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Blog Entries from March 2014

Spotlight on Commerce: Kate McAdams, Senior Advisor, Department of Commerce

Kate McAdams, Senior Adviser to 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 Kate McAdams, Senior Adviser to the Secretary, Department of Commerce

In addition to my role on the Secretary's senior management team, I lead the Department's effort to ensure a skilled workforce, one of the pillars of our Open for Business Agenda. For the first time, the Department of Commerce is focusing on the critical importance of a globally competitive workforce as part of the Department's mission to help set the conditions for economic growth and opportunity. In addition to developing strategic partnerships with the Departments of Labor and Education, we are building on the Department's existing assets, including access to business leaders; data tools; economic development planning expertise; and Manufacturing Extension Partnership centers that serve the needs of small and medium manufacturers. To date, I have been spending time developing partnerships and our internal "skills team" that focuses on expanding job-driven training that ensures employers find the skilled workers they need and workers access quality jobs and career paths.

Recognizing that more can be accomplished through a team effort is inherent in my approach to solving problems and achieving outcomes due to a lifelong passion for playing competitive sports. Growing up playing ice hockey on a team of all boys, to playing women's ice hockey in college, to even "old man's hockey" as an adult, I am hard-wired to think about how to accomplish goals by utilizing my strengths in combination with those of my teammates. This is the case in my new position at Commerce and past positions in city government, and even when I was the sole employee of an organization I found a way to be more impactful through strategic partnerships. Particularly in public service positions, the fast pace and limited resources require creativity when building and utilizing teams.  I am lucky to have worked for two respected mayors and now I view it as a true honor to work for Secretary Pritzker and President Obama.  

I often say I am lucky for the professional opportunities I’ve experienced, but was recently chided for saying so, as if it was out of my control. What I actually mean is better described by the quote “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” I believe that hard work is noticed and is the best preparation for the next opportunity, and as I learned from coaches at a very young age, "keep your head on a swivel" to attempt to prepare for the unexpected. This is my advice for young people starting a career – seek out leaders you want to work for and projects to which you want exposure. Keeping your head on a swivel was my hockey coach’s term to be looking forward, backwards, left and right – to be cognizant of your strengths, weaknesses and the position of your teammates who will help you achieve your goals.

NIST Gives Astronomers a Better Ruler in the Search for Extrasolar Planets

A thorium emission lamp’s violet glow, when viewed through a spectroscope, is split into a spectrum of thousands of bright lines. New measurements of these lines could help astronomers search for earthlike planets around distant stars.

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have rejuvenated a technique for finding planets near distant stars. New measurements of light from special lamps could help astronomers find planets hidden in data from more than a decade's worth of extrasolar planet searches, as well as improve telescopes' current capabilities.

Finding extrasolar planets is tricky. Seen through a telescope, planets in the "habitable zone"—a region close to a star, where liquid water could exist on a planet's surface—usually get lost in their star's glare. But as a planet orbits, its gravity makes its parent star wobble a tiny bit, resulting in slight color changes in the star's light due to the Doppler effect. These changes can only be spotted if the light is first broken into a spectrum of thin lines, which are then compared to an unchanging reference spectrum.

The NIST team made extensive new measurements of thorium, a heavy element often used in emission lamps that help provide that fixed ruler. Scientists have detected more than 400 planets using the Doppler technique but have yet to discover a solar system similar to ours. 

Stephen Redman, a postdoctoral fellow working at NIST, worked with NIST physicist Gillian Nave and physicist Craig Sansonetti to update the most recent thorough measurement of thorium's spectrum, published in 1983. The more than 8,000 spectral lines it lists are a bit fuzzy by today's standards—good enough to reveal the larger wobble caused by a Jupiter-sized gas giant's gravity, but not the small one an Earth-like world would cause. Redman spent a year combining observations he made on a spectrometer at NIST with data culled from other researchers' work. The result is a set of nearly 20,000 spectral lines of far greater clarity.

In addition to finding systems similar to our own, the new data should aid the search for planets around dwarf stars. These have been hard to find using the Doppler method, in part because dwarfs are so faint, but Nave says the new data include good lines in the near infrared, which is the region of the spectrum in which many of these cool stars give off the most light.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Touts Importance of Workforce Development at Clemson University's International Center for Automotive Research

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Touts Importance of Workforce Development at Clemson University's International Center for Automotive Research

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker today toured the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR), a campus where academia, the private sector, and government organizations are working together to research and develop leading-edge technologies, and educate and train students for jobs in the automotive industry.

Ensuring that America has a strong and skilled workforce is essential to our economic competitiveness, and that is why Secretary Pritzker has made workforce development a key pillar of the Commerce Department’s “Open for Business Agenda.”  In fact, she is the first Commerce Secretary to focus on how we can best prepare workers with in-demand job skills. The Commerce Department is playing a key role in this effort by partnering with businesses and other federal agencies to facilitate industry-driven training programs.

CU-ICAR is one example of an educational institution working directly with the private sector to conduct research and training that meets the needs of industry. Since collaboration between academia, the private sector and government started in 2003, CU-ICAR has grown into a 250-acre campus educating students and conducting research that is relevant to the global automotive community. CU-ICAR is studying advanced and highly efficient engine concepts that utilize a variety of fuels, developing technologies that increase vehicle electrification and efficiency, developing and utilizing advanced materials and processes that can reduce vehicle weight and decrease manufacturing costs. CU-ICAR is also working on identifying opportunities and technologies to reduce energy consumption in factories, and addressing issues of safety by designing improved human-machine interfaces and vehicle-to-vehicle communications.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Celebrates BMW’s Investment in U.S. Manufacturing

Secretary Pritzker Speaks with Workers While Touring the BMW Facilities in Spartanburg, South Carolina

Foreign direct investment (FDI) fuels U.S. economic growth and creates good, high-paying jobs, which is why the Commerce Department is so focused on attracting more FDI to the United States. At an event today at the BMW manufacturing facility in Spartanburg, South Carolina, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker applauded the German automaker for announcing an investment of approximately $1 billion in a new X7 production line at the plant.

BMW’s announcement, which is expected to create 800 new jobs by 2016, builds upon the company’s substantial commitment to production in the United States. BMW has made investments of $6.3 billion since coming to South Carolina in 1992. In 2012, the company announced that it would be expanding its Spartanburg facility to make it the largest plant in the BMW Group production network, a move that is expected to bring 1,000 new jobs to South Carolina by the end of 2014.

Secretary Pritzker delivered remarks at the announcement, focusing on the importance of FDI to the U.S. economy and job creation. The United States is both the largest recipient and source of FDI in the world. As of 2011, the most recent data available, majority-owned subsidiaries of multinational firms with U.S. operations employ more than 5.6 million workers and pay an average annual compensation of $77,600. These firms also spent more than $45 billion in R&D in the United States and accounted for 20.5 percent of U.S. goods exported in 2011. Through the SelectUSA program, which Secretary Pritzker described in her remarks, the Department of Commerce is working to attract increased investment to the United States.

Clemson University’s Public-Private Partnerships Help Create Next-Generation Workforce

Secretary Pritzker and John Ballato, Clemson University vice president for economic development, toured the Clemson University-International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR)

Guest blog post by Dr. John Ballato, Clemson University vice president for economic development, and Kris Frady, director of operations for the Clemson University Center for Workforce Development
 
We had the privilege today of showing U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker the cutting-edge research and education that are helping South Carolina play a leading role in the nation’s economic revival.
 
She toured the Clemson University-International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) and then participated in a roundtable discussion with education and business leaders about how to develop a well-qualified workforce.
 
Her visit put a spotlight on the public-private partnerships that are helping create the next generation of engineers, scientists and technicians that America needs to remain competitive.
 
CU-ICAR in Greenville, S.C. is one of four Clemson University innovation campuses placed strategically across the state where businesses and communities need them most. It is an excellent example of what higher education, government and industry can accomplish when they work synergistically for the common good. It creates win-win partnerships.

Fostering Innovation through Strong, Sustainable Regional Partnerships

Fostering Innovation through Strong, Sustainable Regional Partnerships

Guest blog post by Matt Erskine, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Development

Earlier this week, I was honored to provide the keynote address at the International Economic Development Council’s (IEDC) 2014 Federal Economic Development Forum. Dr. Pat Gallagher, NIST Director performing the duties of Deputy Secretary and Mark Doms, Under Secretary for Economic Affairs, also participated in the forum. Both applauded the important work of the IEDC in fostering economic growth in communities across America.

The work that IEDC members are doing in communities here and around the globe is critical, timely and mirrors our philosophy at EDA: only by working together in effective, strong, and sustainable regional partnerships will we realize our collective economic vision. 

In fact, the three guiding themes of this year’s IEDC Federal Forum – Learn, Teach, and Collaborate – reflect EDA’ core mission to establish a foundation for sustainable job growth through innovation and regional collaboration.

Through our flexible grant programs, EDA provides construction, technical assistance, financing, strategic planning and network building tools that local and regional entities can use to support their communities’ unique economic development strategies and objectives. 

Our model of competitive, merit based co-investment in support of strong regional economic development strategies is a proven approach – an approach that always looks to maximize the return on investment and the impact of our assistance in communities.

Today, we are focused on synchronizing federal programs to both maximize federal taxpayer returns and maximize the impact in the communities we serve.  By breaking down Washington’s bureaucratic silos, we can be a more effective partner.

Spotlight on Commerce: Jeannette P. Tamayo, Chicago Regional Director, Economic Development Administration

Spotlight on Commerce: Jeannette P. Tamayo, Chicago Regional Director, Economic Development 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 Jeannette P, Tamayo, Chicago Regional Director, Economic Development Administration

I am both honored and humbled to have been asked to share my experience in the DOC Spotlight as part of Women’s History Month as so many extraordinary women, and their sons, contribute to our collective achievements.

As the Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Chicago Regional Director, I am truly privileged to touch lives in extraordinary ways through the catalytic investments EDA funds and the hope and economic impact these investments bring to economically distressed communities across the nation.  As the only federal agency with economic development as its exclusive mission, EDA promotes the economic ecosystems in which jobs are created. EDA strives to advance global competitiveness, foster the creation of high-paying jobs, and leverage public and private resources strategically.

I am fortunate to work with creative, dedicated and energetic colleagues who use their specialized knowledge and skills to help communities transform ideas into a competitive application that, once implemented, results in initiatives that create jobs and leverage private investment.  No two ideas or communities are the same, and, as the competitive needs of regional economies change to be globally competitive, EDA is constantly presented with unique asset-based, innovative concepts that test our imagination and compel us to “push the envelope” – trying new approaches to foster economic sustainability and resiliency.  Grant making requires an understanding of communities and regions, risk management, and the ability to translate visionary goals into measurable activities.  It also requires building partnerships and creating opportunities for collaboration.  While ensuring that federal funds  for transformational projects flow to communities in my six-state region (IL, IN, MI, MN, OH, and WI), my specific role involves leading a regional staff, fostering creativity, finding solutions, managing change, engaging in negotiations and mediation, analyzing applications, marketing programs, and building coalitions. 

Spotlight on Commerce: Lisa Casias, Deputy Chief Financial Officer, Department of Commerce

Spotlight on Commerce: Lisa Casias, Deputy Chief Financial Officer, Department of Commerce

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 Lisa Casias, Deputy Chief Financial Officer, Department of Commerce 

As the Deputy Chief Financial Officer and Director for Financial Management, I work with all of the bureaus CFOs and financial management teams to provide support to the Department’s program managers in meeting their missions.  As a community we ensure that we meet the many requirements of the federal government’s financial reporting mandates, maintain robust internal control environments, and maintain the systems to produce financial information.  Perhaps, the most important aspect of our work is to ensure program managers have the information needed for decision making.  I am also responsible for the Office of Secretary’s budget operations and most recently the travel, fleet and personal property offices. 

I have worked in the Department for over 22 years in both the Office of Secretary and Office of Inspector General. I have held different positions within these organizations and added new areas to my portfolio over that time.  While some choose career paths that cross into many federal agencies, the opportunities to continually learn new things and ability to work with outstanding financial and administrative communities have kept me in the Department.

One of the most interesting aspects in working at the Department level is the ability to engage with all of the bureaus and learn their missions as we support their financial management needs.  As demonstrated in the Department’s Strategic Plan, the Department plays a critical role in the nation’s economy and the financial and administrative management communities are an integral part of mission success. 

I attribute my ability to follow my dreams (yes, I always wanted to be an accountant) and my career successes to the support of my parents.  I grew up in Dumont, New Jersey where my parents had migrated from England. They taught by example instilling in both my sister and me the importance of having strong work ethic, integrity and belief in oneself. They stayed in the United States as they believed we would have more opportunities to achieve our dreams, including obtaining a college education.  We were the first in our family to graduate from college. 

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker Supports IP Protection at Commemoration of 700,000th Design Patent

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and a student at the Langdon Education Campus explore a LeapFrog handheld device, the 700,000th design patent awarded by the United States Patent and Trademark Office

Intellectual property protections are essential to helping unlock American innovation. Patents and trademarks give entrepreneurs the confidence and security they need to invest in new R&D, new businesses, and new employees. That confidence and security translates into $5 trillion of economic output at year -- a 2012 Commerce Department study found that industries that rely most heavily on IP protections support 40 million U.S. jobs and more than one-third of GDP. In order to help create the conditions for economic growth, the Commerce Department is making the country’s IP laws work even better.  

As part of these efforts, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker joined USPTO Deputy Director Michelle Lee and Commissioner for Patents Peggy Focarino today for a ceremony commemorating the 700,000th design patent. The patent was assigned to LeapFrog Enterprises, Inc. for the design of “Leapster Explorer,” a hand-held learning and play device for 4-to-9-year-olds, featuring a touch screen and 3D graphics.  At the ceremony, which took place at the Langdon Education Campus in Washington, DC, Secretary Pritzker and Deputy Director Lee presented the patent to Leapfrog Senior Vice President and General Counsel Robert Lattuga. 

Every day, USPTO is awarding more utility and design patents to entrepreneurs and businesses to help them grow, innovate, and compete. Last year alone, USPTO issued 22,000 applications for design patents, an 8 percent increase over the previous year.  A design consists of the visual, ornamental characteristics embodied in or applied to an article of manufacture. Applications in this area cover designs of computer equipment, cell phones and other handheld electronic devices, such as the Leapfrog Design Patent Number 700,000. 

The Obama Administration has been a strong supporter of efforts to make the patent system works more efficiently. President Obama recently announced a number of new executive actions to increase transparency in patent ownership, provide more training to patent examiners, and help inventors and small business owners who unexpectedly find themselves facing patent litigation. 

At today’s ceremony, USPTO also announced a new Intellectual Property patch for Girl Scouts in the National Capital Region (GSCNC). The new patch was developed as a joint project between the GSCNC and the USPTO, in collaboration with the Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation (IPO). The patch is designed to support curriculum and activities that increase understanding of IP, especially as it relates to the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Spotlight on Commerce: Kim Glas, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Textiles, Consumer Goods, and Materials, International Trade Administration

Spotlight on Commerce: Kim Glas, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Textiles, Consumer Goods, and Materials, 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 Kim Glas, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Textiles, Consumer Goods, and Materials, International Trade Administration

Serving as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Textiles, Consumer Goods, and Materials, my job is to improve the domestic and international competitiveness of the broad product range of U.S. textiles, footwear, consumer goods, metals and mining, forest products, and chemicals and plastics manufacturing sectors and industries. This position requires strong negotiation and problem-solving skills and the ability to work with a broad array of stakeholders with divergent opinions in order to find solutions on a whole host of issues. 

Over the last 3 years, I have spent significant time at the negotiating table for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement to ensure opportunities under the agreement for U.S. textile and footwear producers.  I coordinate within the ITA and across agencies to ensure we can deliver results for companies and the workers they employ.  While the job has been challenging, it has been an incredibly rewarding opportunity.  I have worked with top-notch staff across the Department and in the Administration who are driven to expanding opportunities for U.S. industries and workers.

Having worked in two Administrations and on Capitol Hill, I have always been driven by a mission to serve the American people and have been fortunate to do so throughout my career.  Growing up, my parents, extended family, teachers, and mentors were incredibly supportive of me and instilled in me to work hard, serve others, and have a strong sense of self. I grew up in the close-knit community of Lockport, NY located near Buffalo during a time when many industries in the area were facing enormous economic hardships.  Layoffs all too often were the front page news of the local paper.  My high school experience reflected what was happening in the community – and I knew that I wanted to make it better.