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Blog Entries from 2014

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Begins Trade Mission to Middle East

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker leaves today for the Middle East for her second trade mission. She will lead 21 U.S. companies on the trade mission, which is focused on export opportunities for U.S. businesses in the infrastructure sector.  This trade mission will mark the first time in 15 years a U.S. Commerce Secretary has taken a trade mission to the Persian Gulf.  The delegation will make three stops over the next week including the United Arab Emirates, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.

In addition to export opportunities for U.S. businesses in the infrastructure sector, this trade mission will focus on areas such as project management and engineering (including construction, architecture and design), renewable energy (solar, wind, and waste-to-energy), smart grid and energy efficiency, and environmental technologies (including water/wastewater, air pollution control, and waste management). Each of these areas is critically important to growing and expanding U.S. business opportunities in the region.

Last week, Secretary Pritzker delivered remarks to the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council, the U.S.-Qatar Business Council, and the U.S.-Saudi Arabian Business Council where she discussed the decades-long security and commercial relationship between the United States and the Middle East and the growing opportunities for expanding business in the region. She stressed the importance of this trade mission as a demonstration of the United States’ commitment to a sustained economic partnership in the Gulf region.

Secretary Pritzker recently returned from her first trade mission to Mexico which provided 17 U.S. companies with opportunities to establish relationships and promote their technologies and services in Mexico’s advanced manufacturing, information and communications technology, health IT and medical device sectors. The mission also allowed Secretary Pritzker to focus on a key pillar of the Department's "Open for Business" agenda, helping U.S. businesses export goods and services and expanding investment opportunities in the U.S.

Greeley and Hansen Sees Trade Mission as Opportunity to Advance Aggressive International Growth Objectives

John C. Robak, President & Chief Operating Officer of Greeley and Hansen

Guest post by John C. Robak President & Chief Operating Officer, Greeley and Hansen

ED Note: Greeley and Hansen is a global leader in developing innovative engineering, architecture, and management solutions for a wide array of complex water, wastewater, and water-related infrastructure challenges.  The firm has built upon 100 years of proven civil and environmental engineering experience in all phases of project development and implementation to become a premier provider of comprehensive services in the water and wastewater sectors.

Greeley and Hansen is excited to participate in the upcoming Department of Commerce Trade Mission with Secretary Pritzker and other business delegates to the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. As the individual who directs the international business operations for Greeley and Hansen, I believe the projected growth in these countries is phenomenal, and can provide significant business opportunities for Greeley and Hansen’s water and wastewater engineering, architectural, and management consulting services. We have set forth an aggressive plan for international growth, and this important trade mission will allow us to further assess the long-range needs of these countries for water and wastewater infrastructure and to better identify potential long-term project opportunities for our firm.

Traveling with Secretary Pritzker will provide unprecedented access to high-level decision makers in each of these countries.  Having had the opportunity to be a delegate on previous infrastructure trade missions with the U.S. Commerce Department, I know first-hand that Greeley and Hansen will gain valuable information and insight into the market for water and wastewater services, but more importantly, we will also be able to establish valuable contacts that can help us launch the expansion of our operations in these potential high-growth markets for our firm. Participating in these past trade missions has led to real business opportunities for us in other emerging markets across the globe that are also interested in gaining access to U.S. technology and intellectual capital to help build sustainable infrastructure that will support continued growth and expansion.

NOAA Encourages Businesses and Organizations to Become Weather-Ready Nation Ambassadors During National Severe Weather Preparedness Week

NOAA Encourages Businesses and Organizations to Become Weather-Ready Nation Ambassadors During National Severe Weather Preparedness Week

As part of its commitment to build a Weather-Ready Nation, the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) launched the Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador initiative last month. NOAA’s National Weather Service is recognizing the first 100 Ambassadors during National Severe Weather Preparedness Week, March 2 to 8. NOAA urges more businesses and organizations to join the group of Ambassadors in working with NOAA to strengthen national resilience in the face of extreme weather. 

Among the new Ambassadors are weather industry partners, including AccuWeather, Raytheon, The Weather Channel and Vaisala, along with businesses, nonprofits, universities, and other organizations. These organizations bring a wide range of expertise, from community preparedness and safety to supercomputing and observations.

One Ambassador with recent weather-ready experience is the Moore Medical Center in Oklahoma. On May 20, 2013, an EF-5 tornado struck the Center. Fortunately, the hospital staff had a well-practiced emergency plan and carefully monitored the National Weather Service forecast that day.

When a tornado warning was issued, staff quickly relocated patients and others to windowless safe areas and used mattresses and blankets to protect them from flying debris. Damage to the hospital was extensive, but no lives were lost. More than 300 individuals who were at the center that day survived, due in large part to the planning and actions of the hospital administration and staff. 

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Announces Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Request

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker today released the fiscal year 2015 budget request for the U.S. Department of Commerce. The FY15 budget request supports and builds on President Obama’s vision for creating economic opportunity for all Americans, and includes critical funding for key Commerce priorities: promoting trade and investment, spurring innovation, and fueling our data-driven economy. The $8.8 billion FY15 budget request directly aligns with the Department’s “Open for Business Agenda,” which reflects Commerce's role as the voice of business and the Obama Administration’s focus on economic growth and job creation. 

The Commerce Department’s fiscal year 2015 budget reflects the Department's role as the voice of business in the Administration by making critical investments in our long-term growth and competitiveness. The budget prioritizes high-tech manufacturing and innovation, U.S. trade and investment, infrastructure, skills training, unleashing government data and gathering and acting on environmental intelligence, while also cutting red tape to help businesses grow. 

The FY 2015 Department of Commerce budget includes key investments in the following areas:

Promoting Trade and Investment: To promote exports and greater foreign investment in the U.S., the budget includes $497 million for the International Trade Administration (ITA), an eight percent increase over the 2014 enacted level. Funding for ITA includes $15 million to accelerate operations of the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center (ITEC), an interagency effort to address unfair trade practices and barriers to boost U.S. exports, and $20 million to expand SelectUSA, which promotes re-shoring and actively brings job-creating investment to the United States from around the world.

Spurring Innovation: To foster a more innovative U.S. economy, the budget will increase regional and national capacity for innovative manufacturing, be the principal defender and champion of the digital economy, continue to support research and development (R&D) that leads to transformative changes in technology, and promote intellectual property policy that supports innovation. 

Fueling a Data-Driven Economy: Data powers the 21st century economy, and Commerce Department data touches every American and informs business decisions every day.

Gathering and Acting on Environmental Intelligence: The Department’s environment agenda aims to help communities and businesses prepare for and prosper in a changing environment. The budget provides $2 billion to fully fund the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) next generation of weather satellites, which are critical to its ability to provide accurate information to decision-makers throughout the government and private sector, as well as time-sensitive weather forecasts and warnings that help protect lives and property.

Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative: The President is also proposing the Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative, which will be fully paid for with a balanced package of spending and tax reforms. It will demonstrate how, by simply changing a few tax provisions and reforming spending programs, Congress could achieve significant economic goals in research, education, manufacturing and skills training. The initiative is consistent with the model established in Murray-Ryan, providing equal dollar-for-dollar increases above the current law discretionary spending caps for both defense and non-defense. 

More information can be found at the Commerce Department's press release U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Announces Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Request. 

Secretary Pritzker Appears on Morning Joe To Discuss Ways the Administration is Working to Grow the Economy and Create Jobs

Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker joined Morning Joe to discuss why she’s headed to Massachusetts Institute of Technology to deliver remarks on the impact of big data. Secretary Pritzker also discusses her recent trip to Silicon Valley and job creation.



Business Sunday

As we close out National African American History Month, the Commerce Department is proud to announce our participation in the launch of Business Sunday. This initiative is focused on connecting current and future business leaders from congregations and communities around the country with the federal resources they need to start and grow their companies. As a reflection of the President’s commitment to job creation and economic opportunity for all Americans, Business Sunday will help people access valuable technical assistance, grant information and other resources from the Minority Business Development Agency, BusinessUSA and the Small Business Administration. The initial Business Sunday program will take place on Sunday, March 30, 2014 following services at the 19th Street Baptist Church in Washington, DC.

Throughout his career, President Obama has continually worked to promote community development and expand access to opportunity. To this end, the President recently announced “My Brother’s Keeper,” a new White House initiative to empower boys and young men of color. The Commerce Department shares this commitment and, through Business Sunday and other programs, will work closely with faith-based and other community leaders to ensure they are equipped to help local businesses succeed. 

Spotlight on Commerce: LaJuene Desmukes,Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization

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Spotlight on Commerce: LaJuene Desmukes, Director, Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization

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.

Guest blog post by LaJuene Desmukes, Director, Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization

As the Director for the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, I am the Department of Commerce’s chief advocate for promoting the use of small business concerns to fulfill its contract and grant requirements. Helping small businesses navigate the complex Federal acquisition arena and successfully pursue opportunities is the most rewarding job I’ve held over the course of my 34-year career.  

I serve as a liaison between small businesses and the Department, seeking out and connecting quality firms with the necessary skills and expertise to meet the Department’s requirements. One of the more interesting aspects of my job is the opportunity to meet with individuals in both the government and private sector who work on projects and build solutions benefitting the nation and the world.  The more I learn about the Department’s programs and industries’ capabilities, the better able I am in helping small businesses pursue and compete for opportunities with Commerce. 

Small businesses, including disadvantaged, women-owned, service-disabled, veteran-owned, and small businesses located in Historically Underutilized Business Zones, are the backbone of the nation’s economy and the primary source of jobs for Americans.  I’m proud to help small businesses successfully pursue contracts and grants with the Department, and to use these opportunities to help small businesses grow and thrive. 

My desire to help others was impressed upon me by my parents. They met and married in Washington, DC, in the 1940s after migrating from the South in search of better paying jobs. Together they raised three boys and two girls. My parents wanted their children to have opportunities that were not available to them growing up in the segregated South. They stressed the importance of faithfully serving God, paying tithes, and honest work. These were the cornerstones of the Black community in which I grew up. My parents exemplified their beliefs by holding various church offices, paying off their mortgage, helping those in need, and serving in the federal government. My mother worked for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for over 40 years and retired as a clerical supervisor. My father retired as a Freight Rate Specialist from the General Accounting Office (now the Government Accountability Office) after 35 years.  

Spotlight on Commerce: Russell F. Smith III, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration

Spotlight on Commerce: Russell F. Smith III, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

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.

Guest blog post by Russell F. Smith III, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration

As the deputy assistant secretary for international fisheries at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, I oversee the nation’s engagement in international fisheries. My responsibilities include providing general policy guidance on various aspects of NOAA’s international fisheries work, such as sustainable management of fisheries, the protection of marine resources, and supporting the export of U.S. fisheries products. I also represent the U.S. government at various international meetings. In carrying out these responsibilities, I work closely with other NOAA employees and government officials from other agencies, including the State Department, the Coast Guard and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. In addition, I frequently consult with various stakeholders, including representatives of the fishing industry, non-governmental organizations, and academia. I also regularly work with representatives of foreign countries. 

As Americans, we care about the global management of our oceans for a number of reasons. Seafood is an important and healthy source of protein in the diets of many Americans and many others in the world. The seafood industry provides many jobs for fishermen and women, as well as those that build their boats and gear, seafood processors, suppliers, and many others. Although many once thought that seafood was an endless resource, we now know it is not. Providing the world with this important source of food, jobs, and economic opportunity requires careful management. 

Some seafood is easily managed on the local level. However, other species, such as many of the tunas, travel far beyond national boundaries and their harvest can only be successfully managed when nations cooperate. Our mission is to work with these other nations for the sustainable management of global fisheries that is based on the best available science and that protects other non-target species and habitats from potential adverse impacts of fishing. We also work to ensure that nations are complying with adopted measures and working cooperatively with developing countries to support their ability to implement such measures. My position combines international relations with fisheries, employment, development and environmental policies. 

Secretary Pritzker Concludes “Commerce in the Valley” Tour

Secretary Pritzker Concludes “Commerce in the Valley” Tour

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker concluded her two-day “Commerce in the Valley” tour on Tuesday showcasing the value and vast resources of the Commerce Department to entrepreneurs and business leaders in Northern California.  As the voice of business in the Administration, Pritzker met with innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders within Silicon Valley to discuss the Department of Commerce’s “Open for Business Agenda,” and the three key areas that will keep America competitive and strong: trade and investment, innovation, and data.

Secretary Pritzker made a number of site visits during her tour of Silicon Valley including Facebook, Google, eBay and PayPal showing the Department's strong commitment to spurring U.S. economic growth, through innovation, and competitiveness. On day two of her visit, Secretary Pritzker participated in an Innovation Ecosystem breakfast hosted by Tech for America, where she heard from budding entrepreneurs on the next generation of innovative ideas and discussed the importance of intellectual property (IP) protection and patent reform.

Following the breakfast, Secretary Pritzker traveled to Google where she met with executives and discussed trade and investment and ways the Commerce Department can further help companies export their goods and services abroad. 

Secretary Pritzker concluded her day at eBay and PayPal where she met with three eBay sellers, Chris Ko, Owner, Nationwide Surplus and ER2 Electronic Recycling; Nate Victor, CEO, Sonic Electrolux; and Nick Martin, Founder, The Pro's Closet. She discussed with each of these business leaders what global opportunities and resources we have at the Department of Commerce that can help them increase exports to foreign markets and expand their business footprint.  Secretary Pritzker later joined eBay Inc. CEO John Donahoe in announcing a partnership to promote U.S. exports and trade.  This partnership will advance the Obama Administration’s National Export Initiative, an ambitious plan to sell more American goods and services into foreign markets. 

Mr. Donahoe was appointed by President Obama to the President’s Export Council (PEC) in December 2013.  This partnership comes on the heels of a U.S. Department of Commerce announcement that U.S. exports in 2013 set a new record for the fourth straight year. U.S. exports reached $2.3 trillion in 2013, up nearly $700 billion since 2009.

Spotlight on Commerce: Charmaine Davis, Office of the Secretary

Spotlight on Commerce: Charmaine Davis, Office of the Secretary

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.

Guest blog post by Charmaine Davis, Office of the Secretary

Growing up in a single parent household, I learned the value of working hard to attain your goals. Watching my mother work hard and be selfless to provide for me and my siblings instilled a value of tenacity and integrity. She served in the federal government as a financial management specialist for 39 years. My mother’s love for her career has been truly inspiring and sparked an interest in me early on. 

I have worked in the federal government since 2001, beginning at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The Aspiring Leaders Program, coupled with great mentors, provided me with training and leadership opportunities that helped shape my career at the U.S. Department of Commerce.  

My career at Commerce began in 2005 in the Office of Financial Management (OFM), Office of Executive Budgeting. For the next four years, I learned the fundamentals of the Commerce budgeting process, and later served as the Budget Officer in the Office of the Secretary (OS). 

I am currently the Executive Officer, which means I am responsible for the management and execution of the Office of the Secretary’s budget. I work with OS staff to ensure that Secretarial initiatives and office needs are funded and supported. I also work with the Office of Administration to establish and enforce administrative policies and procedures for all OS offices.  

In the State of the Union Address, President Obama addressed three key principles, opportunity, action and optimism.  In tough budget circumstances, it is my job to work with the OS directors in creatively aiming to fulfill the Commerce Secretary’s mission using the funding we have. I am lucky to work with some incredibly enthusiastic individuals, and we strive as a team to get to the finish line. 

One of the persons who have influenced me to become who I am today would be my daughter Ciani, who I had at the age of 16!  What some considered being a mistake was a life lesson for me. Being a teen mom caused me to be extremely diligent to meet my objectives, to aim high, be resilient, and responsible.  It is important to me to provide her and her siblings with an example of what it means to dream big and overcome the roadblocks that may be set against you.  Because of that ambition, my daughter is in her freshman year at Virginia State University, obtaining her goals one by one and I couldn’t be prouder.