plan that you can email to yourself, put together an emergency kit, and keep important papers and valuables in a safe place.

Stay informed by having multiple sources for weather alerts such as a NOAA Weather Radio, Weather.gov, and Wireless Emergency Alerts. And, sign up for localized alerts from emergency management officials.

  • Be an example: Once you have taken action Be a Force of Nature by telling family, friends, and co-workers to do the same. Share the resources and alert systems you discovered through your social media network. Create a preparedness video and post on a video sharing site; post your story through your social media network and comment on a blog. Technology today makes it easier than ever to be a good example and share the steps you took to help us achieve the vision of a Weather-Ready Nation.

Join us today and pledge to prepare for the severe weather in our area.  More 

New Data Shows 29 States Hit Record Export Levels In 2012

State Export Data

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank today announced new state export data that shows 29 states set new records for export sales in 2012. In total, 35 states achieved merchandise export growth in 2012, and 20 of those states experienced growth of at least five percent or more.

Total merchandise exports from all 50 states helped contribute to the record-setting value of goods and services exports in 2012, which reached $2.2 trillion. Nationally, jobs supported by exports increased to 9.8 million in 2012, up 1.3 million since 2009. This puts us ahead of schedule to meet the President’s goal of adding two million export-supported jobs by the end of 2014.

More information about individual state contributions to national exports is available through the International Trade Administration’s Office of Trade and Industry Information web page, www.trade.gov/mas/ian/statereports, which includes individual fact sheets for all 50 states. An interactive map with national and state merchandise trade data is available here: http://tse.export.gov/TSE/.