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Blog Entries from 2014

PAGE Entrepreneurs in Their Own Words -- Nina Vaca

PAGE Entrepreneurs in Their Own Words -- Nina Vaca

The daughter of entrepreneurs, Nina Vaca grew up believing that entrepreneurship and civic leadership went hand-in-hand.  

She likes to say that she “had a front row seat to what it meant to be an entrepreneur,” working in the family travel agency business by day and attending chamber and civic events at night. 

Since starting her award-winning IT services firm in 1996, Vaca has continued that legacy both as an entrepreneur and a visible leader and advocate in the business community. 

Goldman Sachs has called her one of its “Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs,” Ernst & Young has inducted her into its prestigious Hall of Fame for entrepreneurs, and NBC has called her an “Innovator.” 

Today, Vaca owns and operates The Pinnacle Group, which includes several companies founded by Vaca, including its flagship, Pinnacle Technical Resources, Inc., an award-winning information technology services provider to the Fortune 500 founded in 1996, and Provade, Inc., a global provider of vendor management software that Pinnacle acquired in 2011. Pinnacle is also a partner in My Plates, which is the sole provider of specialty license plates in the state of Texas, contributing millions of dollars in revenues to the state each year. 

Vaca sits on the corporate board of Comerica Bank, Kohl’s Coporation and was elected to the board of Cinemark, Inc. Nov. 13, 2014. 

She is strongly committed to philanthropic efforts and is a passionate advocate of issues impacting women and Hispanics in business. Through the USHCC Foundation, Vaca founded At the Table, an initiative supporting women entrepreneurs and business professionals, propelling them to higher levels of success and influence. Vaca was named Chairman of the USHCC Foundation in June 2014. 

In May, Vaca embarked on a trade mission to Ghana, along with Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and 20 American business delegates. Vaca met with local African business leaders at the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) and Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies (SEED), where she shared her story of both success and failure to encourage others to become problem solvers with a perseverant attitude. 

What excites Nina Vaca the most about PAGE is “the opportunity to inspire other entrepreneurs to do exactly what I’ve had the opportunity to do – start a business with a vision and a dream and have access to all the right networks that can help you succeed.”

Entrepreneurs: Driving the Innovation Economy in Pennsylvania

Entrepreneurs: Driving the Innovation Economy in Pennsylvania

This week marks Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW), the world’s largest celebration of the innovators and job creators, who launch startups that bring ideas to life, drive economic growth and expand human welfare. It’s a great opportunity to really look at the ways in which entrepreneurs shape our current world while looking forward toward the next big thing. 

This year, I celebrated GEW by visiting flourishing centers of innovation in Pennsylvania. Along with Julie Kirk, Director of EDA’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, we met with local entrepreneurs at Philadelphia’s University City Science Center and in Doylestown at the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center of Bucks County

It was only fitting that we kicked off GEW at the Science Center, the recipient of a $1 million EDA grant in October 2014 to help grow and launch new technology companies and an organization that has helped to create more than 15,000 jobs that contribute more than $9 billion to the Philadelphia region’s economy. 

We were joined by president & CEO of the University City Science Center Dr. Stephen Tang, who is also a newly announced member of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE). It was refreshing to have the opportunity for an open dialogue with some of the region’s most dynamic entrepreneurs on how to the United States can foster innovation and entrepreneurship in every community. 

Later in the day, Julie and I traveled to Bucks County, where EDA recently invested $4.6 million to help the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center expand its facility and offer assistance to entrepreneurs in the area. Julie and I had the opportunity to tour the Center’s facilities as well as engage in a roundtable discussion with a number of incubator tenants about their experiences getting their start-ups off the ground.

EDA is strongly committed to supporting innovation and entrepreneurship. In fact, over the past five years, EDA has invested more than $200 million in more than 170 incubators and entrepreneurship centers across the nation. 

This week in many communities across the nation and the world, roundtables like those I participated in are taking place to help foster greater innovation and entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs play a tremendous role in our economy and many of their products and services have come to play an increasingly important role in our daily lives. Every day is an opportunity to celebrate their contributions, so while GEW may end on the 21st, let’s keep up the conversation going all year round.

Young Entrepreneurs Showcase Ideas at Collegiate Inventors Competition

Young Entrepreneurs Showcase Ideas at Collegiate Inventors Competition

On November 17, Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Michelle K. Lee welcomed 35 young inventors to the USPTO headquarters for the 2014 Collegiate Inventors Competition (CIC). Introduced in 1990 and co-sponsored by the USPTO, Invent Now, and the AbbVie Foundation, the CIC recognizes the nation’s most innovative undergraduate and graduate students working on cutting-edge inventions at their colleges and universities. 

Competition finalists showcased their inventions and interacted with thousands of USPTO patent and trademark examiners, sponsors, media, and the public at the Competition Expo, bringing together innovative minds from across the country. The finalists received feedback from a judging panel of influential inventors and experts, comprised of eleven National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductees, representatives from the USPTO, and AbbVie scientists. 

The top three entries in each division were awarded cash prizes including $15,000 for the graduate first place invention and $12,500 for the undergraduate first place invention. The winner in the graduate category was Katarzyna M. Sawicka from SUNA Stony Brook University for the Immuno-Matrix, a skin patch that delivers a vaccine as easily and painlessly as putting on a Band-Aid®. The winners in the undergraduate category were Taylor Fahey, Charles Haider, and Cedric Kovacs-Johnson from University of Wisconsin – Madison for Spectrom, a device that prints low-cost, high-precision, on-demand full color 3D printing.  Read more about the winners

“CIC is unique in how it connects experienced inventors and scientists with the new generation of innovators,” said Invent Now CEO Michael J. Oister. “These upcoming inventors can interact directly with their role models, while at the same time learning the importance of strong intellectual property and innovation through the patent system.” 

With an eye toward the future and a focus on protecting their groundbreaking work, more than half of the 35 young inventors have filed provisional patent applications. In fact, five of the finalists have already launched startups in an effort to bring their inventions to market. Read more about the 2014 CIC finalists and winners.

New BEA Data Provide Entrepreneurs with a Fortune 500 Research Department

Is consumer spending growing faster in North Dakota or North Carolina? How do consumers in different regions respond to economic downturns? Which state has the fastest growing consumer market for motor vehicles?

Some Fortune 500 companies have research departments to help answer these questions, but new BEA data on consumer spending broken out by state – released in August – provide startups and entrepreneurs with crucial insight into consumer behavior at the state level. In December 2015, we are planning to release a fresh batch of consumer spending by state statistics that will cover the year 2014 as well as some earlier years.

The prototype Personal Consumption Expenditure by state statistics are designed to be used in conjunction with other macroeconomic and regional data we produce, like statistics on Gross Domestic Product by State and State Personal Income.  This suite of statistics can offer entrepreneurs a better understanding of what’s driving or restraining economic activity at the state level, and thus inform their decisions about things like investing, financing, locating and hiring.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis’ experimental consumer spending by state statistics were released on Aug. 7 and covered the years from 1997 to 2012. So the fresh batch of statistics that will be out next year will be more up to date.  

Census Bureau Economic Data Show Electric Power Generation Using Renewable Energy Growing

Census Bureau Economic Data Show Electric Power Generation Using Renewable Energy Growing

The U.S. Census Bureau today released for the first time data from the economic census on wind, geothermal, biomass and solar electric power generation. Revenues for electric power generation industries that use renewable energy resources rose 49.0 percent from $6.6 billion in 2007 to $9.8 billion in 2012, according to new economic census statistics released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. These industries that use renewable energy resources consist of hydroelectric power generation (NAICS 221111), four newly delineated industries — wind (NAICS221115), geothermal (NAICS 221116), biomass (NAICS 221117) and solar electric power generation (NAICS 221114) — and one newly defined category of other electric power generation (NAICS 221118). 

In the 2007 Economic Census, wind, geothermal, biomass, and solar electric power generation were included in the broad “other electric power generation” industry (NAICS 221119). By the 2012 Economic Census, these industries had been broken out separately, with the “other electric power generation” industry limited to only tidal electric power generation and other electric power generation facilities not elsewhere classified. Among the newly delineated industries (wind, geothermal, biomass, solar and other electric power generation), the number of establishments more than doubled in five years, from 312 in 2007 to 697 in 2012.

These industries are part of the electric power generation industry (NAICS 22111), which saw an overall decline of 1.2 percent in revenues from $121.0 billion to $119.5 billion between 2007 and 2012. The overall decline was driven by the fossil fuel electric power generation industry (NAICS 221112), which saw revenues decrease from $85.4 billion to $79.7 billion, or 6.7 percent, during the same five-year period.

Revenues for the wind electric power generation industry totaled $5.0 billion in 2012, the highest revenues among the industries using renewable energy resources. Hydroelectric power generation followed with revenues of $2.4 billion. Geothermal electric power generation had revenues of just under $1 billion ($995.4 million), followed by biomass electric power generation, with $934.6 million in revenues, solar electric power generation, with $472.4 million, and other electric power generation, with $59.0 million.

Together, these industries were a relatively small portion of the electric power generation industry, collectively accounting for just 8.2 percent ($9.8 billion) of total industry revenues in 2012. Fossil fuel and nuclear electric power generation (NAICS 221113) are still the major revenue sources of the electric power generation industry, comprising 66.7 percent ($79.7 billion) and 25.1 percent ($29.9 billion), respectively, of total revenues. 

For the full release, please go to http://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2014/cb14-204.html

Secretary Pritzker Marks One-Year Anniversary of “Open for Business Agenda” Launch

Secretary Pritzker speaking with Evan Burfield at 1776 about the Open for Business Agenda

Today, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker participated in an armchair discussion with 1776 cofounder Evan Burfield to discuss the U.S. economy, entrepreneurship, and the one-year anniversary of the Commerce Department’s “Open for Business Agenda.” Located in Washington, DC, 1776 serves as a global hub that connects startups tackling challenges in education, energy, health care, government and other industries with the resources they need to excel. 

Last November at 1776, Secretary Pritzker outlined the” Open for Business Agenda,” a bold policy priorities framework for the Department of Commerce, centered on the tools needed for U.S. economic growth. It is focused on U.S. trade and investment, innovation, data, environmental intelligence, and operational excellence, and this agenda reflects the Department’s role as the voice of business, as well as the Obama Administration’s keen focus on economic growth and job creation.

In light of Global Entrepreneurship Week which begins today, Secretary Pritzker highlighted the Department’s focus on entrepreneurship as an important tool for economic growth in the United States and across the world. As the Administration’s point person on entrepreneurship and chair of the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE) initiative, Secretary Pritzker will help lead the American delegation at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Morocco this week. At GES, the Secretary will promote the importance of global entrepreneurship and support foreign entrepreneurs. She will also stress that entrepreneurship is gender neutral when she speaks during Women’s Entrepreneurship Day on November 19.

On a more personal note, Secretary Pritzker offered advice to entrepreneurs, recommending that they should not be afraid of failure. As a founder of five companies, she understands that sometimes failures are necessary to achieve success and that resilience matters.

1776 cofounder Evan Burfield also asked Secretary Pritzker to talk about her favorite entrepreneur. She mentioned that the entrepreneurs she meets both at home and abroad – from Saudi Arabia to Japan – inspire her with their continual enthusiasm and desire to improve the world.  She specifically mentioned a young Ghanaian entrepreneur named Ethel Cofie who started an IT services firm as someone that inspires.  Secretary Pritzker also considers Daphne Koller, co-founder and president of Coursera and a PAGE Ambassador, an example of how great ideas can come at any age. Koller founded the online education platform when she was 44 and a Stanford University professor.   

Join Commerce’s Data Revolution: Innovation Leaders Need Apply

Secretary Pritzker speaking at the Esri Conference July 2014

Guest Blog Post by Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker

Last summer, I outlined the wide variety of factors that make the Department of Commerce “America’s Data Agency” – and I announced a series of steps aimed at unlocking the full potential of our data resources.

Among those actions, launching a department-wide Data Advisory Council was a top priority and a key commitment. And today, I am pleased to say that we are making good on our promise: the council has been officially established and we are now accepting applications.

We are looking for the best and brightest data thought leaders in the private and public sectors to advise our efforts to revolutionize Commerce’s data – to foster innovation, create jobs, and drive better decision-making throughout our economy and society.  The application process extends through December 3, 2014.  If you think you have what it takes, I strongly urge you to apply.

As we build our Data Advisory Council, we are actively recruiting a Chief Data Officer (CDO) to drive the transformation of our data, and we are pleased to announce the hire of an outstanding Deputy CDO, Lynn Overmann, currently a senior advisor to White House Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith.  Lynn will be responsible for coordinating and guiding the Department’s efforts to realize the value of our data and to put the vast volumes of our data to better use each and every day.

Six Steps to Protect Your Brand

Six Steps to Protect Your Brand

A trademark is an essential part of a brand, helping to distinguish a business’s unique products and services from what another business offers. It can be a word, slogan, logo, symbol, design or even a sound. The following six steps from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) provide a useful guideline on what to consider before registering a trademark and during the application process. Have an invention? Make sure to protect that too.

1. Determine whether a trademark is even appropriate for you.  Trademarks, patents, copyrights, domain names, and business name registrations all differ.  A trademark typically protects brand names and logos used on goods and services.  You must be able to identify these goods and services specifically.   A trademark, for example, does not cover a general idea.

2. Select a mark using great care. Before filing a trademark/service mark application, you should consider (1) whether the mark you want to register meets the guidelines for registration, and (2) how difficult it will be to protect your mark based on the strength of the mark selected. Note that the USPTO only registers marks, and the mark owner is solely responsible for enforcement.

3. Always search the USPTO database to determine whether anyone is already claiming trademark rights in wording/design that is similar and used on related goods/services through a federal registration.

4. File the application online through the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS).  View trademark fee information. REMINDERS: (1) The application fee is a processing fee that is not refunded, even if the USPTO does not ultimately issue a registration certificate, and not all applications result in registrations; and (2) All information you submit to the USPTO at any point in the application and/or registration process will become public record, including your name, phone number, e-mail address, and street address.

5. Because all of the above are very important, you should consider whether to hire a trademark attorney to help you with these steps, as well as the overall application process.

6. Throughout the entire process, you should monitor the progress of your application through the Trademark Status and Document Retrieval (TSDR) system.  It is important to check the status of your application every 3-4 months after the initial filing of the application, because otherwise you may miss a filing deadline.

For more information on trademarks and to access a variety of helpful resources, including instructional how-to videos, visit the USPTO website.

U.S. Department of Commerce Seeks National Partner to Help Lead New Program to Boost Job Talent Development Across America

Are you ready to join us?

Through the “Accelerating Industry-Led Regional Partnerships for Talent Development” Federal Funding Opportunity (FFO) published today, the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) is now accepting proposals for a national partner to help develop and implement a new learning exchange program that will focus on building critical public-private partnerships to accelerate job skills development across America.

The availability of a skilled workforce is often cited as a primary factor considered by businesses in their investment decision process. The learning exchanges created through this initiative will help meet the skills needs of businesses by identifying, promoting, and expanding on successful industry-driven regional partnerships for talent development. By encouraging such partnerships, the program will help build regional pools of workers with the skills that are in demand by employers in their communities, leading to job creation and increased business investment.

Ensuring that our regions have the skilled workforce they need to keep our businesses strong and our economy growing is a major priority for the Administration and the U.S. Department of Commerce.

At Commerce, Secretary Pritzker, who has met with nearly 1,200 CEOs and business leaders who agree that workforce skills development is an issue that must be addressed, has made improving the linkages between training programs and employer needs a top priority in the Department’s “Open for Business” agenda.

We need dedicated partners to help us accomplish our goals.

So are you ready to join us?

Visit http://www.eda.gov/challenges/rnta-talent/ to get additional information on how to apply for this Federal Funding Opportunity.  

Applications must be submitted electronically via grants.gov and are due by 11:59 p.m. EST. on January 9, 2015

PAGE Entrepreneurs in Their Own Words – Tory Burch

Chief Executive Officer, Tory Burch; Founder Tory Burch Foundation

With a father who designed his own clothes and a mother who was an actress, fashion was always in Tory Burch’s DNA.

Having worked for world renowned fashion designers including Ralph Lauren and Vera Wang, Burch left her successful career in public relations to raise her three young children. At age 37, she started the Tory Burch company at the kitchen table in her Manhattan apartment. Her vision: to create designs that are both classic and affordable.

From one single storefront on 257 Elizabeth Street, Burch has grown her namesake brand into a fashion empire in less than 10 years. Her company, valued at more than $3.5 billion, now has more than 140 stores in 50 countries and over 2,000 employees. The collection includes ready-to-wear, shoes, handbags, accessories, watches, home, fragrance and beauty.

Bloomberg Businessweek describes her as “a shrewd designer and businesswoman”, and the Telegraph describes her as “serene, approachable, wholesomely chic in the great outdoorsy, pragmatic American tradition.” Burch has consistently been included on Forbes’ list of “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.”

As an entrepreneur and a member of PAGE, Burch has two top priorities: to serve as a mentor to aspiring entrepreneurs, and to help young innovators access the capital they need to turn their bright ideas into thriving business enterprises.

Burch created the Tory Burch Foundation (TBF) in 2009 to support the economic empowerment of women entrepreneurs and their families. It provides women with access to capital, mentoring and networking opportunities, as well as entrepreneurial education.

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Read the transcript: 
Tory Burch - In Her Own Words