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Blog Category: Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank

Guest blog post: Developing Foreign Business is Easier than You Think

Portrait of Friesen

Guest blog post by Dr. Cody Friesen, founder and president of Fluidic Energy, an associate professor at Arizona State University and a member of the U.S. Manufacturing Council.

As the founder of Fluidic Energy and a member of the Department of Commerce’s Manufacturing Council, I’m always mindful of the state of the economy. It’s impossible not to notice the beneficial impact of trade, and the importance of manufacturing, to the continued growth of U.S. exports.

The Manufacturing Council exists to advise Commerce leadership on the best policies to support manufacturing and U.S. exports.As great as exporting sounds in theory, the barriers to exporting can seem high to many small or medium-sized companies, but that’s really not the case.

I had the privilege of joining Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank and 19 other American companies on a trade mission to Latin America, discussing infrastructure development in the region.

We were able to meet one-on-one with government officials and foreign company executives who will be shaping the growing infrastructure of these growing economies. We made crucial contacts and learned the critical facts in each country that will help us to maximize the opportunities for our company in the region.

The Department of Commerce was instrumental in pulling together the meetings most meaningful to Fluidic. The Gold Key Matching Service and the local International Trade Administration staff, especially the U.S. Commercial Service personnel, in each country made it possible to rapidly assess potential business opportunities.

Obama Administration Announces Make It In America Challenge Accepting Applications Through May 31

Challenge Focused on Encouraging Businesses to Bring Production Back to the United States or Expand Domestic Operations

The Obama Administration today announced that it is accepting proposals through May 31, 2013, for the Make it in America Challenge, a $40 million competition funded by multiple federal agencies that is designed to encourage investment and job creation in the United States. Up to 15 awards will be made to challenge applicants who put forth one plan to accelerate job creation by encouraging re-shoring of productive activity by U.S. firms, fostering increased foreign direct investment, encouraging U.S. companies to keep or expand their businesses—and jobs—here at home, and training local workers to meet the needs of those businesses.

Challenge applicants must submit applications that leverages complementary Federal funding sources to support the development and implementation of a regionally driven economic development strategy. Eligible challenge applicants must demonstrate support of the development and implementation of a regionally driven economic development strategy. Applicants must provide a detailed description of all activities that will be undertaken, a summary of how these activities support the overall project’s goals, and a clear data-driven overview of anticipated impacts. Applicants will be evaluated based on their ability to meet the criteria set forth in Section VI.A of the Federal Funding Opportunity. All proposals must be submitted through www.grants.gov.  

The Make it in America Challenge builds on the Administration’s efforts to encourage companies – large and small, foreign and domestic, manufacturers and service firms – to increase their investment in the United States. The President’s initiatives include eliminating tax incentives for companies that ship jobs overseas and providing tax credits for companies that bring jobs back, investing in American workers to ensure they have the skills they need, modernizing our infrastructure, and taking action to ensure that American businesses and workers are competing on a level playing field.

Department of Commerce Helps American Company Secure $42 Million Contract With Colombia

Advocacy Center logo

Contract supports $38 million in U.S. exports

U.S. Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank today announced that L-3 Communications Corporation Warrior Systems Sector (Londonderry, New Hampshire) and its distributor Aviation Specialties Unlimited (Boise, Idaho) recently secured a contract from the Government of Colombia worth $42 million. The announcement comes on the heels of Acting Secretary Blank’s trade mission to Brazil, Colombia and Panama, which wrapped up on May 17. The trade mission included 20 U.S. firms with expertise in a wide variety of infrastructure industry sectors, and was intended to help American companies expand their business opportunities in Brazil, Colombia and Panama and promote U.S. exports.

“L-3’s export success is a concrete example of the Department of Commerce’s continued efforts to help U.S. firms be more competitive in this growing market,” said Acting Secretary Blank. “L-3 benefited from an aggressive, coordinated interagency commercial advocacy campaign spearheaded by our Advocacy Center to win a contract that will increase U.S. exports and support American jobs. With U.S. exports reaching an all-time high of $2.2 trillion in 2012, and supporting nearly 10 million American workers, the work of our Advocacy Center and U.S. embassies across the world is more important than ever. I congratulate L-3 Communications and their distributor Aviation Specialties Unlimited on winning this valuable contract.”

The contract will support $38 million in U.S. exports, as well as nearly 50 American jobs, according to L-3. Through this contract, L-3 will provide fully-assembled night-vision goggles, spare parts, tooling and test equipment to the Colombian government. Full release

57 U.S. Companies and Organizations that Export Goods or Services Honored at the 2013 President’s “E” Awards Ceremony

Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank Honors More Than 50 U.S. Companies for Export Successes While Kenneth E. Hyatt, Acting Deputy Under Secretary for International Trade, Looks On

Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank today honored 57 U.S. companies and organizations that export goods or services at the 2013 President’s “E” Awards ceremony. This year marks the 51st anniversary of the “E” Awards, which recognize significant contributions to increasing American exports. Today’s set of honorees, many of which are small- and medium-sized enterprises, was the largest group in three decades to receive this distinguished award.

Winners of the 2013 “E” Awards represent diverse communities from 22 states across the country. They hail from places like Gilman, Conn., Cleveland, Ohio, Eagan, Minn., Parsons, Kan., Broussard, La. and Vacaville, Calif. Of the honorees recognized at today’s ceremony, 47 are small- or medium-sized enterprises, 33 are manufacturers, and 31 fall into both categories.

There are four categories in which companies can receive an award. This year, 37 companies were honored with the “E” Award for Exports for demonstrating a sustained increase in export sales over several years. Twelve companies that assist and facilitate export activities were honored with the “E” Award for Export Service. Five firms received the “E” Star Award for Exports, which recognizes previous “E” Award winners who have shown four years of additional export growth. Finally, three were awarded the “E” Star Award for Export Service, which recognizes previous “E” Award winners that have shown four years of continued support of exporters since first winning the “E” Award. Two companies are receiving the “E” Star Award for Exports for the second time, a first in the fifty-one year history of the program. Complete list of  “E” Award and "E" Star Award winners.

Acting Secretary Blank Highlights Success of the U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement

De. Blank seated at speakers' table at AmCham Panama

Exports are critical to supporting American jobs and helping U.S. businesses grow.  Increasing international trade is one of the Commerce Department’s top priorities.  U.S. Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank wraps up her week-long Latin American trade mission in Panama this week which highlighted the importance of the bilateral trade relationship between the two countries. In her remarks before the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) Panama today, Acting Secretary Blank marked the success of the U.S. Panama Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA), which went into effect on October 31, 2012 and is a key component to increasing bilateral trade between the two countries.

Panama’s economy has seen double-digit growth over the past two years and continues to be a critical market for U.S. exporters. Between 2011 and 2012, the total volume of trade between the United States and Panama grew by 21 percent, reaching a total of $10.5 billion. With the implementation of the TPA, more than 87 percent of U.S. exports of consumer and industrial exports immediately became duty-free. Prior to the TPA implementation, Panama’s average tariff rate on U.S. industrial goods was higher than seven percent, with some tariffs reaching 81 percent.

Panama Canal Expansion Offers Opportunity for U.S. Companies to Serve as Partners with Panama

Dr. Blank seated at control panel of Panama Canal

As a part of her trade mission to Brazil, Colombia, and Panama this week, Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank met today with Jorge Quijano, Panama Canal Administrator, and Roberto Roy, President of the Panama Canal Board and the Panama City Subway, to discuss the Panama Canal Expansion Project and infrastructure spending related to Panama City’s Metro Rail Project. These meetings aim to strengthen longstanding U.S.-Panama ties by promoting greater cooperation between the two countries on infrastructure development.

Panama is a longstanding friend and ally to the United States, and the country’s strategic location as a major shipping route makes it an important economic partner as well. The Panama Canal currently handles five percent of the world’s trade, and approximately two-thirds of the Canal’s annual transits are bound to or from ports in the United States.

In order to allow greater container capacity, the Panama Canal Authority has decided to invest over $5 billion to expand the Canal. The expanded Canal will accommodate larger vessels that cannot transit now, introducing a new line of business that Panama projects will gradually increase annual profits to $3 billion. 

Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank Visits Consular Section in Colombia to Promote Travel and Tourism

On the heels of Travel and Tourism Week, Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank visited the Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy in Colombia today as part of the trade mission she is leading this week to Brazil, Colombia, and Panama.

Currently, the U.S. consular section in Colombia is the sixth busiest worldwide by volume of visa applicants. So far this year, the record for one day processing was 3,001 applicants—the highest in the world for that day. On average, the Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy in Colombia receives 2,300 applicants a day for travelers visiting the United States for tourism, work, or education purposes.

The Acting Secretary’s visit directly supports the Obama Administration’s commitment to promoting travel to, and tourism within, the United States. Travel and tourism, which represents the United States’ number one service export, is a crucial stimulator for the American economy. In March 2013, spending by international visitors to the United States totaled more than $14.4 billion, an increase of nearly 3 percent when compared to last year.

Acting Secretary Blank Supports U.S. Companies’ Corporate Social Responsibility Efforts Abroad

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Acting Secretary Blank Supports U.S. Companies’ Corporate Social Responsibility Efforts Abroad

Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank visited Bogotá, Colombia, today, to see how a U.S.-based company is helping to promote corporate social responsibility in a country where it does business.

In 2007, the world’s largest software company Microsoft joined forces with the nonprofit Trust for the Americas, the nonprofit Centro Laudes Infantis and the local government to create “Mi Llave,” a program designed specifically to increase computer literacy.  The centers, including one that Acting Secretary Blank visited, provide economic and social opportunities to youth and vulnerable populations through access to technology, technical and vocational skills training, and more. Since its inception, 15 additional centers have opened across the country.

Acting Secretary Blank toured the facility and heard first hand testimonials from individuals who have benefitted from the services the centers provide.  More than 13,000 people have been trained, and more than 270,000 people have received access to computers and the Internet since training began at Mi Llave centers.

Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank Commemorates the Anniversary of the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement

One of the Commerce Department’s top priorities is to strengthen the economic ties between the United States and our trading partners. One year ago today, the ties between the United States and Colombia became much stronger with the implementation of the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement, which Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank marked during her remarks today at a luncheon hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce and the Counsel of American Companies (CEA) in Bogotá, Colombia. 

Prior to the implementation of the Trade Promotion Agreement, also known as the U.S.-Colombia FTA, the average tariff rate on U.S. industrial exports to Colombia was higher than 10 percent. The agreement immediately eliminated tariffs on more than 80 percent of U.S. consumer and industrial exports to Colombia when it took effect last year, with the remaining tariffs being phased out within 10 years. This makes it easier for U.S. firms to export to Colombia. In fact, from June 2012 through March 2013, U.S. goods exported to Colombia have increased 19 percent compared to the same period in the year before. In 2012, U.S. goods exports to Colombia reached $16.4 billion and made up nearly a quarter of all Colombia’s imports of goods. 

Colombian firms have also benefited from the Trade Promotion Agreement, which experts estimate could create hundreds of thousands of Colombian jobs over the next few years. Under this agreement, more than 600 Colombian companies have started exporting to the United States for the first time, and Colombia continues to experience a trade surplus with the United States, its largest trading partner. 

Due in part to the Trade Promotion Agreement, U.S. businesses are increasingly interested in exploring trade with Colombia. The 20 firms accompanying Acting Secretary Blank on her trade mission this week represent just a snapshot of the U.S. business community that is looking for new opportunities to invest in Colombia. 

The U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement is one tool helping the United States work toward the goals of President Obama’s National Export Initiative, a government-wide strategy to promote American exports and support an additional 2 million export-related jobs by the end of 2014. By working together, the United States and Colombia have successfully fostered economic growth and strengthened the relationship between both countries. The Commerce Department is committed to further strengthening this relationship by encouraging increased trade and creating more economic development opportunities for businesses in both countries. 

For more information about the U.S.-Colombia FTA, visit http://www.trade.gov/press/press-releases/2013/colombia-factsheet-051513.pdf

Greeley and Hansen Plans to Increase Infrastructure Export Opportunities in Latin America

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Guest post by John C. Robak, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, Greeley and Hansen

ED Note: Greeley and Hansen is a global leader in developing innovative engineering, architecture, and management solutions for a wide array of complex water, wastewater, and water-related infrastructure challenges. The firm has built upon nearly 100 years of proven civil and environmental engineering experience in all phases of project development and implementation to become a premier provider of comprehensive services in the water and wastewater sectors.

I’m honored to represent Greeley and Hansen on this trade mission with Acting Secretary of Commerce Dr. Rebecca Blank to promote U.S. exports related to infrastructure in Latin America.  While Greeley and Hansen has previously completed water infrastructure projects throughout the region, we’re looking at these high-growth areas as key markets for additional expansion of our business.  Steve Knode, Deputy Senior Commercial Officer, and his team have done an outstanding job in bringing together world-class U.S. companies for this mission.  Specifically for our firm, the local Commercial Officers have arranged meetings with many leading organizations to help connect our firm with high-level government officials and business leaders in our areas of interest. 

I’ve participated in two previous Department of Commerce trade missions, including a mission to southern Africa last November, led by Under Secretary of Commerce Francisco Sánchez, which provided many valuable business contacts in South Africa and Zambia.  To date, Greeley and Hansen has made several follow-up trips to Africa to meet with these contacts to further discuss specific potential business opportunities for our firm.  We also are planning a follow-up visit to Egypt after a recent trade mission there.  I’m certain that this mission to Latin America will be equally successful for establishing beneficial business leads.

Already, this mission has allowed us to make several key connections.  For example, I’ve met with senior municipal utility leaders at SABESP, the Brazilian waste management company owned by São Paulo state; along with other civil engineering firms in Brazil.  Prior to the one-on-one meetings, the delegation has had several briefings led by Brian Brisson, Minister Counselor for Commercial Affairs (Brazil), Nathan Younge, Regional Director, Latin America for USTDA, along with an informative presentation from Brian O’Hanlon of OPIC.  Further, the networking opportunities with Dr. Blank (who has been very accessible to the delegates for comments and questions) and Embassy and Commercial Services staff have provided invaluable information about the range of potential opportunities and barriers for any U.S. firm interested in doing business in the region.

In talking with these experts directly, I’ve been able to better assess the market for our services relative to the country’s planned development of water infrastructure.  It’s clear that Brazil offers tremendous opportunities for U.S. businesses looking to expand internationally, and, as was stated during the briefings, it’s hard to think of a global company of the future that will not have a presence in Brazil.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the trip in Colombia and visiting Panama, as these other growing Latin American economies also represent tremendous potential export opportunities for U.S. companies directly involved in infrastructure.  I’m confident that, for Greeley and Hansen, this Department of Commerce trade mission to Brazil, Colombia, and Panama will be fruitful for us and all involved.