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Blog Entries from 2014

Advocating the Transformative Power of Commerce Data at NYC STRATA + Hadoop World Conference

Jennifer van der Meer and Under Secretary Mark Doms at NYC STRATA + Hadoop World Conference

Cross posted from ESA.gov

Under Secretary Mark Doms participated in a high level data discussion this morning at the Strata+Hadoop World Conference in New York City. Before an audience of 500 leading technologists and data programmers, Under Secretary Doms talked with host Jennifer van der Meer, Adjunct Professor at NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program and CEO of Reason Street, to explore the Department of Commerce's strategic data plan and Doms' efforts to move the federal statistical system into the era of big data.
 
Doms noted that the US Department of Commerce has long been a powerhouse for government data, trailblazing the use of government statistics and analysis to help everyone make more informed decisions. Now, in the era of big data, with large volumes of data collected and analyzed by the private sector, by citizens themselves, the agency, with Doms leadership, is working to position itself as a leader in the federal data space. Jennifer van der Meer asked the Under Secretary about Commerce's plans to hire its first Chief Data Officer, stand up a Data Advisory Council populated with private sector and academic data leaders, and ways the Department is looking to team with the private sector to better collect, disseminate, and analyze Commerce data.
 
Doms went on to highlight the fact that challenges facing companies and our society often do not fit neatly in the "buckets" represented by the various federal agencies. Commerce has data that, say, could be meshed with Department of Education data, to tackle our nation's skills gap or help students determine which majors have the best return on investment. Doms noted Commerce's involvement with the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy and their efforts to coordinate interagency discussion to share best practices and tackle cross-agency challenges. Doms pointed out this coordination is critical to unleashing the positive benefits of federal data, with the next step being to figure out how to incorporate private datasets and get greater corporate buy-in to the open data movement currently underway at the federal, state and local level.

Under Secretary Doms closed out the discussion by making the case that the federal government must remain a leader in data. Like our basic scientific research, the building and maintaining of our nation's highways and water treatment facilities, and rural postal delivery, providing comprehensive data on our people, economy and the planet will continue to be a core federal mission. This information is critical to decision making by every business, government, and citizen, and the private sector simply does not have the financial incentive to fill this role. Doms thanked Jennifer and the audience for a lively discussion, one that further informed his efforts, under Secretary Pritzker's leadership, to revolutionize data at the Department of Commerce.

Secretary Pritzker Meets With Gaming Industry CEOs in Silicon Valley

Secretary Pritzker visiting Silicon Valley and the Gaming Industry

On Monday, U.S Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker met with various gaming industry CEOs at Electronic Arts in Silicon Valley to learn more about the creative job skills and talent required to maintain American competitiveness, as well as the gaming industry’s overall contribution to the economy. She also toured Electronic Arts and GlassLab. Electronic Arts (EA) is a developer and publisher of computer and video games with several subsidiaries which includes sports role-playing, racing and combat, online communities and original franchises like Tetris, Scrabble and Monopoly. Glasslab is a research and development effort that focuses on educational games and game-based assessment design in the United States.

During the discussion, Secretary Pritzker emphasized the important role that the Department of Commerce plays in creating the conditions that support the growth of the country’s most competitive industries, and empowering private sector companies to out-innovate anyone in the world. She also expressed her desire to learn more about the contributions that the gaming industry has brought to the economy, the jobs it has created, and the ability to remain globally competitive.

The United States gaming industry has enjoyed enormous success over the last decade, and the jobs it supports are now a crucial part of the country’s economic growth. In fact, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) recently produced a 2014 report on video games in the 21st century which measures the economic contributions made by the gaming industry during the period of 2009-2012. According to ESA’s report, the game software publishing industry has employed 42,000 people in 36 states. The report also highlights that U.S total employment, both direct and indirect, that depends on this industry now exceeds 146,000. The value that this industry has added to the U.S GDP is over $6.2 billion.

Secretary Pritzker Speaks at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit

Secretary Pritzker with Mary Barra Patty Sellers Nina-Easton

This week, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker participated in a panel discussion at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit, where she discussed the economy and steps the U.S. government and private sector can take to spur economic growth and job creation, building a bridge to the business community.

During her question and answer session with Nina Easton, Secretary Pritzker noted that in her first year at the Commerce Department she has visited 25 countries on behalf of American companies and met with more than 1,200 business leaders, including more than one-third of the Fortune 500. Secretary Pritzker also highlighted SelectUSA, an Obama Administration program, led by the Commerce Department program dedicated to making the United States the world’s premier location for business investment.

Spotlight on Commerce: Jose "Pepe" F. Burgos, Director U.S. Commercial Service-Puerto Rico

Jose "Pepe" F. Burgos, Director U.S. Commercial Service-Puerto Rico

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 in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month

Guest blog post by Jose "Pepe" F. Burgos, Director U.S. Commercial Service-Puerto Rico

My name is Jose F. Burgos. My nickname is Pepe and I was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. My mother was from the town of Aguadilla in the west part of the island, and my father was from Humacao on the opposite side of the island. I was raised in Aguadilla by my mother and brothers after my father passed away when I was four years old. When I was 13 years old, my mother and older sister passed away in a car accident. Then I was raised by one of my cousins and their family. I have one brother who lives in Baltimore and we are very close. I was blessed to grow in a very family-oriented environment surrounded by my cousins and friends.

At first I wanted to be a doctor, but when I start studying and got to physics and organic chemistry, I realized medicine was not for me. I decided to study business, but I was not sure what kind of business. I decided to study international business with the main purpose to obtain a job to travel around the world.

Eleven years into my career, I realize how big international business can be – that it is more than traveling and is a daily learning experience. I worked three years in the Puerto Rico Trade Company and I have been currently working for the past eight years as Director of the U.S. Commercial Service in Puerto Rico. 

My passion for international commerce grew during my academic years, ultimately leading to my earning a Master’s Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in International Business & Marketing from the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico and a professional development certification from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in International Trade Policy.

It has been a rewarding and amazing opportunity to be able to do what I always wanted to do and work in the field that I studied. 

Since 2006, I have been working as Director of the US Department of Commerce for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. I have assisted companies from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in exporting to countries around the world, and provided advice with all the logistic components, including market intelligence, trade counseling, business matchmaking, and advocacy/commercial diplomacy support.

My support has helped companies survive difficult economic times and helped them be among the companies that are creating new jobs for residents in the islands.

Enhancing the Climate Resilience of America’s Natural Resources

Priority Agenda for Enhancing the Climate Resilience of America’s Natural Resources Graphic

Guest Blog Post by Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D.,Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator

Our societal well-being is linked to a healthy, productive, and resilient environment. However, many of our nation’s treasured landscapes and iconic species are fundamentally changing due to the effects of a changing climate.

For example, many fish, wildlife and plant species are shifting northward and into higher elevations or deeper water as temperatures increase. Increasing ocean temperature and acidity in our oceans are altering local food webs and disrupting historic fisheries. Sea level rise is decreasing the extent of coastal wetlands and coral reefs. And the disappearance of ice in the northern latitudes is forever changing the habitats where whales, seals, polar bears, and walruses live and feed. 

Conservation is a critical strategy for promoting resilience among our nation’s fish, wildlife and plants – including humans – as our planet continues to change.

A new White House Fact Sheet and report released yesterday, the Priority Agenda for Enhancing the Climate Resilience of America’s Natural Resources lays the path of conservation planning in the face of climate change. 

Protecting our country’s natural resources also benefits communities and economies.  Healthy and resilient ecosystems play an important role in “buffering” the effects of extreme weather on our communities, providing us food and clean water, and helping to mitigate the impacts of carbon pollution by serving as “sinks” that sequester and store carbon.  Additionally, energy generation, agriculture, and tourism, and many more sectors of our economy rely on the availability of natural resources, underscoring the essential need for conservation as a critical resilience and adaptation strategy. 

The Priority Agenda is one part of an ongoing strategy to implement the President’s Climate Action Plan, and make the nation better prepared for the impacts of climate change. The Agenda builds upon the robust climate change adaptation work already underway by federal agencies, including NOAA, and identifies significant actions moving forward.

Spotlight on Commerce: Aaron Trujillo, Associate Director For Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs

Spotlight on Commerce: Aaron Trujillo, Associate Director For Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs

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 in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month

Guest blog post by Aaron Trujillo, Associate Director for Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs, Department of Commerce

As the Associate Director for Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs at the Department of Commerce, I carry two responsibilities; handling the issues of Economic Development, Skills Development, and Manufacturing and serving as the Acting Senior Advisor for Native American Affairs Policy. The Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs (OLIA) supports the Secretary on all matters pertaining to the Department’s relationship with Congress, state/local elected officials, territorial and tribal governments.    

Before coming to Commerce, I worked in the U.S. House of Representatives for five and a half years. There I served a Member of Congress in his capacity on the House Natural Resources Committee as Ranking Member of the Indian and Alaska Native Affairs Subcommittee, and later, as a distinguished member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. During my time in the U.S. House, I also served as Senior Policy Advisor on Rural Development, Energy, Environment, Natural Resources, Agriculture, Veterans Affairs and Native American Affairs policies.

While working here at the Department of Commerce, I have been given the great opportunity to utilize my expertise to assist the Department and the Administration in advancing initiatives to build a stronger American economy. Our work here at the Department truly embodies the notions of opportunity, action and optimism because we work daily with businesses, organizations, community leaders, and elected officials at the local and national level to find opportunities that will create the conditions for economic success. 

I was raised in El Rancho, New Mexico, a small farming community just north of Santa Fe, NM.  As a child, I was influenced by the time honored traditions of my rural community and developed a deep respect for diversity in culture, language and the inherent connection between agricultural communities and natural resources. My upbringing has always been a driving force behind my work and advocacy in government.

President’s Export Council Travels to Poland and Turkey About Growing Economic Opportunities For All

President’s Export Council to Poland and Turkey About Growing Economic Opportunities For All

Guest blog post by Michele Cahn, Vice present of Global Government Affairs and Corporate Philanthropy for Xerox

For everyone who may speculate that the U.S. position of influence in the world has declined, our recent trip to Poland and Turkey proves to me that when business and government come together, we make a very powerful statement. This type of initiative is something that is unique to the United States… this is commercial diplomacy in action at its very best.

I was able to spend the first days of October with Xerox CEO Ursula Burns, who is the Vice Chair of the President’s Export Council (PEC) and who helped lead a fact-finding mission to Poland and Turkey. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker led the high-level delegation of U.S. business leaders on an economic fact-finding mission to identify opportunities to increase trade and investment between the U.S. and Poland and the U.S. and Turkey, two high-potential, fast-growing markets that have been under penetrated by US companies, especially SMEs.

The PEC delegation included CEOs from such companies as Vermeer, Lockheed Martin, Marriott International, Archer Daniels Midland, 32 Advisors, and UPS—representing a combined market cap of more than $850 billion and senior representatives from another eight companies.

What impressed me so much was the reception from the entire range of people we met with was how significant this trip was and how and why  the PEC selected Poland and Turkey for this trip.  And while we take some of this for granted, private and public partnerships are very rare in these countries.  We were asked why would these US companies join together for this trip…don’t you compete with one another. We were able to make it very clear, that this wasn’t about competing; this was trying to grow economic opportunities for all of us.  The outcome of this mission will be to help stimulate business in Poland and Turkey and help increase exports from the U.S. and combined, that means economic and job growth in these countries and in the U.S., so we all benefit.

Business leaders in Poland and Turkey have a very strong interest in capitalizing on innovation and entrepreneurship.  Poland has a highly skilled and highly educated workforce, but the general impression there is that the digital revolution has passed them by.  The challenges in Turkey might be more significant in terms of modernizing laws, simplifying bureaucracy and building transparency.

So while there are challenges, there are significant opportunities to accelerate business growth and to encourage governments and businesses in both countries to partner more with each other. 

Preparing for the 2020 Census: Measuring Race and Ethnicity in America

Preparing for the 2020 Census: Measuring Race and Ethnicity in America

Cross blog post by John Thompson, U.S. Census Bureau Director

The year 2020 may seem a long way away, but we’re already in full swing preparing for the next decennial census. We held an operations update to announce some of the steps we’re taking to ensure that the 2020 Census provides the highest-quality statistics about our nation’s increasingly changing population, such as how we measure race and ethnicity.

One challenge we face is how Americans view race and ethnicity differently than in decades past. In our diverse society, a growing number of people find the current race and ethnic categories confusing, or they wish to see their own specific group reflected on the census. The Census Bureau remains committed to researching approaches that more accurately measure and reflect how people self-identify their race and ethnic origin.

During the 2010 Census, most households received a census form that asked about race and Hispanic origin through two separate questions. However, we also conducted a major research project – called the “2010 Census Race and Hispanic Origin Alternative Questionnaire Experiment” (AQE) – to better understand how and why people identify themselves in different ways and in different contexts.

The AQE tested different questionnaire strategies with four goals in mind:

  1. Increase reporting in the race and ethnic categories as defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget,
  2. Increase responses to the race and ethnicity question(s),
  3. Increase the accuracy and reliability of the results, and
  4. Elicit detailed responses for all racial and ethnic communities (e.g., Chinese, Mexican, Jamaican, Lebanese, etc.).

Spotlight on Commerce: Sara A. Rosario, U.S. Census Bureau

Spotlight on Commerce: Sara A. Rosario, U.S. Census Bureau

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 in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month

Guest blog post by Sara A. Rosario Nieves, U.S. Census Bureau

As the Census Scientific Advisory Committee coordinator, I help determine Census Bureau operations and programs that need scientific advice. By working with the committee — established by the Secretary of Commerce as an advisory body to the Census Bureau director — I help engage some of the nation’s top economists, statisticians, researchers, geographers, sociologists, engineers, political scientists, demographers, and operations managers on ways to advise us on streamlining processes without compromising quality and use proper technologies all while saving taxpayer money.

The President’s State of the Union Address this year centered around three key principles: opportunity, action, and optimism. I too will use these three words to describe my 10-plus years as a federal employee.

Opportunity: While pursuing my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Puerto Rico, I noticed that years of specialized experience were required for entry-level positions on the island. I was astonished but continued studying and looking for work opportunities. Part of my studies included a semester-long industrial management internship with the master scheduler of Bristol-Myers Squibb pharmaceutical in Mayaguez. One of my professors then told me about a summer internship opportunity with the Department of Commerce, which led me to Washington, D.C., in 2001. Upon completion of my MBA, I accepted a job with the Census Bureau. Though I was eager to learn new things and yearned to hear fresh ideas, this geographical move was not an easy decision but thinking back now on the incredible experiences I have had and the professional growth I have gone through, I know I made the right decision. While at the Census Bureau, I have completed the DOC Aspiring Leaders Development Program and obtained a Masters Certificate in Project Management from George Washington University. In 2011, the Department of Commerce honored me with its Gold Medal Award for helping lead the 2010 Census partnership program, which engaged 257,000 national and local organizations with $1.2 billion in value-added contributions to the overall census effort.

Action: One of the most enjoyable aspects of my civil service work is mentoring young individuals who are looking to expand their skills and for advice on how to reach their maximum potential. Last month, I was a panelist for the Paths for Success session of the Government Leaders for Tomorrow (GL4T), where nationwide selected science and technology students with diverse economic, social, academic and cultural backgrounds come to D.C. to learn about life as a federal government employee. The conversations with the mentees, along with recruits I regularly meet on campus, help me understand the vast capacity of the next generation to work alongside seasoned and experienced talent and contribute to the department’s innovation and reengineering goals. 

MBDA National Director Alejandra Castillo Challenges Young Latina Entrepreneurs to Think Big

MBDA National Director Alejandra Castillo speaks at the Latinas Think Big Conference

Last week, Alejandra Castillo, the first Hispanic American woman appointed as the National Director of the Minority Business Development Agency, participated in a panel discussion at the Latinas Think Big Innovation Summit at Google’s Mountain View Campus. The Summit brought together thought leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators and influencers to exchange ideas, address important issues, and connect attendees to high-caliber networks.

Created by Dr. Angelica Perez-Litwin, PhD, Latinas Think Big™ is a progressive platform and national tour created to bring together innovative ideas and groundbreaking projects of Latinas around the country. “I created Latinas Think Big™ to showcase the innovative ideas, talents and groundbreaking projects of Latinas around the country. I wanted to bring talented Latinas and thought leaders to the stages of well-regarded institutions like Columbia University and powerful companies like Google, for the world to 'see' how Latinas are contributing to the country's social and economic well-being,” said Dr. Perez-Litwin.  

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2007 Survey of Business Owners, between 2002 and 2007 Hispanic-owned businesses increased by 43.7 percent to 2.3 million, more than twice the national rate of 18 percent between the same period of time. Hispanic women-owned businesses are the fastest growing business demographic, increasing 43 percent between 2002 and 2007.

Latinas Think Big creates a space in which young women have access to speak to professional women across all sectors. At the event, Castillo talked to the audience of young Latinas about the importance of entrepreneurship and innovation. “As entrepreneurs, you need to understand that 95% of the world’s consumers live outside of the U.S. borders. The fact that you speak Spanish, the fact that you are Latinos, and the fact that you understand the business culture of Colombia, Dominican Republic, and El Salvador, positions you in a very unique place to be able to tap into those markets. When thinking about entrepreneurial ideas, think about how to go global,” stated Castillo.