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Blog Entries from May 2014

Grow Your Business With U.S. Foreign Trade Data

Guest blog post by Omari Wooden, Senior Foreign Trade Advisor at U.S Census Bureau

In today's economy, businesses are continually looking for new ways to remain competitive and may not know there are resources available from the Census Bureau and the Commerce Department as a whole to help them understand international markets. Whether you need to evaluate your company's export potential or identify key foreign markets, you can make data-driven decisions through resources available from the Census Bureau.

Did you know that in 2013 American exports totaled $2.3 trillion, surpassing the previous record of $2.2 trillion in 2012? In 2013, our top three trading partners were Canada ($300B), Mexico ($226B) and China ($122B). However, between 2012 and 2013, the following countries had some of the greatest increases in imports from the United States: Monaco (1,818%), Brunei (254%), Equatorial Guinea (225%), and French Guinea (202%). U.S. businesses use our data to find the large markets, but they can also use this data to determine emerging markets.

On a monthly basis we release detailed information on over 9,000 export commodities and 18,000 import commodities. This information can be used to identify the global marketplace for your product and possible opportunities to expand your business. You can find more information here: http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/Press-Release/current_press_release/

Another great resource is USA Trade Online, where you can easily explore trading trends and market outlook by product and country. You can also evaluate the current and historical trends of U.S. exports and imports. This level of market research can help you determine where there is a market for your product. Currently, we are offering free trials, so I would encourage you to register today at USA Trade Online.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Leads Energy Business Development Mission to West Africa

With more than 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa lacking access to 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.

Tomorrow, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker will leave for West Africa to lead 20 American companies on an Energy Business Development Mission with stops in Ghana and Nigeria. This mission will promote U.S. exports to Africa by helping American firms launch or increase their business in the energy sector in West Africa.  It will also help the African region develop and manage energy resources and systems, build out power generation and 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 Obama Administration. There is tremendous potential for U.S. companies to sell their goods and services in countries like Ghana and Nigeria, which have energy needs that our firms have the goods, services, and expertise to address. Expanding trade and investment is a critical tool for economic growth and job creation in the U.S., and trade missions like this one are one way to help grow U.S. exports.

Acorn Energy, Inc., Joins Commerce Department Sponsored Trade Mission Because of Enormous Potential in West African Energy Market

Acorn Energy, Inc., Joins Commerce Department Sponsored Trade Mission Because of Enormous Potential in West African Energy Market

Guest post by Walter Czarnecki, President and COO of OmniMetrix, an Acorn Energy division.

On behalf of Acorn Energy, Inc., I am honored and excited to join US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker on her upcoming West Africa Energy Business Development Trade Mission to Ghana and Nigeria. Acorn Energy is an energy technology investment group and holding company focused on M2M/Internet of Things remote monitoring technologies and includes four divisions: OmniMetrix, GridSense, DSIT and US Seismic Systems. Our technologies are deployed globally, including sites in Kenya, South Africa, Turkey and elsewhere, and we see West Africa as an important international market in which to expand and serve.

We have been following the vast potential for market growth in Ghana and Nigeria for each Acorn technology. Last month Nigeria surpassed South Africa to become Africa’s largest economy, yet Nigeria experiences near-daily blackouts and plans to invest $3.5 billion this year to improve its energy and electricity infrastructure. Likewise, grid failures are common and have persisted for decades. GridSense, our transformer and distribution network monitoring division, works with utilities globally to specifically address this problem, and we look forward to exploring how GridSense can help West African utilities make their networks more reliable.

When utility power is lost, backup generators come online, and Nigeria has nearly 60 million backup generators. OmniMetrix, the Acorn division that provides M2M remote monitoring and control for backup generators, is well positioned to increase the reliability and reduce failures across Nigeria’s backup generator fleet. Backup generators globally fail 10-15% of the time when called upon. It is now possible to diagnose and predict common problems that prevent backup generators from running when needed. We look forward to exploring how we can eliminate this problem in Ghana and Nigeria.

ExporTech™ Helps Manufacturers Develop Strategies for International Markets

ExporTech™ Helps Manufacturers Develop Strategies for International Markets

With more than 80 percent of the world market residing outside the U.S., there is clearly great opportunity for U.S. companies to find new customers and grow. But it is much easier to enter or expand into new global markets with partners who have resources and can help guide the way.

As part of the Commerce Department’s efforts to help U.S. companies increase exports, the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP) and the International Trade Administration’s (ITA) U.S. Export Assistance Centers offer ExporTech™. Since 2007, ExporTech™ has assisted hundreds of businesses across the country to increase export sales, establish new partnerships, expand production facilities and hire more employees.

The program brings in partners such as District Export Councils, state trade offices and other federal, state, and local agencies to efficiently connect companies with a wide range of experts that help them navigate the export sales process.

Manufacturers can sign up for ExporTech™ through their local MEP center and, over the course of nine weeks, each company is guided through the development of an export strategy, both through group workshops and individual coaching. At the end of the program, the business has an export plan that is vetted by a panel of experts. Many participants generate export sales within six months of completing the program.

ExporTech™ builds connections to a team of export organizations that help participating companies find the right markets and implement their export growth plans. It amplifies the impact of other export programs, helping companies get the most out of tradeshows, ITA’s Gold Key services, country visits and trade missions.

To date, there have been more than 90 ExporTech™ programs in 28 states with more than 500 participating companies. Those companies have hired an average of five new employees, seen nearly $800,000 in average export sales increases, saved an average of $50,000 in costs and investments, and seen new and retained sales of $400 million.

ExporTech™ is just one example of the Commerce Department’s commitment to helping more American businesses export to more markets. Just yesterday, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker announced NEI/NEXT – a data-based, customer service-driven initiative that will build on administration-wide achievements under the National Export Initiative (NEI) to help all businesses reach the 95 percent of consumers who live outside the United States. To learn more about NEI/NEXT’s strategies to help U.S. businesses capitalize on new markets, visit http://www.trade.gov/neinext.

Commerce Department Supports Small Businesses

This week marks National Small Business Week – an opportunity to recognize the invaluable role entrepreneurs and small businesses play in America’s economy. It’s also a time to make sure our small businesses and entrepreneurs know about the services the Commerce Department – and entire federal government – has to offer.

U.S. small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and the Commerce Department is committed to supporting them.

Last year, Department-wide contracts with small businesses reached $3 billion, or approximately 40 percent of all contracts. And just a few weeks ago, Commerce awarded a contract to five small U.S. businesses: FCN, Force 3, Intelligent Decisions, Iron Bow, and Red River.

The new contract, which is for network equipment and maintenance, is expected to save up to $25 million in taxpayer dollars over the next five years. It also streamlines the procurement process, reduces the time needed to award hundreds of separate contracts to do the same tasks, and creates partners in companies that are capable of offering discounts and exceptional service.

In addition to saving money, these contracts support small businesses and the Department’s efficiency, enabling Commerce to focus more resources on our primary mission to support American businesses, help create jobs and strengthen the economy.

The Commerce Department is working to increase the number of small to medium-sized businesses that export by making it easier for them to access federal export assistance. That includes expanding access to small business trade financing and ensuring the most efficient delivery of services to small businesses.

For example, the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service, part of Commerce’s International Trade Administration, reported that 83 percent of the approximately 14,200 export successes they assisted with in fiscal year 2012 were achieved by small and medium-sized enterprises. Further, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker this week announced efforts to expand export opportunities for all American companies, including small businesses. This will help them businesses grow faster and help spread American ideas, innovation and value.

Commerce’s 11 other agencies also have a number of services available to small businesses. Just to name a few, the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) helps minority-owned businesses gain access to contracts and capital. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office helps entrepreneurs get their products to market more quickly. And the Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis produce statistics that help businesses make important decisions, like where to invest or build a new location.

To learn more about federal resources available to help small businesses, visit: http://www.sba.gov or http://business.usa.gov. Also check out www.sba.gov/nsbw and shop at a local small business today!

NOAA Provides Environmental Intelligence to Keep Goods Moving Along Our Marine Highways

Today's massive ships push the depth limit of many ports and harbors. NOAA tools —such as nautical charts, accurate positioning services, and ocean and weather observations—play a key role in ensuring that shipments move swiftly and safely along our marine highways.

By weight, 75 percent of U.S. international trade moves through the nation’s ports and harbors. Those ports support, directly and indirectly, more than 13 million American jobs.

NOAA provides environmental intelligence to support safe, efficient, and environmentally sound navigation through U.S. ports. NOAA produces the nation’s nautical charts, which provide essential navigation information such as water depths; locations of dangers to navigation; locations and characteristics of aids to navigation; anchorages; and other features.

NOAA also integrates ocean and coastal observations, data, science, and services to provide actionable information, thereby improving informed choices.  Good decisions today protect lives and property tomorrow.

The agency monitors, assesses, and distributes tide, current, and water level products and services. Positioning information from NOAA provides a highly accurate, precise, and consistent  framework to help mariners safely navigate around obstructions in our nation's busy waterways.

NOAA’s role warning coastal areas of hurricane threats is well known, but the agency also plays a significant role after the storm.  NOAA moves quickly to help reopen ports. Navigation response teams survey ports and channels, searching for submerged debris and other dangers to navigation. NOAA aerial photography helps the public, decision makers, and insurance adjusters assess the extent of storm damage.

In addition, NOAA's Physical Oceanographic Real-time System (PORTS®) provides accurate real-time oceanographic information, tailored to the specific needs of local maritime communities. Knowledge of the currents, water levels, winds, and density of the water can increase the amount of cargo moved through a port and harbor by enabling mariners to safely utilize every inch of dredged channel depth. For example, an economic study showed that the Tampa Bay economy receives more than $7 million a year in savings and direct income from PORTS®. A second study calculated $16 million a year in savings for the Houston-Galveston region. 

Learn more at http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/navigation/marinenav/

What’s NEXT for U.S. exports?

New data-based, customer service-driven initiative to ensure that more American businesses can fully capitalize on markets that are opening up around the world.

Exports are critical to the U.S economy. They fuel economic growth in our communities, support good middle class jobs, and unlock opportunity for American companies, entrepreneurs, farmers, ranchers, and workers, enabling U.S. companies to compete in the growing global marketplace. By selling Made-in-America goods and services to international customers, U.S. businesses – including small and medium-sized and minority- and women-owned businesses – are able to grow faster, hire more employees, pay higher wages, and help spread American ideas, innovation and values.

Recognizing the many opportunities exports create for our economy, U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker today announced that the Obama Administration will build on the success of the National Export Initiative (NEI) by launching NEI/NEXT: a new customer service-driven strategy with improved information resources that will ensure American businesses are fully able to capitalize on expanded opportunities to sell their goods and services abroad. NEI/NEXT will help more American companies reach more overseas markets by improving data, providing information on specific export opportunities, working more closely with financing organizations and service providers, and partnering with states and communities to empower local export efforts.

In 2010, President Obama launched the National Export Initiative (NEI), a comprehensive government-wide effort to help U.S. companies increase exports, expand into new markets, and compete globally. Under the NEI, the United States has had four straight record-breaking years of exports – hitting an all-time high of $2.3 trillion dollars last year – up $700 billion from 2009. A new economic report released today by the Department of Commerce, shows that nearly one-third of the country’s economic growth since mid-2009 has been driven by exports. Nearly 30,000 businesses have started exporting for the first time. And most importantly, since 2009, the number of jobs supported by exports has grown by 1.6 million to more than 11.3 million – the highest in 20 years.

Even with all this success, far too many American companies remain focused on domestic markets. Less than 5 percent of U.S. companies export, and more than half of those exporters sell to only one market. To help bridge that gap, and look for new opportunities to help U.S. businesses export, the Department of Commerce, along with 20 federal agency partners last year began to take a fresh look at the NEI. This interagency group solicited extensive stakeholder feedback and incorporated lessons learned under the NEI, to develop an economic growth strategy that would help make trade a central part of America’s economic DNA. The end product of that interagency review, NEI/NEXT will take the NEI strategy to next level by institutionalizing our progress from the past four years and serving as a framework to guide the development of new, innovative initiatives.

NEI/NEXT will be implemented through the Export Promotion Cabinet and Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee (TPCC), which consists of representatives from 20 federal departments and agencies with export-related programs. The Secretary of Commerce chairs the TPCC.

Secretary Penny Pritzker Announces Next Phase of the National Export Initiative -- NEI/NEXT

Today, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker announced NEI/NEXT – a data-based, customer service-driven initiative to ensure that more American businesses can fully capitalize on markets that are opening up around the world. Through five core objectives, NEI/NEXT will build on Administration-wide achievements under the National Export Initiative (NEI), to help all businesses reach the 95 percent of consumers who live outside the United States.

If you missed her speech, below is a collection of tweets from her account and audience members that summarizes her remarks.

Census Bureau Kicks Off National Bike to Work Week and Releases First-Ever Data Focused on Biking and Walking to Work

Census Bureau Kicks Off National Bike to Work Week and Releases First-Ever Data Focused on Biking and Walking to Work

Guest blog post by Mark Doms, Under Secretary for Economic Affairs 

The U.S. Census Bureau today kicked off National Bike to Work Week and released the first-ever data on the number of people who bike and walk to work.  In addition, the Census Bureau released a new commuting edition of the interactive map Census Explorer that allows Web visitors easy click-and-zoom access to commuting statistics for every neighborhood in the U.S. It also shows how commuting has changed since 1990 at the neighborhood, county and state level — including how long it takes to get to work, commutes longer than an hour, and number of bikers.  

The Census Bureau report "Modes Less Traveled — Bicycling and Walking to Work in the United States: 2008-2012," found many U.S. cities are seeing an increase in bicycle commuters. Nationwide, the number of people who traveled to work by bike increased roughly 60 percent over the last decade, from about 488,000 in 2000 to about 786,000 during the 2008-2012 period. This is the largest percentage increase of all commuting modes tracked by the 2000 Census and the 2008-2012 American Community Survey. 

This report — the Census Bureau's first focusing only on biking and walking to work — is one of many that examines specific aspects of commuting, including workplace location, working from home, long commutes and specific travel modes. The report highlights the trends and socio-economic and geographic differences between motorized and nonmotorized commutes.

Commerce in the Community: The U.S. Black Chambers, Inc. works to strengthen businesses, increase exports and create jobs in communities around the country

Commerce in the Community: The U.S. Black Chambers, Inc. works to strengthen businesses, increase exports and create jobs in communities around the country

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 Toya Powell, Vice President of Operations for the U.S. Black Chambers, Inc. (USBC). A former real estate economist at Property & Portfolio Research, Inc. (PPR), Toya previously served as a Business Opportunity Specialist at the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), an economist with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and a realtor in Washington, D.C., and Maryland. 

Q1: Tell us about US Black Chambers, Inc. What is your mission and what are your key priorities? 

The U.S. Black Chambers, Inc. (USBC) is led by our President & CEO, Ron Busby Sr., and supports 114 affiliated member Chambers in 25 states and 240,000 businesses through Five Pillars of Service: Advocacy, Access to Capital, Contracting, Entrepreneur Training, and Chamber Development. Our mission is to provide committed, visionary leadership and advocacy in the realization of economic empowerment. Through the creation of resources and initiatives, we support African American Chambers of Commerce and business organizations in their work of developing and growing Black enterprises. 

Q2: In what ways are you working to expand opportunity in hard-hit communities across the US? 

USBC is working to expand opportunity in hard-hit communities across the U.S. through our Solutions Series where we focus on connecting our chambers and businesses to the public and private sector resources they need to be successful through Access to Capital, Contracting, and Entrepreneur Development. Since we launched the Solutions Series in 2012, we have been to communities from coast-to-coast in Phoenix, AZ; Charlotte, NC; Miami, FL; Austin, TX; Columbus, OH; Las Vegas, NV; Atlanta, GA, Kansas, City, KS with more cities ahead. In addition, this year we will host our 4th annual signature conference - the USBC School of Chamber and Business Management - on Tuesday, July 8th through Friday, July 11th at the brand new Marriott Marquis in Washington, DC. This conference convenes our chamber leaders from across the country and our Top 100 business owners, helping them to refine their leadership skills and gain access to viable opportunities in the public and private sectors.