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Blog Entries from 2014

Connecting Entrepreneurs to the Global Marketplace

Connecting Entrepreneurs to the Global Marketplace

The Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration works hard to help companies that are ready to export compete and succeed in global markets.

We want to emphasize that it’s never too early for entrepreneurs to start thinking about exporting – determining financing needs, targeting markets, conducting research, etc.

As we’ve worked with global startups, we’ve learned it can be difficult for entrepreneurs to connect to existing resources to help them go global. We realize that start-ups differ in their capabilities at various stages of the business development process, but want to help young businesses incorporate export plans into their business model as early as possible.

One great way to get started is to be a part of ExporTech, which can help your company develop its export plan, then have it vetted by a panel of experts. More than 575 companies have participated in Exportech, with an average sales increase or retention of $770,000.

Here are four more tips for the busy entrepreneur to help address specific needs to start exporting:

  1. Secure access to capital: Many local and state governments have seed capital and investment programs just for their states’ entrepreneurs and startups. Many states have small business development programs or startup-specific outreach programs designed to assist entrepreneurs to access capital- as well as educate them on best practices. On the federal level, there is the Small Business Administration, which has programs like the U.S. Small Business Investment Company program. A list of other loans directed towards helping small businesses go global can be found here.
  2. Secure your Intellectual Property: In order to increase the confidence a startup requires for going global, we need to ensure they know about what our U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is doing to protect American start-up’s intellectual property. Here are five simple steps to get started, and you can find more information at stopfakes.gov.  
  3. Do your Research. One important thing you need to figure out is the right target market for your exports. Understand the market trends and figure out your company’s competitive advantage. You can find market research reports on export.gov or by visiting your nearest Export Assistance Center. Here are some other important questions you should answer from the start.
  4. Find the Right Partners. Every market is different, and having a good partner on the ground -- whether it’s your legal representation, a distributor, or a sales representative – can make a huge difference in your company’s success. Consider ITA’s Gold Key Matchmaking Service to help you find the right partner for your needs.

By helping America’s high-growth start-ups go global, trade will become a broader part of doing business in the United States. The International Trade Administration and the Department of Commerce are committed to enabling our next generation of globally fluent businesses.

Contact your nearest Export Assistance Center to get started.

An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Accessing Census Bureau Statistics

U.S. Census Apps

If you are thinking of starting a new business, one of the first things you need is information to understand market conditions. Entrepreneurs rely on American Community Survey and Economic Census data to understand local markets, the local workforce, commuting patterns and economic activity in prospective new locations to make investment decisions that create jobs and grow the economy. 

You may already know that the U.S. Census Bureau has a wealth of information that can be invaluable to entrepreneurs. But how do you get started? We have several tools that make it easy to find the statistics you need to start or grow your business. Here are four tools you can begin using today and one that is coming soon. 

1. QuickFacts

Many times, you may just need to know a quick fact such as the population or demographic makeup of a state or county. With our QuickFacts tool, you can find current population estimates, key demographic statistics from the American Community Survey, and economic statistics from selected Census Bureau economic programs. A soon to be released beta version of the tool allows for comparison of these data across geographic areas as well as expanded visualizations of these data.

2. Census Explorer

One of our newest tools, Census Explorer provides an interactive map of various demographic topics for states, counties and census tracts. For example, Census Explorer: Retail Edition includes statistics on retail trade in America from County Business Patterns, including the growing online shopping market. You can find information on the number of businesses, employment and average annual payroll per employee for every county in the U.S.  Other editions of Census Explorer display population estimates or topics from the American Community Survey, such as commuting information, education and income.

Connecting Minority Serving Institutions with Research and Entrepreneurship Opportunities

Earlier this month, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) hosted a special event for minority serving institutions to foster collaborations that could increase minority participation in scientific research and entrepreneurship. Representatives from large and small colleges and universities across the country gathered to learn about NIST’s national research priorities and about “lab-to-market” opportunities from both NIST and the MBDA.

MBDA National Director Alejandra Castillo explained why the event was timely in her opening remarks when she said, “Wealth creation is happening in the high technology sector, but only four percent of those businesses are minority owned. Minority serving institutions are not only positioned to educate scientists and engineers, but to create partnerships for the businesses of tomorrow.”

Attendees learned about the many opportunities for partnering with NIST from Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and Acting NIST Director Willie May, who explained the importance of collaboration to NIST’s world-class research. NIST collaborates with a number of organizations and institutions of higher learning as it addresses national priorities including cybersecurity, manufacturing, communications, forensics, disaster resilience and healthcare and bioscience. “Last year, we provided about $200 million in grants to institutions of higher education that can collaborate with us and assist us in carrying out our mission,” said May.

May highlighted the variety of opportunities at NIST for undergraduate and graduate students and post-doctoral, associate and visiting researchers. Of NIST’s approximately 1,600 associate researchers who come from academia, about one quarter are from Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) or Minority Serving Institutes (MSIs).

The event was initiated by George Cooper, director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), who said he realized there was great potential at NIST for supporting partnerships between HBCUs and the federal government.

Day two’s agenda focused on moving research and technologies out of the lab and into the marketplace. Participants learned about the federal government’s role in technology transfer and the Lab-to-Market Programs in NIST’s Technology Partnerships Office and the MBDA’s San Francisco Business Center. A panel discussion including representatives from industry and non-profit and advocacy groups that support emerging businesses offered best practices for getting from lab to market.

Throughout the event, participants were encouraged to develop relationships not only with NIST and the MBDA, but also with one another. As Cooper put it, their partnerships could “leverage the strengths of multiple institutions” to increase engagement with federal agencies.

Commerce Secretary Pritzker Announces Four U.S. Organizations Honored With 2014 Baldrige National Quality Award

 Commerce Secretary Pritzker Announces Four U.S. Organizations Honored With 2014 Baldrige National Quality Award

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker today announced that four U.S. organizations are recipients of the 2014 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the nation’s highest Presidential honor for performance excellence through innovation, improvement and visionary leadership. 

The 2014 Baldrige Award recipients—listed with their category—are:

An independent board of examiners recommended this year’s Baldrige Award recipients from a field of 22 applicants after evaluating them in seven areas defined by the Baldrige Criteria: leadership; strategic planning; customer focus; measurement, analysis and knowledge management; workforce focus; operations focus; and results. An organization may compete for the award in one of six categories: manufacturing, service, small business, health care, education and nonprofit (including government agencies).

Thousands of organizations worldwide use the Baldrige Criteria to guide their operations, improve performance and get sustainable results.

The criteria, which are regularly updated, help organizations reach their goals, improve results and become more competitive by aligning plans, processes, people, decisions and actions vital to achieving ongoing success. More than 30 independent Baldrige-based award programs covering nearly all 50 states. Internationally, the program has served as a model for nearly 100 excellence programs.

From 2010-2013, Baldrige Award applicants represented nearly 500,000 jobs, more than $77 billion in revenue and budgets, and more than 400 million customers served.

A December 2011 study measuring the Baldrige Program's value to U.S. organizations conservatively estimated a benefit-to-cost ratio of 820 to 1, while a 2011 report by Truven Health Analytics found that health care organizations that have won or been in the final review process for a Baldrige Award outperform other hospitals in all but one metric the company uses to determine its "100 Top Hospitals" in the nation (and were six times more likely to be among the top 100). A study of the six organizations to win two Baldrige Awards found that for the years between awards their median growth in revenue was 93 percent and the median growth in jobs was 66 percent. The job growth was significantly higher than the average growth in jobs of 2.5 percent for matched industries and time periods.

Deputy Secretary Andrews Promotes SelectUSA and Fostering Foreign Investment at APEC in Beijing

SelectUSA Investment Summit March 23 and 24, 2015

This past weekend at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Beijing, Deputy Secretary Bruce Andrews participated in a roundtable with some of China’s most influential business leaders to discuss fostering investment and innovation in the world’s two largest economies – the United States and China.

Hosted by the State Department and Secretary of State John Kerry, the roundtable stressed the importance of cooperation between the United States and China to expand economic opportunities in both countries and strengthen global growth.  Other U.S. government officials in attendance included Ambassador Max Baucus, Assistant Secretary for Economic and Business Affairs Charles Rifkin, and Deputy USTR Ambassador Robert Holleyman.

During the discussion, Deputy Secretary Andrews promoted further foreign investment in the United States by explaining the importance of SelectUSA, the first-ever U.S. government-wide effort to promote, attract, retain, and expand business investment to and within the United States. Created by President Obama and led by the Department of Commerce, the inaugural SelectUSA Investment Summit in Washington, DC transformed into a sold-out event with more than 1,300 participants, including representatives of 450 foreign or multinational firms from 60 different markets. With China as the fastest growing source of direct investment in the United States, Deputy Secretary Andrews also recognized the positive contribution of China’s growing investment position.

With this in mind, Deputy Secretary Andrews extended an invitation to attend the next SelectUSA Investment Summit in Washington, DC from March 23-24, 2015.

After Deputy Secretary Andrews spoke, the Chinese business leaders provided brief overviews of their companies and experiences investing in the United States.

This discussion underscored the U.S. government’s openness to investment from China and how a transparent and fair investment climate in China could help foster a healthy and positive economic bilateral relationship.

APEC is central to U.S. economic engagement in the Asia-Pacific region, serving as the leading forum for facilitating trade and investment and promoting economic growth in one of the most dynamic regions in the world. The Department of Commerce’s participation in many APEC issues – including business ethics, cross border data privacy, disaster risk reduction, and oceans – reflects its commitment to strengthening collaboration with Asian economies in a range of sectors, and reflects the President’s message of support for existing multi-lateral institutions in Asia.

Tapping Stakeholders to Help Accelerate Innovation and Entrepreneurship

When you want something done, give it to a busy person. In the case of the newly appointed members of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE), the Department of Commerce has tapped a group of busy, innovative folks who are passionate about innovation, entrepreneurship, and workforce issues to advise the Secretary on compelling challenges and opportunities in these fields. 

With the “Open for Business” agenda, Secretary Pritzker made it clear that Commerce’s role is to be the voice of business to support the Obama Administration’s focus on economic growth and job creation. Additionally, this new vision recognizes the demands of a globally competitive economy. With the new members of NACIE hailing from companies small and large as well as nonprofits and academia, the new NACIE will be a conduit for that voice of business.  As it begins its work on December 5, 2014, the Council will be focused on the theme of “creating globally competitive regions.” 

NACIE was created in 2010 as part of the America COMPETES Act reauthorization to advise the Secretary of Commerce on innovation and entrepreneurship. The previous NACIE produced several impactful outcomes, including The Innovative and Entrepreneurial University: Higher Education, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Focus report and the Improving Access to Capital for High-Growth Companies report, the latter of which served as the basis for the JOBS Act and began the process of expanding the capabilities and impact of crowd funding. 

With this iteration of NACIE, we’ve added a focus on the talent portion of the ecosystem. Having the right skilled workforce in the right place at the right time is a common challenge that is hampering many companies’ ability to grow and be competitive. Too many businesses can’t find skilled workers for jobs they want to fill, while too many people looking for a job may be ready to learn new skills but may not be certain that there’s a job waiting for them on the other end.

The specific challenge that will be issued to the NACIE members at their first organizational meeting on December 5 will be to look at what transformational investments and policies the federal government should facilitate that would help communities, businesses, and the workforce compete globally. There will be a focus on defining what “transformational” means and the Council will be urged to explore evidence-based outcomes that include metrics that can be used to monitor the impact of recommendations.

By bringing together this group of experienced, creative, and smart entrepreneurial thinkers, the Council is expected to develop innovative, actionable ideas to support the objectives of the Department of Commerce and Administration. And why not? Busy people clearly know how to get stuff done.

Secretary Pritzker Works to Promote More Business in Africa

Secretary Pritzker Works to Promote More Business in Africa

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker traveled to Atlanta, Georgia this week to emphasize the importance of helping U.S. companies launch and increase their business in Africa at the “Discover Global Markets: Sub-Saharan Africa” Conference. The event brought together U.S. government officials, visiting U.S. commercial diplomats posted at embassies throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, international business leaders, trade finance experts, and others to help companies identify and develop trade and investment opportunities on the continent.

Secretary Pritzker reiterated America’s commitment to solving the Ebola crisis, while emphasizing that fears about the virus should not get in the way of the facts on the ground in Africa. Ebola is confined to just three countries with a total population of roughly 21 million, while the entire African continent is home to 1.1 billion. The world public health apparatus is actively engaged, and doctors, nurses, and medical workers are using the proper protocols to treat patients and to slow the number of new cases. Efforts to eliminate the virus are starting to turn the corner, and growth of the disease is slowing in Liberia.

Despite the challenges presented by Ebola, Africa presents tremendous long-term growth opportunities, and both the U.S. government and the U.S. private sector are committed to deepening our economic and commercial engagement on the continent. Africa is home to six of the ten fastest-growing economies in the world – including Chad, Congo, the Ivory Coast, Mozambique, Ethiopia, and Sierra Leone. Real income has increased more than 30 percent, reversing two decades of decline, and GDP is expected to rise 6 percent each year over the next decade. By 2040, Africa will boast a larger workforce than either India or China.

The Discover Global Markets Forum served to increase economic and commercial engagement in Africa by helping companies launch or increase their business on the continent. The event also built on the success of the first-ever U.S.-Africa Business Forum, which the Department of Commerce co-hosted in August. This Forum brought together hundreds of American and African chief executives officers with nearly every African head of state to spur more trade and investment between the United States and Africa. At this Forum, U.S. firms announced more than $14 billion worth of investments throughout the continent.

MBDA Business Centers Provide Technical Expertise Helping Minority Business Entrepreneurs Reach Success

MBDA Business Centers Provide Technical Expertise Helping Minority Business Entrepreneurs Reach Success

For more than four decades, the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) has led Federal Government efforts to provide focused support to minority businesses enterprises (MBEs), which are increasingly critical contributors to the U.S. economy. 

With an eco-system of 44 MBDA Business Centers located across the U.S. and in Puerto Rico, the Agency’s national programs and initiatives provide increased access to contracts, capital and markets. Although the centers are strategically located in areas with the largest number of MBEs, there are no geographical boundaries for service delivery, which allows MBDA clients, regardless of their location, to seek services from any MBDA Business Center. 

Nine of the business centers are “specialty centers” that deliver expert industry and market consulting and services in the areas of U.S. exports and business linkages in emerging economies, advanced manufacturing initiatives, and technology transfer and innovation. 

“At MBDA our goal is to expand the Agency’s reach, expertise, and resources to serve as many minority business enterprises through our national network of MBDA Business Centers,” said Alejandra Y. Castillo, MBDA National Director. “We want to ensure that we provide greater assistance to minority-owned businesses to support job creation and the continued growth of the U.S. economy.” 

Besides all the technical assistance, it’s the face-to-face time with minority entrepreneurs that is the core strength of the MBDA Business Centers. 

“MBDA has functioned like a partner to my company, providing me with consulting services that led to joint ventures, capital financing, and contracting opportunities,” said Clarence McAllister, Owner of Fortis Networks and client of the Phoenix MBDA Business Center. 

For complete listing of all MBDA Business Centers, their unique capabilities and contact information, please visit www.mbda.gov.

Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership Launches Second Round of Competition

Guest blog post by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and Director of the National Economic Council Jeff Zients: Cross-posted from Whitehouse.gov

At the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership Summit in Washington, D.C. last week, the Department of Commerce and 11 federal agencies with over $1.3 billion in economic development funding brought together more than 300 people from across the country to share best practices in building local competitiveness and to launch the second round of the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership competition.

The Obama administration launched the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership initiative in 2013 to build on the momentum in manufacturing we have seen over the last several years. Since February 2010, the manufacturing sector has created over 700,000 jobs and has grown nearly twice as fast as the overall economy. And with weekly hours in manufacturing at their highest since World War II, the sector appears poised for more jobs and growth, helping make the United States more competitive today than it has been in decades.

The Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership is an initiative that aims to spur communities to develop integrated, long-term economic development strategies that sharpen their competitive edge in attracting global manufacturers and their supply chains to our local communities -- increasing investment and creating jobs. Specifically, the program brings together the resources of multiple federal departments and agencies to support strong local economic development plans.

At the first-ever Summit, the 12 communities designated "manufacturing communities" under the first Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership national competition shared best practices and an update on the hard work underway in their communities to strengthen manufacturing with other communities looking to grow their own manufacturing sectors. 

Building on the strength of their local economic development strategies in manufacturing, the 12 communities are attracting new public and private investments in their communities, including over $100 million in new federal economic development investments. For instance, Southern California's designation as a manufacturing community helped Chaffey College secure a $15 million grant from the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education to create an advanced manufacturing training center, which will train workers for the highly technical, highly skilled jobs needed to grow the industry and the economy of the region. The Greater Portland, ME Region, organized by the Puget Sound Regional Council, was awarded a $4.3 million grant from the Department of Defense to transition Washington state's defense-sector advanced manufacturing capabilities over to new applications.

PAGE Entrepreneurs in Their Own Words – Alexa von Tobel

Alexa von Tobel

When she was graduating from college, Alexa von Tobel realized she had received no guidance on personal finance. Her personal experience inspired her to start a company when she was just 25, with the hopes that she could make personal investing and budgeting approachable. The online financial planning company LearnVest has now brought financial planning to thousands of Americans, making it more accessible and affordable than ever before.

Forbes calls her a “personal finance guru,” Fortune has named her as a “Most Powerful Women Entrepreneur,” and Marie Claire Magazine chose her as one of 18 Women Changing the World.

As an inaugural member of the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE) initiative, von Tobel believes that “if you can teach people that they can believe in themselves and take their little seed of an idea and feed it properly, that not only can we change the economy, the country, but maybe even the globe.”

Cosmopolitan says that “When you talk to her, it’s a bit like talking to a Roman candle, just fully on fire, and all sorts of interesting colors are coming out of her.”

With a palpable enthusiasm for encouraging others to follow their passions, von Tobel shared her experiences and expertise at the inaugural Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Summit. Launched in 2014, YALI is a signature effort that connects young African leaders to leadership training opportunities at some of America’s top universities to help expand their skills and knowledge so they can foster entrepreneurial change in their communities and countries.