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Blog Entries from May 2014

Commerce and Department of Homeland Security: A new partnership built on shared principles

Guest Blog Post by Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker

About a month ago, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson  and I each sent our respective workforces (around 280,000 people combined) a declaration of joint principles we developed to capture our shared mission.

Today, I want to share this message more broadly. We all owe Secretary Johnson, his leadership team, and the more than 240,000 men and women of the Department of Homeland Security a debt of gratitude for their hard and often dangerous work securing our borders and keeping this country safe.

Secretary Johnson is also keenly aware of the essential role DHS plays every day in facilitating the lawful trade of goods and services—trade that is vital to our economic security and competitiveness, and that is at the core of Commerce’s mission.

DHS and Commerce are therefore key partners in the Administration’s economic growth agenda. During our recent meetings, Secretary Johnson and I have recommitted ourselves to personally overseeing progress in a variety of initiatives that are priorities of both Departments.

New Case Studies Show Schools, Libraries and Health Care Providers Play Key Role in Broadband Expansion and Adoption

Foundation for California Community Colleges helps students become digital literacy trainers and provides them with a free new laptop/tablet to help them share their skills with local community members.

Editor's note: This has been cross-posted from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration blog.

In 2010, as part of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), NTIA awarded more than $450 million in matching grants to establish or upgrade public computer centers and initiate innovative broadband adoption programs in underserved communities. Four years later, that investment has resulted in more than 3,000 new or improved public computer centers and produced 600,000 new household broadband subscriptions.

These grants complement the $3.4 billion in infrastructure investments from NTIA that have enabled BTOP grant recipients to connect more than 21,000 community anchor institutions with ultra-fast broadband, including 2,400 medical and health care providers, more than 1,300 libraries, and 8,000 K-12 schools. BTOP has provided a significant down-payment on President Obama’s ConnectED initiative to link all schools to high-speed Internet by 2018.

Schools, libraries, and health care providers were pivotal in making this rapid expansion possible. These anchor institutions already had close ties to their communities, recognized the enormous benefits high-speed Internet affords, and possessed skilled staff to organize classes and broker learning resources.

U.S. Economic Development Administration: Supporting Workforce Development in Rural Alaska

AVCP Vice President Michael Hoffman (far left) and General Counsel Carol Brown (second from right) pose with EDA Director of External Affairs Angela Belden Martinez and Aaron Trujillo, the Commerce Department’s Acting Senior Advisor on Native American Affairs following the announcement of an EDA investment to support workforce development in rural Alaska.

Guest Blog Post By Angela Belden Martinez, Director of External Affairs, U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration

It was my pleasure today to be joined by Aaron Trujillo, the Commerce Department’s Acting Senior Advisor on Native American Affairs - who serves as the primary liaison between the Department of Commerce and tribal leaders of federally-recognized tribes and regional tribal organizations – in welcoming some very special guests from the Association of Village Council Presidents (AVCP) of Bethel, Alaska.

During the meeting with AVCP Vice President Michael Hoffman and AVCP General Counsel Carol Brown, we informed them that AVCP is receiving a U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) investment to support workforce development in rural Alaska.

Specifically, the $697,991 EDA grant will help the AVCP purchase equipment that will be used to train workers in several mechanical disciplines to help the delta of the Yukon and Kuskokwin rivers region rebound from the impact of the commercial failures of area fisheries and tributaries.

Providing these new training opportunities for displaced workers is an important step to getting this rural, regional economy back on track. 

NIST Awards $9 Million in Grants for Advanced Manufacturing Technology Planning

Awarded to 19 industry-driven partnerships, NIST advanced manufacturing technology planning grants will support technology roadmapping efforts across a wide spectrum of industries and processes

The Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) today awarded 19 advanced manufacturing technology planning grants totaling $9 million to new or existing industry-driven consortia to develop technology roadmaps aimed at strengthening U.S. manufacturing and innovation performance across industries.

The grants, awarded to universities and other nonprofit organizations, are the first conferred by NIST's new Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia (AMTech)Program. They range from $378,900 to $540,000 for a period of up to two years.

The funded projects will identify and rank research and development goals, define workforce needs, and initiate other steps toward speeding technology development and transfer and improving manufacturing capabilities. Project collaborations span a wide variety of industries and technologies, from flexible-electronics manufacturing to biomanufacturing and from pulp-and-paper manufacturing to forming and joining technologies.

"The AMTech awards provide incentives for partnerships to tackle the important jobs of planning, setting strategic manufacturing technology goals, and developing a shared vision of how to work collaboratively to get there," said NIST Director Patrick Gallagher. "These are essential first steps toward building the research infrastructure necessary to sustain a healthy, innovative advanced manufacturing sector—one that invents, demonstrates, prototypes and produces here, in the U.S."

Technology roadmapping is a key component of all funded projects. Each consortium will engage manufacturers of all sizes, university researchers, trade associations and other stakeholders in an interactive process to identify and prioritize research projects that reduce shared barriers to the growth of advanced manufacturing in the United States.<--break->

Commerce Employees are Proud to Serve

For Public Service Recognition Week 2014, several of our Commerce employees talk about what public service means to them.

National Climate Assessment Underscores Urgent Need for Americans and Our Businesses to Prepare for Climate Change in the United States

Cover of the third U.S. National Climate Assessment report

Guest Blog Post by Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker

The effects of climate change on our planet are becoming more evident, and its impact on our communities, and key sectors of the economy, is becoming more profound.

As part of its overall efforts to provide scientific information about climate change, the Obama Administration released the third U.S. National Climate Assessment. This report – a key deliverable of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan – is a comprehensive, authoritative scientific assessment about climate changes that are happening now in the U.S. and further changes that we can expect to see throughout this century.

The report communicates the impacts of climate change according to geographic region of the U.S., and by economic and societal sector—including agriculture, energy, and health. These tailored findings help translate scientific insights into practical, useable knowledge that can help decision-makers and citizens anticipate and prepare for specific climate-change impacts.

Among the 12 key findings, the report concludes that evidence of human-induced climate change continues to strengthen and that impacts are increasing across the country. Over the next 100 years, we can expect these impacts to further increase unless the global emissions of heat-trapping greenhouses gases are stabilized or reduced. 

While these findings are indeed sobering and provide real-cause for concern, there is also reason for hope. Ultimately, the amount of climate change, severity of impacts, and how we will prepare for those impacts will be largely be determined by the decisions we make today. 

Commerce Department Recognizes Employees’ Service

This week marks Public Service Recognition Week – an opportunity to honor the men and women who serve our nation as federal, state, county and local government employees.

There are more than two million Americans who have answered the call to serve our country and many of them have dedicated their careers to making our government work better. Their tireless efforts many times go unnoticed or unrecognized – and this week is an occasion to highlight the important work they do and thank them for their service to our country and our citizens.

The Commerce Department has employees working in all 50 states and around the globe focused on strengthening our economy. Commerce employees, and the work of our 12 bureaus, touches the daily lives of the American people in many ways, with a wide range of services in the areas of trade and investment, economic development, innovation, entrepreneurship, environmental stewardship, and statistical research analysis. From National Weather Service weather forecasts, to the Census Bureau’s decennial census statistics, your work helps improve everyday life.

To recognize the incredible work of Commerce employees, Secretary Penny Pritzker, along with other Administration officials, and Commerce leadership will participate in a number of events with employees to honor their dedication and commitment to their work and thank them for their service. Commerce is also launching the “Coffee with the Secretary” series this week – an opportunity for 20 employees to meet informally with Secretary Pritzker for coffee and to share their thoughts and ideas.

Taking Action to Attract the World’s Top Talented Professionals

Guest Blog Post by Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker

Today, the Obama Administration announced new steps to make it easier for highly skilled workers and talented researchers from other countries to contribute to our economy and ultimately become Americans. These measures are part of administrative reforms first announced in 2012, and reflect our commitment to attracting and retaining highly-skilled immigrants, continuing our economic recovery, and encouraging job creation.

Specifically, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a proposed rule that would—for the first time—allow work authorization for the spouses of H-1B workers who have begun the process of applying for a green card through their employers. Once enacted, this proposed rule would empower these spouses to put their own education and skills to work for the country that they and their families now call home.  This rule change was requested in a “We the People” petition to the White House.

At the same time, DHS is also proposing another new rule to make it easier for outstanding professors and researchers in other countries to demonstrate their eligibility for the EB-1 visa, a type of green card reserved for the world’s best and brightest. Just as great athletes and performers are already able to provide a range of evidence to support their petition for an EB-1, professors and researchers would be able to present diverse achievements such as groundbreaking patents or prestigious scientific grants.

These measures build on continuing Administration efforts to streamline existing systems, eliminate inefficiency, and increase transparency, such as by the launch of Entrepreneur Pathways, an online resource center that gives immigrant entrepreneurs an intuitive way to navigate opportunities to start and grow a business in the United States.

Commerce in the Community: Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren on Public Service and Expanding Opportunity in Her City

Mayor Lovely A. Warren, Rochester, New York

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 Rochester, New York Mayor Lovely Warren. A Rochester native, Mayor Warren served as President of the Rochester City Council prior to the start of her first term as Mayor in 2014. This interview is part of the Commerce Department’s participation in Public Service Recognition Week.

Q1: What inspired you to pursue public service?

When I was in college, I never saw myself pursuing a career in public service.  In fact, I had a lifelong desire to become a prosecutor.  When I was 7 years old, my grandfather was shot while working security at a local grocery chain.  He almost died, but thankfully he pulled through.  From that moment on, I pursued a dream of becoming a prosecutor so I could bring people, like the man who shot my grandfather, to justice.

After college I went to law school and was still hoping to become a prosecutor.  But fate had other plans for me.  I took an internship with New York State Assemblyman David Gantt, and my life was forever changed.  Working for Assemblyman Gantt, I got my first introduction to the world of public service.  Not only did I see how laws are actually created and executed on the state level, but I also got to see how elected officials help their constituents.  People would call Assemblyman Gantt’s office when they were out of options, and we were their last hope.  I helped people who were about to lose their homes due to foreclosure,  people who needed guidance on how to navigate the legal system,  people who wanted to start a business, and people who were being taken advantage of by slumlords.  I was amazed at the incredible diversity of issues that are brought to elected officials.  But more importantly, I was impressed by the incredible potential elected officials have to positively impact the lives of so many people, particularly the poorest citizens, who often don’t have access to the knowledge and resources that more affluent citizens may enjoy.

That is still what motivates me to get up and go to work every morning; the opportunity to positively impact the lives of city residents.

Q2: As Mayor of Rochester, what are your key priorities for expanding economic opportunity?

NOAA Invites Citizens to “Come Visit Us” at the Coastal and Ocean Places It Helps Protect

Come Visit Us - kayak alongside a river bank

Conserving coastal places provides economic benefits to local communities. For example, across all national marine sanctuaries, about $4 billion annually is generated in local coastal and ocean-dependent economies from diverse activities like commercial fishing, research and recreation-tourist activities. NOAA’s National Ocean Service works to conserve marine areas — and preserve the economic benefits of these special places to local communities — through coastal management and place-based conservation programs such as the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, National Marine Sanctuaries, and the Coral Reef Conservation Program.

From May 5-9, NOAA’s National Ocean Service will celebrate these special coastal and marine places in conjunction with National Travel and Tourism Week. Their online campaign, Come Visit Us, highlights a variety of coastal and marine places that the National Ocean Service helps to protect, including

  • 28 national estuarine research reserves (1.3 million coastal and estuarine acres)
  • 13 national marine sanctuaries and 1 national marine monument (170,000 square miles of marine and Great Lakes waters)
  • coral reefs and marine protected areas in U.S. coastal waters

The campaign will include ocean facts, an audio podcast, videos, and even a guide to diving in our sanctuaries and reserves. And for those who can’t travel to our ocean and coasts in the near future, this visual campaign will help them virtually experience the coastal and marine places that NOAA strives to protect. Conserving these special places today is critical to ensuring future generations can enjoy and benefit from these valuable ocean and coastal resources tomorrow.

You can follow Come Visit Us on the NOAA Ocean Service Facebook or Twitter pages.