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Blog Entries from 2013

Commerce Department Encourages Businesses to Prepare Now for Future Emergencies and Disasters

National Preparedness Month Graphic

September is National Preparedness Month. It is crucial that businesses, in addition to government officials and the public, take steps now to prepare for future emergencies or natural disasters. The Commerce Department is encouraging business owners to be good corporate citizens by establishing a plan to help lessen the economic impact of disasters within their communities. Here are three things business owners can do today to prepare for future emergencies and disasters:

  1. Have a business continuity plan. This plan can help protect businesses, employees, and infrastructure, and increase chances of recovery after a disaster.
  2. Know your risks. Gather information about local hazards by contacting your local emergency management office, American Red Cross chapter and NOAA's National Weather Service forecast office.
  3. Become a StormReady community. Being StormReady means your business has multiple ways to receive forecasts and warnings from the National Weather Service, monitors local weather conditions, communicates effectively with employees, promotes public readiness through community seminars, and has a formal hazardous weather plan. 

According to a report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center, Americans coped with 11 weather and climate disaster events in 2012, including seven severe weather and tornado events, two tropical cyclone events, a year-long drought and wildfires. The impacts of this weather have a significant effect on the U.S. economy. In addition to killing over 300 people, the events in 2012 caused more than $110 billion in damages, having particularly devastating economic effects on the impacted areas. That makes last year’s disaster costs second only to 2005, which incurred $160 billion in damages. 

These effects can be felt by businesses that don't reopen after a storm, which also negatively impacts communities and the local economy. The American Red Cross reports that as many as 40 percent of businesses fail following a disaster. But businesses that are weather-ready don't have to be part of this statistic. 

The time is now. Businesses can’t afford to be unprepared, particularly with the peak of hurricane season now in full swing. Implementing the suggested recommendations can help businesses and communities survive natural disasters and sustain their local economies. 

For more information on how businesses can prepare for an emergency, visit www.ready.gov/business.

NIST Releases Study on Reducing Damage and Loss from Wildfires

A wooded area aflame during the 2007 Witch Creek/Guejito wildfire in Southern California. A new report from NIST looks at the fire's impact on structures in one community based on their pre-fire exposure risk to direct fire contact and embers (both seen in the photo). Credit: With permission from Dan Tentler, lightbending.net

recent study of one of California's most devastating wildland fires by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) strongly suggests that measures for reducing structural damage and property loss from wildland urban interface (WUI)* fires are most effective when they are based on accurate assessments of exposure risks both for individual structures and the community as a whole.

The report also describes how the NIST-USFS WUI Hazard Scale provides a state-of-the-art tool for making such assessments and how that data could be linked to improved building codes, standards and practices that will help communities better resist the threat of wildfires.

The Witch Creek/Guejito WUI fire (commonly known as the Witch Fire) was the largest of a series of wildfires that began burning across Southern California on Oct. 20, 2007. It affected areas north and northeast of San Diego, starting in Witch Creek Canyon near Santa Ysabel and quickly spreading westward toward the coast because of strong Santa Ana winds. The Witch Fire burned some 80,000 hectares (nearly 200,000 acres), destroyed more than 1,600 structures, caused an estimated $1.8 billion in property damages and cost $18 million to fight. It also was responsible for two civilian deaths and 39 firefighter injuries.  Full release

Back to School: 2013-2014

Image of students boarding a yellow school bus

By August, summertime is winding down and vacations will be coming to an end, signaling that back-to-school time is near. It's a time that many children eagerly anticipate—catching up with old friends and making new ones, and settling into a new daily routine. Parents and children alike scan the newspapers and websites looking for sales to shop for a multitude of school supplies and the latest clothing fads and essentials. This edition of Facts for Features highlights the many statistics associated with the return to classrooms by our nation's students and teachers. Here are a few:

  • $8.5 billion: The amount of money spent at family clothing stores in August 2012. Sales at bookstores in August 2012 totaled $2.0 billion.
  • 79 million: The number of children and adults enrolled in school throughout the country in October 2011—from nursery school to college. They comprised 26.9 percent of the entire population age 3 and older.
  • 42%: Percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled in college in 2011. 

School Enrollments in the United States (report)

More Facts for Features

Labor Day 2013: September 2

Categories:
Labor Day greeting

The first observance of Labor Day was likely on Sept. 5, 1882, when some 10,000 workers assembled in New York City for a parade. That celebration inspired similar events across the country, and by 1894 more than half the states were observing a "workingmen's holiday" on one day or another. Later that year, with Congress passing legislation and President Grover Cleveland signing the bill on June 29, the first Monday in September was designated "Labor Day." This national holiday is a creation of the labor movement in the late 19th century—and pays tribute to the social and economic achievements of American workers.

  • 155.7 million: Number of people 16 and over in the nation's labor foce in May 2013
  • 84.7%: Percentage of full-time workers 18 to 64 covered by health insurance during all or part of 2011. 
  • 4.3%: Percentage of workers 16 and over who worked from home in 2011.
  • 76.4%: Percentage of workers 16 and over who drove alone to work in 2011.
  • 25.5 minutes: The average time it took workers in the U.S. to commute to work in 2011. 

See more stats in the Census Bureau's Facts for Features

Secretary Pritzker Labor Day statement.

Confirming the Partnership Between the United States and Asia

Industry representatives from nations within the Asia-Pacific region attend a business ethics workshop with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Academy in August 2013.

The Department of Commerce has taken advantage of several opportunities to support its commitment to Asia, an important region with some of the world’s fastest growing economies.

Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Francisco Sánchez visited Brunei this month for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Business and Investment Summit. His message to the Summit was that ASEAN remains an important partner to the United States and a key player in the global marketplace.

As ASEAN looks to form an integrated economic community, the United States wants to make sure every nation in the region understands America’s commitment to ASEAN and the broader Asia-Pacific region. The United States and ASEAN are working within the Expanded Economic Engagement framework, designed to expand trade and investment ties and create new business opportunities and jobs in all eleven countries.

The United States and the Commerce Department support the important initiatives ASEAN is taking on to support the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). All governments in the region are actively working to put greater emphasis on protecting intellectual property and enforcing intellectual property rights. This encourages innovation, as it ensures that SMEs will be able to profit from their ideas without worry of them being compromised.

Secretary Pritzker Meets With Commerce Employees in Houston

Secretary Penny Pritzker meets with Houston-area Commerce Employees.

While in Houston, Texas today, Secretary Pritzker visited a U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC), part of the International Trade Administration (ITA), and met with USEAC employees and employees from the Bureau of Industry and Security’s (BIS) Houston field office. The secretary's visit was part of her latest stop on a nationwide listening tour and was an opportunity to thank the employees for their work for the Department of Commerce. 

USEACs are the domestic arm of ITA’s U.S. Commercial Service, which is comprised of an extensive network of trade specialists located in more than 100 U.S. cities and 80 countries worldwide. The specialists help American companies start exporting or expand their international business presence. Specific services include: world class market research; trade events that promote companies’ product or service to qualified buyers; introductions to buyers and distributors; and counseling and advocacy through every step of the export process.The Houston USEAC in particular has been working with companies in the energy, information technology and transportation sectors to support and increase U.S. exports.

The secretary also met with representatives from BIS’ Houston field office. The Houston office’s mission is to protect U.S. national and domestic security, foreign policy and economic interests. BIS operates a law enforcement program focused on sensitive exports to hostile entities or those that engage in onward proliferation, prohibited foreign boycotts and related public safety laws. The office accomplishes its mission through preventative and investigative enforcement activities and then pursuing appropriate criminal and administrative sanctions against export violators.

Partnership Between the Port of Houston and Department of Commerce is Crucial for Continued Economic Success

Categories:
Len Waterworth, Executive Director of the Port of Houston Authority

Guest blog post by Len Waterworth, Executive Director of the Port of Houston Authority.

It was an honor to host the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Penny Pritzker, at one of the nation’s busiest and most critically important ports, the Port of Houston.

As a civic and business leader and entrepreneur, Secretary Pritzker understands that excellent transportation infrastructure allowing manufacturers to access materials and deliver products is key to increasing exports. It is how a port like Houston, geographically positioned as the gateway to America’s heartland with exceptional rail and roadway connections, has grown to be the nation’s number one port in terms of foreign tonnage.

The Port of Houston's economic activity helps keep Texas the nation's top exporting state. For the past 11 years, Texas has outpaced the rest of the country in exports. In 2012, Texas exports totaled $265 billion, up by 5.4 percent from 2011, according to Commerce Department data. Top export markets include Mexico ($94.8 billion), Canada ($23.7 billion), China ($10.3 billion), Brazil ($10 billion), and the Netherlands ($9.5 billion).

Exports from the Houston metro area topped $110 billion in 2012, an annual increase of almost $6 billion. That was enough to surpass New York for the first time since 2006 as the top export region in the U.S.

The partnership between the Port Authority and Department of Commerce is crucial for continued success and for making America awesome. A good example is Foreign Trade Zone 84, which is number one in the nation for merchandise received in warehouse/distribution centers. The FTZ program in the Houston region is providing economic stimulus in the form of jobs, tax base and revenue.  

Secretary Penny Pritzker Announces $600,000 Investment to Support Entrepreneurship and Job Creation in Louisiana

Secretary Penny Pritzker hears from entrepreneurs at Idea Village in New Orleans, Louisana

Secretary Penny Pritzker today announced that the Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is awarding a $600,000 grant to The Idea Village, Inc., of New Orleans, La., to support programs that assist entrepreneurs in building their businesses and creating jobs. Secretary Pritzker is in New Orleans today as part of her nationwide listening tour, and made the announcement at The Idea Village after meeting with local entrepreneurs, mentors and business leaders.

The EDA investment announced today will support more than 300 businesses, according to grantee estimates. Specifically, it will fund additional technical assistance programs, especially in such growing fields as technology, biomedical engineering, and media production; help with expansion of The Idea Village’s successful “Entrepreneur Season,” a six-month-long program of business assistance and education; and support more forums, workshops, and networking sessions that will be offered during New Orleans’ Entrepreneur Week. EDA previously awarded two grants to The Idea Village – $800,000 in 2009 and $400,000 in 2011 – which helped the organization build their capacity to assist entrepreneurs.

To learn more about the U.S. Economic Development Administration, visit www.eda.gov.

The 50th Anniversary of the "I Have a Dream" Speech and the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom: August 28

View of the National Mall teeming with thousands around the Reflecting Pool (photo: National Archives)

On Aug. 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to more than 200,000 people from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. His famous "I Have a Dream" speech and the march were key moments in the American Civil Rights Movement.  To mark the anniversary, the U.S. Census Bureau has gathered key statistics that measure changes in some aspects of the black population to date.

There has been tremendous progress over the past 50 years. The diversity that we see in the classrooms and boardrooms around the country is a testament to that. And that impulse towards making sure everybody gets a fair shot is one that found expression in the Civil Rights Movement, but then spread to include Latinos and immigrants and gays and lesbians. “As we reflect back on the progress made over the last five decades, there still remains a lot of work to ensure that everyone who works hard can succeed, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation,” Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said in an anniversary statement.

On August 23, President Obama signed a Presidential Proclamation commemorating the 50th  Anniversary of the March in 1963. Review the U.S. Census Bureau’s Facts for Features Special Edition for information about population, voting, elected officials, income, housing and many other demographic categories.

Non-English Language Use in the United States Mapped

Language Mapper Screenshot showing dots for where Spanish language is spoken

The U.S. Census Bureau has released a web-based map application built to display language data collected from the American Community Survey. 

Language use, English-speaking ability, and linguistic isolation data are currently collected in the American Community Survey. In the past, various questions on language were asked in the censuses from 1890 to 1970. The current language use questions, in use since 1980, gather how many people speak a language other than English at home, what languages are spoken, and how well English is spoken.

For most people residing in the United States, English is the only language spoken in the home. However, many languages other than English are spoken in homes across the country. Data on speakers of languages other than English and on their English-speaking ability provide more than an interesting portrait of our nation. Routinely, these data are used in a wide variety of legislative, policy, legal, and research applications.