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Blog Entries from 2014

Secretary Pritzker Highlights Commerce Resources for New Hampshire Businesses

Secretary Pritzker addresses over 150 businesses at New Hampshire Business Day on Capitol Hill

Yesterday, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker participated in the 4th Annual New Hampshire Business Day Luncheon, hosted by U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen. The event, which brought together nearly 200 community and small business leaders from New Hampshire, aimed to provide the business community with information about the resources available to them through federal programs and agencies. Secretary Pritzker was joined by Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet, National Economic Council Chairman Jason Furman, and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

During the event, Secretary Pritzker shared her personal experience as a business owner for more than 25 years. Secretary Pritzker also highlighted U.S. Commerce Department tools and services available to New Hampshire businesses to help them grow and thrive.

For example, the Commerce Department has prioritized helping more businesses start exporting and expand their exports to new markets. Secretary Pritzker recently announced NEI/NEXT – the second phase of President Obama’s successful National Export Initiative (NEI) to help all businesses reach the 95 percent of consumers who live outside the United States. According to Commerce Data, an estimated 23,000 good-paying jobs in New Hampshire are supported by U.S. exports. NEI/NEXT will broaden and deepen the Department’s efforts to create an export-oriented business culture in New Hampshire and across the country.

In her remarks, Secretary Pritzker also talked about the Commerce Department’s efforts to support tourism, which is New Hampshire’s second-largest industry. Secretary Pritzker highlighted the President’s steps to increase the number of international travelers. International visitors contributed $139 billion to the American economy in 2013 and the United States has seen an increase of 15 million annual international travelers and this growth has supported roughly 175,000 American jobs. This increase means the United States is on target to attract a record 100 million international travelers a year by 2021, meeting an ambitious challenge to the nation laid out by President Obama two years ago.

The Commerce Department supports New Hampshire’s economic growth by directly investing in their communities, as well. The Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) provided a $400,000 grant in 2011 to help build the newly opened Regional Economic Development Center of Southern New Hampshire, which plans to house a business incubator, lending institution, and a training facility that will bring 1,500 jobs and $25.4 million in investment, according to the grantee.

The Manufacturing Extension Partnership in Concord, part of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), also provides resources to New Hampshire manufacturers to deploy new technologies and reduce energy costs, among others. And Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Sea Grant College Program at the University of New Hampshire helps encourage both conservation and economic growth along the coastline.

The Commerce Department is committed to continue working to provide resources that help New Hampshire businesses create more jobs, innovate, and compete in today’s global economy.

The Internet’s Next Big Idea: Connecting People, Information, and Things

Internet of Things (graphic credit: ©XtravaganT - Fotolia.com)

By Chris Greer, Senior Executive for Cyber-Physical Systems at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

In the early 1990s, a Web page consisted of crude, rainbow-colored, text-filled boxes that “hyperlinked” to more text. Today, your Internet-enabled smartphone not only gives you access to libraries’ worth of information, but also helps you navigate the physical world.

Cyber-physical systems, also called the Internet of Things, are the next big advance for our use of the web. They allow complex systems of feedback and control that can help a robot coordinate with a dog or human in a search-and-rescue operation or help health care providers evaluate the recovery of patients after they leave the hospital.

The Internet of Things is still in its infancy. To mature, it will require public-private collaboration across disciplines and economic sectors. Today, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., an event conceived by Presidential Innovation Fellows Sokwoo Rhee and Geoff Mulligan from the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is demonstrating what’s needed to make the Internet of Things a reality. At the event, 24 teams representing more than 100 organizations from academia, industry and government who responded to the fellows’ SmartAmerica Challenge are demonstrating how the Internet of Things can improve health care, emergency response, transportation and more while fostering jobs and economic growth. Some of the teams also showcased their ideas at the White House yesterday.

In addition to smart emergency responses, we could soon have smart manufacturing that brings production right to your neighborhood, getting you the parts you need faster while supporting local jobs. Affordable technologies could create smart homes that include automated safety alerts and a community awareness network to protect the elderly and other vulnerable populations. And smart vehicles could not only communicate with one another and traffic signals, but also with pedestrians to prevent collisions. These are just a few of the projects led by the SmartAmerica Challenge teams.

As a next step, we hope these teams and others across the United States and around the world will join NIST and collaborating organizations for the SmartAmerica/Global Cities Challenge. We’ll ask them to work together in creating the building blocks of smart cities. Our goal is to cut in half the time and money it will take for cities to deploy advanced engineering and information technologies to better manage their resources and improve everything from health and safety to education and transportation. Progress will require standard ways for all of these devices and systems to communicate, and that will take coordination among the people building the information technology, physical devices and communities.

Several SmartAmerica teams also announced today that they plan to continue their collaborations, expand deployments of their new technologies, and introduce new products. One team is even supporting a local version of the SmartAmerica challenge in Austin, Texas. This demonstrates the amazing power of a nation that is truly “open for business.”

It’s not a coincidence that these are public-private partnerships. The components of our everyday lives are becoming ever more interconnected. The smoke detector you buy from a private company may soon connect directly to your municipal fire department, just as heart-rate monitors now can communicate with your doctor’s office.

Such collaboration accelerates innovation and it means the Internet of Things will not need decades to mature as the Web did. It’s already bringing rapid changes to the way we live and work. And best of all, it’s bringing economic opportunity with it.

Join us for the SelectUSA Summer Forum

On June 17th at the Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Auditorium in Washington, D.C.

Announcing the "Reinvesting in America, Creating Jobs at Home" SelectUSA Summer Forum on June 17th at the Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Auditorium.

From large multinational corporations to family-owned small businesses, U.S. firms are discovering that bringing manufacturing or services back to the United States makes economic sense.

Join us to learn about the latest trends, discover resources to help businesses make the move, and hear directly from companies that have reshored successfully. NOTE: This event is FREE but only registered individuals will be admitted to the event.

See the agenda and sign up today!

Attention Developers: More Economic Statistics Added to BEA’s API

Developers, do you want to bring more detailed economic data to your next app? The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) recently added several data sets to the application programming interface (API) we launched last year.

The API now provides direct access to the gross domestic product (GDP) underlying detail tables. Those tables contain a wealth of statistics, including how much consumers spend on hundreds of items like furnishings, food and flowers and how much revenue the government takes in and spends.

Other newly added data to the API are BEA’s national fixed assets, which include statistics on fixed assets like factory equipment, buildings, intellectual property and durable goods for consumers. 

The new additions give you the ability to create an even richer, customized economic dashboard of your own.

The new data sets join BEA’s GDP and related national economic statistics and regional economic statistics, which have been available via API since the service launched in May 2013. In addition to expanding the amount of data available on the API, BEA published an updated User Guide, making it easier for developers to start using the service.

BEA’s API allows developers to build a service to search, display, analyze, retrieve, or view BEA statistics. For example, you can create a “mashup” that combines BEA data with other government or private data sources to create new services or give your users a different perspective on their communities. Or you can design a tool that gives your users new ways to visualize economic data.

The API includes methods for retrieving subsets of BEA statistical data and the meta-data that describes it using HTTP requests. It delivers data in two industry-standard formats: XML (Extensible Markup Language) and JSON (JavaScript Object Notation).

To use the API, you need to register first. Full documentation is available in the updated API User Guide.

More Data in the Census Bureau API to Help You #hackforchange

Guest blog post by Logan Powell, Developer Engagement Lead, U.S. Census Bureau

Two years ago, the Census Bureau launched its application programming interface (API), giving developers access to a variety of high value data sets, including our flagship 2010 Census and American Community Survey five-year statistics, providing information for every neighborhood in the nation. Since that initial launch, we have added key economic indicators, as well as the 1990 and 2000 Censuses, and additional American Community Survey data and key economic indicators.

By continuing to release new data sets into the API, and adding more of the Census Bureau’s rich economic statistics to our demographic products, we are giving developers greater flexibility to create new tools to better understand our communities and solve real world issues. Recently, we released even more data sets to the API. These include population estimates, establishment and payroll data from county business patterns, nonemployer statistics, and the latest statistics from the 2012 Economic Census. These statistics allow developers to create a variety of apps and tools, such as ones that allow business owners to find the latest establishment data needed to plan for new or expanded business.

We are continuing to work toward meeting the goals of the Digital Government Strategy for a more “customer-centric” approach. For example, the Census Bureau partnered with Data Innovation DC, a Washington, D.C. meet up group of 1,000 members composed of data scientists, data journalists, civic hackers and data-oriented entrepreneurs, and participated in this year’s National Day of Civic Hacking. We asked real-life data users to discuss their data-related problems. By directly engaging with our customers, we can develop strategies to make our statistics easier to use so that customers can make data-driven decisions. 


We will continue searching for ways to make more of our data available for developers to build apps that make our public data more accessible anytime, anywhere and on any device. By taking part in both local and national “civic hacking” events, we hope these relationships will help us to build stronger ties with our customers while reaching new audiences with our statistics.

I encourage you to visit our API, look for ways to combine our statistics with other sources, and create useful apps that will benefit the public. We look forward to what you will create. 

Manufacturing: A New Commerce Department Report Shows Renewed Expansion

Guest blog post by Dr.Sue Helper, Chief Economist, U.S. Department of Commerce

The U.S. manufacturing sector is rebounding at a rate unseen since the late 1990s.  For the first time in more than a decade, output and employment are steadily and simultaneously increasing. A new Commerce Department report, Manufacturing Since the Great Recession, provides an overview of the resurgence of this important economic sector, examining production, international trade and the labor market.

Some of the key findings included in the report are:

  • Manufacturing output has grown 38 percent since the second quarter of 2009 when the Great Recession ended, and accounts for 19 percent of the rise in real gross domestic product (GDP) since that time;
  • From March 2010 through May 2014, the manufacturing sector has added 646,000 jobs with an additional 243,000 positions yet to be filled. This is more than a cyclical rebound; the US has gained about four times as many manufacturing jobs since 2009 as would be expected from cyclical factors alone; and,
  • In 2013, average annual weekly hours for production workers in the manufacturing sector were at their highest level since the mid-1940s.

Manufacturing jobs are good jobs: workers earn 16 percent more in manufacturing jobs (in combined wages and benefits) than they would elsewhere. Not surprisingly, quit rates are also lower than in any non-government sector.

Celebrate our Natural Treasures During National Ocean Month

Celebrate our Natural Treasures During National Ocean Month

June is not only the beginning of summer, it’s also Oceans Month. President Obama proclaimed June as Oceans Month as a way to reaffirm our responsibility to keep our oceans and coastal ecosystems healthy and resilient. Our oceans are natural treasures, a source of food and energy, and a foundation for our way of life. U.S. fisheries play an enormous role in the nation’s economy. When stocks are rebuilt, they provide more economic opportunities for commercial, recreational, and subsistence fishing.

Many Americans depend on the oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes to earn a living and millions of tourists from all walks of life visit our natural treasures every year. Our oceans provide a habitat for scores of species. They are vital to our Nation's transportation, economy, and trade, linking us with countries across the globe and playing a role in our national security. Join us throughout the month of June as we celebrate National Oceans Month. Below are upcoming events NOAA is participating in to celebrate.

Every year, Capitol Hill Oceans Week (June 10-12) brings together Members of Congress, scientists, public-private stakeholders, community and federal leaders across interests to share their respective visions to shape our National Ocean Policy. Leaders will actively engage in dialogue that will help define how we live with our ocean and marine ecosystems. To learn more, visit http://nmsfocean.org/CHOW-2014.

On June 16-17, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator, Kathryn D. Sullivan, Ph.D., Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, will participate in the State Department-hosted International Ocean Conference. NOAA is developing a Science on a Sphere presentation that will reflect conference themes: Ocean Acidification, Sustainable Fisheries and Marine Pollution, including Excess Nutrients. To learn more visit http://ourocean2014.state.gov/ and following us on Twitter with the hashtag #OurOcean2014.

Commerce in the Community: AmpleHarvest.org increases access to healthy foods through innovation, technology and local partnerships

Commerce in the Community: AmpleHarvest.org increases access to healthy foods through innovation, technology and local partnerships

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 Gary Oppenheimer, the Executive Director and Founder of AmpleHarvest.org. As director of a community garden in 2009, Gary learned about the wasted food in many plots and created a program called "Ample Harvest" to get the excess food to local food pantries. Realizing this as a nationwide problem, he created AmpleHarvest.org to use the Internet educate, encourage and enable millions of growers nationwide to share their ample harvest with local food pantries in all 50 states.

Question 1: Tell us about AmpleHarvest.org. What is your mission and main focus?

While more than 50 million Americans live in food insecure homes (including a quarter of all children under the age of six), more than 42 million Americans grow fruit, vegetables, herbs and nuts in home gardens - often more than they can use, preserve or give to friends. It doesn't have to be that way. Struggling to feed their families, many Americans - both those chronically economically challenged as well as those now impacted by the economic downturn - have come to rely on the more than 33,500 food pantries (also called food shelves, food closets, food cupboards or food banks in some areas) across America to help feed their families. These food pantries, relying on donated and purchased foods, almost never have fresh produce and instead rely on canned or processed produce shipped from across the country at significant cost, both economic and environmental. At the same time, millions of home and community gardeners nationwide with an abundant harvest do not know that they can share their harvest, do not know how to share their harvest and do not know where to share their harvest. AmpleHarvest.org solves that for them. AmpleHarvest.org envisions an America where millions of gardeners eliminate malnutrition and hunger in their own community. To accomplish this, AmpleHarvest.org, moving information instead of food to diminish hunger and malnutrition in America, is educating, encouraging and empowering growers to share their excess harvest with the needy in their community instead of letting it rot in the garden. Our "No Food Left Behind" goal is a healthier and, by extension, wealthier America.

Collecting Reliable, Timely and Local Census Data

The map shows the percentages under the current, mandatory approach. As a mandatory survey, less than five percent of counties have 80 percent or more of their tracts with unacceptable levels of quality data. This impacts about 15 million people.

Cros-blog post by John H. Thompson, U.S. Census Bureau Direrector

I was pleased to recently participate in the inaugural conference of the American Community Survey Data Users Group. This conference brought together a diverse group of data-loving number crunchers from local governments, nonprofits, economic development agencies, researchers and private sector companies from across the U.S. Their common connection: the reliable, timely and local data about their communities provided by the American Community Survey.

Sessions included case studies on how the American Community Survey statistics are used by cities, rural communities and businesses to measure disaster impacts, create jobs and develop policy for transit, housing and health care. Data users said the ACS is the most authoritative source of data on these topics for communities of every size, and how they rely on the availability of a common source of reliable data.

I was also asked about the challenges to survey data collection, the availability of the data and the impacts to the American Community Survey. They asked me what would happen to the survey if it were not mandated by law. As we have explained in the past, we have looked at this question and our research shows that a voluntary survey would reduce the self-response rates significantly. To make up the shortfall, we would have to increase the number of households surveyed and conduct much more in-person follow-up, at an additional cost of more than $90 million annually. If we weren’t able to increase the number of households surveyed we would collect much less data and accuracy would decrease due to increased sampling variation. This would disproportionately affect the accuracy of the results that we produce for many small areas and small population groups.

The American Community Survey (ACS) is an ongoing survey that provides data every year -- giving communities the current information they need to plan investments and services. Information from the survey generates data that help determine how more than $400 billion in federal and state funds are distributed each year.  Data are used to help decide everything from school lunch programs to new hospitals.

American Firms are Key to Building Trade Relationship between U.S. and Burma

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker celebrated the growing commercial relationship between the United States and Burma on Friday, as part of her week-long commercial diplomacy mission to the ASEAN region.

Since President Obama visited Burma in 2012, the country has undertaken reforms to improve its business climate. Two years ago, the United States began allowing investment in Burma for the first time in 15 years, and shortly thereafter, Burma’s President signed a law to help attract more foreign commercial engagement. As a result U.S. foreign direct investment in Burma has now reached $250 million.

The U.S. government is encouraging American companies to evaluate growing mutually-beneficial opportunities in Burma, because responsible investment by U.S. firms can help facilitate broad-based economic growth and prosperity for the country’s people. American companies and products are among the finest in the world, and when U.S. businesses make investments, they bring with them the highest standards, including a commitment to corporate and social responsibility.

As a way to build on the growing trade and investment relationship between the U.S. and Burma, Secretary Pritzker formally announced that the U.S. Department of Commerce will soon open its first-ever Foreign Commercial Service office in the country, to be headquartered in Rangoon. Foreign Commercial Service offices, which are located in U.S. embassies all over the world, help American companies enter overseas markets so they can expand their operations and find new customers.

During her visit, Secretary Pritzker also highlighted the contributions that U.S. firms are already making in Burma.