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Blog Entries from 2013

Doing Business in Africa Forum Presents Opportunities for American Businesses in Sub-Saharan Region

Francisco Sánchez, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade and Minority Business Development Agency National Director David Hinson Address the Doing Business in Africa Forum

Guest blog post by Francisco Sánchez, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade and David Hinson, National Director, Minority Business Development Agency

Earlier this week, we attended the Doing Business in Africa Forum at the White House. This was the first forum of the Doing Business in Africa campaign that the Commerce Department launched three months ago in Johannesburg, South Africa. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank gave the opening remarks and focused on strengthening commercial ties between the United States and Sub-Saharan Africa. She emphasized that as the continent’s wealth increases, so does the demand for improved infrastructure, energy services, and high-quality consumer and agricultural products – all of which American companies are well positioned to provide. In fact, Sub-Saharan Africa is home to six of the ten fastest-growing countries in the world, which helps explain why over the past decade, U.S. trade to and from Africa has tripled, with U.S. exports now topping $21 billion.  Michael Strautmanis, Deputy Assistant to the President and Counselor for Strategic Engagement, welcomed the group of federal government officials, African-born U.S. business and financial leaders, and African-American entrepreneurs, corporate executives, fund managers and investment advisors. Mr. Strautmanis emphasized the need for a collective approach from federal agencies to provide expanded investment and trade financing support to help U.S businesses become more effective global competitors, particularly in the Sub-Saharan region.

Amplifying that message, both of us, along with representatives from government entities including the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, Export-Import Bank, Small Business Administration, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, U.S. Trade and Development Agency and Millennium Challenge Corporation, described for the assembled group how all of our services are structured under the Doing Business in Africa campaign to help them seize opportunities in the Sub-Saharan Africa region. 

NIST, DOJ Form Commission to Develop Guidelines for Forensic Labs

Image of fingerprint

Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and National Institute of Standards and Technology Director Patrick Gallagher today addressed a group of forensics experts at the American Academy of Forensic Science’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C. 

Gallagher was there with Elana Tyrangiel, acting assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Policy at the Department of Justice, to explain each agency’s role in a new National Commission on Forensic Science, announced Friday, Feb. 15.

The National Commission on Forensic Science will be composed of approximately 30 members, bringing together forensic science service practitioners, academic researchers, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges and other relevant stakeholders to develop policy recommendations for the Attorney General. The commission will consider guidance on practices for federal, state and local forensic science laboratories developed by groups of forensic science practitioners and academic researchers administered by NIST. 

Commerce Invests $15 Million to Help Protect Businesses in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, from Flooding

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce Matt Erskine speaks at Autoneum plant in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania.

U.S. Senators Casey, Toomey and Congressman Barletta applaud disaster recover investment

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank has announced a $15 million Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant to Columbia County, Pennsylvania, to help build control systems that will help protect vital business infrastructure in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, from floods. The grant announcement was applauded by U.S. Senators Bob Casey, Pat Toomey and U.S. Representative Lou Barletta, who worked with the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation to support the grant. Bloomsburg was severely impacted by flooding as a result of Tropical Storm Lee in 2011.

"Protecting and improving the infrastructure that is critical to our businesses is a top priority for the Obama administration," said U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank. "By working with local organizations to fund this project, EDA and the Department of Commerce are helping businesses in Bloomsburg and the surrounding areas save jobs and grow." Full release

Building Exports in the Bluegrass State

Under Secretary Sánchez (center left) and Senior Trade Specialist Brian Miller (center right)poses for a photo with employees of Universal Woods during a tour of their manufacturing facility

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

Cross-post from the International Trade Administration's blog, Tradeology

“We should remember that today’s world presents not just dangers, not just threats—it presents opportunity.” This statement from President Obama’s State of the Union speech confirms the belief that free trade and open markets are a benefit in our globalized world.

In Louisville, Ky., this belief is nothing new, as the town has been growing its economy by focusing on exporting to foreign markets.

That is why I joined Mayor Greg Fischer in Louisville to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the International Trade Administration (ITA) and the City of Louisville in a team effort to improve local exports. Congressman John Yarmuth (KY-3) also joined us to celebrate this exciting new partnership and highlight what this means for the community.

Our new MOU extends the success we have seen through the Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement (BEAM), a joint venture between the mayors of Louisville and Lexington, designed to support the growth of high-quality jobs in advanced manufacturing throughout a 22-county region.

BEAM is a particularly exceptional achievement because it is the realization of the National Export Initiative (NEI) localized through the Brookings Institute’s Metropolitan Export Initiative (MEI). It represents a way in which cities and towns can engage in international trade to reap the benefits of increased exports.
Together, these initiatives are all working in concert to increase U.S. exports.

And there is no better place to talk exports than Kentucky.

The Department of Commerce's Role in Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity

Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank at Cybersecurity announcement

Last week, President Obama signed an Executive Order to strengthen the cybersecurity of this nation’s critical infrastructure. Threats from cyber attacks that could disrupt our power, water, and other critical systems are one of the most pressing risks facing both our nation’s security and our nation’s economy in the 21st century. So, in the absence of legislation to mitigate these threats to our infrastructure, the Executive Order directs federal agencies to use their existing authorities and work with the private sector to better protect our nation’s critical systems. 

We at the Commerce Department have an important role to play when it comes to strengthening the nation’s cybersecurity. In accordance with the president’s Executive Order, Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will be leading the development of one of the Executive Order’s principle outcomes: a voluntary Cybersecurity Framework to reduce cyber risks.

Deputy Secretary Blank Travels to BMW in Spartanburg, SC to Highlight Revitalization of American Manufacturing

Deputy Secretary Blank is joined by Brian Barron, Department Manager for X3 Assembly and Josef Kerscher, the President of BMW Manufacturing, on the Spartanburg assembly floor

Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank visited BMW Manufacturing today and delivered remarks on the President’s plan to make America a magnet for jobs and manufacturing. The Deputy Secretary highlighted the President’s proposals for a new Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership, the SelectUSA program, and the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation.  Blank’s visit comes on the heels of President Obama’s State of the Union Address, in which he outlined a broad agenda for revitalizing U.S. manufacturing, spurring innovation, and accelerating export growth.

During her remarks, Blank emphasized key Commerce programs that will drive President Obama’s “Make America a Magnet for Jobs by Investing in Manufacturing” plan. For example, Commerce is going to lead a team of federal agencies in the new Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership.  The President has proposed a new program to support communities that do the hard work and analysis to identify key projects that will bolster their ability to attract investment.  A competitive process will select communities that have done effective planning but need a little help to build additional assets.  For instance, the program could provide matching funds to co-invest in things like a business park or a new tech transfer program with local universities. Local leaders will need to show that they’ve put together a strong plan to attract investments from a particular industry where their community has a comparative advantage.  That means they’ll need to collaborate closely across the public and private sectors, local foundations, and local research and teaching institutions. By supporting communities that are actively working to become investment hubs, the program will help entice both manufacturers and their supply chains to come to a particular area. 

Spotlight on Commerce: Antwaun Griffin, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Domestic Operations

Antwaun Griffin, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Domestic Operations, International Trade Administration

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 Antwaun Griffin, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Domestic Operations

As the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Domestic Operations within the International Trade Administration's (ITA) U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service, I help oversee all aspects of the Department of Commerce's trade promotion and export assistance services. This includes the management of 109 U.S. Export Assistance Centers (USEAC’s) around the country as well as oversight of the government’s efforts to recruit U.S.-based exhibitors and foreign buyers to domestic and international trade shows. In addition, my office also oversees the planning and execution of most government-led trade missions.

Often times this work involves critical analysis of our internal business operations to ensure that they are aligned with staff needs and those of our various clients—small businesses, industry associations, state and local governments and other federal agencies involved in trade promotion. Other times, it involves traveling to meet with business owners and groups to encourage them to export—thus creating or retaining more jobs here in the United States.

Federal Triangle Partnership Hosts Gwendolyn Boyd to Celebrate National Black History Month

Gwendolyn Boyd

Earlier this week, the Federal Triangle Partnership, consisting of the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Agency for International Development, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, hosted its annual program commemorating the 2013 National Black/African American History Month. The 2013 national theme is “At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington.”

The keynote speaker was Ms. Gwendolyn Boyd, appointed by President Obama to serve as a Member of the Board of Trustees, Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation. Ms. Boyd was the 22nd National President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., the nation’s largest African American public service sorority. She is also an engineer at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) and Executive Assistant to the Chief of Staff. She has been a prominent advocate for women's equality and for the recruitment of African Americans into science and engineering. In addition to her current responsibilities at APL, she is responsible for the coordination and development of Historically Black Colleges and University (HBCU) initiatives, which include the implementation of the APL Technology Leaders Summer Internship Program. That program identifies students who aspire to careers in Engineering and Computer Science from HBCU/Minority Serving Institutions and Hispanic Serving Institutions.


Spotlight on Commerce: Izella Mitchell Dornell, Deputy Chief Information Officer

Izella Dornell, Deputy Chief Information Officer, Office of the Secretary

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 Izella Mitchell Dornell, Deputy Chief Information Officer

As Deputy Chief Information Officer for the Department, I am responsible for leading the effort that provides Department Information Technology (IT) program and project oversight for all major IT investments all appropriately aligned with the Department and mission objectives and goals. My responsibilities also include facilitating the current shared service initiatives for the Herbert C. Hoover Building resident bureaus (Commerce headquarters), which include email cloud migration, web hosting, IT security, a tier one service/help desk call center, and video teleconferencing capability. I employ a combination of leadership and management skills to provide our team members with the necessary resources to enable their individual and collective professional growth. I also implement effective fiscal strategies, performance assessments, healthy customer service focus, and the management and operations for the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO).

I consider myself a Texan, but I grew up in Alabama, graduating at the top of my high school class in Birmingham, Alabama, with a keen interest in science and mathematics. I earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and physics from Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee, and a master’s of business administration degree from the University of Houston. Because I am a firm believer in education, I completed several Executive Leadership programs at Harvard, Simmons College, and Penn State University.

Spotlight on Commerce: Dr. Willie May, Associate Director for Laboratory Programs and Principal Deputy, NIST

Dr. Willie May, Associate Director for Laboratory Programs and Principal Deputy, NIST

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 Willie May, Associate Director for Laboratory Programs and Principal Deputy, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

Sometimes even the most difficult circumstances lay the foundation for very positive outcomes. I grew up in Birmingham, Ala., in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It goes without saying that any aspirations for becoming a scientist and  a senior leader of a world class scientific agency with a $1 billion dollar budget and four Nobel Prizes would never have occurred to me. 

But like most people I had some advantages hidden among the more visible obstacles to success.Advantage number one: my mother and father. They made sacrifices for me and my two younger sisters and expected us to rise above our surroundings and  go to college. I was also expected to get good grades even though in my community it was more important to be a good athlete than it was to be a scholar. I actually was able to do both.

Advantage number two: I had excellent, smart, and very committed teachers. Opportunities were limited for people of color in mid- 20th century Alabama. Most African Americans like me were laborers in the mines and steel mills. Professional jobs were teacher, preacher, lawyer, doctor and undertakers; and their client base was limited to the black community. The best minds of my neighborhood went to college and became teachers. And they came back to teach us everything they possibly could.  

In my case that included college-level chemistry in high school. Mr. Frank Cook, my high school chemistry teacher, selected five of us for his own experiment. Starting in 10th grade he taught us the same material he had learned just the summer before at Alabama A&M University. That head start gave me the confidence I needed for college. Besides me and my lifelong friend, Marion Guyton (former Attorney with the Justice Department), others who benefitted from  these highly regarded public school teachers include  former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, University of Maryland Baltimore County President Freeman Hrabowski, chief of the Census Bureau’s Statistical Research Division, Tommie Wright and  Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute president, Shirley Jackson. 

Advantage number three started with heartbreak. Guyton and I were always competing with each other. As high schoolers, we both applied to Howard University, the Harvard of the black community. Marion got a full scholarship and he was more than happy to flaunt and badger me about it. When no letter came for me, I inquired about my application. It was nowhere to be found.  I later learned from my principal, R.C. Johnson (Colin Powell’s father-in-law) that the application had been lost in his office. To make up for the error, he personally arranged for me to get a scholarship to Knoxville College.