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Blog Entries from 2014

Assess Costs Everywhere – Now Even Better!

Under Secretary Doms (far right), leads a panel discussion with Chief Economist Sue Helper (from left to right), Hal Sirkin, Managing Director, Boston Consulting Group, and Katy George, Director, McKinsey & Co.

Guest blog post by Mark Doms, Under Secretary for Economic Affairs

Where to locate your business or a new facility for your business is a complicated decision. Many variables are involved, and if you are considering a location outside of the U.S., there are many factors that may not be obvious. At Commerce, we have been focused on making this decision and all of its moving parts easier to digest, and a major part of that is Commerce’s ACE Tool.

First released in April 2013, the Assess Costs Everywhere (ACE) tool outlines the wide range of costs and risks associated with offshore production, and provides links to important public and private resources, so that firms can more accurately assess the total cost of operating overseas.

Today we have updated the data and deepened the analysis, but the original conclusions remain as fresh as ever. Multiple costs and risks--some visible and some hidden--accompany firms' decisions about where to set up a factory and the supply chain.

I have had the pleasure of meeting frequently with business owners from across the country. They talk about where their challenges are in growing and sustaining their businesses, and they also talk about how locating production abroad hasn’t always turned out as well as they had hoped. Not surprisingly, during our current economic recovery and expansion, news reports and private consultants have repeatedly echoed that thinking. Increasingly we hear that U.S. companies that previously took their operations or supply chains overseas are now reshoring, or insourcing, bringing operations and supply chains back home to America.

The ACE Tool is intended to help businesses think through this complicated decision, and provide easy access to innovative research and thinking on issues related to site selection and supply chains. The ACE Tool is grounded in the forward-thinking work of Harry Moser of ReshoreNow.org and Rep. Frank Wolf, who called on Commerce to bring this effort to fruition. The Department of Commerce developed ACE in response to Rep. Wolf's call to help achieve our shared goals of boosting U.S. economic growth and ensuring that America remains competitive in manufacturing.

ACE explores 10 costs and risks:

Commerce in the Community: Watershed Capital Utilizes Impact Investing as an Innovative Approach to Sustainable Community Development

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Commerce in the Community series highlighting the work of community leaders and organizations that are strengthening the middle class and providing ladders of opportunity for all Americans.

Below is an interview with Shawn Lesser and Michael Whelchel, Co-founders and Partners at Watershed Capital Group. Prior to starting Watershed, Shawn sold institutional equities to European banks and Michael co-managed two private equity funds in the U.S.

Question 1: Tell us about Watershed Capital. What is your mission and main focus?
 
Watershed Capital Group (www.watershedcapital.com) is a boutique investment bank focused on the area of impact investments. Our mission is to scale impact investing with a specific emphasis on helping companies and funds raise capital and execute mergers and acquisitions. Over the past seven years, we've worked with over 20 sustainable companies and over 60 private equity funds.

Question 2: How is Watershed Capital Group working with the Department of Commerce to expand its impact?

In collaboration with the U.S. Department of Commerce around the Obama Administration's impact initiative, last October we organized the first impact and sustainable trade mission to Europe. Specifically, we brought together 10 US-based impact funds and introduced them to close to 90 European investors in London, Zurich and Amsterdam. The trade mission included high-level conversations about the impact investing space and was capped with a policy roundtable in London which brought together stakeholders both from the US and the UK.

Following up on the success of the first trade mission, last month we organized the second impact and sustainable trade mission to Nordic region with delegations meetings in Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Helsinki.  This October we will be returning to Europe the week of October 20th for the third impact and sustainable trade mission with delegation meetings in London, Zurich and Amsterdam.

International Statistical Update: Health- and Education-Related Travel Now Part of Travel Services

Cross-post, Bureau of Economic Analysis

You may have noticed some data on international travel services look a little bit different. With the release of the monthly trade report on June 4, spending on health- and education-related travel are now counted in the travel services category. Previously, both were included in a category called “other personal services.”

Expenditures on goods and services by border, seasonal, and other short-term workers, which were also previously included in other private services, are reclassified to travel as well.

While this change alone will not affect the overall trade balance, the category measuring travel services – both imports and exports – will be larger. However, BEA will also report quarterly on health- and education-related travel separately from other more traditional business and personal travel so that users can track travel spending in several ways. You can see the new travel services category as well as the subcategories in a new table that will be available on June 18. A template is available now.

This change is part of the Comprehensive Restructuring of BEA’s International Economic Accounts, which we discussed in a recent blog post.

An example of health-related travel is when a foreign person travels to the United States for surgery. In this case, health-related travel exports would include the cost of medical procedures the person receives, in addition to any accommodations and other expenses he or she incurs in the United States.

An example of education-related travel is when a foreign person travels to the U.S. to attend school here. In this case, education-related travel exports would include all costs the foreign student incurs in the United States, including tuition at a U.S. institution. Like other changes to BEA’s international accounts, moving health- and education-related travel to the travel services category brings the U.S. international accounts into closer harmony with data produced by our trading partners and was a recommendation of the International Monetary Fund’s Balance of Payments and International Investment Position Manual, 6th edition.

Data Driving Development: EDA Releases New Cluster Mapping Tool to Help Spur Regional Economic Growth

Data Driving Development:  EDA Releases New Cluster Mapping Tool to Help Spur Regional Economic Growth

Guest blog post by Jay Williams, Assistant Secretary for Economic Development

Earlier this week, U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker announced the launch of the U.S. Cluster Mapping and Registry project, a national economic initiative based at Harvard Business School’s Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness and supported by the U.S. Economic Development Administration.  The U.S. Cluster Mapping and Registry project aims to strengthen U.S. competitiveness by understanding the economic performance of clusters and regions across the United States.

EDA staff gets inquiries daily from different organizations looking for grant information. Every community we speak with has a plan it is developing to spur economic growth and create jobs. Some are more fleshed out that others, but EDA’s advice is always the same: look at the resources in your community and make sure this project fits with the economic strengths of your area. In short, identify your regional clusters.

Clusters are geographic concentrations of interconnected industries and supportive organizations that make regions uniquely competitive for jobs and private investment – like the automotive cluster in the South and the biotech cluster in the Northeast. Clusters are not top-down formulas aimed at being a panacea for all economic development needs. Nor are they intended to serve as a litmus test for qualifying or strictly characterizing good or bad projects. Clusters thrive and are critical in both urban and rural communities and provide a framework for understanding regional competitiveness and drivers of private investment and job creation. They also help identify and prioritize opportunities for public investment and provide a platform for linking, leveraging, and aligning federal or state programs to get a better return on investment of taxpayer funds.

Engaging Indian Country to Help Create Conditions for Economic Opportunity on Trust Lands

Engaging Indian Country to Help Create Conditions for Economic Opportunity on Trust Lands

Guest blog post by Jay Williams, Assistant Secretary for Economic Development 

Traveling this week on my first official trip as Assistant Secretary for Economic Development, I was honored to participate in the National Congress of the American Indians mid-year conference “Claiming our Rights and Strengthening our Governance” in Anchorage, Alaska.
 
While there, I served on a panel with Kevin Washburn, Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior, Kevin Gover, Director of the National Museum of the American Indian and former Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, and James M. Olguin, Councilman, Southern Indian Tribe. We met with tribal leaders for a focused discussion on the importance of developing modern trust management systems and creating the conditions for economic growth on tribal trust lands. 
 
The Obama Administration has a long history of being actively engaged in helping tribal communities expand their economic footprint, and recent changes in federal laws and regulations have opened the door to development of tribal trust lands. As a critical part of our discussion, I explained how the U.S. Department of Commerce can work with Tribes to develop these lands and attract the private investment they need to create more jobs.
 
For nearly 50 years, the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration has partnered with Tribal communities throughout the United States to foster job creation, collaboration and regional innovation. In the last five years alone, EDA has awarded nearly $42 million in assistance to Indian tribes to help them plan and implement their bottom-up economic development strategies.

Secretary Pritzker Highlights Commerce Resources for New Hampshire Businesses

Secretary Pritzker addresses over 150 businesses at New Hampshire Business Day on Capitol Hill

Yesterday, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker participated in the 4th Annual New Hampshire Business Day Luncheon, hosted by U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen. The event, which brought together nearly 200 community and small business leaders from New Hampshire, aimed to provide the business community with information about the resources available to them through federal programs and agencies. Secretary Pritzker was joined by Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet, National Economic Council Chairman Jason Furman, and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

During the event, Secretary Pritzker shared her personal experience as a business owner for more than 25 years. Secretary Pritzker also highlighted U.S. Commerce Department tools and services available to New Hampshire businesses to help them grow and thrive.

For example, the Commerce Department has prioritized helping more businesses start exporting and expand their exports to new markets. Secretary Pritzker recently announced NEI/NEXT – the second phase of President Obama’s successful National Export Initiative (NEI) to help all businesses reach the 95 percent of consumers who live outside the United States. According to Commerce Data, an estimated 23,000 good-paying jobs in New Hampshire are supported by U.S. exports. NEI/NEXT will broaden and deepen the Department’s efforts to create an export-oriented business culture in New Hampshire and across the country.

In her remarks, Secretary Pritzker also talked about the Commerce Department’s efforts to support tourism, which is New Hampshire’s second-largest industry. Secretary Pritzker highlighted the President’s steps to increase the number of international travelers. International visitors contributed $139 billion to the American economy in 2013 and the United States has seen an increase of 15 million annual international travelers and this growth has supported roughly 175,000 American jobs. This increase means the United States is on target to attract a record 100 million international travelers a year by 2021, meeting an ambitious challenge to the nation laid out by President Obama two years ago.

The Commerce Department supports New Hampshire’s economic growth by directly investing in their communities, as well. The Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) provided a $400,000 grant in 2011 to help build the newly opened Regional Economic Development Center of Southern New Hampshire, which plans to house a business incubator, lending institution, and a training facility that will bring 1,500 jobs and $25.4 million in investment, according to the grantee.

The Manufacturing Extension Partnership in Concord, part of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), also provides resources to New Hampshire manufacturers to deploy new technologies and reduce energy costs, among others. And Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Sea Grant College Program at the University of New Hampshire helps encourage both conservation and economic growth along the coastline.

The Commerce Department is committed to continue working to provide resources that help New Hampshire businesses create more jobs, innovate, and compete in today’s global economy.

The Internet’s Next Big Idea: Connecting People, Information, and Things

Internet of Things (graphic credit: ©XtravaganT - Fotolia.com)

By Chris Greer, Senior Executive for Cyber-Physical Systems at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

In the early 1990s, a Web page consisted of crude, rainbow-colored, text-filled boxes that “hyperlinked” to more text. Today, your Internet-enabled smartphone not only gives you access to libraries’ worth of information, but also helps you navigate the physical world.

Cyber-physical systems, also called the Internet of Things, are the next big advance for our use of the web. They allow complex systems of feedback and control that can help a robot coordinate with a dog or human in a search-and-rescue operation or help health care providers evaluate the recovery of patients after they leave the hospital.

The Internet of Things is still in its infancy. To mature, it will require public-private collaboration across disciplines and economic sectors. Today, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., an event conceived by Presidential Innovation Fellows Sokwoo Rhee and Geoff Mulligan from the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is demonstrating what’s needed to make the Internet of Things a reality. At the event, 24 teams representing more than 100 organizations from academia, industry and government who responded to the fellows’ SmartAmerica Challenge are demonstrating how the Internet of Things can improve health care, emergency response, transportation and more while fostering jobs and economic growth. Some of the teams also showcased their ideas at the White House yesterday.

In addition to smart emergency responses, we could soon have smart manufacturing that brings production right to your neighborhood, getting you the parts you need faster while supporting local jobs. Affordable technologies could create smart homes that include automated safety alerts and a community awareness network to protect the elderly and other vulnerable populations. And smart vehicles could not only communicate with one another and traffic signals, but also with pedestrians to prevent collisions. These are just a few of the projects led by the SmartAmerica Challenge teams.

As a next step, we hope these teams and others across the United States and around the world will join NIST and collaborating organizations for the SmartAmerica/Global Cities Challenge. We’ll ask them to work together in creating the building blocks of smart cities. Our goal is to cut in half the time and money it will take for cities to deploy advanced engineering and information technologies to better manage their resources and improve everything from health and safety to education and transportation. Progress will require standard ways for all of these devices and systems to communicate, and that will take coordination among the people building the information technology, physical devices and communities.

Several SmartAmerica teams also announced today that they plan to continue their collaborations, expand deployments of their new technologies, and introduce new products. One team is even supporting a local version of the SmartAmerica challenge in Austin, Texas. This demonstrates the amazing power of a nation that is truly “open for business.”

It’s not a coincidence that these are public-private partnerships. The components of our everyday lives are becoming ever more interconnected. The smoke detector you buy from a private company may soon connect directly to your municipal fire department, just as heart-rate monitors now can communicate with your doctor’s office.

Such collaboration accelerates innovation and it means the Internet of Things will not need decades to mature as the Web did. It’s already bringing rapid changes to the way we live and work. And best of all, it’s bringing economic opportunity with it.

Join us for the SelectUSA Summer Forum

On June 17th at the Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Auditorium in Washington, D.C.

Announcing the "Reinvesting in America, Creating Jobs at Home" SelectUSA Summer Forum on June 17th at the Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Auditorium.

From large multinational corporations to family-owned small businesses, U.S. firms are discovering that bringing manufacturing or services back to the United States makes economic sense.

Join us to learn about the latest trends, discover resources to help businesses make the move, and hear directly from companies that have reshored successfully. NOTE: This event is FREE but only registered individuals will be admitted to the event.

See the agenda and sign up today!

Attention Developers: More Economic Statistics Added to BEA’s API

Developers, do you want to bring more detailed economic data to your next app? The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) recently added several data sets to the application programming interface (API) we launched last year.

The API now provides direct access to the gross domestic product (GDP) underlying detail tables. Those tables contain a wealth of statistics, including how much consumers spend on hundreds of items like furnishings, food and flowers and how much revenue the government takes in and spends.

Other newly added data to the API are BEA’s national fixed assets, which include statistics on fixed assets like factory equipment, buildings, intellectual property and durable goods for consumers. 

The new additions give you the ability to create an even richer, customized economic dashboard of your own.

The new data sets join BEA’s GDP and related national economic statistics and regional economic statistics, which have been available via API since the service launched in May 2013. In addition to expanding the amount of data available on the API, BEA published an updated User Guide, making it easier for developers to start using the service.

BEA’s API allows developers to build a service to search, display, analyze, retrieve, or view BEA statistics. For example, you can create a “mashup” that combines BEA data with other government or private data sources to create new services or give your users a different perspective on their communities. Or you can design a tool that gives your users new ways to visualize economic data.

The API includes methods for retrieving subsets of BEA statistical data and the meta-data that describes it using HTTP requests. It delivers data in two industry-standard formats: XML (Extensible Markup Language) and JSON (JavaScript Object Notation).

To use the API, you need to register first. Full documentation is available in the updated API User Guide.

More Data in the Census Bureau API to Help You #hackforchange

Guest blog post by Logan Powell, Developer Engagement Lead, U.S. Census Bureau

Two years ago, the Census Bureau launched its application programming interface (API), giving developers access to a variety of high value data sets, including our flagship 2010 Census and American Community Survey five-year statistics, providing information for every neighborhood in the nation. Since that initial launch, we have added key economic indicators, as well as the 1990 and 2000 Censuses, and additional American Community Survey data and key economic indicators.

By continuing to release new data sets into the API, and adding more of the Census Bureau’s rich economic statistics to our demographic products, we are giving developers greater flexibility to create new tools to better understand our communities and solve real world issues. Recently, we released even more data sets to the API. These include population estimates, establishment and payroll data from county business patterns, nonemployer statistics, and the latest statistics from the 2012 Economic Census. These statistics allow developers to create a variety of apps and tools, such as ones that allow business owners to find the latest establishment data needed to plan for new or expanded business.

We are continuing to work toward meeting the goals of the Digital Government Strategy for a more “customer-centric” approach. For example, the Census Bureau partnered with Data Innovation DC, a Washington, D.C. meet up group of 1,000 members composed of data scientists, data journalists, civic hackers and data-oriented entrepreneurs, and participated in this year’s National Day of Civic Hacking. We asked real-life data users to discuss their data-related problems. By directly engaging with our customers, we can develop strategies to make our statistics easier to use so that customers can make data-driven decisions. 


We will continue searching for ways to make more of our data available for developers to build apps that make our public data more accessible anytime, anywhere and on any device. By taking part in both local and national “civic hacking” events, we hope these relationships will help us to build stronger ties with our customers while reaching new audiences with our statistics.

I encourage you to visit our API, look for ways to combine our statistics with other sources, and create useful apps that will benefit the public. We look forward to what you will create.