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Blog Category: Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank

Acting Secretary Blank Announces $1.5 Million Economic Recovery Investment in Louisiana on 6th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

Map of Louisiana

U.S. Commerce Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank today announced a $1.5 million Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant to the South Central Planning and Development Commission (SCPDC) of Houma, La., to expand emergency command center operations at the Regional Center for Economic Development and Innovation.

Six years after Hurricane Katrina descended on the Gulf Coast, leading to the devastation of parts of Louisiana, the Commission has developed a new permitting and code enforcement software system that enables digital imaging of buildings to allow city reviewers to electronically monitor buildings instead of having to track down and review paper plans, which hindered the city's ability to inspect buildings for structural damage after the hurricanes. Funding will support the new system, which will increase the efficiency of building inspections following disasters, speeding up the rebuilding process.

“The Obama Administration remains deeply committed to recovery efforts in the Gulf Coast and helping those affected rebuild their communities to be stronger and more resilient than ever before,” Blank said. “This EDA grant is just one of many ways this administration is helping to bring innovation and growth back to the Gulf to advance the region’s economic recovery.”

Gulf Coast communities have been hit hard in recent years, but Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida have made significant progress toward recovery since President Obama took office, with help from agencies across the Federal government. The U.S. Commerce Department has invested millions of dollars to jumpstart economic and job growth in the Gulf and has accelerated efforts since President Obama took office. Release

Acting Commerce Secretary Blank Statement on Post-Hurricane Status of Commerce Department

Image of Commerce's Herbert Hoover headquarters with Washington Monument behind

In the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, the Department of Commerce (HCHB) facility was inspected and is open for employees to report to work on Monday, August 29, 2011. Federal employees should check with the Department of Commerce website www.commerce.gov or the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) website www.opm.gov to obtain any information about leave and telework policies and any updates. For Commerce employees, the operating status phone lines are 202-482-7400 or 1-877-860-2329 and will be updated accordingly.

Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank Urges Hurricane Preparedness

NOAA satellite image of Hurricane Irene (NOAA photo, Aug. 26)

As you know, Hurricane Irene is making its way up the East Coast of the United States. Make no mistake: This is a large and destructive storm and needs to be taken seriously, especially by the millions of people who live, work or travel in Irene’s projected path. 

Time is quickly running out for people to make emergency preparations and move out of harm’s way.

According to our meteorologists at Commerce/NOAA’s National Hurricane Center, Irene will approach the coast of North Carolina tonight, then move north and affect the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Irene is a large storm and its high winds and heavy rain will affect a large area. Hurricanes like Irene are capable of causing other serious and life-threatening hazards, such as coastal surges, inland flooding and tornadoes. 

We strongly urge all affected Commerce employees and their families to finalize their preparations, so that they can meet their basic needs for a minimum of 72 hours. Visit FEMA’s preparedness sites www.ready.gov or www.listo.gov for tips on how you can make an emergency kit and put an emergency plan in place.

To follow the latest on Hurricane Irene, please visit NOAA’s National Hurricane Center on the Web at www.nhc.noaa.gov/#IRENE and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NHC_Atlantic. Monitor local media or listen to NOAA Weather Radio for the latest developments and check your local National Weather Service forecast at www.weather.gov.  We also encourage you to consult our Tropical Cyclone Preparedness Guide.

Moreover, please heed the direction of your local officials, and be sure to know your evacuation route in case evacuation orders are given. 

Should you need to seek higher ground or take cover, shelters in North Carolina and other states are being prepared along the East Coast. You can find more information about open Red Cross shelters at www.redcross.org

We’re ready. Please be ready, too.

Commerce and NOAA have been actively mobilizing: Our National Hurricane Center meteorologists have been issuing forecasts, watches and warnings to the media, emergency managers and the public. At the same time, we’re also preparing to respond if necessary to Irene’s aftermath when National Weather Service local forecast offices will issue a variety of severe weather alerts for inland high winds, flooding and severe weather, including tornadoes. 

The larger federal government family is aggressively preparing for two phases of this operation–response and recovery–and has teams and assets moving into all of the states/regions across the East Coast that will be impacted by Hurricane Irene. We are continuing to do everything we can to support the governors and their teams.

On a final note, I want to thank all the NOAA staff who have been working hard this week to ensure that Americans have the most accurate and timely storm updates, watches and warnings—as well as those who will be working through the weekend and coming days to see this storm through and assist in the response phase. Your service to Commerce and the nation is deeply appreciated.

Acting Secretary Blank Tours Steel Facility in Warren, Ohio

 Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank Tours Thomas Steel in Warren, OH

Blank highlights Obama administration economic initiatives and new Commerce program designed to attract foreign investment, create jobs

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank traveled to Warren, Ohio, today to tour Thomas Steel Strip Corporation, a member of the Tata Steel Europe Group and a manufacturer of cold-rolled strips usually used as steel casings for batteries. Thomas Steel employs more than 250 people.

After the tour, Blank discussed the importance of strengthening our education, infrastructure and innovation capacity as ways to rebuild our economic foundation, create jobs and enhance our global competitiveness. She also underscored the steps the administration has already taken to achieve these priorities–from investing in community colleges and funding transportation projects across the country, to launching the President’s National Export Initiative and pushing to shorten the time it takes to approve a patent. 

Blank also highlighted the significance of foreign direct investment (FDI), citing Tata Steel as an example of foreign companies whose investments the U.S. must attract more of to strengthen economic growth and job creation.  With FDI supporting more than five million American jobs, Blank discussed a new government-wide initiative, housed at Commerce–SelectUSA–which seeks to cut federal red tape for domestic and foreign investors, remove barriers to new investment and boost business growth in the United States. 

Acting Secretary Blank Hosts Meeting with Local Business Leaders in Martinsville, Va. , Tours Foreign Direct Investment Facility in N.C.

Blank tours AlBaad USA in Reidsville, N.C.

Today, Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank traveled to Martinsville, Va., to host a roundtable meeting with local business leaders.  The discussion, part of the Obama Administration’s White House Business Council’s ongoing Winning the Future roundtable event series, is to better communicate with America’s business community about the challenges they are facing and turn that input into concrete action that will improve U.S. economic competitiveness. The meeting was also an opportunity for businesses to learn about help that is available from agencies across the federal government.

After  the roundtable, she toured the production facility of AlBaad USA with Gov. Bev Perdue and U.S. Rep. Brad Miller in Reidsville, N.C. AlBaad USA is an Israeli-owned wet wipe and cleaning supply company that has made a $35 million investment in its U.S. operation, employing nearly 200 people. 

After the tour, Blank discussed the importance of strengthening our education, infrastructure and innovation capacity as ways to rebuild our economic foundation, create jobs and enhance our global competitiveness. She also underscored the steps the administration has already taken to achieve these priorities – from investing in community colleges and funding transportation projects across the country, to launching the President’s National Export Initiative and pushing to shorten the time it takes to approve a patent. 

Blank also highlighted the significance of foreign direct investment (FDI), citing AlBaad USA as an example of foreign companies whose investments the U.S. must attract more of to strengthen economic growth and job creation.  With FDI supporting more than 5 million American jobs, Blank discussed a new government-wide initiative, housed at Commerce – SelectUSA – which seeks to cut federal red tape for domestic and foreign investors, remove barriers to new investment and boost business growth in the United States. 

Launched in June, SelectUSA was created by Executive Order in direct response to concerns the Obama administration has heard from the business community. In addition to its work removing federal-level barriers to foreign investment, SelectUSA also brings together information on federal programs and services available to companies looking to invest in the United States in one, easy-to-access location, supported by a comprehensive website at www.SelectUSA.gov. The website also provides snapshots of the competitive landscape in major U.S. industries and a direct line to state and local economic development agencies.

Secretary Locke Resigns, Becomes Next Ambassador to China; Acting Deputy Secretary Blank Assumes Role of Acting Secretary

Secretary Clinton applauds Gary Locke as his wife and children look on

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke formally resigned today and was sworn-in by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as the next U.S. Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China. Dr. Rebecca M. Blank, Acting Deputy Secretary of the Commerce Department, will serve as Acting Commerce Secretary. Blank has served as Acting Deputy Secretary since November 2010.

“It has been the honor of a lifetime serving as Commerce Secretary for President Obama.  I’m proud of the men and women with whom I had the privilege to work and the tremendous accomplishments we’ve made together in the last 28 months,” Ambassador Locke said.

“From increasing U.S. exports and reducing patent application wait times, to creating the foundation for a national smart grid and taking an important first step to reform the export control system, we have helped create jobs, lay the foundation for future economic growth and made American companies more innovative at home and more competitive abroad. And we did all of this while making the Commerce Department more efficient and responsive to its stakeholders," Locke noted, citing the 2010 Census in particular.

Under Locke’s leadership, the Commerce Department also reduced the average time needed to award a competitive economic development grant from 140 days to 20 days; streamlined Department business services through the Commerce Connect one-stop shop initiative; efficiently distributed nearly $5 billion in Recovery Act funds for broadband development in under 18 months, which helped create more than 120,000 miles of broadband infrastructure; and, oversaw a significant first step in the President’s export control reform effort, which strengthens our national security, while making U.S. companies more competitive by easing their licensing burden for exports to partners and allies.

Acting Deputy Secretary Blank Meets with Business Leaders in Michigan, Stresses Value of Science and Innovation to Job Creation

Acting Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank and the BathyBoat

This week Commerce’s Acting Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank traveled to Ann Arbor, Mich., to visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory and meet with area business leaders as part of the White House Business Council Roundtable series. Engaging with local leaders, Blank discussed the region’s economic assets, challenges, and what can be done on local, state and national levels to boost economic growth and job creation throughout Michigan.

Senior administration officials across the federal government have participated in several business roundtables around the country to keep in touch with Main Street and hear from those who are doing the innovating and hiring that support our nation’s economy.

At the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, Blank addressed a Science Advisory Board meeting focused on Great Lakes research being conducted at two NOAA facilities. She highlighted the department’s recent release of a report profiling U.S. employment in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math – or STEM – and stressed the importance of supporting the next generation of scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs and the broad scope of work that organizations like NOAA do that are critically important to U.S. social and economic welfare.

The President has made a substantial commitment to furthering innovation and education in the STEM fields by setting a goal of investing 3 percent of our GDP in research and development and moving American students to the top of the pack internationally.  The President’s 2012 budget included a $206 million commitment toward STEM training and related programs – an investment that will pay off not just for students but for the country.

2nd Quarter Performance Excellence Awards Ceremony

Early in his tenure, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke issued a challenge to the entire Commerce Department to improve service delivery to the American public and to develop measureable standards by which each of the bureaus could judge their customer service and internal performance.  It is this vision that launched the Commerce Performance Excellence program, putting the department at the cutting edge of the Administration’s efforts to increase the return on investment of government programs.  The program supports the education of staff, recognition of significant achievements and the sharing of winning strategies to help the department become more engaged in improving processes to deliver more effective and efficient services.

On May 25, 2011, Secretary Locke recognized three exemplary employee teams from the Census Bureau, NOAA, and the Economic Development Administration with Performance Excellence Awards.  For the second time in less than one year, Commerce employees were honored for successfully implementing streamlined processes to better the administration and delivery of service to the American people.

In this video, Secretary Locke, Acting Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank and others discuss the program, the awards and why process improvement matters.

In addition to its efforts to identify and promote quality improvements by role model teams throughout Commerce, the Performance Excellence program also deploys a system of Balanced Scorecards, quarterly Performance Reviews, and team process improvements to all bureaus.  Employees can learn learn more about the Performance Excellence program and Award recipients as well as information on the Balanced Scorecard or how they can improve processes in their own office by visiting the Performance Excellence page on the Commerce Intranet.

Commerce Department Hosts First Innovation Advisory Board Meeting

Commerce Department Hosts First Innovation Advisory Board Meeting

The Innovation Advisory Board held its first meeting today at the United States Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, Va.  Acting Deputy Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank led the meeting and Secretary Gary Locke welcomed and thanked the new board members for their service. The 15-member board will guide a study of U.S. economic competitiveness and innovation to help inform national policies at the heart of U.S. job creation and global competitiveness. 

In the State of the Union, President Obama launched a commitment to winning the future by out innovating the rest of the world. The board will build upon the early work and findings of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness and Startup America to advise the U.S. Department of Commerce as it produces a report by January 2012 assessing America's capacity for innovation and our global economic competitiveness. The study will analyze all facets of the economy impacted by national policy, including trade and exports, education, research and development, immigration, technology commercialization, intellectual property and tax policy.   

The Innovation Advisory Board was established by the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, signed by President Obama in January of this year. See list of board members. See a statement on today’s inaugural meeting from Acting Deputy Commerce Secretary Blank.