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Blog Entries from 2014

AAR Lands Multi-million Dollar Supply Chain Deal with Kenya Airways with Help of U.S. Government Advocacy Efforts

For the first time since the Obama administration’s “Doing Business in Africa” initiative went into effect, an aviation company has landed a multi-year deal in Africa. AAR, a global aerospace, government and defense contractor, recently announced a five-year deal with Kenya Airways. Under the conditions of this multi-million dollar accord, Kenya Airways agrees to provide power-by-the-hour component support for its fleet of 737NG aircraft, while AAR places inventory on site in Nairobi and offers rotable pool support from its newly established supply chain in Brussels.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s leadership and staff from Washington D.C., Chicago and the U.S. Embassy in Kenya aided the finalization of this arrangement by connecting AAR’s top executives with African government and business officials during a visit to Nairobi, Kenya. The successful advocacy strategy was also supported by several inter-agency partners including the U.S. State Department.

Deals like these are one of the key reasons the U.S. Department of Commerce and Bloomberg Philanthropies hosted the inaugural U.S.-Africa Business Forum on Tuesday. The event, part of President Obama’s U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit, focused on trade and investment opportunities on the continent. The Forum highlighted U.S. private sector engagement in Africa in the areas of finance and capital investment, infrastructure, power and energy, agriculture, consumer goods, and information communication technology. Heads of state engaged with business executives from both sides of the Atlantic in conversations about successes and solutions to build greater access for trade and investment in Africa. The day served as a catalytic opportunity for American companies to increase economic partnerships and investment in Africa and ended with the announcement that U.S. companies plan to invest more than $14 billion in the continent.

While these announcements and deals are exciting moments, they take great preparation and negotiation. For example, AAR contacted the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Advocacy Center for assistance in reaching decision-makers at Kenya Airways, including the CEO. Over the course of several months, AAR representatives were provided with assistance on meeting legal requirements, establishing business protocols, and cultivating key business relationships in Kenya. The advocacy effort was brought to the attention of then-Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank, who in late 2012, personally advocated on behalf of AAR to Kenya Airways and government officials during her trip to Nairobi, Kenya; providing an additional measure of support which helped secure the business deal for AAR.

Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Highlights U.S. Commitment to Doing Business In Africa

Secretary Pritzker Joins Mayor Bloomberg and President Obama at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum

Yesterday, at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker highlighted a number of Commerce Department efforts to help more American businesses explore opportunities in Africa’s fast-growing markets. The Forum, focused on trade and investment opportunities on the continent, was part of President Obama’s three-day U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, the largest event that any U.S. president has ever convened with African heads of state or government.

Co-hosted by the Department of Commerce and Bloomberg Philanthropies, the U.S.-Africa Business Forum was created to encourage greater U.S. investment in Africa, foster business deals, and help create jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. During remarks at the Forum, President Obama announced that U.S. businesses have already committed to investing $14 billion in clean energy, aviation, banking, and construction projects, among other commitments totaling more than $33 billion that support economic growth in Africa and thousands of U.S. jobs.

The Commerce Department leads the Doing Business in Africa (DBIA) campaign, which was launched in 2012 as part of the President Obama’s “U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa.” DBIA aims to increase U.S. trade promotion to Africa, address market barriers, expand the availability of trade financing, and attract more American companies to explore sub-Saharan Africa trade and investment opportunities.

In an op-ed published by Forbes, Secretary Pritzker and Michael Bloomberg touted the business deals signed during the forum and made the case for Africa as a prime investment location. “We know what is possible when American companies work hand-in-hand with African counterparts: we can help raise living standards and pave the way for future growth.” One example of the benefits of these partnerships can be seen through IBM, who opened Africa’s first major commercial technology research lab in Kenya to pioneer consumer-facing innovations aimed at African markets. This forum was only the beginning, and highlighted American companies willingness to increase their economic partnerships and investment in Africa.

Secretary Pritzker Highlights the Work by the Commerce Department to Improve Trade and Investment with Africa at the Historic U.S.-Africa Business Forum

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker delivered opening remarks at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum, a day focused on trade and investment opportunities on the continent. In her remarks, Secretary Pritzker stated that the U.S.-Africa economic relationship is fundamental to our mutual peace and prosperity. She discussed the work that the Commerce Department is doing to advance President Obama’s vision for the future of U.S.-Africa relations, including expanding the Foreign Commercial Service presence across the continent. She announced that the Department of Commerce and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency will lead 10 new trade missions to Africa and 10 reverse trade missions to the United States by 2020. She also announced the start of NIST’s Global Cities Challenge to catalyze the development of “smart cities,” as well as the launch of a new web portal for American businesses to explore opportunities in Africa. We want to make doing business in Africa easier for every business. Noting that increased trade and investment in Africa will spur growth on both sides of the Atlantic, Secretary Pritzker expressed her hope that the business and government leaders will keep the U.S.-Africa partnership open for more growth and success.

MEP Launches Competition to Fund Manufacturing Centers in 10 States

Making an Impact on U.S. Manufacturing

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) today opened a competition to award new cooperative funding agreements for its Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) centers in 10 states. The competition is the first in a multiyear effort to update the funding structure to better match needs with resources in MEP's network of 60 centers. The MEP centers help small and mid-sized U.S. manufacturers create and retain jobs, increase profits, and save time and money.

The current competition will fund awards for centers in Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. The awards will provide half of each center's first-year operating funds, which the centers must match with funding from nonfederal sources. MEP anticipates awarding a total of nearly $26 million for the 10 centers.

Established in 1988, MEP is a public-private partnership that delivers a high return on investment to taxpayers. For every one dollar of federal investment, MEP helps businesses generate nearly $19 in new sales growth and $21 in new client investment. This translates into $2.2 billion in new sales annually. For every $1,978 of federal investment, MEP helps create or retain one manufacturing job.

Each MEP center works directly with area manufacturers to provide expertise and services tailored to their most critical needs, ranging from process improvement and workforce development to business practices and technology transfer. Through local and national resources, MEP centers have helped thousands of manufacturers reinvent themselves, increase profits, create jobs and establish a foundation for long-term business growth and productivity.

Commerce in the Community: Jail Education Solutions (JES) utilizes innovative workforce development model to reduce recidivism and prepare inmates for reentry into the job market.

Brian Hill, Co-Founder of Jail Education Solutions

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 Brian Hill, co-founder of Jail Education Solutions (JES). Prior to starting JES, Brian worked for General Mills and served as a business consultant. He received his undergraduate degree from Brigham Young University in Provo, UT and is currently finishing his JD/MBA at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL.

Q1: Tell us about Jail Education Solutions (JES). What is your mission and main focus?

JES is dedicated to improving inmate outcomes during incarceration and after release by incentivizing educational and vocational progress through tablet technology in correctional facilities. Investment in inmate education leads to reduced recidivism and lowers taxpayer liability. However, educational programming in correctional facilities is extremely limited and does not currently meet inmate demand. JES grants inmates access to an immense collection of resources, which would otherwise be unavailable, such as k-12 education, GED and college readiness; employment and other community resources; exploratory educational material; cognitive behavioral therapy and treatment and legal information. It does so at no additional cost to the institution or taxpayer. 

Q2: How did Jail Education Solutions get started?

The initial interest happened when I was young, and came from my father. He was a psychology professor at Folsom Prison, and his bedtime stories were his student’s papers. I saw so much human potential locked up, but at that age had no idea about the magnitude of the problem. It wasn’t until later in my first year at Northwestern Law School when I began work on a Social Impact Bond initiative for Cook County's Jail (Chicago) that I was reminded of the great need for opportunity. This passion, bolstered by the very innovative Sheriff Tom Dart, provided the space to test, learn, and create JES.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Joins U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue

Secretary Penny Pritzker Joins U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue

On the final day of her visit to India, Secretary Pritzker and Secretary of State John Kerry met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss opportunities for strengthening the U.S.-India commercial relationship. Their trip was the first U.S. Cabinet-level visit to New Delhi since Prime Minister Modi was elected.

Secretaries Kerry and Pritzker were in New Delhi for the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue, which took place July 31. Launched in 2010, the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue is the highest level regularly scheduled dialogue between the two governments and provides a forum to discuss U.S.-Indian relations. Secretary Pritzker led discussions aimed at strengthening the commercial and economic ties between the U.S. and India, focusing on ways the U.S. can collaborate with India’s new government to promote growth in both nations. Secretary Pritzker underscored the desire of U.S. firms to do more business in India, and discussed how U.S. businesses can collaborate with India in the areas of infrastructure and manufacturing to help the country meet its development goals.

While in New Delhi, Secretary Pritzker joined the AmCham Infrastructure Committee at a breakfast meeting focused on receiving U.S. industry feedback on the opportunities and challenges that they face in the Indian infrastructure sector.

Secretary Pritzker also met with several other Indian government officials, including her counterpart, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman. During their discussion, Secretary Pritzker pressed forward on plans to create an infrastructure platform that will help U.S. firms serve as a partner on significant infrastructure projects in India. Secretary Pritzker also joined the Indian Minister of Finance, Defence, and Corporate Affairs Arun Jaitley for a joint bilateral meeting with Secretary Kerry. In addition, Secretary Pritzker met with Indian Minister of Power Piyush Goyal and discussed how American firms can use their capabilities and expertise to help India meet its ambitious energy-development goals.

Commerce Department Recognizes Minority Business Community Champions

Deputy Secretary Bruce Andrews, National Director of the Minority Business Development Agency Alejandra Castillo, and MBDA Public Affairs Team Lead Velicia Woods congratulate a MED Week Award winner

Today, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Bruce Andrews recognized the 2014 National Minority Enterprise Development (MED) Week Award winners during a ceremony at the annual MED Week Conference in Washington, D.C. MBDA awarded 13 organizations, businesses and individuals who have demonstrated leadership and commitment in advancing the minority business community.

As one of the longest running Minority Business Enterprise events in the United States, the National MED Week Conference recognizes the outstanding achievements of leading minority entrepreneurs and organizations while positioning business owners for opportunities that drive growth. Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) National Director Alejandra Y. Castillo and U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet delivered remarks to kick off the one-day conference this morning.

The conference provided opportunities for small business owners and entrepreneurs to connect with senior public officials, industry executives and leaders from all over the country and learn about cutting-edge tools that can give their business a more competitive advantage.

The Obama Administration and Commerce Department have been laser-focused on helping businesses create good-paying jobs, particularly small and medium-sized businesses. On July 25, President Obama issued a proclamation declaring this week Minority Enterprise Development Week, during which Americans are celebrating the essential role that minority entrepreneurs and businesses play in our economy and communities.

Commerce Department Achieves FY 2013 Small Business Federal Contracting Goal

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) today announced that the federal government met its small business federal contracting goal for the first time in eight years – awarding 23 percent, or $83.1 billion, of all federal small business eligible contracting dollars to small businesses in fiscal year 2013.

The Commerce Department played a significant role in that achievement – exceeding its goal of awarding 39 percent of funds to small businesses and receiving an overall “A” rating from SBA for the fourth straight year in a row. In FY13, the Department also surpassed overall federal government and statutory goals for prime contractors who are small disadvantaged businesses, women-owned small businesses, and service disabled veteran-owned small businesses.

U.S. small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and the Commerce Department works to both support those businesses and ensure they know about our many services that can help them grow.

For example, just a couple months ago, Commerce awarded five small businesses with a contract that is expected to save up to $25 million in taxpayer dollars over the next five years. In addition to saving money, contracts that make our work more efficient and effective enable Commerce to focus more resources on our primary mission, including making investments that help businesses of all sizes create jobs and help grow our economy.

To that end, the Department offers a wide array of services to our small businesses and entrepreneurs. For example, Commerce’s National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) has a Manufacturing Extension Partnership program with centers based around the country who work with small and medium-sized manufacturers to transform their business plans, access new technology and increase exports. As part of the department’s ‘Open for Business Agenda,’ we are working to make more of our data accessible to more people, which supports start-ups and powers small companies.

NTIA Broadband Program Supports Workforce Preparation Across the United States

Las Vegas Urban League: Young visitors to the Doolittle Community Center use the free Internet access to work on school projects.

Cross blog post by Laura Breeden, program director for public computing and broadband adoption, National Telecommunications and Information Administration

Last week, President Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act aimed at creating a more flexible and responsive system of workforce development to meet the needs of employers looking to fill 21st century jobs. Ensuring U.S. workers are able to compete and succeed is a key priority at the U.S. Commerce Department. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker served on a task force with Vice President Biden that recently released a report looking at solutions for making the nation’s workforce and training system more job-driven, integrated and effective.

At the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), workforce development is a priority of our broadband grant programs. Grant recipients have helped unemployed and under-employed people learn to use computers and the Internet for job searching, skill-building, resume development and networking. Today, in keeping with the Department’s commitment to helping match skilled workers with good jobs, we are releasing four case studies on employment-related impacts of our broadband projects. The reports, prepared by independent contractor ASR Analytics, examined the effectiveness of the more than $450 million in matching grants, provided under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, to establish or upgrade public computer centers and initiate innovative broadband adoption programs in underserved communities.

The first report focuses on Workforce West Virginia (WFWV). The agency is responsible for promoting employment and job growth in West Virginia, which has chronically high rates of poverty and unemployment. The grantee upgraded 19 workforce centers and 75 additional centers in locations such as libraries and veterans’ support organizations, with new computers and Wi-Fi. In addition to serving thousands of low-income and unemployed patrons each week, the WFWV centers experienced measurable productivity gains as a result of patrons’ ability to search for jobs, prepare resumes and practice computer skills more independently. This has allowed staff to spend more time focusing on specialized assistance. The high-speed network has also made intra-agency communication and technology management faster and more reliable.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Makes First Official Trip to India for U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Makes First Official Trip to India for U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue

The commercial relationship between United States and India has long stood as a core pillar of the alliance between our two countries. The United States is committed to reinvigorating ties with India and expanding our economic partnership.  That is why U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker traveled to India this week, where she joined U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue in New Delhi. Their trip marks the first U.S. Cabinet-level visit to New Delhi since the new Indian government was elected. Earlier this week, Secretary Pritzker visited Mumbai for meetings with Indian business leaders to discuss new avenues to reinvigorate economic ties between our two nations.

While in Mumbai, Secretary Pritzker delivered remarks at an event hosted by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), focused on the U.S. commitment to partner with the newly-elected Indian government, especially in areas of infrastructure, manufacturing, and business investment. Founded over 115 years ago, CII is one of the most important business groups in India and plays an active role in India’s development process. 

As part of efforts to advance the U.S.-India economic partnership, Vinai Thummalapally and Chairman & Managing Director of Export-Import Bank of India Yaduvendra Mathur signed a Memorandum of Intent (MOI) between SelectUSA and the India’s Export-Import Bank. This MOI will encourage collaboration to attract Indian investment to the United States. SelectUSA is the first U.S. government-wide program to promote and facilitate business investment in the United States. Export-Import Bank of India directly supports Indian foreign direct investments abroad.