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Blog Entries from 2014

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.

Five Steps for Protecting Your Invention

Five Steps for Protecting Your Invention

Every day, all across America, good ideas are converted into tangible inventions and products that solve problems large and small and lift our quality of life. Do you have a good idea yourself? Maybe you’ve even developed it into a proof of concept or prototype. The next step you should consider is how you can protect what you’ve created. 

Patents are issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). They give their owners the right to exclude others from making, selling, offering for sale, or importing an invention protected by the patent. While getting a patent is a complex undertaking, here are five steps and resources to get you started on the road to protecting your invention. 

  1. Pre-filing – Before submitting a patent application, you need to do some homework. The basic premise of a patent is that it protects something that has never existed before. Try determining, to the best of your ability, if your idea already exists by performing a basic patent search
  2. File a Provisional Application – The Provisional Application for Patent is one of the most popular ways for entrepreneurs to get their foot in the patent door. The provisional application is not a patent, and it does not provide actual legal protection. What it does is guarantee you a filing date with the USPTO and the ability to use the term “patent pending” as a warning to would-be infringers. The provisional application will give you a year (you can get another year through the missing parts pilot)— to test the marketplace, gather investors, and figure out your next move. After that, you’ll need to file a corresponding nonprovisional application. It also costs just $65 for micro entity filers. What’s “micro entity”? Keep reading! 
  3. Micro Entity Status – following passage of the America Invents Act (AIA) in 2011, the USPTO created a special filing status for inventors who qualify as a micro entity. This provides a 75 percent reduction in most patent-filing fees. There’s also a small entity status that reduces the fees by 50 percent.

Secretary Penny Pritzker Emphasizes Importance of North American Platform with Canada’s Minister of International Trade Ed Fast and Mexico’s Secretary of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal

During her trip to Canada, U.S Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker attended the fourth North American Competitiveness and Innovation Conference (NACIC) in Toronto. The conference provided a chance for the Secretary to meet with her Canadian and Mexican counterparts to discuss ways to strengthen the North American platform, which will create jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity for workers, families, and businesses in all three countries. 

In meetings throughout the day, Secretary Pritzker, Canadian Minister of International Trade Ed Fast, and Mexican Secretary of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal talked about areas of potential collaboration that will help make North America the most competitive place in the world to do business. 

This is the second time Secretary Pritzker has attended NACIC. Last year, the three countries agreed to work on a constructive agenda to strengthen their trade and economic relationship and pledged to continue helping businesses grow and American workers succeed through enhanced regulatory cooperation, and coordinated efforts to facilitate increased trade through many initiatives, including the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. 

Since last year, the U.S., Canada, and Mexico have achieved progress in several tangible areas by promoting the advantages of investing in North America, continuing to foster an ecosystem of entrepreneurship and innovation; and improving the efficiencies of cross-border trade and travel. 

This year, Secretary Pritzker, Minister Fast and Secretary Guajardo talked about additional areas of cooperation that will help them add to the success that has already been achieved, and build upon the continent’s many competitive advantages. Joint investment promotion – or promoting investment into North America from countries outside the continent – will continue to be a focus. Since 2003, nearly 14,000 projects have been announced in North America by outside parties, representing $724.8 billion in capital investment. 

Additionally, by the end of 2014, Canada, Mexico and the United States will each have hosted business and government leaders from the other countries to share knowledge and best practices about innovation incubators, technology accelerators, and how public-private partnerships can revitalize economic regions. With many business and regions still recovering from the global economic slowdown, these innovative exchanges are important to ensuring that new business creation can lead to future growth.  

Secretary Pritzker and Canadian Partners Discuss Increasing Investments on Both Sides of the Border

Secretary Pritzker laying a wreath at the Canadian War Memorial, extending her deepest sympathy for the loss of Canada's heroes.

During a two day trip to Ottawa and Toronto, Canada, Secretary Penny Pritzker met with Canadian Minister of Industry James Moore and Minister of International Trade Ed Fast to discuss U.S. – Canada trade relations and ways our countries can enhance commercial and economic competitiveness.  

During her stop in Ottawa, Secretary Pritzker also delivered the keynote address at an event hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Canada, where she emphasized expanding bilateral and North American growth and competitiveness through increased trade, investment, and innovation. She also reaffirmed North America’s commitment to completing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a high-standard trade agreement that opens new markets across the Asia-Pacific to goods and services made in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Secretary Pritzker also took a moment during her trip to acknowledge the gruesome attack last week in Canada, and offered condolences to the families of Corporal Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent as well as the people of Canada.

PAGE Entrepreneurs in Their Own Words – Steve Case

Steve Case, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Revolution Enterpreneurial and Ambassador, Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship

His first job out of college was at Procter & Gamble, and a few years later he became a marketer for Pizza Hut. You may now know him as the co-founder of AOL who ultimately brought generations of Americans online and made “You’ve got mail” a household phrase. You may also recognize him as an independent with friends in both political parties, who helped broker some of the finer points of the JOBS Act, the legislative package of bills that ease regulations on startups and potential Initial Public Offerings (IPOs).

Today, Steve Case is the founder and partner of Revolution, a Washington, D.C.-based investment firm that believes great companies and ideas can be found throughout the country, not just in Silicon Valley.

Bloomberg Businessweek says he’s an “in-demand cheerleader for entrepreneurism,” and Entrepreneur Magazine calls him the “Disrupter-in-Chief” and an “online pioneer [who] is bringing big ideas to life – through drive, leadership and a personal touch.” 

Steve Case was appointed by President Barack Obama to be chairman of the Startup America Partnership, a nonprofit that fosters private-sector investment into job creation. He also joined the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, where he helped lead a subcommittee looking at job creation and entrepreneurship.

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PAGE Ambassador Steve Case Transcript

NIST Celebrates World Internet Day: NIST Identifies Programs that help Private Industry and Academia Work toward better Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity (keyboard with a key silhouette on it)

On Oct. 29, 1969, the first electronic message was sent on ARPANET, the precursor to today’s Internet. Despite crashing the system, that message is the reason today is designated International Internet Day. To mark the day, and the approaching end of Cybersecurity Awareness Month, Charles Romine, Director of the Information Technology Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, has summarized NIST’s work on improving the security of the Internet and IT systems.

NIST has been conducting cybersecurity research for as long as there has been a cyberspace to secure.  NIST issues the Federal Information Processing Standards that help to protect the federal government’s information systems and help agencies comply with the Federal Information Security Management Act. These standards and guidelines are often used by the private sector and state and local governments, and therefore have a broad impact on IT systems across the country and around the world.

Through the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE), which was established in collaboration with the State of Maryland and Montgomery County, Md., we have been working directly with the private sector since 2012. The center’s goal is to accelerate the adoption of secure technologies through public-private collaborations that identify and address today’s most pressing cybersecurity challenges. We recently awarded a contract to establish the first Federally Funded Research and Development Center devoted to cybersecurity to support the NCCoE, providing needed flexibility in staffing and bringing in partners from industry and academia.

Two Years after Sandy Landfall, Commerce Continues to Help Affected Communities

Satellite view of Superstorm Sandy, 10-29-12

In the two years since Hurricane Sandy made landfall on October 29, 2012, the Department of Commerce, through its National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Economic Development Administration (EDA), Census Bureau, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), has been working to help communities recover and enhance resiliency in the face of future storms.

Hours after the storm hit, NOAA’s National Geodetic Survey began aerial survey missions to assess storm damage. In total, 1649 miles of coastline were documented. The photos taken on these missions provided emergency and coastal managers with the information they needed to develop recovery strategies, facilitate search-and-rescue efforts, identify hazards to navigation and HAZMAT spills, locate errant vessels, and provide documentation home and business owners needed to assess damages to property. To date, FEMA has used the NOAA-supplied photos, as well as those from the Civil Air Patrol, to determine damage to 35,000 homes.

Following a major disaster like Sandy, one of EDA’s key roles is to lead the Economic Recovery Support Function on behalf of the Department of Commerce. After the hurricane struck, EDA joined with several other federal agencies to deploy staff to help hard-hit communities throughout the region. EDA team members worked with officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Small Business Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture, economic development partners, and the affected communities to identify long-term strategies that aim to help the communities restore their local economies, expedite recovery, and minimize economic losses.

Accelerating Advanced Manufacturing in America

Cross-Posted from The White House

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

On Monday, we had the privilege of participating alongside the President in a meeting with his American Manufacturing Partnership (AMP) Steering Committee.

AMP -- led by its co-chairs, Dow’s Andrew Liveris and MIT’s Rafael Reif -- presented its final report with a set of new recommendations, and we discussed additional policy steps we’re taking to respond to them.

The President created AMP -- a working group of 19 leaders in industry, academia, and labor -- in June 2011 as part of his continuing effort to maintain the competitive edge on emerging technologies and invest in the future of our manufacturing sector. We’ve come a long way since then, and the policies fueled by AMP’s recommendations have been a big contributor to that progress.

When the President first launched AMP, unemployment was at 9.1 percent. We were just starting to see some fragile signs of life in the manufacturing sector after more than a decade of erosion. But not many shared our view that together we could build a foundation to revitalize American manufacturing or that manufacturing could continue to play a central role in our economy and our ability to innovate.

Contrast that picture to today. Growth has steadily strengthened and recently accelerated, with GDP rising 2.6 percent over the past year, faster than the 2.0 percent annualized pace of the preceding two years. Job growth is accelerating too. Unemployment is now down to 5.9 percent, falling 1.3 percentage points in the last year.

Our manufacturing sector is getting stronger too. After more than a decade of job losses, we’ve added more than 700,000 manufacturing jobs over nearly five straight years of job growth. Those jobs lead to others along the supply chain and in local communities. U.S. manufacturing is now growing at nearly twice the rate of the economy, the longest sustained period of outpacing the overall economy since the 1960s.

Last year, for the first time since 2001, the U.S. was ranked first in a survey of business leaders as a destination for investment, a ranking we repeated this year. In another recent study, 54 percent of American manufacturers with operations overseas reported they are considering bringing manufacturing back to the United States. 

And AMP has been central in getting us here.

Deputy Secretary Andrews Emphasizes How National Weather Service Employees’ Work is Central to the Department’s Mission

Deputy Secretary Bruce Andrews meets with NWS researchers and tours the Aviation Weather Center

Deputy Commerce Secretary Bruce Andrews traveled to Kansas City, MO, yesterday to meet with National Weather Service (NWS) employees and talk about how important their work is to both help American businesses and save lives and property.

Speaking at the National Weather Service Employees Organization (NWSEO) Conference, Deputy Secretary Andrews talked about businesses that have used NWS data. For example, Dunkin Donuts uses weather information to plan their inventory. Their franchises use weather data to predict how much coffee will be sold and to better inform both day-to-day planning and where to close down stores in advance of an extreme weather event.

Hotel booking services use NWS guidance to help them know where to expect a surge of last minute bookings from stranded travelers. Major retailers like Home Depot, Walmart, and Target rely on data and information to manage their inventory and quickly adjust their stock in stores around the country.

The two industries that rely on NWS employees and the services and products they provide more than any other are the agriculture industry and the airline industry. These industries survive or thrive on the back of forecasts, preventing ruined crops and lost travel days. The work NWS has done to provide increasingly accurate and more sophisticated weather forecasts saves money for both of these industries.

While touring the NWS Regional Headquarters in Kansas City, Deputy Secretary Andrews learned more about the day-to-day work of NWS employees. He met with some of the researchers and other employees who work at the Aviation Weather Center, the National Weather Service Training Center, and the Operations Proving Ground housed there.