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Blog Entries from 2014

NIST Team Honored for Work on Military Smartphone Apps, Security

NIST Team Honored for Work on Military Smartphone Apps, Security

The U.S. Department of Commerce's today announced researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have earned a 2014 GCN Award for Information Technology Excellence* for speeding development and delivery of secure, battlefield-handy—and sometimes lifesaving—smartphone apps to U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

The four-year NIST effort included distilling soldiers’ needs into app requirements, evaluating app performance, and designing a unique smartphone security architecture. It is among 10 GCN-recognized public-sector projects “showing the power of mobile technology to transform the government IT enterprise.”

The NIST team of engineers and computer scientists was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), under its Transformative Apps (TransApps) program. Working with soldiers, contract app developers and others, NIST contributed two brands of expertise—cybersecurity and software performance evaluation. And it organized the collaboration to accomplish DARPA’s objective, "Develop a diverse array of militarily relevant software applications using an innovative new development and acquisition process."

Within about a year after its 2010 start, DARPA-funded collaborators delivered a batch of commercially available smartphones and an initial set of secure, soldier-defined apps to an Army brigade in Afghanistan. By 2013, about 4,000 mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) were deployed in Afghanistan, and an online apps store was up and running for soldiers. The site now features about 60 apps—from map displays to a calculator for estimating blast distances to language games—and it offers regular upgrades.

One of the most popular apps is HeatMap, which color codes routes to indicate frequency of troop use, helping soldiers to vary their travel patterns.

U.S. Department of Commerce Invests Nearly $2 Million to Support Entrepreneurs and Startups in South Carolina

U.S. Department of Commerce Invests Nearly $2 Million to Support Entrepreneurs and Startups in South Carolina

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker today announced that the Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is awarding a $1.9 million investment to the University of South Carolina (USC)/Columbia Technology Incubator. The grant will support the building of a new startup center to serve as the regional hub for the development of entrepreneurship, incubation, and acceleration programs for early stage ventures across South Carolina. According to the grantee, the investment is expected to create 698 jobs and generate $11.9 million in private investment in the first five years of the project.

The Obama Administration and Commerce Department have prioritized supporting American innovation and entrepreneurship, which are key drivers of U.S. competitiveness, job growth and long-term economic growth. The EDA investment announced today will support an important infrastructure project that support public-private partnerships with the University of South Carolina to help local entrepreneurs and businesses grow.

EDA’s investment will support the construction a 50,000-square-foot technology and incubation facility. As the first development in a new technology corridor in USC’s Innovista Innovation District, the center is expected to serve as a critical facility for integrating USC and the Columbia Metro region's entrepreneurial activities. This facility will be able to take advantage of its proximity to the University of South Carolina's research activities, emerging technologies in the region, and student/faculty talent to help create a world class regional innovation ecosystem.

In addition, the investment will facilitate the co-location of entrepreneurs, technology startups, existing and mature technology ventures, and the region's community of entrepreneurial support organizations to create a mixture of talent, technology, capital, and mentoring. The grantee expects this co-location to facilitate the launch and acceleration of a new generation of technology ventures in the state.

Daring to Be Great in Supporting U.S. Exporters

Many of ITA’s senior commercial diplomats from around the globe are meeting in Washington, D.C. to discuss ways to better support business investors and U.S. exporters.

Cross blog post by by Judy Reinke, Deputy Director General of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service

Many of ITA’s senior commercial diplomats from around the globe are meeting in Washington, D.C. to discuss ways to better support business investors and U.S. exporters.

In order to support U.S. businesses going global, the International Trade Administration itself needs to be global.

That’s why we maintain staff throughout the United States and in more than 70 markets around the world, connecting companies of all sizes to opportunities in the international marketplace.

Technology has helped us execute our mission across borders, between time zones, and through language barriers. But just like we tell our clients seeking overseas partners, sometimes there’s no substitute for an old-fashioned face-to-face meeting.

That’s why I am excited about our Global Markets Global Meeting this week, bringing together ITA’s senior Commercial Service staff from the United States and around the world to share best practices, learn about new opportunities, and connect with the people who are making commerce happen – people we sometimes only know by email.

It’s been more than 10 years since our last meeting of this magnitude, and this week’s event will enable us to better execute our mission and understand new methods to better support our clients.

Commerce Department Reports Demonstrate that Exports Continue to Help Spur U.S. Economy and Support Jobs

Exports of Goods Supported 7.1 million jobs in 2013

Guest Blog Post by Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker

The Obama Administration and the U.S. Department of Commerce today released two new reports that further prove exports are strengthening our economy and creating good jobs. I am very pleased that for the very first time, our department has released data detailing the number of jobs supported by goods exports in 2013 in each of the 50 states. A second report released today highlights the level of goods exports achieved by each of the nation’s 387 Metropolitan Statistical Areas in 2013.

Back in 2010, President Obama launched the first-ever national strategy to increase exports, the National Export Initiative (NEI), with the idea that American businesses could lead our economic recovery by selling more of their goods and services to markets all over the world. The NEI has been a remarkable success. The United States has broken export records for four straight years, hitting an all-time high of $2.3 trillion dollars last year, up $700 billion from 2009. And just four years after NEI was launched, we know that 1.6 million more Americans have export-supported jobs, bringing the total to 11.3 million Americans who wake up every day and go to work in jobs supported by exports.

Today’s new data show more evidence of the NEI’s success. The first report released today, Jobs Supported by Goods Exports from States in 2013, breaks down the national total of jobs supported by good exports in 2013, 7.1 million, into estimates of the number of jobs in each state that are supported by goods exports. Texas exports supported more jobs – an estimated 1.1. million – than were supported by the exports from any other single state. Data show that goods exports from Texas, California, Washington, Illinois and New York supported an estimated 3 million jobs, or 43 percent of all U.S. jobs supported by exports in 2013.

The Value of Government Weather and Climate Data

Guest blog post by Jane Callen, Economics and Statistics Administration

The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) collects weather and climate data. As we noted in a recent Commerce Department report on the Value of Government Data, the return to society on investment in government meteorological data is large.

For example, one survey found that the overwhelming majority of people said they used weather forecasts and did so an average of 3.8 times per day. That equates to 301 billion forecasts consumed per year!

The study’s authors note that, other than current news events, there is probably no other type of information obtained on such a routine basis from such a variety of sources. Certainly, the researchers say, no other scientific information is accessed so frequently. And while the information is being delivered from an array of sources, most of it directly or indirectly originates from NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS). Americans check to learn what is happening in the weather, and we plan our days – and lives – based on this data.

The researchers found a median valuation of weather forecasts per household of $286 per year, which suggests that the aggregate annual valuation of weather forecasts was about $31.5 billion. The sum of all federal spending on meteorological operations and research was $3.4 billion in the same year, and the private sector spent an additional $1.7 billion on weather forecasting, for a total of private and public spending of about $5.1 billion. In other words, the valuation people placed on the weather forecasts they consumed was 6.2 times as high as the total expenditure on producing forecasts. NOAA data is re-packaged and analyzed to produce 15 million weather products, such as air quality alerts, the three, five and ten day extended weather forecast, earthquake reports, and tornado and flash flood warnings. Many end users do not realize that NOAA provides the data they see and hear every day on The Weather Channel, AccuWeather, the radio and in the morning paper.

EDA: Helping Communities Build Economic Resilience

EDA: Helping Communities Build Economic Resilience

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

Since taking office, President Obama and his administration have worked to help communities and regions impacted by natural disasters and major economic challenges respond and rebuild stronger than before.

This week, on a visit to Colorado, I was pleased to have the opportunity to announce two Economic Development Administration investments that support those efforts in two communities.

In Estes Park, a picturesque town located at the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, residents are working diligently to rebound from severe flooding that hit them hard as they were preparing for the busy snow season – and the economic tourism boon that comes with it - last fall. 

To help the town following the federally-declared flood disaster, I was honored to announce a $300,000 EDA investment to help the Town develop a strategy that will guide their economic diversification and resiliency efforts. One key component of this grant is developing specific actions to make use of Estes Park’s existing fiber optic ring to deliver improved broadband services to the town and surrounding region. By working with other affected communities – including nearby Loveland and Lyons – this strategy will help the region diversify while strengthening their existing established industry clusters.

In Colorado’s central western region, the recent closure of Oxbow Elk Creek coal mine has resulted in a regional economic emergency. 

To help the region respond, I announced a $245,000 EDA grant to the Region 10 League for Economic Assistance and Planning of Montrose, Colorado, to help create a strategy that aims to improve and enhance the economic resiliency and sustainability of Delta and Gunnison counties.

Resiliency is critical to economic prosperity: all communities—whether in a position likely to weather significant natural disasters, or struggling to deal with immediate or pending catastrophes—must have or be able to develop strategies that can mitigate an economic downturn and support long-term recovery efforts.

I am proud of the important role EDA plays in helping communities get back on their feet stronger than before.

Welcoming Investment from South America

Profile photo of Aaron Brickman, Deputy Executive Director, SelectUSA

Guest blog post by Deputy Executive Director, SelectUSA Aaron Brickman

Not only is South America the birthplace of soccer greats and the location of natural wonders, it is also an important and rapidly growing source of foreign direct investment (FDI) to the United States. According to the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), more than 85,000 men and women go to work each day at South American companies operating in the United States.

The SelectUSA South America Road Show this week connected U.S. economic development organizations (EDOs) directly with inversores and investidores in Santiago, Chile; Sao Paulo, Brazil; and Bogota, Colombia to build opportunities for even more South American companies to succeed in U.S. cities and regions.

Why did SelectUSA’s first South American Road Show focus on Chile, Brazil, and Colombia?

  • These three countries accounted for nearly a quarter of inward investment from Latin American sources in 2013.
  • Brazil is the largest source of investment from South America, with a total stock of nearly $15 billion in 2013. Brazilian companies such as JBS, Embraer, Braskem, and Chilli Beans have made significant investments in the United States over the past several years. The annual growth rate of Brazilian investment averaged 19.6 percent between 2009 and 2013, making Brazil the ninth-fastest global source of investment to our country. There is robust interest from a diversity of sectors: 325 Brazilian firms took part in our seminar and one-on-one meetings with EDOs.
  • As of 2013, the stock of FDI from Chile into the United States stood at $983 million. Investment from Chile, with which we have a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), has been growing at a compound annual growth rate of 11.9 percent since 2009. More than 130 Chilean firms registered for the Road Show, and we were joined by Arauco and Elecmetal – two well-known Chilean companies who shared their experience investing in the United States.
  • Colombia, another FTA partner, was the source of over $2 billion of FDI stock in the United States as of 2013. A recent example includes Fehr Foods, a subsidiary of Grupo Nutresa, which announced earlier this year that it will invest an additional $32 million and create 105 jobs in its U.S plant. Many more Colombian firms are looking to find success in the United States, as evidenced by the 190 participants in the Road Show in Bogota. FDI from Colombia to the United States from 2009 to 2014 grew at a compound annual growth rate of 14.6 percent.

Profile America: Facts for Features - Labor Day 2014

Cross Post: U.S. Census Bureau

Labor Day 2014: Sept. 1

The first observance of Labor Day was likely on Sept. 5, 1882, when some 10,000 workers assembled in New York City for a parade. That celebration inspired similar events across the country, and by 1894 more than half the states were observing a "working men's holiday" on one day or another. Later that year, with Congress passing legislation and President Grover Cleveland signing the bill on June 29, the first Monday in September was designated "Labor Day." This national holiday is a creation of the labor movement in the late 19th century and pays tribute to the social and economic achievements of American workers.

Who Are We Celebrating?

155.6 million

Number of people 16 and over in the nation's labor force in May 2013.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Table A-1 <http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf>

Our Jobs

Largest Occupations May 2013Number of employees
Retail salespeople4,485,180
Cashiers3,343,470
Combined food preparation and serving workers,
   including fast food
3,022,880
Office clerks, general2,832,010
Registered nurses2,661,890
Waiters and waitresses2,403,960
Customer service representatives2,389,580
Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers, hand2,284,650
Secretaries and administrative assistants, except legal
   medical, and executive
2,159,000
Janitors and cleaners, except maids and housekeeping
   cleaners
2,101,810

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupations with the Highest Employment, May 2013, <http://www.bls.gov/oes/2013/may/featured_data.htm#largest>

Historic Forum Yields Significant Gains for Africa-U.S. Business Ties

Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Stefan M. Selig speaking with Elizabeth Littlefield, President & CEO of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum

Guest blog post by the Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Stefan M. Selig

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Commerce and Bloomberg Philanthropies co-hosted an event showing that Africa is one of the world’s next great sources of economic growth.

The first-ever U.S.-Africa Business Forum brought together American and African business leaders with the heads of nearly 50 African nations to exchange ideas and create partnerships that will promote trade, accelerate job growth, and encourage investment.

And this was not just an academic discussion. We built the kind of relationships that will help usher in a new level of success for the growing economies and businesses of Africa, as well as spur real gains for U.S. companies.

Several American companies, among others, announced new partnerships in Africa, resulting in multi-million and multi-billion dollar deals:

Also, as part of the White House’s Power Africa initiative—which pledges to invest $7 billion and create an additional 10,000 megawatts of cleaner electricity over the next five years— American company Contour Global secured a $120 million contract to rehabilitate an existing Senegalese power site and construct a new one. That deal will provide another 53 megawatts of electricity to Senegal’s citizens.

As excited as my colleagues and I are about these deals, contract signings weren’t the only highlights of the forum.

Travel Journal: There’s No Place Like Nome!

Secretary Pritzker reviewing plans in Nome, Alaska with Joy Baker, Col. Christopher Lestochi and NOAA Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan

Last week, I embarked on my first trip as Commerce Secretary to Alaska to see how the Last Frontier directly contributes to our economy, and how the U.S. Department of Commerce can help further support Alaskan communities.

The Arctic’s importance to the Nation continues to grow as the impact of global climate change and loss of sea ice make the region much more accessible. This accessibility has inspired strong interest for new commercial initiatives in the region, including energy production, increased shipping, scientific research, tourism, and related infrastructure development. Last year, the Obama Administration introduced  the National Strategy for the Arctic Region, not only in recognition of the growing interest in and vulnerability of the region, but also to prioritize and integrate efforts across the Federal government to explore emerging opportunities – while simultaneously exploring efforts to protect and conserve this pristine environment.

During my trip, I explored the city of Nome, which is located on the edge of the Bering Sea on the northwest side of the 49th state. Once a gold mining town, Nome is one of the most remote communities in Alaska, with a population of 3,500.

My first stop was the Port of Nome. Joy Baker, Special Projects Director and former Harbormaster of the City of Nome, led me and my staff on a tour and described the economic impact and infrastructure challenges associated with increased Arctic shipping.  Although originally from San Antonio, Texas,  Joy has worked for the City of Nome for almost 25 years. Her passion for the city was obvious, and she explained how satisfying it was to see the expansion and development of the facility as the successful end result of many years of work and input about additional infrastructure needs in Nome.

After the port tour, we saw U.S. Arctic port infrastructure and vessels, ranging from small gold dredges to industry ships, giving us a better understanding of how the Department of Commerce’s work in implementing the Community Development Quota program in 1992 has been able to grow and further support economic development and achieve sustainable and diversified local economies in the region.

Having enjoyed the outdoors, we moved inside for a roundtable focused on new economic opportunities that are emerging as the impacts of climate change are felt in the Arctic region, including maritime transportation, fishing, and oil and gas activities. Various Alaska Native corporations, industries, and local, state, and federal officials offered a variety of perspectives which gave me a better sense of how the Department of Commerce can further our efforts to support the region.

We wrapped up the day with another productive and engaging roundtable centered on the threats from climate change, which are already impacting some Alaskan communities. These threats include exacerbated erosion and inundation frequency; and the shrinking of sea ice habitat affecting marine mammals.

While we face these challenges, my hope is that the Department can continue to do its part to facilitate trade and investment, assist with the development and management of natural resources, and provide the data and environmental intelligence that are critical to the safety and prosperity of individuals, communities and businesses that are dealing with a changing environment.

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Alaska, and I look forward to strengthening our partnerships in Alaska and across the Arctic region in the coming months and years.