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Blog Entries from February 2014

Spotlight on Commerce: LaJuene Desmukes,Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization

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Spotlight on Commerce: LaJuene Desmukes, Director, Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization

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 LaJuene Desmukes, Director, Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization

As the Director for the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, I am the Department of Commerce’s chief advocate for promoting the use of small business concerns to fulfill its contract and grant requirements. Helping small businesses navigate the complex Federal acquisition arena and successfully pursue opportunities is the most rewarding job I’ve held over the course of my 34-year career.  

I serve as a liaison between small businesses and the Department, seeking out and connecting quality firms with the necessary skills and expertise to meet the Department’s requirements. One of the more interesting aspects of my job is the opportunity to meet with individuals in both the government and private sector who work on projects and build solutions benefitting the nation and the world.  The more I learn about the Department’s programs and industries’ capabilities, the better able I am in helping small businesses pursue and compete for opportunities with Commerce. 

Small businesses, including disadvantaged, women-owned, service-disabled, veteran-owned, and small businesses located in Historically Underutilized Business Zones, are the backbone of the nation’s economy and the primary source of jobs for Americans.  I’m proud to help small businesses successfully pursue contracts and grants with the Department, and to use these opportunities to help small businesses grow and thrive. 

My desire to help others was impressed upon me by my parents. They met and married in Washington, DC, in the 1940s after migrating from the South in search of better paying jobs. Together they raised three boys and two girls. My parents wanted their children to have opportunities that were not available to them growing up in the segregated South. They stressed the importance of faithfully serving God, paying tithes, and honest work. These were the cornerstones of the Black community in which I grew up. My parents exemplified their beliefs by holding various church offices, paying off their mortgage, helping those in need, and serving in the federal government. My mother worked for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for over 40 years and retired as a clerical supervisor. My father retired as a Freight Rate Specialist from the General Accounting Office (now the Government Accountability Office) after 35 years.  

Spotlight on Commerce: Russell F. Smith III, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration

Spotlight on Commerce: Russell F. Smith III, National Oceanic and Atmospheric 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 Russell F. Smith III, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration

As the deputy assistant secretary for international fisheries at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, I oversee the nation’s engagement in international fisheries. My responsibilities include providing general policy guidance on various aspects of NOAA’s international fisheries work, such as sustainable management of fisheries, the protection of marine resources, and supporting the export of U.S. fisheries products. I also represent the U.S. government at various international meetings. In carrying out these responsibilities, I work closely with other NOAA employees and government officials from other agencies, including the State Department, the Coast Guard and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. In addition, I frequently consult with various stakeholders, including representatives of the fishing industry, non-governmental organizations, and academia. I also regularly work with representatives of foreign countries. 

As Americans, we care about the global management of our oceans for a number of reasons. Seafood is an important and healthy source of protein in the diets of many Americans and many others in the world. The seafood industry provides many jobs for fishermen and women, as well as those that build their boats and gear, seafood processors, suppliers, and many others. Although many once thought that seafood was an endless resource, we now know it is not. Providing the world with this important source of food, jobs, and economic opportunity requires careful management. 

Some seafood is easily managed on the local level. However, other species, such as many of the tunas, travel far beyond national boundaries and their harvest can only be successfully managed when nations cooperate. Our mission is to work with these other nations for the sustainable management of global fisheries that is based on the best available science and that protects other non-target species and habitats from potential adverse impacts of fishing. We also work to ensure that nations are complying with adopted measures and working cooperatively with developing countries to support their ability to implement such measures. My position combines international relations with fisheries, employment, development and environmental policies. 

Secretary Pritzker Concludes “Commerce in the Valley” Tour

Secretary Pritzker Concludes “Commerce in the Valley” Tour

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker concluded her two-day “Commerce in the Valley” tour on Tuesday showcasing the value and vast resources of the Commerce Department to entrepreneurs and business leaders in Northern California.  As the voice of business in the Administration, Pritzker met with innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders within Silicon Valley to discuss the Department of Commerce’s “Open for Business Agenda,” and the three key areas that will keep America competitive and strong: trade and investment, innovation, and data.

Secretary Pritzker made a number of site visits during her tour of Silicon Valley including Facebook, Google, eBay and PayPal showing the Department's strong commitment to spurring U.S. economic growth, through innovation, and competitiveness. On day two of her visit, Secretary Pritzker participated in an Innovation Ecosystem breakfast hosted by Tech for America, where she heard from budding entrepreneurs on the next generation of innovative ideas and discussed the importance of intellectual property (IP) protection and patent reform.

Following the breakfast, Secretary Pritzker traveled to Google where she met with executives and discussed trade and investment and ways the Commerce Department can further help companies export their goods and services abroad. 

Secretary Pritzker concluded her day at eBay and PayPal where she met with three eBay sellers, Chris Ko, Owner, Nationwide Surplus and ER2 Electronic Recycling; Nate Victor, CEO, Sonic Electrolux; and Nick Martin, Founder, The Pro's Closet. She discussed with each of these business leaders what global opportunities and resources we have at the Department of Commerce that can help them increase exports to foreign markets and expand their business footprint.  Secretary Pritzker later joined eBay Inc. CEO John Donahoe in announcing a partnership to promote U.S. exports and trade.  This partnership will advance the Obama Administration’s National Export Initiative, an ambitious plan to sell more American goods and services into foreign markets. 

Mr. Donahoe was appointed by President Obama to the President’s Export Council (PEC) in December 2013.  This partnership comes on the heels of a U.S. Department of Commerce announcement that U.S. exports in 2013 set a new record for the fourth straight year. U.S. exports reached $2.3 trillion in 2013, up nearly $700 billion since 2009.

Spotlight on Commerce: Charmaine Davis, Office of the Secretary

Spotlight on Commerce: Charmaine Davis, 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 Charmaine Davis, Office of the Secretary

Growing up in a single parent household, I learned the value of working hard to attain your goals. Watching my mother work hard and be selfless to provide for me and my siblings instilled a value of tenacity and integrity. She served in the federal government as a financial management specialist for 39 years. My mother’s love for her career has been truly inspiring and sparked an interest in me early on. 

I have worked in the federal government since 2001, beginning at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The Aspiring Leaders Program, coupled with great mentors, provided me with training and leadership opportunities that helped shape my career at the U.S. Department of Commerce.  

My career at Commerce began in 2005 in the Office of Financial Management (OFM), Office of Executive Budgeting. For the next four years, I learned the fundamentals of the Commerce budgeting process, and later served as the Budget Officer in the Office of the Secretary (OS). 

I am currently the Executive Officer, which means I am responsible for the management and execution of the Office of the Secretary’s budget. I work with OS staff to ensure that Secretarial initiatives and office needs are funded and supported. I also work with the Office of Administration to establish and enforce administrative policies and procedures for all OS offices.  

In the State of the Union Address, President Obama addressed three key principles, opportunity, action and optimism.  In tough budget circumstances, it is my job to work with the OS directors in creatively aiming to fulfill the Commerce Secretary’s mission using the funding we have. I am lucky to work with some incredibly enthusiastic individuals, and we strive as a team to get to the finish line. 

One of the persons who have influenced me to become who I am today would be my daughter Ciani, who I had at the age of 16!  What some considered being a mistake was a life lesson for me. Being a teen mom caused me to be extremely diligent to meet my objectives, to aim high, be resilient, and responsible.  It is important to me to provide her and her siblings with an example of what it means to dream big and overcome the roadblocks that may be set against you.  Because of that ambition, my daughter is in her freshman year at Virginia State University, obtaining her goals one by one and I couldn’t be prouder. 

New Manufacturing Institutes will Spur U.S. Innovation and Competitiveness

Across the country, communities are clamoring to land the next Manufacturing Innovation Institute, new “hubs” supported by the Obama Administration that are spurring the types of advanced technologies that will help grow the U.S. economy. Today, President Obama announced two new National Network for  Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) institutes, funded by the Department of Defense, which will focus on lightweight modern metals (Detroit) and digital manufacturing and design (Chicago). America’s leadership in cutting-edge technologies like these is exactly what we need to create high-quality jobs and opportunity here at home.

The whole idea behind the NNMI is to create public-private partnerships that bring together manufacturers, academics, and non-profits to bridge the gap between applied research and product development to ensure America remains globally competitive in the most exciting and promising emerging industries. In other words, NNMI institutes will help spur the technological advances needed to help the U.S. economy maintain its competitive edge. Here at Commerce, support for this network of industry-driven commercialization hubs is a key part of our “Open for Business Agenda.” 

Following the 2012 launch of a successful, additive manufacturing-focused NNMI pilot institute in Youngstown, Ohio, President Obama announced competitions in May 2013 to create three new institutes with a federal commitment of $200 million across five federal agencies – Commerce, Defense, Energy, NASA, and the National Science Foundation. With today’s announcement, all three institutes have now been selected. 

But we are not stopping here. The President also announced a new competition today for the next manufacturing innovation institute, which will focus on advanced composites. This is the first of the four additional institutes the President committed to launching this year in his State of the Union address, for a total of eight institutes nationwide.

The President has called for building out the initial network of 15 manufacturing innovation institutes to 45 over the next 10 years, which will require legislation from Congress. Getting this done is one of our top priorities at the Department of Commerce. With the enactment of current bipartisan and bicameral legislation, the “Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act of 2013,” we can open technology-neutral competitions that respond to much broader industry needs.

A strong manufacturing sector is critical to our intellectual and innovative capacity, and collaborative research between America’s leading manufacturers is essential to keeping our high-tech industries right here in the U.S. To learn more about NNMI and efforts to support advanced manufacturing, please visit:http://manufacturing.gov/nnmi.html.

Spotlight on Commerce: George E. Jenkins, National Institute for Standards and Technology

George E. Jenkins, 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 George E. Jenkins, National Institute of Standards and Technology

I was born in Savannah, Georgia to parents whose myriad personal sacrifices, strong sense of excellence, and loving devotion to our family were tremendous examples for how to succeed to me and my brothers.

I was the valedictorian of my high school class, captain of three sports teams, a member of the Georgia Allstate Chorus for three consecutive years and a selected participant in the Governor’s Honors Program for Music. I subsequently received an undergraduate degree in accounting from the University of Bridgeport and a Masters in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. I am also a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).

Upon graduating from college, I was hired by the international accounting firm of Ernst & Ernst (now Ernst & Young). I was a senior accountant with responsibility for the audits of multibillion dollar Fortune 500 companies. Afterward, I joined the faculties of Cheney State University, Alabama State University and Alabama A&M University, where I taught accounting and finance courses. Teaching and mentoring students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) was an enriching and rewarding experience. In fact, I later hired several of my mentees within the CPA firm that my brother and I owned and operated in Montgomery, AL for many years.

Our CPA firm delivered accounting and auditing services to professional athletes in all of the major sports, as well as, to a variety of large private corporate and government clients.

I began my federal service with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS).  While working at CMS, I held the position of Deputy Director for the Financial Management Systems Group, which was responsible for over 40 financial management systems. I also played an integral part in the development and implementation of the Healthcare Integrated General Ledger Accounting System (HIGLAS), which was one of the largest Oracle implementations in the world at the time, processing approximately 5 million Medicare claims daily.  I was an Associate Regional Administrator for Financial Management in Seattle, WA with oversight responsibilities for five western states. I received numerous awards such as the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary’s Award and the CMS Administrator’s Award on several occasions. 

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Visits Silicon Valley to Highlight Administration Support for Innovation Economy

Innovation is the key driver of U.S. economic competitiveness and job creation. That is why it is a key pillar of the Department of Commerce’s innovation agenda. On Monday, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker made her first trip as Secretary to Silicon Valley to advance the Obama Administration’s efforts to encourage innovation.

Secretary Pritzker made her first stop in Sunnyvale at the Plug and Play Tech Center, a business accelerator for tech startups. After touring Plug and Play, Secretary Pritzker delivered remarks at an event hosted by the Churchill Club, highlighting the Administration’s commitment to spurring U.S. economic growth, innovation, and competitiveness. She described the Commerce Department’s work to invest in digital infrastructure, strengthen intellectual property protections, and support advanced manufacturing, among other initiatives.

Secretary Pritzker also announced two new Commerce efforts to unleash more federal data for entrepreneurs and businesses, which are being spearheaded by the Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Census Bureau. NOAA has released a Request for Information to explore the feasibility of a public-private partnership to release more of the 20 terabytes of environmental and weather data that the agency collects each day. And the Census Explorer, an interactive map of demographics, is adding new tech workforce and payroll data, which will allow employers to see where the workers they need are living.

Noting the significant progress that the Administration has made to support science and technology, she even detailed how President Obama has done more for innovation than any other American President. “Simply put, I believe that President Obama has done more for innovation than any other President in history.”

Spotlight on Commerce: Joyce Ward, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Spotlight on Commerce: Joyce Ward, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

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 Joyce Ward, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

I have the honor of serving as the Director of the Office of Education and Outreach at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). I am fortunate to work with a dedicated, talented, and passionate team of people who believe deeply in the importance of educating, inspiring, and encouraging students and the people who educate them, whether they are teachers, parents, mentors, or members of the community.
 
Intellectual property (IP)—tangible ideas that can be bought and sold and traded—empowers people and has the potential to change society in ways both big and small. We’ve seen it over and over throughout our history with inventions such as the electric microphone, the artificial respirator, optical fiber, methods for storing blood, and countless other innovations that were developed by people with extraordinary ideas, vision, and sheer tenacity.
 
The Office of Education and Outreach is charged with developing, augmenting, and implementing education and outreach programming that increases knowledge and awareness of IP among stakeholders, and provides capacity building for future generations of inventors and innovators. To carry out that mission, we develop educational materials, build strategic partnerships, conduct professional development workshops for educators nationally, and provide hands-on experiences for students to help them make the connection between ideas and actualization.
 
I grew up in rural eastern North Carolina on Highway 58 between Wilson and Greene counties. The entrepreneurial spirit is in my DNA. Both of my parents were small business owners, and my great grandfather, first generation out of slavery, started his own business, which survived for close to 100 years. My father, a teacher by training, started a moving and storage company that evolved into a used furniture and antique shop. He also supported my mother in her business, which morphed from a gas station, convenience store, and used car lot to a restaurant and night club.

NOAA Moves to Unleash “Big Data” and Calls Upon American Companies to Help

Guest blog post by Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., Acting Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Acting NOAA Administrator 

From the surface of the sun to the depths of the ocean floor, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), part of the Department of Commerce, works to keep citizens informed about the changing environment around them. Our vast network of radars, satellites, buoys, ships, aircraft, tide gauges, and supercomputers keeps tabs on the condition of our planet’s health and provides critical data that are used to predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coastlines. As we continue to witness changes on this dynamic planet we call home, the demand for NOAA’s data is only increasing. 

Quite simply, NOAA is the quintessential big data agency. Each day, NOAA collects, analyzes, and generates over 20 terabytes of data – twice the amount of data than what is in the United States Library of Congress’ entire printed collection. However, only a small percentage is easily accessible to the public. 

NOAA is not the only Commerce agency with a treasure trove of valuable information. The economic and demographic statistics from the Census Bureau, for example, inform business decisions every day. According to a 2013 McKinsey Global Institute Report, open data could add more than $3 trillion in total value annually to the education, transportation, consumer products, electricity, oil and gas, health care, and consumer finance sectors worldwide. That is why U.S. Secretary of  Commerce Penny Pritzker has made unleashing the power of Commerce data one of the top priorities of the Department’s “Open for Business Agenda.” 

Imagine the economic potential if more of these data could be released. Trillions more bytes of data from NOAA could help existing businesses, start-up companies, and even non-governmental organizations develop new and innovative products – products that might help us better understand our planet and keep communities, businesses, and ecosystems resilient from extreme events. 

It is a challenge that will take creative and unconventional thinking, and it is something we can’t tackle alone. 

Commerce Department Supports Efforts to Ensure American Workers Have the Necessary Skills for the In-Demand Jobs of Today and Tomorrow

As part of a government collaboration to prepare and place workers facing long-term unemployment into good jobs in high-demand industries, the Department of Labor announced yesterday the availability of approximately $150 million in grants as part of the “Ready to Work Partnership.”  Three weeks ago, President Obama signed a federal employer commitment and issued a Presidential Memorandum to address the issue of long-term unemployment and ensure that those who have been out of work for long periods of time are given a fair shot. The memorandum underscored the need for American workers to have the resources and training needed to acquire in-demand job skills.

The Commerce Department is playing a key role in this effort by partnering with businesses, as well as other federal agencies, to facilitate industry-driven workforce training programs. A strong and skilled workforce is a fundamental part of a competitive U.S. economy, driving economic growth and attracting foreign direct investment. That is why Secretary Pritzker has made workforce skills a top priority of the Commerce Department and is a key pillar of the “Open for Business Agenda.” In fact, she is the first Commerce Secretary to focus on skills training.

Before becoming Secretary of Commerce, Pritzker helped launch Skills for America’s Future, a national employer-led initiative to prepare workers for 21st century jobs, and Skills for Chicagoland’s Future, a local intermediary in Chicago focused on the long-term unemployed. These two public-private partnerships align employer needs with training to prepare workers for positions that are available and set them on a real career path.

At an event hosted by the White House on January 31, Secretary Pritzker co-led a panel with CEOs who signed the White House pledge to support the long-term unemployed. She emphasized the value of employer-led partnerships to better inform demand-driven training efforts and ensure that workers have the training they need to be competitive in the global marketplace. The strength of the American workforce drives our economic recovery, so it is critical that the federal government take a leading role in investing in workforce training efforts. For these efforts to be successful, government must collaborate with stakeholders from the business community, educational and training institutions, labor unions, and state and local governments to make sure our training programs are more job-driven, integrated and effective.