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Blog Category: Economics and Statistics Administration

Big Data is Big Business for Commerce

Under Secretary for Economic Affairs Mark Doms (center) along with Erie Meyer, Joel Gurin, Waldo Jaquith, and Daniel Castro at the Center for Data Innovation hosted “The Economic Benefits of Open Data” event

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

Big Data and Open Data are all the rage these days. However, Commerce was into Big Data before Big Data was cool. As far back as 1790, we began collecting data on patents in the U.S. and the Census Bureau conducted the first Decennial Census the same year. In 1870, the National Weather Service was created – which today is one of the biggest data producing agencies around.

Back then, our economy was based largely on agriculture. Over the years, our economy evolved through the industrial revolution, later giving rise to the strong service sector. Today, we are at the nascent stages of the next era in our economic growth, the information age. On a daily basis, there is an ever-increasing amount of data becoming available, and the demand for data is increasing exponentially. We have before us both great opportunity and fascinating challenges to understand how best to harness this national resource. This is a key focus of Commerce’s Open for Business Agenda.

You may not know it, but the Department of Commerce is home to many agencies that are your primary source for data that you likely use every day.

For example:

  • How many people live in the U.S. or in your hometown? You might know the Census Bureau is the authority on population, but did you know the Census Bureau’s data goes well beyond just population? Census also produces huge volumes of data on our economy, demographics, and fascinatingly insightful data describing our communities – or, if you are a business, your customers.
  • The Bureau of Economic Analysis is a little know agency that produces key economic data and many of the closely watched economic indicators that move markets, drive investment decisions and guide economic policy. Do you know which industries are the leading sources of income in your community, or to your customers? BEA data can tell you.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, is your primary source for weather, ocean and climate data – they are collecting data every minute of every day from land, sea, and even spaced-based sensors. When you hear the local forecast or hear about severe weather warning, that is NOAA data informing you about your environment in real time.
  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology, locally known as NIST, is our nation’s authority on broad swaths of scientific, cyber, and physical data – including, officially, what time it is.
  • We also have data on patents going back more than 200 years at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which is a gold mine of inspiration for innovation.
  • Other agencies in Commerce provide data on economic development, minority businesses, trade, and telecommunications and the Internet.

On any given day, the Department will generate in excess of 20 terabytes of data, and sometimes much more. Yet, we think we can do more with this resource. We want to take every step we can to open access to it to the entrepreneurs and innovators of America, as we are pretty convinced that there is huge unmet value and potential. We understand that a huge part of the value of data is when it is not seen alone, but as part of a rich tapestry of information. We believe that there is great opportunity to solve problems, innovate new businesses, and improve data-driven decision-making, and we are committed to that path.

That is why I was so glad to be a part of today’s launch of the Open Data 500 Project, housed out of the GovLab at NYU. This exciting project has verified what we were certain must be true: That hundreds of American companies are using Commerce data every day to innovate and deliver important goods and services to their customers.

The Commerce Department’s Strategic Plan: The Value of Government Data

The Average Daily Cost, Per Person, of the Principal Statistical Agencies is Three Cents

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

Last week, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker unveiled the Department’s America is Open for Business:  Strategic Plan, Fiscal Years 2014-2018.  One of the plan’s five priority areas is a redefinition of how we manage, optimize and enable public access to our treasure trove of data.  The Commerce Department is fortunate to have numerous agencies that provide data that are critical to the information economy, such as:

  • The U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) demographic and economic statistics;
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather, ocean and climate information; 
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) scientific data;
  • National Technical Information Service (NTIS) information; and
  • U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) patent databases. 

Specifically, the plan pledges to “improve government, business, and community decisions and knowledge by transforming Department data capabilities and supporting a data-enabled economy.”  Success has three dimensions.  First, everyone in our country should have easy access to reliable information about their communities, about their climate, and about how these are changing.  Second, every business should have easy access to reliable information on their market, potential markets, scientific information, and changing economic conditions.  Further, new data-based businesses should be able to easily pull our data, combine it with other information, and make new products to compete in the private marketplace.  Third, and finally, every government should have easy access to the information they need to better serve their communities and to assess the efficacy of their programs.  More simply put, success is making our data accessible in ways that make our businesses more competitive, our governments smarter, and our citizens more informed.

How will that be achieved?  The first component is to transform DOC’s data capacity to make our data more accessible and usable.  The second component of the data strategic plan is for us to use data to make government smarter.  The third objective of our plan is to develop better collaboration and feedback loops with the private sector; to create timely, relevant, and accessible products and services.  Many specific initiatives are well underway.  For example, NOAA already is seeking private-sector input on new public-private partnership models to make more weather and climate data available.  NIST is spearheading the development of Big Data standards. <--break->

Department of Commerce releases FY 2014-2018 Strategic Plan

Plan priorities are in direct alignment with the Department’s “Open for Business Agenda”

Today the Department of Commerce released its Strategic Plan for fiscal years 2014 to 2018. The five-year plan, along with the recently released FY15 budget, provides the pathway for meeting the Department’s long-term goals and objectives. The plan, summarizes the key strategies and initiatives that will drive progress in the Department’s five priority areas:

  • Trade and Investment. Expanding the U.S. economy through increased exports and foreign direct investment that leads to more and better American jobs.
  • Innovation. Fostering a more innovative U.S. economy—one that is better at inventing, improving, and commercializing products and technologies that lead to higher productivity and  competitiveness.
  • Data. Improve government, business, and community decisions and knowledge by transforming Department data capabilities and supporting a data-enabled economy.
  • Environment. Ensuring communities and businesses have the necessary information, products, and services to prepare for and prosper in a changing environment.
  • Operational Excellence. Delivering better services, solutions, and outcomes that benefit the American people.

The creation of the strategic plan was a collaborative effort involving staff from every Department of Commerce bureau and serves as a foundation for economic growth and opportunity. The plan is in direct alignment with the  “Open for Business Agenda,” which reflects the Department’s role as the voice of business, and the Administration’s focus on economic growth and job creation. Department leaders and employees will use this plan to transform strategies into actions, and actions into results.

Read a summary of the plan or the entire plan.

Files

America Is Open for Giving

Combined Federal Campaign Logo for 2013

Guest blog post by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker

Cross-post from LinkedIn.

After Thanksgiving, you may have stood in long lines for Black Friday, supported your local businesses on Small Business Saturday, and clicked endlessly on Cyber Monday. And today, there is a relatively new tradition that demonstrates America’s incredible capacity for generosity – Giving Tuesday.

Along with businesses and charities worldwide, I am proud to support #GivingTuesday today, an event designed to support our communities by helping charities raise money online. Spearheaded by the United Nations Foundation and 92nd Street Y, a non-profit cultural and community center in New York City, #GivingTuesday allows you to support your favorite causes across the nation and around the world.

Last year, $10 million in online donations rolled in on the inaugural #GivingTuesday. The number of PayPal mobile donations jumped nearly fivefold over the previous year, and the value of those donations increased more than 200 percent. Clearly, Americans are showing that they are ready to use technology and innovation to give back.

This year promises to deliver much more in positive impact. Already, the number of #GivingTuesday partners has already tripled from 2,500 to 7,500, and I’m glad to see businesses like eBay, Johnson & Johnson and AT&T all have efforts to support Giving Tuesday. Some examples are Microsoft launching a campaign to raise $500,000 for Give for Youth to create education, employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for young people in conjunction with Giving Tuesday. And the Case Foundation is helping to host an online site where donors can support selected nonprofits and get their contributions matched. These are just a few of the many signing on.

Schools and community groups are also getting involved. This is the type of creative collaboration between public, private, and nonprofit entities that I love seeing.

Commerce and President's Council of Economic Advisors Release Report on Economic Benefits of Foreign Direct Investment

SelectUSA logo

A new report from the U.S. Commerce Department and the President's Council of Economic Advisors spotlights the array of factors that have made the U.S. the destination of choice for foreign direct investment (FDI). The joint report, released at the inaugural SelectUSA 2013 Investment Summit, also documents the positive impact FDI is having on the U.S. economy, including job creation, higher research and development spending and export growth.

The U.S. is the largest recipient of FDI in the world, with stock of more than $2.6 trillion dollars–including $166 billion that flowed into the country in 2012. Moreover, companies around the world now consider the U.S. to be the nation with the top FDI prospects globally.

The United States has been the world’s largest recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI) since 2006. Every day, foreign companies establish new operations in the United States or provide additional capital to established businesses. With the world’s largest consumer market, skilled and productive workers, a highly innovative environment, appropriate legal protections, a predictable regulatory environment, and a growing energy sector, the United States offers an attractive investment climate for firms across the globe.

One Year After Sandy, Commerce Continues Helping Communities Rebuild

Satellite view of Superstorm Sandy, 10-29-12

One year ago today, Sandy made landfall along the mid-Atlantic coast. The storm devastated communities, families, and businesses. While it’s natural to reflect on the tremendous damage the storm wrought, today also presents us with an opportunity to look toward the future.

Before, during and immediately after the storm, the Department of Commerce provided information and data that helped save lives and property and get commerce flowing again. But our work hasn’t stopped and we continue to help in rebuilding efforts.

From spot-on forecasts delivered four days before the storm’s landfall to economic assistance to working to open ports, Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) and Economic Development Administration (EDA) have been standing with our federal agency partners to assist affected communities. In the last year, the Obama administration has provided direct assistance to more than 230,000 people and small businesses and has announced more than $39.7 billion in funding for recipients. 

EDA serves as the administration’s lead for economic recovery as part of the National Disaster Recovery Framework, which coordinates key areas of assistance in the wake of natural disasters. Since Sandy struck, EDA has provided targeted technical assistance through peer-to-peer forums to assist the New Jersey tourism industry, government procurement roundtables, “Access to Capital Meetings” to inform business resources of traditional and non-traditional financing mechanisms, and providing risk management resources to small businesses in the region. Ultimately, these initiatives have helped provide small businesses, local leaders, and economic development practitioners learn best practices and empowered them to undertake robust recovery efforts.

United States Department of Commerce Plan for Orderly Shutdown Due to Lapse of Congressional Appropriations

Annual funding for the government expired on September 30. The Administration strongly believed that a lapse in funding should not occur. The Department is prepared for a lapse in funding that would necessitate a significant reduction in operations. Prior to a potential lapse in funding, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) required the Department to submit a draft plan for agency operations (PDF) in the absence of appropriations (a “shutdown plan”).

The plan may be modified with additional guidance from the Office of Personnel Management and OMB, and may be changed by the Department, as circumstances warrant. This plan (PDF) complies with the guidance provided by the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of Justice and the Department of Commerce. All employees who are Presidentially Appointed, Senate Confirmed will remain on duty.

In compliance with the restrictions of the Anti-Deficiency Act, the Department of Commerce will maintain the following services and activities during a lapse in FY14 appropriations:

• Weather, water, and climate observing, prediction, forecast, warning, and support
• Law enforcement activities for the protection of marine fisheries
• Fisheries management activities including quota monitoring, observer activities, and regulatory actions to prevent overfishing
• Essential natural resource damage assessment activities associated with the Deepwater Horizon incident
• Water level data for ships entering U.S. ports, critical nautical chart updates and accurate position information.
• Patent and trademark application processing
• Operation of the national timing and synchronization infrastructure as well as the National Vulnerability Database
• Maintenance, continuity and protection of certain research property and critical data records
• All services of the National Technical Information Service
• Export enforcement – the ongoing conduct of criminal investigations, and prosecutions, and coordination with other law enforcement and intelligence agencies in furtherance of our national security
• Budget operations required to support excepted activities under a shutdown, such as tracking of obligations and funds control.

The following services and activities will not be available during a lapse in FY14 appropriations:

• Most research activities at NIST and NOAA (excluding real-time regular models on research computers used for Hurricane and FAA flight planning)
• Assistance and support to recipients of grant funding
• Technical oversight of non-mission essential contracts
• Services and activities provided by:
−Bureau of Economic Analysis
−Economic Development Administration
−Economics and Statistics Administration
−Minority Business Development Agency
−Bureau of the Census
• Most services and activities provided by the International Trade Administration

Improving the Economic Measurement Toolkit: Partnerships between Businesses and Federal Statistical Agencies

Director Steve Landefeld

Businesses and federal statistical agencies have a long history of working together to produce something that is vitally important to both groups: the nation’s economic measurement toolkit.

Steve Landefeld, director of the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, charted the history of this collaboration and underscored the importance of continuing that partnership during a panel session Tuesday at the National Association for Business Economics’ (NABE) annual meeting in San Francisco.

This public-private partnership has produced concrete results over the years. For example, BEA partnered with IBM to develop a new type of price index that captured the effect of changes in technology. And BEA worked with Chrysler to develop a new price index for motor vehicles.  The Chamber of Commerce has also hosted conferences that led to important changes in the way the U.S. and other countries measure their economies. NABE has served as an important forum to spur additional ideas on the measurement front.

Arts and “First Friday” Contribute to Overall Economic Activity in Missoula, Montana

Guest blog by Rob Rubinovitz, Deputy Chief Economist, Economics and Statistics Administration

Secretary Penny Pritzker’s visit to Missoula, Montana last week coincided with one of the community’s “First Friday Gallery Night” events.  “First Friday’s” are part of a larger effort of the Cultural Council in Missoula to support the arts to benefit the community as a whole.  These events include various art galleries, museums, and retail locations, and may feature musical performances, poetry readings, dance and lectures. The effort seem to be paying off, as one study found that Missoula’s nonprofit arts organizations are responsible for close to $40 million annually in local economic activity, from both the direct spending on arts activities as well as spending on related activities such as restaurant meals, and support more than 1,400 full-time jobs. Missoula is not alone in this; over the last three years, the U.S. economy has added 140,000 jobs in the arts and entertainment sector, as many communities recognize the benefits of a thriving artistic community.

It used to be that communities invested in the arts solely as a local amenity that produces value in and of itself.  In times of tight budgets, this justification has not always been enough to continue support for the arts; however, research has found there are many ways in which the arts economically benefit communities.  A framework for thinking about these benefits can be found in what is known as “new growth theory,” which is based on the idea that individuals, firms and governments make a conscious choice to invest in skills, knowledge acquisition and in innovative activities.  With investment in skills and innovation comes the development of technology that enhances growth, and technological changes have been found to be responsible for most of the long-run growth in income per capita.  Further, there are spillovers of knowledge between firms and individuals that are near each other, leading to clusters of knowledge-based industries. 

Proposed Cuts Hurt Job Creation, Economy, and the Middle-Class

The President has been clear that Republicans in Congress should work with Democrats to finish a budget that cuts wasteful spending while investing in jobs, the economy, and middle class families. Until Congress reaches a budget agreement, the President will not sign individual appropriations bills that simply attempt to enact the House Republican budget into law. That would hurt our economy and make draconian cuts to middle class priorities.

The House Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations bill demonstrates just how damaging the overall spending limits imposed by House Republican leadership are. The bill would cut $1 billion from the President’s request for the Department of Commerce, requiring a halt to investments in areas designed to help grow the economy, create jobs, and strengthen the middle class. The bill cuts more than $70 million from the International Trade Administration, which prevents placement of Foreign Commercial Service Officers in priority markets to help U.S. companies expand exports. That cut also limits our ability to attract foreign investment.  Instead of building on the momentum of resurgent American manufacturing as the President did in this budget, the bill terminates the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia, which is helping the industry identify long-term manufacturing needs, and it cuts $33 million from the President’s request for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP). The MEP program is a federal-state partnership, which consists of centers located across the country that work directly with their local manufacturing communities to strengthen the competitiveness of our nation's domestic manufacturing base.