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Blog Category: EDA Acting Assistant Secretary for Economic Development Matthew Erskine

A Collaborative Effort to Support Ogden, Utah’s Growing Software Applications Sector

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Guest blog post by Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Matt Erskine

Today, I joined Mayor Mike Caldwell in Ogden, Utah, to announce a $1 million investment by the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) with the Ogden City Corporation to help create a lab that will train workers and provide space for business startups in the growing field of software applications for mobile computing devices.

This new facility will be strategically located in Ogden’s downtown and will be operated by a consortium of experienced, capable partners, including the city of Ogden, Weber State University, the Weber State University Research Foundation, and private-sector industry leaders. It is exactly the type of collaborative partnership that EDA is excited to invest in.

Over a 10-year period, the new facility is expected to create 750 jobs and generate up to $4.6 million in private investment, according to grantee estimates. Its focus on software applications is very timely: You can’t walk down any street today, or sit in any coffee shop for long, without seeing smart phones and tablet computers all around you. And while it’s only been a few years since these devices first came on the market, they’ve been a runaway hit ever since: Demand for them has skyrocketed, and with it the demand for applications, or “apps,” that run on them.

$26 Million Competition to Help Accelerate Growth of Advanced Manufacturing and Clusters

$26 Million Competition to Help Accelerate Growth of Advanced Manufacturing and Clusters

Guest blog post by Matt Erskine, Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, and Dr. Patrick Gallagher, Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology

Manufacturing, especially advanced manufacturing based on new technologies, is a sector of vital importance to America’s economic viability—both to businesses and the people they employ. A recent study conducted by the Department of Commerce bears this out: Manufacturing is responsible for 70 percent of our private-sector research and development (R&D), 90 percent of our patents, and 60 percent of our exports. And the benefits accrue to manufacturing workers, since they earn pay and benefits that are about 17 percent higher than average.

That is why the $26 million Advanced Manufacturing Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, supported by 14 Federal agencies and announced today by the Obama administration, is so important.

The Advanced Manufacturing Jobs Accelerator is a competition to help grow industry clusters by strengthening connections to regional economic development opportunities; enhance a region’s capacity to create high-quality sustainable jobs; develop a skilled advanced manufacturing workforce; encourage the development of small businesses; and accelerate technological innovation. 

At the Department of Commerce, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Economic Development Administration (EDA) are leveraging resources, along with the Departments of Energy and Labor, the Small Business Administration (SBA), and the National Science Foundation, to support public-private partnerships to spur economic and job growth in manufacturing clusters. Approximately 12 projects are expected to be chosen. This is the third in a series of multiagency Jobs and Innovation Accelerator challenges since 2011.

Winners of the 2011 challenge, which was funded by EDA, the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, and the SBA, have already begun to foster business growth and create jobs. For example, in the Greater Kansas City area, eight regional organizations joined together to form the Kansas City Jobs Accelerator. This organization is helping the advanced manufacturing and information technology cluster in the bi-state region by identifying game-changing technologies and processes and putting them in the hands of small businesses and talented entrepreneurs. Their tactics include coordinating research resources, helping prepare workers for careers in advanced manufacturing, and creating a clearinghouse for regional cluster and commercialization information.

Exports, Foreign Direct Investment, and Greener Fuel to Jumpstart Georgia’s Economy

Image of Georgia biomass facility

Guest blog post by Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Matt Erskine

As they search for opportunities to grow their economies and create jobs, no region in the United States can really choose to ignore the global marketplace—in fact, it just makes common sense. The latest export numbers bear this out: Since 2009, record-breaking levels of U.S. exports have supported an additional 1.2 million American jobs. And in March, the latest figures show that U.S. exports increased 2.9 percent, the largest increase since July 2011.

The benefits of increased engagement with world markets is something that the city of Waycross, Georgia, has experienced firsthand. In 2010, local authorities successfully concluded negotiations with a German energy firm, RWE Innogy, to build a new $135 million wood pellet manufacturing plant in the Waycross–Ware County Industrial Park. The pellets, which are produced from locally-sourced wood, are used as a cleaner-burning substitute for coal in the generation of electricity. A challenge was making sure that these pellets could be shipped quickly and cost effectively to major transportation hubs. A $1.3 million grant from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) resolved this by funding the construction of a new rail spur, ensuring that the pellets could be shipped to the port of Savannah and from there to overseas buyers.

Advanced Manufacturing Gets a Boost in Conover, North Carolina

An architect’s rendering of Conover Station in Hickory, North Carolina. The new home of the Manufacturing Solutions Center is being built with help from the Economic Development Administration. (photo courtesy Conover Station)

Guest blog post by Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Matt Erskine

Speaking last week at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Secretary of Commerce John Bryson focused on the importance of manufacturing to boosting U.S. economic growth, job creation and exports. To see evidence of that, we need only look to the city of Conover, North Carolina, where Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) has been supporting elected officials and local private and public sector leaders—including a community college and a nonprofit manufacturing center—in their efforts to make this area a regional hub for advanced manufacturing expertise and to expand the region’s reach into international markets.

A $1.5 million EDA investment made in 2010 to the city of Conover and Catawba Valley Community College is helping build a new home at Conover Station in Hickory, North Carolina, for the Manufacturing Solutions Center (MSC) and its business incubator. The two establishments are already cultivating a new form of manufacturing, one based in smaller and smarter factories that nourish innovation. The new 30,000 square foot facility, which is being built on the premises of a former furniture manufacturing plant, will allow for the expansion of those efforts.

Robin Chase, Founder of Zipcar and Buzzcar, Discusses Opportunities to Leverage Excess Capacity for Innovation

Robin Chase, Founder of Zipcar and Buzzcar

Guest blog post by Nish Acharya, director of the U.S. Commerce Department Economic Development Administration’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

In the second of the series of conference calls with national leaders in innovation and entrepreneurship, we had small business owners, entrepreneurs, innovators and stakeholders join me for an in-depth conference call with Ms. Robin Chase, founder and former CEO of Zipcar, founder and CEO of Buzzcar, and a member of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE).

Ms. Chase started the conversation by giving us some background about how she started Zipcar in June 2000 with $75,000 that she had raised. She was able to raise more money from the Boston venture capital community by attending every start-up meeting she could, using the fact that she obtained degrees from a “local” college and university to pitch her idea. Her efforts paid off: for example, an MIT angel venture group funded a significant portion of the early investment in Zipcar.

Ms. Chase shared that she spends a lot of time thinking about the use of excess capacity and believes that this is a fertile area for innovation. She provided several examples of companies that have been built around this concept, including Skype and Buzzcar.

Job Creation Through Export Development: EDA Commemorates World Trade Month

Logo: World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia

Guest blog post by Acting Assistant Secretary for Economic Development Matt Erskine

In Commerce Secretary Bryson’s statement to mark World Trade Month, he discussed steps the Obama administration is taking to give “American workers and businesses a fair shot in the global economy by supporting trade agreements that will open up markets to U.S. companies, working to aggressively investigate unfair trade practices taking place anywhere in the world, and continuing to work to ensure that our workers and businesses are competing on a level playing field.” President Obama will issue a proclamation to commemorate World Trade Week, which falls in the third week of May, to expand on this commitment to promote U.S. exports.

Words like “partnering” and “leveraging” might seem abstractions at times, but when it comes to making investments that help U.S. businesses export, they are anything but. One excellent example of the effectiveness of partnering and leveraging the resources of multiple organizations is the “Job Creation through Export Development: Innovative Manufacturing and Service Program” of the World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia (WTCGP). In 2010, the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) invested $1 million to bolster the efforts of WTCGP to promote the global presence of the Southeastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey region. The initiative serves as a catalyst for regional economic growth and job creation in four sectors that have been targeted by the program as having high export potential: energy and environment, high technology and nanotechnology, biotech and life sciences, and education.

Bringing Research to Market to Advance American Manufacturing

An LED streetlight installation by EcoFit Lighting of Lenexa, Kansas, working with the Advanced Manufacturing Institute, an EDA University Center. (Photo: EcoFit Lighting)

Guest blog post by Acting Assistant Secretary for Economic Development Matt Erskine, Economic Development Administration

For U.S. manufacturers today, questions abound that might have been simpler to answer in times gone by, such as: What is the best way to commercialize a new technology? How can a new process be incorporated into a new production system? What locations will best service a national or international clientele? Where can a cadre of technically-trained workers be found?

For answers to such questions, manufacturers in Kansas are fortunate to be able to turn to the Advanced Manufacturing Institute (AMI) at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. Over the past decade, this organization—which helps businesses of all sizes, from entrepreneurs to Fortune 500 companies—has undertaken projects in 66 of Kansas’ 105 counties, helping many companies to grow, prosper and succeed.

Commerce’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship Invests in the Jobs and Industries of the Future

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Guest blog by Matt Erskine, Acting Assistant Secretary for Economic Development

To mark the one-year anniversary of the White House Startup America Initiative, in January President Obama sent Congress a proposal to expand tax relief and unlock capital for startups and small businesses that are creating jobs.

When he launched the initiative a year ago, the president sought to promote the success of entrepreneurs across the country. The private sector responded with the Startup America Partnership, launching new entrepreneurial networks all across the country. AOL co-founder and member of the President’s Jobs Council, Steve Case, and the Kauffman Foundation joined to form the Startup America Partnership, which is a nonprofit alliance of entrepreneurs, major corporations and service providers that has mobilized more than $1 billion in business resources to serve as many as 100,000 startups over the next three years.

This year, the administration unveiled several new agency actions to accelerate the growth of young, job-creating companies, at the same time that new entrepreneur-led regional coalitions are launching throughout the nation.

One of those efforts will fuel regional innovation. In the coming months, the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), along with several Federal partners, will launch the third round of the i6 Challenge, a multiagency competition which funds regional collaborations to bring innovative, ground-breaking ideas from the lab to the marketplace, creating new startups and jobs across the country. Commerce is also launching a new initiative to connect entrepreneurs with the resources made available through the Startup America Partnership and its partners.

Commerce's EDA Hosts Annual University Center Showcase in Denver

UC coordinator Forlesia Willis with DRO’s UC Showcase review panelists. From the left:  Matthew Godfrey, who just completed three terms as mayor of Ogden, UT; Ms. Willis; Denise Brown, interim executive director of Fitzsimons Redevelopment Authority; and Nishith Acharya, director of EDA’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Guest blog post by Nish Acharya, Director of EDA's Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

This week, the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Denver Regional office hosted its annual University Centers Showcase conference to spotlight and critique EDA-supported University Center economic development initiatives in the Denver Region.

EDA’s University Center Economic Development Program assists institutions of higher education and consortia of institutions of higher education in establishing and operating University Centers specifically focused on leveraging university assets to build regional economic ecosystems that support high-growth entrepreneurship.

NACIE Promotes Innovative Lab-to-Market Strategies to Spur Economic Growth

Erskine and Kappos at NACIE meeting

Guest blog post by Acting Assistant Secretary Matt Erskine, Economic Development Administration

Today I joined my colleagues, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office David Kappos and Associate Director for Innovation and Industry Services at the National Institute of Standards and Technology Phillip Singerman, at a meeting of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE) in New Orleans. The quarterly meeting of NACIE’s board coincided with local Entrepreneurship Week activities and brought together over 250 entrepreneurs, innovators and business leaders to discuss how we can best support them.

NACIE is a public-private partnership started by the Department of Commerce to provide guidance on how we can best support the growing businesses that will create the jobs and industries of the future. When I addressed the forum, I highlighted the Obama administration’s commitment to making investments in innovation and entrepreneurship including the recently announced $15 million Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, which will boost rural innovation clusters and the soon-to-be-announced next round of the i6 challenge to reward innovative, groundbreaking ideas that accelerate technology commercialization.