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Blog Entries from 2014

The Fourth of July, 2014: Independence Day

The Fourth of July 2014

As we celebrate this Independence Day, we reflect on how America's Founders enshrined the importance of statistics in our Constitution as a vital tool for measuring our people, places and economy. Since 1790, the U.S. Census has been much more than a simple head count; it has charted the growth and composition of our nation. The questions have evolved over time to address our changing needs. Today, the 10-year census, the economic census and the American Community Survey give Congress and community leaders the information they need to make informed decisions that shape our democracy. These statistics are how we know how our country is doing.

On this day in 1776, the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence, setting the 13 colonies on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation. As always, this most American of holidays will be marked with red, white and blue flags, fireworks, parades and backyard barbecues across the country.

For fascinating figures on the Fourth’s fireworks, flags, cookouts, historical facts on the Declaration of Independence and more, see the Census Bureau’s Facts for Features.

Providing Information for Emergency Preparedness as Arthur Approaches

Providing Information for Emergency Preparedness as Arthur Approaches

Cross-post, U.S. Census Bureau's Director's Blog by John H. Thompson

As many Americans begin to prepare for Hurricane Arthur this week, the Census Bureau’s OnTheMap for Emergency Management tool helps provide federal, state and local officials and emergency planners with the information they may need about communities in the projected path of the storm.

OnTheMap for Emergency Management is a Web-based resource that provides a live view of selected emergencies in the U.S., 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It automatically incorporates real-time updates from federal sources so users can view the potential effects of Tropical Storm Arthur (and other disasters) on the U.S. population and workforce.

Through OnTheMap for Emergency Management, the Census Bureau provides information not just on the number of people affected, but also provides useful information on some of their characteristics (for example, whether they are 65 or older) and their work (such as their employment patterns). Following Super Storm Sandy, New Jersey planners were able to estimate the volume of traffic in effected areas.

As the storm continues to develop, the Census Bureau will work closely with our federal partners to make sure they have the information they need.

For those of you preparing for the storm, you can find hurricane safety tips at www.ready.gov/hurricanes. Visit the National Hurricane Center for the latest Arthur forecasts and remember to follow the National Weather Service for active alerts.

Lutheran Services in America Works to Strengthen Local Communities

Charlotte Haberaecker, President and CEO of Lutheran Services in America (LSA)

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 Charlotte Haberaecker, President and CEO of Lutheran Services in America (LSA), one of the nation’s largest health and human services networks. Prior to joining LSA in 2012, Charlotte was the number-two executive at Global Impact, a $110 million non-profit organization that provides funding for critical humanitarian needs at home and around the world. Previously, she held senior leadership positions at Price Waterhouse where she directed a management consulting practice and Fannie Mae where she led an industry transformation initiative. 

Q1: Tell us about Lutheran Services in America. What is your mission and main focus?

Lutheran Services in America (www.lutheranservices.org) is one of the largest health and human services networks in the country. Our more than 300 members provide a broad range of critical services from health care to children and family services, senior services, disaster relief, refugee services, disability support, housing, and employment support, among others.  Collectively, LSA members touch the lives of 1 in 50 Americans each year in thousands of communities across the United States.

Ranked at #25 on the Philanthropy 400, the LSA network represents close to $21 billion in combined annual revenues in the U.S. Our members employ close to 250,000 people in all 50 states and parts of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Our members provide services to all, regardless of their religious affiliation, race, or social or economic background.

LSA works to ensure our members’ resilience in an increasingly evolving environment. Our newly revised mission is to “build valuable connections, amplify our voices and empower our members,” and our vision is a network of “connected, strong and thriving” members that “transform the lives of people and communities.” A distinguishing characteristic of our network is the deep trust and sharing that come from a shared set of values and goals. Our network strives to help people become self-sufficient so they can lead more independent, secure and higher quality lives. The deep trust facilitates rapid innovation and scale.

We help our members to build resilience through specialized programming for CEOs and executives; we also work to help build the capacity and infrastructure of our member organizations, for example by exploring new business models that can create more sustainable revenue streams. We also find opportunities for our 307 members to work together to achieve outcomes they couldn’t achieve on their own so they can grow and continue to serve their communities for generations to come.

NIST’s Net-Zero House Provides All Energy Needs for Family, Saving Thousands in Utilities

Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility (NZERTF) in the snow

The net-zero energy test house at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in suburban Washington, D.C., not only absorbed winter's best shot, it came out on top, reaching its one-year anniversary on July 1 with enough surplus energy to power an electric car for about 1,440 miles.*

The 2,700 square-foot (252-square-meter) test house is built to U.S. Green Building Council LEED Platinum standards—the highest standard for sustainable structures. Its features include energy-efficient construction and appliances, as well as energy-generating technologies, such as solar water heating and a solar photovoltaic system.

Despite 38 days when the test house's solar panels were covered with snow or ice, the Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility's (NZERTF) sun-powered generation system produced 13,577 kilowatt hours of energy. That's 491 kilowatt hours more than used by the house and its occupants, a computer-simulated family of two working parents and two children, ages 8 and 14.

In terms of energy consumed per unit of living space—a measure of energy-use intensity—the NIST test house is calculated to be almost 70 percent more efficient than the average house in Washington, D.C., and nearby states.

In relation to cost, the NZERTF's virtual residents saved $4,373 in electricity payments, or $364 a month. However, front-end costs for solar panels, added insulation, triple-paned windows, and other technologies and upgrades aimed at achieving net-zero energy performance are sizable, according to an analysis by NIST economist Joshua Kneifel.

Commerce Co-Hosts Business and Community Partnerships Summit in Denver, Colorado

US Department of Commerce joined the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Mile High United Way, the Office of Governor John Hickenlooper, the Office of Mayor Michael Hancock and Opportunity Nation to co-host the Denver Business and Community Partnerships Summit.

Guest blog post Joshua Dickson, Director, Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, U.S. Department of Commerce

On Monday, the US Department of Commerce joined the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Mile High United Way, the Office of Governor John Hickenlooper, the Office of Mayor Michael Hancock and Opportunity Nation to co-host the Denver Business and Community Partnerships Summit. This first-of-its-kind event highlighted innovative ways businesses are partnering with nonprofits, faith-based organizations, institutes of higher education and the public sector to improve their communities. In addition to promoting effective cross-sector partnership models focused on workforce development, healthy communities, education and the environment, the Summit educated participants on resources offered by the federal government and provided people an opportunity to connect with others in their community interested in partnering to effect positive change. Leaders from more than 130 organizations, including over 50 businesses and more than 60 nonprofits, participated in this inaugural event. Jay Williams, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, joined Congressman Ed Perlmutter in delivering keynote remarks.

This was an important convening for the Commerce Department because it showcased the critical function that innovative partnerships between community-based organizations and the business community play in driving positive local development, particularly in the areas of skills and workforce training and education. The Summit also exhibited the significant contributions of multiple Commerce resources in facilitating effective community partnerships, including Economic Development Administration grants and Census data from the American Communities Survey.

New USPTO Office in Denver Will Spur Innovation and Accelerate Solving the World’s Problems

Steve Katsaros, Founder and CEO, Nokero International Ltd. holding his patent

Guest blog post by Steve Katsaros, Founder and CEO, Nokero International Ltd.

Ed note: Nokero (short for "No Kerosene") designs, manufactures and distributes safe, affordable, and environmentally-friendly solar based technologies. The solar lights and solar battery chargers are high-quality and low-cost, eliminating the need for harmful and polluting fuels around the world.

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Yesterday, June 30, 2014, was the opening of the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) Rocky Mountain Satellite Office. We were joined at the opening ceremony by Deputy USPTO Director Lee, Acting U.S. Deputy Commerce Secretary Andrews, Commissioner of Patents Focarino, U.S. Senators Bennett and Udall, Denver Mayor Hancock, Members of the Colorado Congressional delegation, and others. 

I had the privilege of addressing a crowd of more than 200 and share my thoughts as a Colorado entrepreneur and beneficiary of the U.S. patent system.

To introduce my company and my vision, I ask you to imagine life without electricity. Picture yourself in a mud hut with a tin roof --soot so thick that you avoid touching the walls. Picture a lamp burning kerosene, its emissions of black carbon, unburned kerosene and known carcinogens filling the room. Do you smell the burning kerosene and taste the soot as it is pulled into your lungs? 

No human should live like this.

Nokero (short for No Kerosene) is a Colorado company that has globalized its inventions to tackle energy poverty.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Opens New Satellite Office in Denver, Colorado to Speed up the Patent Process and Create Local Jobs

Acting Deputy Secretary of Commerce Bruce Andrews (L) is joined by Senator Bennet, Deputy USPTO Director Lee, Mayor Hancock and others at the ribbon cutting for the USPTO's Denver office

Today Acting U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Bruce Andrews and Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee opened the permanent location for the USPTO Rocky Mountain Regional Office in in Denver’s central business district to help the region’s entrepreneurs advance cutting-edge ideas to the marketplace, grow their businesses, and more efficiently navigate the world’s strongest intellectual property system.

Through the ‘Open for Business Agenda,’ the Commerce Department is actively investing in communities across the country to build their capacity to spur innovation. They strongly support innovative startups and enterprises throughout their lifecycle because those companies produce economic growth, support good-paying jobs, and benefit America’s middle class. The Department also believes that this new USPTO satellite office will help the Rocky Mountain region’s inventors and entrepreneurs speed up their innovative products and technologies into the marketplace.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office hopes that by retaining and hiring more talented examiners locally they can further improve the overall quality and transparency of their operations while continuing to reduce patent pendency on a national scale. 

The new Rocky Mountain Regional Satellite Office is expected to create an estimated 130 high-quality, good-paying jobs, that will eventually house patent examiners, Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) judges, and outreach officials in a 45,000-square-foot space located in the Byron G. Rogers Federal Building.

The American Community Survey: Best Quality Data with the Least Public Burden

The American Community Survey: Best Quality Data with the Least Public Burden

Guest blog post by Mark Doms, Under Secretary for Economic Affairs

“Better Data for Better Decisions” is my mantra as I crisscross the country talking to people about making the data we collect easier to find, understand and use.  Making government data more accessible or “open” to improve government, business and community decisions is a major initiative in the Commerce Department’s “Open for Business Agenda.”  The open data initiative has the potential to fuel new businesses, create new jobs and help us make better policy decisions. 

One of our best data sources is the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS).  The ACS is truly a unique, national treasure, producing a wealth of data on which our country relies to make important decisions.  The ACS is used to inform disbursement of over $400 billion a year in Federal funds.  State and local decision makers rely on the ACS information to guide tough choices about competing funding priorities, such as locating hospitals, funding programs for children, building roads and transportation systems, targeting first responders, supporting veterans, locating schools, and promoting economic development. In short, our community leaders use ACS data to analyze how the needs of our neighborhoods are evolving.  And, our business users rely on ACS data to make key marketing, location and financial decisions to serve customers and create jobs. 

The value of the ACS is immense. It makes our businesses more competitive, our governments smarter, and our citizens more informed. 

This value comes from the fact that the ACS captures so much information so comprehensively.  But, this also means that the value of the ACS depends critically on the people responding to the survey, known as the respondents.  I met recently with members of the ACS Data Users Group, an organization dedicated to sharing innovations and best practices for ACS data use, to discuss how to get the best quality data with the least amount of respondent burden. This is of paramount importance.  A survey seen as too lengthy, burdensome and intrusive will produce lower response rates and could undermine both the quality of the data and value of the survey. But reducing the length of the survey could reduce the amount of information available for decision-making. 

Evaluating the American Community Survey: The ACS Content Review

American Community Survey Brochure

Cross-post, U.S. Census Bureau's Director's Blog by John H. Thompson

Every month of every year, and in every county across the nation, a relatively small number of households receive notice that they have been randomly selected to receive the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

The American Community Survey, or ACS, is the lesser known part of the every-ten-year census. To produce more timely statistics between census years, the former “census long form” questions were moved to this rolling survey format after the 2000 Census.

Many of the detailed socio-economic and housing questions on the American Community Survey can trace their genesis back to the 19th century, some even earlier. James Madison, Father of the Constitution and fourth U.S. president, ensured that the Constitution authorized Congress to include questions in the census that provided the level of detail needed to effectively govern the new country.

“In order to accommodate our laws to the real situation of our constituents,” he explained, “we ought to be acquainted with that situation.”

Today, the American Community Survey provides the objective basis for the distribution of more than $400 billion in federal programming decisions. ACS statistics are used by all communities to more clearly plan for investments and services.

Quality ACS statistics are dependent on the participation of all households in the survey. The survey takes time to fill out, with more than 70 questions on dozens of topics.

Secretary Pritzker Joins PAGE Member Steve Case on Cincinnati Leg of “Rise of the Rest” Road Tour

Secretary Pritzker Joins PAGE Member Steve Case on Cincinnati Leg of “Rise of the Rest” Road Tour

Today U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker visited Cincinnati, Ohio for the “Rise of the Rest” Road Tour to celebrate America’s entrepreneurial spirit and bring attention to emerging startup economies in communities across the United States. The four-city tour, taking place this week in Detroit, Pittsburg, Cincinnati and Nashville is hosted by Chairman and CEO of Revolution and Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE) member Steve Case. PAGE is a first-of-its-kind collaboration between eleven of America’s most inspiring and prominent entrepreneurs who are using their experience and expertise to help spur business creation in the United States and around the world.

Entrepreneurship is a key driver of economic growth and job creation. Startups account for 20 percent of new jobs created in the United States and are responsible for adding net new employment to the economy. Secretary Pritzker’s visit to Ohio today is part of the Commerce Department’s ongoing efforts to support and highlight America’s thriving entrepreneurial spirit, celebrate our startup culture, and inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Secretary Pritzker began the day in Cincinnati by delivering remarks about the importance of entrepreneurship at a breakfast event with Cincinnati business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs. In her remarks, she discussed the Administration’s efforts to engage with business leaders and local leaders to foster an economic environment that encourages innovation and entrepreneurship, which spur job growth and competitiveness and promote economic development.

Secretary Pritzker then hopped on the bus and headed to Dotloop, a web-based company focused on creating a platform that would simplify real estate transactions. She then toured Cintrifuse a start-up incubator in downtown Cincinnati where she met with a number of entrepreneurs looking to turn their ideas and inventions into new products and technologies. After her Cintrifuse visit, Secretary Pritzker and Steve Case visited Roadtrippers, a web and mobile app for planning road trips. All of the sites Secretary Pritzker visited today demonstrate the power and potential of great American business ideas.

Later in the day Secretary Pritzker and Steve Case sat down for a fireside chat with Rich Boehne CEO of E.W. Scripps Company at the Brandery, a seed startup accelerator. Speaking before an audience of Cincinnati entrepreneurs, they offered practical advice for young companies from their own experiences building businesses and shared more about what the Administration is trying to accomplish by supporting entrepreneurship through the PAGE initiative. ​