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Blog Entries from 2014

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.

Spotlight on Commerce: Efrain Gonzalez, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Administrative Officer, BusinessUSA

Efrain Gonzalez, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Administrative Officer, BusinessUSA

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 Efrain Gonzalez, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Administrative Officer, BusinessUSA

I currently serve as Chief Financial Officer and Chief Administrative Officer at BusinessUSA, a Presidential Initiative and partnership between the Department of Commerce and the Small Business Administration. Our mission is to help American entrepreneurs, businesses owners and executives successfully start and grow their business by making it easier for them to find and access the right government resources. Put simply, my role as part of BusinessUSA is to make sure people, money and strategy come together to achieve this mission.

From my first days at Commerce, I have been privileged to serve on initiatives and projects aimed to either directly serve the needs of businesses or assist the agencies that directly serve U.S. businesses. Prior to joining BusinessUSA, I served as Chief of the Office of Business Development for the Minority Business Development Agency where I worked on the Hurricanes Katrina and Rita Recovery Projects and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. For me, it’s this type of mission-driven work that we do here at Commerce that connects me to my roots as a first-generation American growing up in East Los Angeles and Montebello, California, a suburb just east of LA.

My father was an entrepreneur who owned a service station. Like many kids of hardworking business owners in this country, I spent my weekends working with him to support the family business. I watched him succeed, and I watched him struggle. I saw his commitment to his employees and how the responsibility of making his payroll sometimes weighed on him. Later, when I took over managing the business for a short time, I felt the weight of that responsibility myself. But, I think that just like many Mexican immigrants to this country, my dad thought that all those long days and weekends were a fair price for the opportunity to build a better life for his family. His hard work gave me the opportunity to attend good schools and eventually graduate from the University of Southern California (USC). My years running the family business helped to build the foundation that my career at Commerce and before that, at USC, has been built on.

President’s Export Council Espouses Commercial Diplomacy

Robert Wolf, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of 32 Advisors

Guest blog post by Robert Wolf, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of 32 Advisors.

As a member of the President’s Export Council (PEC), I had the good fortune of going to Poland and Turkey with a group led by Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker along with CEOs from Archer Daniels Midland, Lockheed Martin, Marriott, UPS, Vermeer and Xerox as well as representatives from other member firms.  The PEC, comprised of companies with an aggregate market capital of over $850 billion, chose Poland and Turkey for our inaugural trip with the Secretary as we view these countries, first and foremost, as high priority economically important growth markets in addition to being strategically significant.

During the trip I wore two hats: one as an ambassador for US businesses broadly promoting the President’s National Export Initiative and US foreign direct investment priorities and, second, as a businessman in representing a cross-border advisory on a fact finding mission to explore Poland and Turkey as good places to enhance our business relationships and our client’s growth initiatives.

I learned that both Poland and Turkey want many of the same things as the US: transparency, public/private partnerships, infrastructure investment, an all-in energy approach and a skilled labor force/education.

What I found while visiting with both public and private leaders was that there are some incredible market opportunities for US businesses. Given the impressive strides both countries have made in recent years, I am not particularly surprised.

Eighth-Grade Students Explore S.T.E.M Careers and Opportunities On Manufacturing Day

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Darlene Mullen (in yellow), technology and pre-engineering teacher for Friendship Academy at Cherry Hill in Baltimore, MD, is joined by her students at a Manufacturing Day 2014 event

Guest blog post by Darlene Mullen, technology and pre-engineering teacher for Friendship Academy at Cherry Hill in Baltimore, MD.

 

I have worked in the manufacturing and engineering environment for many years prior to becoming an educator for the Baltimore City Public School System. I am passionate about exposing our youth to the many career choices they can make in a manufacturing environment. My participation with several S.T.E.M. programs have afforded me the opportunity to broaden my students exposure to many manufacturing and engineering roles and how focusing on science, technology, engineering and mathematics will give them the foundation they need to thrive in the fields of manufacturing and engineering.  S.T.E.M. is woven into the schools’ fabric. We offer Gateway to Technology, a pre-engineering program and Smart Lab Creative Learning Systems to our middles school students. As always S.T.E.M. is embedded in our everyday curriculum.

If our eighth-grade students are exposed to S.T.E.M careers and opportunities while they are in middles school, they will be able to make sound decisions when choosing a high school to attend next academic school year. They will be able to choose high schools that offer the sciences and mathematics classes needed to pursue engineering and technology degree upon completion of high school. Many of our eighth graders are already talking about pursuing technical fields that will allow them to become essential employees of the manufacturing environment.

Our school, Friendship Academy at Cherry Hill is located in the Southwest area of Baltimore City, with a population of five hundred plus students, who are always willing and ready to learn. My students and I are very excited about spending time at Northrop Grumman during Manufacturing Day to gain an up close and personal understanding of the importance and operations of manufacturing.

EDA Announces $1.9 Million Grant to Support Advanced Manufacturing in Recognition of Manufacturing Day

EDA Announces $1.9 Million Grant to Support Advanced Manufacturing in Recognition of Manufacturing Day

Guest blog post by Jay Williams, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development

When I was growing up, manufacturing work was all about having a strong back and a strong work ethic. These days, manufacturing has changed. The first Friday in October each year marks Manufacturing Day, and today more than 1,500 manufacturers nationwide are opening their doors to host open houses, public tours, career workshops, and other events, in order to show people what manufacturing is – and what it isn’t. There is a lack of understanding of present-day manufacturing environments, which are highly technical. Manufacturing Day provides manufacturers with the opportunity to address the skilled labor shortage they face, connect with future generations, take charge of the public image of manufacturing, and ensure the ongoing prosperity of the whole industry. 

In honor of Manufacturing Day, I was joined by Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and faculty members for an event at Wichita State University (WSU) in South Kansas. The region is a leader in manufacturing, and the University is a key member of the South Kansas Manufacturing Community consortium, which U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker announced as one of the 12 Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) designated communities in May. While there, I announced a $1.9 million EDA grant to WSU to support advanced manufacturing. According to the grantee, the project will create 500 jobs and further regional capabilities in advanced manufacturing, with an emphasis on automated additive manufacturing innovation, and will provide competitive advantage for the transportation equipment manufacturing industry. These innovative technologies will also be applied to the emerging medical equipment manufacturing cluster in the region. 

While in Wichita, I got to see first-hand the sort of operations that have made South Kansas a leader in manufacturing. I was treated to a Manufacturing Day tour of the Wichita Operations of Bombardier-Learjet facility, where a critical EDA investment helped expand operations in 2012. The facility is truly impressive – as is the finished product

President Obama, the Commerce Department, and EDA are all committed to supporting manufacturing, because manufacturing creates good jobs with the largest multiplier effect of any part of the economy. In the last fiscal year, EDA invested in 89 manufacturing projects, totaling nearly $78 million. The projects were diverse, representing different industries, different geographies, and different community needs. Half of these projects were construction projects, which created more than 7,000 jobs and generated nearly $4.3 billion in private investment.