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Blog Category: Return on Investment

Accurate Measures: Foundation for a Strong Economy

NIST logo [outdated]

Every day we consciously buy products whose performance depends on one or more measured quantities — the wattage and lumens of light bulbs, that 12-ounce cup of coffee, the fill up at the gas station. Many of us take for granted that we are getting our money’s worth, and in large part we are, because the accuracy of these measurements traces back to calibrations and standards from the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). 

But measurement and other precise specifications also play a much broader, largely invisible economic role. All the sophisticated technologies we depend on daily require equally sophisticated measurement capabilities to ensure performance, quality, and safety. The diameters of optical fibers as thin human hair must match up perfectly to carry telecommunications data and video over thousands of miles. CAT scan machines must deliver the minimum X-ray dose for clear images while protecting patients from unnecessary radiation. The frequencies of cell phone systems must be finely tuned so that you receive clear reception of your calls, and only your calls, without crosstalk from stray signals.

Moreover, virtually every product or service one buys today is a complex technology system (computers, automobiles, even clothes washers). The components of these “systems” can only work together if the physical and functional dimensions of the interfaces between them are precisely specified.

NIST provides the precision measurement and interoperability tools industry needs now while pushing the boundaries of the underlying science to create the enabling infrastructure for the technologies of tomorrow.

Economic and Statistics Administration – Providing the Foundation for Solid Public Policy

Economics and Statistics Administration Logo

The U.S. Commerce Department’s Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) is one of the primary economic arms of the American government.  Our mission is to serve the American public by measuring and analyzing the nation’s rapidly changing economic and social arrangements. We do that by informing policy makers about opportunities to improve the well-being of Americans, such as initiatives that put Americans back to work.

ESA helps with the understanding of the key forces at work in the economy by providing objective data that enable sound policymaking.  Our mission is to create the conditions for economic growth and opportunity, by providing information that supports innovation, entrepreneurship, competitiveness, and an informed society. 

Leveraging a treasure trove of economic and demographic data, we provide expert economic analysis -- in-depth reports, shorter fact sheets, and briefings. Policymakers, the public, American businesses – the many and varied customers of the Commerce Department rely upon these tools, as do state and local governments and our sister agencies here at DoC. Our economic indicators drive news around the world. 

In addition to regular economic statistical updates, we produce reports on important topics of the day.  Recent reports have included a three-part series on jobs of the future: science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and the quality and promise those fields have for America as a global leader in technology and innovation.  We have reported on the status of the middle class in America, women-owned businesses, broadband access in the U.S., and the “green” economy. 

Commerce's NTIA: Small Agency, Big Impact

NTIA logo

Guest blog post by Lawrence E. Strickling, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and Administrator, National Telecommunications and Information Administration

In the 21st century global economy, America’s competitiveness requires a modern communications infrastructure, a technology-savvy workforce, and public policies that preserve the Internet as an engine for job creation, innovation, and economic growth.  NTIA’s activities–at a cost of about a penny per month for each American–represent a modest yet critical investment in our economic future, one that can pay dividends for decades.
Broadband Internet is an essential ingredient not only for job creation but also for improving education, public safety, and health care. Consider this:

NTIA is a small agency, but we are playing a central role in helping America harness the power of the Internet to meet these national objectives. Our work is focused in three areas: maximizing spectrum use, expanding broadband access and adoption, and policymaking to support the continued growth of the Internet economy.

Measuring America’s People, Places and our Economy

United States Census Bureau Logo

Our name, the Census Bureau, suggests to many only the decennial census of the population. However, we have more individual statistical programs measuring the economy than those measuring the population. From the Census Bureau, the country learns the economic health of the manufacturing, retail, and other service sectors. The Census Bureau supplies the country with key import and export data, which measure the relative success of American goods abroad and our consumption of other countries’ products. We track the construction of new homes and how housing starts are changing across the country. We measure the fiscal condition of state and local governments. We inform the country about the annual financial position of US corporations and on capital investment in new and used structures and equipment together with expenses for information and communications technology infrastructure. We measure the volume and change in businesses owned by women and minorities. There are hundreds of separate statistical programs that we run, which in these times of economic hardship, are the key metrics about how we’re doing as an economy.

The data provided by the Census Bureau underlies much about what we know about our economy and our people. For example, the Bureau of Economic Analysis uses the statistics from the economic census to benchmark gross domestic product (GDP) estimates and prepare input-output tables – the fundamental tool for national and regional economic planning. During benchmark years, such as 2012, about 90 percent of the data used in calculating GDP comes from the Census Bureau. The Bureau of Labor Statistics uses Census Bureau statistics to benchmark producer price indexes and prepare productivity statistics. The Federal Reserve Board uses our statistics to prepare indexes of industrial production.

Businesses use our statistics for site location, industry and market analysis, to make investment and production decisions, to gauge competitiveness, and to identify entrepreneurial opportunities. Detailed industry information for small geographic areas permits state and local agencies to forecast economic conditions, plan economic development, transportation, and social services. Watch how the Greater Houston Partnership finds that data from the American Community Survey and uses it to encourage economic development in Houston.

As you can see, the Census Bureau is about much more than just counting the population once a decade. By measuring America’s people, places and our economy, the Census Bureau provides a wealth of information about who we are as a society and where we are going.

EDA’s Smart Investments Generate Returns, Create Job & Economic Growth

Economic Development Agency Logo

This week, President Obama called for more robust job creation measures in his Joint Address to Congress.  To put Americans back to work, we must make smart investments to support the jobs and industries of the future, and that is what the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) does across the country.

As the only government agency with economic development as its sole mission, EDA leads the national bottom-up job creation and growth agenda by promoting American innovation and building strong regional economic ecosystems to accelerate long-term, sustainable economic prosperity. The agency’s investments have two major goals: creating higher-skill, living-wage jobs and attracting private capital investment. Its diverse portfolio of construction, technical assistance, finance, and investment planning assistance are designed to help communities build upon their regional assets to foster job creation and business expansion. 

The agency’s work is generating real returns. Every $1 dollar in EDA grant funding is expected to leverage nearly $7 dollars worth of private investment. In FY 2010, EDA awarded investments that totaled approximately $285 million, excluding supplemental funds. Of this amount, approximately $191.5 million funded construction projects that are expected to help create or retain about 48,500 jobs and generate nearly $6 billion in private investment, according to grantee estimates at the time of the award.

National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration: All Yours for Five Cents a Day

National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) logo

Science plays a pivotal role in our lives every day, stimulating the economy, creating new jobs and improving the health and security of Americans.

And at NOAA all things start — and end — with science. It is the foundation of our work and of the value the agency brings to the American people.

What kind of value are we talking about, in real terms?

For less than 5 cents a day per person, NOAA puts science to work for all Americans by providing essential services such as …

  • Severe weather forecasting, warnings and research;
  • Disaster preparedness, oil spill response and habitat restoration;
  • Seafood safety testing and satellite-aided search and rescue; and
  • Ensuring sustainable fisheries, healthy oceans and resilient coastal communities.

When you consider the portfolio of services, stewardship and information NOAA provides people — decision-makers, emergency managers, fishermen, businesses, state/tribal/local governments and the general public — 5 cents a day has never gone further.  

At No Cost to Taxpayers, ITA Helps Veterans Learn a New Career and Local Businesses Benefit

U.S. Department District Director Anne Evans, Congressman Joe Courtney, Andrew Lavery (Military Intern), and Connecticut State Representative Pamela Sawyer

One of the International Trade Administration’s (ITA) key efforts is to strengthen the competitiveness of U.S. industry while promoting trade and investment to ensure that every American who wants a job can find one. This work is done at ITA’s offices and US Export Assistance Centers (USEAC) throughout the United States. The USEAC in Middletown, Connecticut is entirely focused on helping local companies export and create jobs. The office only has two full time employees to meet the needs of the over 2500 Connecticut companies they assist. Even though their staffing levels have decreased in recent years, they are working smarter and are providing 300% more export assistance than 4 years ago.

One of the smarter ways the USEAC is meeting the increasing demands for export programs from their 2500+ clients is to rely on the support of volunteer interns.  These interns provide a valuable service to companies and the office, while learning new skills and a new career. Over the past 2 ½ years many of those interns have been transitioning service members and veterans. Our military interns are mission-focused and exceptional leaders. The Military Internship Program benefits Connecticut exporters and gives back to those who have sacrificed the most for our cherished freedom. The mission is to train our veteran interns in business skills in a business comfortable environment while supporting them in their transition to civilian careers. Upon completion of the program, with our help, each military intern has found full time employment.  At no cost to the taxpayer, companies are getting valuable exporting expertise and veterans are finding new careers in the private sector. This effort fits right into President Obama’s challenged to the private sector to hire or train 100,000 unemployed veterans or their spouses by the end of 2013. Just as many American businesses are finding creative ways to meet their bottom lines, so are the trade specialists in local offices around the country who serve the needs of their clients and provide training to our veterans who have served our country.

Creating Jobs For All Americans

Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Logo

In the 2011 State of the Union address, President Obama asked every American to take steps to ‘Win the Future’ by out-innovating, out-educating and out-building our global competitors.

The Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) of the United States Department of Commerce is the only federal agency tasked to create new jobs by expanding the U.S. economy though the nation’s 5.8 million minority-owned and operated businesses. The minority business community accounts for over $1 trillion in economic output to the nation and provides nearly six million jobs for U.S. citizens.

MBDA experienced record performance in 2010. The Agency created 6,397 new jobs by assisting minority-owned companies in obtaining nearly $4 billion in contracts and capital, an historic high. During the first two years of the Obama Administration, MBDA created nearly 11,000 new jobs and saved tens of thousands of existing jobs while helping minority-owned firms obtain nearly $7 billion in contracts and capital. In FY 2010, MBDA’s Return on Investment (ROI) was 125x, up from 102x in 2009 and from 70x at the end of the prior administration. This speaks to the increased operating efficiency of the agency during this Administration.