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Blog Entries from May 2014

NOAA Predicts Near-Normal or Below-Normal 2014 Atlantic Hurricane Season

2014 Atlantic hurricane outlook

In its 2014 Atlantic hurricane season outlook issued today, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a near-normal or below-normal season.

The main driver of this year’s outlook is the anticipated development of El Niño this summer. El Niño causes stronger wind shear, which reduces the number and intensity of tropical storms and hurricanes. El Niño can also strengthen the trade winds and increase the atmospheric stability across the tropical Atlantic, making it more difficult for cloud systems coming off of Africa to intensify into tropical storms.

The outlook calls for a 50 percent chance of a below-normal season, a 40 percent chance of a near-normal season, and only a 10 percent chance of an above-normal season.  For the six-month hurricane season, which begins June 1, NOAA predicts a 70 percent likelihood of 8 to 13 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 3 to 6 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 1 to 2 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher).

These numbers are near or below the seasonal averages of 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes, based on the average from 1981 to 2010. The Atlantic hurricane region includes the North Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico.

“Thanks to the environmental intelligence from NOAA’s network of earth observations, our scientists and meteorologists can provide life-saving products like our new storm surge threat map and our hurricane forecasts,” said Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., NOAA administrator. “And even though we expect El Niño to suppress the number of storms this season, it’s important to remember it takes only one land falling storm to cause a disaster.”

Investing in Data, Investing in America

Dr. Mark E. Doms

Cross-post by Mark Doms, Under Secretary for Economic Affairs

The Department of Commerce’s mantra is that America is “Open for Business.”  As President Obama highlighted at Tuesday’s Investing in America roundtable, this has never been more true.  Today, U.S. and foreign businesses appreciate the competitive advantages that come from locating operations here. The U.S. provides the total package: a skilled, world-class workforce; global leadership in innovation and invention; access to our growing domestic market; rich infrastructure easy access to export markets. The list goes on. (Check out the Assess Costs Everywhere tool to get a more complete list and discussion of the advantages of setting up shop in the U.S.) 

Business leaders from across the spectrum and across the world are making new investments here. Individually their stories are compelling, and they are echoed in data from our Bureau of Economic Analysis and captured in a joint report issued by the Department of Commerce and the White House. For example, business fixed investment from companies choosing to grow and invest in the United States accounts for more than 20 percent of the rebound in real GDP since mid-2009, and global investors have played a large part.  Since 2006, the United States has been the world’s largest recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI). And FDI inflows have swelled, totaling $1.5 trillion between 2006 and 2012. For 2013 alone, FDI inflows totaled $193 billion up from $166 billion in 2012. 

These investments are good for our economy, for investors, and for workers (such as the 5.6 million who work for U.S. affiliates of foreign firms and have average annual compensation of $77,000). We know this because the evidence is clear in the data. And while it is important to focus on the value of the inward investment and the jobs and growth that brings to our economy, it is also important to take a look at the data that tells us this, as well as the data which informs businesses when they decide to select the USA.

Coming Soon: A More Detailed Look at U.S. Trade and International Investment

International data will soon be getting a new look, giving users more detail on the U.S. economy’s relationship with the rest of the world in the most significant restructuring of the Bureau of Economic Analysis’ international data since 1976. The restructured accounts will provide greater and more complete information about the global financial picture and the United States’ place in it.

So when will you start seeing the changes?

• With the June 4 International Trade in Goods and Services report, the number of services categories available monthly will expand from seven to nine. Also, seasonally adjusted trade in goods and services will now be available for selected countries and areas.

• With the June 18 release of the quarterly International Transactions Accounts, users will get additional detail on trade in goods and services in the current account, while the financial account will be reorganized and expanded to include additional detail by instrument, by sector, and by maturity. For trade in services, the number of sub-categories available quarterly will expand from 10 to 20.

• With the June 30 release of the quarterly International Investment Position, users will get additional detail on the maturity of investment. Data on direct investment positions will be reported on an asset and liability basis, like a balance sheet.

These changes will align U.S. data more closely with updated international guidelines, such as the sixth edition of the Balance of Payments and International Investment Position Manual (BPM6). Keeping up with international guidelines makes it easier for users to compare U.S. data with data from our major trade and investment partners. Several industrialized countries have already incorporated these new standards into their international accounts.

More information on the upcoming changes is available here. BEA plans to host a webinar on May 28 starting at 2 p.m. EDT to highlight the biggest changes and answer users’ questions. For more information, click here.

 

Empowering West Africa

Empowering West Africa

Guest blog post by Harold “Hal” Pontez, President and CEO of HPI , and participant in the Commerce Department's West Africa Energy Business Development Mission

By no stretch of the imagination, I am a very lucky man. Aside from sharing a great life with my wife and daughter, I’ve had the great pleasure of waking up each day for 30 years excited to take on new challenges at a job that I love. 

Over the course of those years, some may say I’ve developed a bit of a routine: 

5:00 am – Turn on the lights (waking up the dogs), get dressed and head to the gym for a morning workout session. (Hopefully my iPod is charged or it’s going to be a brutal morning!). 

6:30 am – Brew a cup of coffee and power up the laptop to catch up on the morning headlines and email.

7:00 am – Breakfast- usually I pop a bagel in the toaster (the Lone Star State has perfected the art of creating larger bagels, but they’re still nothing like the ones in my home state of New York!).

While the intricacies of my mornings may be a snooze fest to some, there is one essential component that all of these tasks would be impossible without- power. 

It is estimated that over 600 million people (that’s two-thirds of the population) in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity. While countries in the region continue to see rapid commercial development, they have been plagued with electricity and gas shortages, directly impacting businesses, national GDP and quality of life throughout the country since 2009. Reliable power generation is essential to the development of countries like Ghana, where the country is expected to serve as an example for stability, and steady and diversified economic growth. 

Secretary Pritzker Tours Entrepreneur School of Technology and Meets Ghanaian Entrepreneurs

Secretary Pritkzer Tours Entrepreneur School of Technology and Meets Ghanaian Entrepreneurs

After meeting with Ghanaian Minister of Trade and Industry Haruna Iddrisu and Minister of Finance Seth Terkper, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker stopped by the Meltwater Entrepreneur School of Technology (MEST) to tour its facilities, interact with several of the resident start-ups, and gain more insight into the Ghanaian entrepreneurial culture. 

Established in 2009 and based in Ghana's capital city of Accra, MEST and its Incubator program provide training, investment and mentoring for aspiring technology entrepreneurs. Its goal is to create globally successful companies that spur prosperity and jobs locally in Africa. MEST offers aspiring African entrepreneurs a fully-sponsored, two year intensive program to learn the skills necessary to build successful tech businesses, including computer programming, software development, product management, finance, marketing, sales and leadership best practices. 
 
The Department of Commerce supports entrepreneurship through its "Open for Business Agenda," a set of strategic priorities focused on data, innovation, and trade and investment. As the primary voice of business in the Administration, the Department produces policies and initiatives that help in the establishment and success of new start-ups as well as the growth and competitiveness of existing businesses.
 
In April, President Obama and Secretary Pritzker announced the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE) initiative. PAGE - which is chaired by Secretary Pritzker -  is comprised of 11 well-known, successful American business leaders who have committed to sharing their time, energy, ideas, and experience to help develop the next generation of entrepreneurs both at home and abroad.

Secretary Pritzker Kicks Off Second Day of West Africa Energy Business Development Mission and Visits Electric Company of Ghana

Secretary Pritzker Visits Electric Company of Ghana

Today, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker kicked off her second day in Ghana at the Electric Company of Ghana (ECG) as part of the Commerce Department’s West Africa Energy Business Development Mission.  During the site visit, she spoke about the strong relationship between Ghana and the United States and the importance of partnering with private sector businesses to help Ghana reach its energy potential.

During the site visit, Secretary Pritzker specifically addressed the importance of the Administration’s Power Africa initiative and reiterated the U.S. commitment to improving economic prosperity in West Africa through investment in the energy sector.

President Obama announced Power Africa last year as an initiative to double the number of people with access to power in Sub-Saharan Africa.  With more than 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa lacking access to reliable electricity, the power development challenge is enormous. More than two-thirds of the population is without electricity, including more than 85 percent of those living in rural areas. According to the International Energy Agency, sub-Saharan Africa needs more than $300 billion in investments to achieve universal electricity access by 2030 – far beyond the capacity of any traditional development program.  As part of Power Africa, the United States will commit more than $7 billion in financial support over the next five years to this effort.

The trade mission, Secretary Pritzker’s third since taking office last summer, will promote U.S. exports to Africa by helping U.S. companies’ launch or increase their business in the energy sector in West Africa.  The firms joining the mission have the expertise to help African countries develop and manage energy resources and systems, as well as build out power generation, transmission, and distribution.

Africa is home to seven of the ten fastest growing economies in the world, and helping U.S. business expand their presence in these African markets is a top priority for the Department of Commerce and the Administration. 

Simple Steps to Expanding Your Business through Exports

Minority-owned firms employ nearly six million American workers and contribute one trillion dollars in annual economic output to the U.S. economy.

At the Department of Commerce and the Minority Business Development Agency we are dedicated to helping more minority-owned business leverage their competitive advantage and expand their business through exports. The most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau reveals how minority-owned firms employ nearly six million American workers and contribute one trillion dollars in annual economic output to the U.S. economy. This economic output includes significant exporting contributions. In fact, minority-owned firms are export leaders in 14 key industry sectors.

To celebrate World Trade Month we are kicking off a blog series to highlight valuable resources and information for minority businesses looking at exporting for the first time and firms looking to expand their existing exporting efforts. 

Here are six steps to start exporting:

Complete an export readiness self-assessment: Find out if you have what it takes to market your products or services into the global marketplace. Provide answers to nine questions and receive advice on your exporting potential.

Training and counseling: use online resources like webinars and training courses to learn the basics of exporting and increase your understanding of the exporting process. Access webinars and online courses from the International Trade Agency (ITA), U.S. Census Bureau Go Global Webinars, and the Small Business Administration (SBA).

Develop your Export Business Plan: Use the SBA Export Business Planner to work through the process of gathering information and setting SMART goals and objectives. The Export Business Planner will help your business explore exporting options.

Conduct Market Research: It is critical for you to find the best exporting prospects for your business success. The U.S. government has the latest information on market conditions around the world. You can also use the Trade Stats Express to identify potential markets.

Find Buyers: Leverage opportunities at the local, state, and federal government levels to meet potential foreign buyers. Use reverse trade mission hosted by the U.S. Trade and Development Agency or overseas trade mission hosted by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Many states government also host overseas trade missions check out your states business opportunities websites.

Investigate Export Finance Option: understanding the available grants, insurance and finance programs available to assist your firm as exporting options are critical to your exporting success. Start with federal resources at Export-Import Bank, Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and SBA Export Loans

Take your business to the next level and begin to go and grow globally. MBDA and our national network of more than 40 MBDA Business Centers are here to help. Contact a MBDA Business Center to learn more about how exporting can increase your bottom line.

Also, stay tuned to learn more about the next phase of the National Export Initiative –NEI/NEXT! 

Commerce in the Community: World Relief provides impactful entrepreneurship and job training programs for vulnerable populations at home and abroad

Commerce in the Community: World Relief provides impactful entrepreneurship and job training programs for vulnerable populations at home and abroad

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Commerce in the Community series highlighting the work of community leaders and organizations that are strengthening the middle class and providing ladders of opportunity for all Americans.

Below is an interview with Stephan Bauman, President and CEO of World Relief. Before coming to World Relief, Stephan served as Director of International Programs for World Hope International. He previously worked for Mercy Ships International directing programs and training for over 300 staff on the Anastasis, a hospital ship based in Africa. A Certified Public Accountant and minister, Stephen has also worked as a consultant for Anderson and Co. 

Q1: Tell us about World Relief. What is your mission and main focus? 

World Relief was founded in 1945 by the National Association of Evangelicals to provide humanitarian assistance in war-torn Europe. We have since evolved into an organization working in 14 countries around the world and in 25 cities in the United States to empower local churches to serve the most vulnerable.

Q2: How are you working to expand opportunity domestically and internationally? 

We believe in empowering the most vulnerable so that they can create their own solutions and meet their own needs. Through the power of Agri-business, Microfinance and Savings Groups, World Relief equips small business owners with the skills, capital and resources necessary to develop successful, self-sustaining businesses. We believe when given the tools to protect and leverage their financial assets, these entrepreneurs will be able to participate in the transformation of their local communities.

Secretary Pritzker Discusses Trade and Investment with Ghanaian President Mahama and Other Officials

President Mahama greets Secretary Pritzker on her first official visit to Ghana

Building on a strong bilateral relationship with Ghana, the United States is committed to partnering with the country as a beacon of stability and democracy in West Africa.

As part of that partnership, the United States is working to increase trade and investment, cornerstones of the Strategy toward Sub-Saharan Africa that President Obama announced in June 2012. On her trade mission to West Africa this week, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker is talking with Ghanaian leaders about the many opportunities available for U.S. businesses to partner with Ghana to help meet their energy development objectives.

This morning, Secretary Pritzker met with Minister of Trade and Industry Haruna Iddrisu. She discussed policies that would facilitate U.S. companies’ participation in developing Ghana’s energy sector and helping the country meet its goal of generating 5,000 megawatts of power by 2016.  Secretary Pritzker pointed out that the United States’ Power Africa initiative to double access to electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa aligns with Ghana’s broad goals to increase power generation capacity in the near term.

Secretary Pritzker also met with Minister of Finance Seth Terkper and discussed some of the challenges facing the business community in the current fiscal climate. Noting that the strong trade relationship between Ghana and the United States continues to grow, Secretary Pritzker highlighted some of the Commerce Department’s initiatives focused on expanding U.S.-Ghana trade. This week’s trade mission is an opportunity to build upon our two country’s strong trade relationship by facilitating introductions of U.S. companies eager to learn about the energy needs of Ghana.

Finally, in the afternoon, Secretary Pritzker met with Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama and discussed the strategic importance of strong U.S.-Ghanaian economic and commerce relations. Secretary Pritzker highlighted that U.S. companies have a lot to offer in terms of management and technical expertise, and capital that might prove to be very useful for Ghana. 

Secretary Pritzker and President Mahama briefly discussed the upcoming World Cup and the United States’ opening round match-up against Ghana. 

NOAA Kicks Off Hurricane Awareness Tour

NOAA Kicks Off Hurricane Awareness Tour

This week, NOAA hurricane experts will visit five U.S. Gulf Coast cities aboard a NOAA hurricane hunter aircraft to raise awareness about storm threats and the danger of being caught without a personal hurricane plan. The five-day tour begins today and advances NOAA's efforts to build a Weather-Ready Nation through outreach and effective communication on the steps necessary to prepare for a hurricane. 

National Hurricane Center Director Dr. Rick Knabb, along with senior hurricane specialist Daniel Brown and storm surge team leader Jamie Rhome, will travel with the NOAA crew when the aircraft visits Corpus Christi, Tex.; Houston, Tex.; New Orleans, La.; Tallahassee, Fla.; and Tampa, Fla. 

The hurricane hunter aircraft, also known as the NOAA WP-3D Orion turboprop aircraft, is used primarily by scientists on research missions to study various elements of a hurricane, flying through the eye of the storm several times each flight. The crew collects and transmits data by satellite directly to the National Hurricane Center so that forecasters can analyze and predict changes to the hurricane’s path and strength.  

The aircraft is part of our fleet of highly specialized research aircraft operated, managed and maintained by the NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations. The aircraft is piloted by officers of the NOAA Corps — one of the seven uniformed services of the United States — and based at the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center, located at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla. 

Staff from local emergency management offices and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, non-profit organizations such as the American Red Cross and the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, and several local NOAA National Weather Service forecast offices will be part of the team at each stop.