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Blog Entries from 2014

Spurring Economic Growth through Infrastructure and Planning

Spurring Economic Growth through Infrastructure and Planning

Guest blog post by Matt Erskine, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Development

Generally, when people think about economic growth, they think in terms of big ideas: workforce development, increasing exports, foreign-direct investment. Most people don’t think about sewer systems or roads – the hard infrastructure that enables communities to achieve those big idea goals. The critical infrastructure that are the building blocks to economic growth are a major focus for the Economic Development Administration (EDA), and I was fortunate to be able to announce EDA grants for such projects in Massachusetts this week.

On Tuesday, I traveled to Worcester, Massachusetts to announce a $1 million grant to New Garden Park, Inc. with Congressman Jim McGovern. The money will be used to create more than 15,000 square feet of incubator space to establish the Worcester Technology and Idea Exchange in the former Worcester Telegram & Gazette facility. This is an investment for the future, an investment that is critical to the continued revitalization of Worcester’s downtown business district. According to grantee estimates, the planned technology incubator and accelerator will create more than 100 jobs by supporting a central location for entrepreneurs to explore and start a business in growing industries.

Following that announcement, I visited Devens to announce a $1.85 million grant to the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency of Boston. This grant will support the final phase of the Jackson Road reconstruction project at the Devens Industrial Park. In today’s global economy, first-class jobs gravitate to first-class infrastructure. The improvements will enable two manufacturing firms to expand their operations and attract private investment from automotive and film/video production businesses. The EDA investment is expected to generate $307 million in private investment and create 460 jobs, according to grantee estimates. 

Commerce Connects U.S. Businesses to Opportunities in Africa’s Power Sector

Energy for Africa: 600 million people, 70% of the population of Sub-Saharan Africa are without electricity

With its fast-growing middle class and tremendous human, agricultural, and mineral resources, the continent of Africa is attracting investors and businesses from all around the world. Home to seven of the world’s ten fastest-growing economies, Sub-Saharan Africa outpaces global average growth. That is why, in 2012, President Obama launched the Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) on Sub-Saharan Africa, now known as the U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa. The Strategy recognizes that Africa holds the promise to be “the world’s next major economic success story,” and the Commerce Department is working help businesses be part of that success story by promoting U.S. trade and investment through the Doing Business in Africa (DBIA) campaign.

Today, the Commerce Department’s Minority Business Development Agency’s (MBDA), Miami MBDA Business Center hosted the Power Africa B2B Summit to promote the public-private partnership model envisioned by President Obama’s Power Africa Initiative. President Obama announced Power Africa last year as an initiative to double the number of people with access to power in Sub-Saharan Africa, where 600 million people lack access to electricity. The United States is investing more than $7 billion in this effort.

At today’s Summit, prominent government and business leaders, including Nigeria’s Power Minister the Honorable Muhammed Wakil, CEOs of Africa’s major power companies, and representatives from the U.S. Export-Import Bank and USAID, joined MBDA to share opportunities for accessing the energy sector in African markets.

US Postal Service unveils new Earth Day stamp celebrating NOAA Climate Science

Global: Sea Surface Temperatures Forever® Stamp (credit USPS)

This morning, the U.S. Postal Service celebrated Earth Day by unveiling a new Forever international rate stamp inspired by a simulation of sea surface temperatures from a NOAA model of the Earth’s climate. The round stamp depicts the globe with North America in the center, surrounded by vivid bands of blue, green and red, signifying the varying temperatures of sea surface waters.

"This stamp is a fabulous tribute to the NOAA scientists and partners who develop models that help us understand changes in our climate and weather," said
Mark Schaefer, Ph.D., assistant secretary of commerce for conservation and management and NOAA deputy administrator. "These global models are key to understanding changes in our dynamic planet over both the short- and long-term, and they are major sources of the environmental intelligence NOAA provides each day.  Armed with this kind of information, decision makers can help communities plan for and take action to become more resilient in the face of Earth's changing climate."

The image was chosen through the Postal Service’s public process that begins with suggestions from citizens to the Citizen Stamp Advisory Committee.

“Our citizen stamp advisory committee looks to the public for stamp subjects that celebrate people, ideas and events that are important to American history and culture,” said Joshua Colin, Eastern Area vice president for the U.S. Postal Service. “This year’s Earth Day stamp celebrates the important role that science is playing in our understanding of the Earth, the oceans and our climate.”

Several months ago, Postal Service representatives contacted scientists at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo., to ask about a sea surface temperature animation on NOAA’s Science On a Sphere website. The sea surface temperature image came from NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, N.J., where teams of scientists have been modeling the behavior of the oceans and atmosphere since the 1960s.

Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Re-Launched With Expanded Role

The U.S. Department of Commerce announced today the re-launch of its Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, one of 13 federal agency offices under the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Housed within the Office of the Secretary, the Center serves to connect community- and faith-based organizations to Commerce resources and programs, engage a diverse array of stakeholders in the work of the agency, and promote economic development and job creation through local partnerships.

In direct alignment with the Department’s “Open for Business Agenda,” the Center has created Commerce’s first-ever “Community Development Resource Toolkit,” which highlights how community-based organizations can utilize Commerce Department programs to promote local-level economic development. The Center has also revamped its website and will begin a “Commerce in the Community” blog series highlighting the many ways in which local business, nonprofit and religious leaders are partnering with Commerce to make a positive impact at the local level. Additionally, the Center will begin a series of place-based convenings this summer, focused on connecting communities with Commerce Department programs and resources, while also promoting local partnerships around skills and workforce development.

On March 30, 2014, the Center co-hosted Business Sunday - its first event under Secretary Pritkzer - at 19th Street Baptist Church in Washington, DC. A collaboration between the Minority Business Development Agency and the Small Business Administration, Business Sunday is focused on providing current and aspiring 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 connects people to valuable technical assistance, grant information and other resources from the Minority Business Development Agency, BusinessUSA and the Small Business Administration.

The Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships is led by Director Josh Dickson. Originally from Upstate New York, Josh is a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School and a long-time community organizer who’s been involved in numerous initiatives focused on engaging faith-based and neighborhood organizations in community development. In his role as Director, Josh will oversee faith-based and community partnership projects across all Commerce bureaus as well as within the Office of the Secretary.

The Mysteries of the Gulf of Mexico: Brought to You by NOAA

Towards the end of the first dive, we found a carbonate outcrop inhabited with the chemosynthtic mussel Bathymodiolus sp. These mussels appeared to be encased in methane hydrate, formed by methane gas conglomerating at their base.

Bubbles of gas escaping from the seafloor. Delicate corals, dancing sea cucumbers, weird fish. Sunken shipwrecks holding unknown treasures. A bursting mud volcano or clear underwater river. Think you have to watch cable to see this stuff? Think again.

Between now and April 30, the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will be exploring the depths of the Gulf of Mexico from NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer and we invite you to follow the action and discovery – LIVE. Today, the ship is currently launching the Deep Discoverer remotely operated vehicle to dive in Keathley Canyon at site KC3. Keathley Canyon is a narrow, steep-walled canyon south of the Flower Garden Banks on the continental slope. We’ll be exploring at locations in the canyon that transect canyon slopes and along the adjacent floor, looking for brine flows and hardbottom habitats.

Using satellite and high-speed Internet pathways, live seafloor video from cameras on the Deep Discoverer remotely operated vehicle and Seirios camera sled and lighting platform is streamed to scientists around the world, allowing them to participate virtually. This means the number of scientists who can provide input and conduct “at-sea” research isn’t limited by the space available on the ship. And, these same live video feeds are available online 24/7, so that anyone, anywhere can follow the exploration.

U.S. EDA-funded William Factory Nurtures and Graduates Job-creating Businesses

William M. Factory - Small Business Incubator

Guest Blog Post by Tim Strege, Executive Director, The William Factory

The William Factory Small Business Incubator has a vision to build and sustain an “Innovation & Employment Campus” that connects disadvantaged individuals with entrepreneurship and desirable jobs.

Located adjacent to Interstate 5 within the economically distressed East Tacoma community in Washington State, the Incubator has a 28-year track record of nurturing firms through their formative years by providing advisory and professional assistance in technology sophisticated facilities. 

The Incubator historically focused on the specialty trade construction cluster – a “good fit” for workers who no longer had gainful employment after Tacoma lost over 10,000 manufacturing jobs during the 1980s. Recently, with critical support from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the Incubator completed a “Phase II” Scientific & Technical Services Incubator to grow information technology oriented companies. 

Among the recent graduates are Juli Norris & Tanya Stack, owners of Chi-Chack, which provides language translation services for federal agencies and private parties; disabled veteran Roger Lyons of Lyons Technology, which installs technology in the financial sector; and Greg Stewart of Orbiter, which combines radio frequency devices with software for military fitness programs, research projects and inventory control.  These firms continue to grow commercial revenues and support the productivity of others that use their products and services.

Secretary Pritzker Delivers Remarks on America’s Economic Future in the Asia-Pacific

In her remarks, Secretary Pritzker discussed the United States’ commitment to strengthening commercial and economic ties throughout the Asia-Pacific, which is a critical dimension of the president’s rebalance toward this fast-growing region. The Asia-Pacific region presents rapidly growing opportunities for American businesses and workers. The region accounts for nearly 60 percent of world GDP and 40 percent of global trade. Secretary Pritzker highlighted the United States’ leadership role in efforts such as the Trans Pacific Partnership, and she also emphasized the growing U.S. ties with both longstanding and emerging trade partners.

Read a summary of her remarks and audience tweets below.

Early Career Commerce Scientists and Engineers honored by White House

President Barack Obama talks with the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) recipients in the East Room of the White House, April 14, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) (Official White House Photo)

The Commerce Department is home to some of the world’s leading scientists and engineers that are tackling some of the biggest challenges facing our planet and doing great work to ensure our nation remains the global epicenter of innovation. Earlier today, President Obama honored six NIST and NOAA engineers and scientists with the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) at a ceremony at the White House. The award is the highest honor given by the federal government to outstanding scientists and engineers in the early stages of their careers. The Commerce scientists are part of a group of 102 scientists from across federal agencies that received the prestigious award.

PECASE awardees are selected for their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, or community outreach. The winners represent outstanding examples of American creativity across a diverse span of issues—from adding to our understanding of the most potent contributors to climate change to unlocking secrets to some of the most pressing medical challenges of our time to mentoring students and conducting academic outreach to increase minority representation in science fields.

First Americas Competitiveness Exchange Encourages Collaboration, Drives Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the Western Hemisphere

Guest Blog Post by Walter Bastian, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for The Western Hemisphere

Competition and collaboration aren’t typically mentioned in the same breath. For nations and businesses competing to innovate and prosper in a global marketplace, these concepts seem completely antithetical to one another.

That’s why the first Americas Competitiveness Exchange on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (Exchange) is such a unique and exciting partnership.

As part of the Exchange, senior officials from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA) and Economic Development Administration (EDA) last week led a delegation of 45 business and government leaders from 20 Latin American and Caribbean countries on a tour across the Southeast United States. They visited five cities in four days with stops in Atlanta, Ga., Greenville, S.C., Conover, Kannapolis, and Charlotte, N.C.

The delegation toured technology centers, innovation hubs, and investment zones to see how U.S. companies are working to create some of the most advanced products in the world. The tour was geared to help make the interpersonal and inter-governmental connections that can lead to future international trade and investment deals.

The Americas Competitiveness Exchange for Innovation and Entrepreneurship provided a great opportunity for decision and policy makers in the Americas to see the results of economic development initiatives and meet high level authorities, leaders of private sector associations, public and private universities with research and innovation centers, looking to explore and expand the links between our economies and key stakeholders.

The United States and Latin America maintain a very special and very important investment relationship. In 2012, the total stock of Latin American foreign direct investment (FDI) in the United States was nearly $96 billion. And every day, 259,000 workers in the United States go to work in U.S. subsidiaries of Latin American firms. 

SelectUSA: Investing in the United States, Creating Jobs, and Spurring Economic Growth

Editor's note: This has been cross-posted from the White House's Blog.

Guest Blog Post by Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and Jeff Zients, Director of the National Economic Council and Assistant to the President for Economic Policy 

Today, Lufthansa Technik announced a significant new investment in Puerto Rico that demonstrates how efforts to deploy the full resources of the federal government to win job-creating investments in U.S. states and territories pay off. Through the advocacy of several high-level U.S. officials, including the Vice President and the Secretary of Commerce, as well as the work of SelectUSA, the government of Puerto Rico was able to secure this new investment, which will create up to 400 permanent jobs and strengthen Puerto Rico’s burgeoning civil aviation sector.

Lufthansa Technik, a wholly owned subsidiary of Germany-based Lufthansa AG, is making a significant new investment in Puerto Rico to build a maintenance, repair, and operations facility. Thanks to the persistent support of the Administration through our SelectUSA investment initiative, local efforts led by Governor Garcia Padilla of Puerto Rico, and the strengths of Puerto Rico’s growing aviation industry, the United States won this new investment despite strong competition.

SelectUSA – launched in 2011 and housed in the Department of Commerce – is the first-ever federal effort to bring job-creating investment from around the world to the United States in partnership with state and local economic development organizations. Today, Ambassador-led teams at our posts overseas directly support foreign investors looking to make investments in the U.S. by providing resources and information, and when needed, connecting them to investment experts at the Department of Commerce and throughout the SelectUSA interagency network. 

Each investor, and investment case, gets tailor-made attention from our case managers at SelectUSA, who rely on ombudsman efforts to answer questions, as well as a sophisticated advocacy network that leverages key Administration officials all the way up to the President of the United States. Lufthansa is a perfect example of our coordinated efforts to bring job-creating investment here to the United States. In addition to Vice President Biden and the Secretary of Commerce and her team, SelectUSA involved other key federal officials, and coordinated with several federal agencies to provide the needed assistance to secure the project. And, when it came time to seal the deal, SelectUSA coordinated an effort across the federal government, including the support of the President’s Taskforce on Puerto Rico, to present Lufthansa with the case for locating their investment in the United States.

The Lufthansa investment is yet another example that demonstrates that the United States is an increasingly attractive location for job-creating business investment from around the world. Last year, for the first time in a decade, global business executives ranked the United States the number one destination for foreign investment. And the Department of Commerce released new data showing that foreign direct investment flows into the United States and our territories rose from $160 billion in 2012 to $187.5 billion in 2013.

With our booming natural gas sector, our skilled workforce, our status as home of the some of the top research universities and innovation hubs, and our resurgent manufacturing communities, the United States is primed for business investment. Businesses increasingly cite the U.S. open investment climate, rule of law, the ability to efficiently export their goods, access to high-quality supply chains, and proximity to robust consumer markets as key factors to locate their operations in the United States. And now, with the help of SelectUSA, the federal government is undertaking a coordinated and concerted effort to showcase our strengths and make the case with even more investors that the United States should be their top choice.

To put it simply, the United States is Open for Business. 

Jeff Zients is Director of the National Economic Council and Assistant to the President for Economic Policy. Secretary Penny Pritzker is the Secretary of Commerce.