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Blog Category: Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker

Secretary Pritzker Kicks Off Second Day of West Africa Energy Business Development Mission and Visits Electric Company of Ghana

Secretary Pritzker Visits Electric Company of Ghana

Today, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker kicked off her second day in Ghana at the Electric Company of Ghana (ECG) as part of the Commerce Department’s West Africa Energy Business Development Mission.  During the site visit, she spoke about the strong relationship between Ghana and the United States and the importance of partnering with private sector businesses to help Ghana reach its energy potential.

During the site visit, Secretary Pritzker specifically addressed the importance of the Administration’s Power Africa initiative and reiterated the U.S. commitment to improving economic prosperity in West Africa through investment in the energy sector.

President Obama announced Power Africa last year as an initiative to double the number of people with access to power in Sub-Saharan Africa.  With more than 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa lacking access to reliable electricity, the power development challenge is enormous. More than two-thirds of the population is without electricity, including more than 85 percent of those living in rural areas. According to the International Energy Agency, sub-Saharan Africa needs more than $300 billion in investments to achieve universal electricity access by 2030 – far beyond the capacity of any traditional development program.  As part of Power Africa, the United States will commit more than $7 billion in financial support over the next five years to this effort.

The trade mission, Secretary Pritzker’s third since taking office last summer, will promote U.S. exports to Africa by helping U.S. companies’ launch or increase their business in the energy sector in West Africa.  The firms joining the mission have the expertise to help African countries develop and manage energy resources and systems, as well as build out power generation, transmission, and distribution.

Africa is home to seven of the ten fastest growing economies in the world, and helping U.S. business expand their presence in these African markets is a top priority for the Department of Commerce and the Administration. 

Secretary Pritzker Discusses Trade and Investment with Ghanaian President Mahama and Other Officials

President Mahama greets Secretary Pritzker on her first official visit to Ghana

Building on a strong bilateral relationship with Ghana, the United States is committed to partnering with the country as a beacon of stability and democracy in West Africa.

As part of that partnership, the United States is working to increase trade and investment, cornerstones of the Strategy toward Sub-Saharan Africa that President Obama announced in June 2012. On her trade mission to West Africa this week, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker is talking with Ghanaian leaders about the many opportunities available for U.S. businesses to partner with Ghana to help meet their energy development objectives.

This morning, Secretary Pritzker met with Minister of Trade and Industry Haruna Iddrisu. She discussed policies that would facilitate U.S. companies’ participation in developing Ghana’s energy sector and helping the country meet its goal of generating 5,000 megawatts of power by 2016.  Secretary Pritzker pointed out that the United States’ Power Africa initiative to double access to electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa aligns with Ghana’s broad goals to increase power generation capacity in the near term.

Secretary Pritzker also met with Minister of Finance Seth Terkper and discussed some of the challenges facing the business community in the current fiscal climate. Noting that the strong trade relationship between Ghana and the United States continues to grow, Secretary Pritzker highlighted some of the Commerce Department’s initiatives focused on expanding U.S.-Ghana trade. This week’s trade mission is an opportunity to build upon our two country’s strong trade relationship by facilitating introductions of U.S. companies eager to learn about the energy needs of Ghana.

Finally, in the afternoon, Secretary Pritzker met with Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama and discussed the strategic importance of strong U.S.-Ghanaian economic and commerce relations. Secretary Pritzker highlighted that U.S. companies have a lot to offer in terms of management and technical expertise, and capital that might prove to be very useful for Ghana. 

Secretary Pritzker and President Mahama briefly discussed the upcoming World Cup and the United States’ opening round match-up against Ghana. 

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Leads Energy Business Development Mission to West Africa

With more than 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa lacking access to electricity, the power development challenge is enormous. More than two-thirds of the population is without electricity, including more than 85 percent of those living in rural areas. According to the International Energy Agency, sub-Saharan Africa needs more than $300 billion in investments to achieve universal electricity access by 2030 – far beyond the capacity of any traditional development program.

Tomorrow, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker will leave for West Africa to lead 20 American companies on an Energy Business Development Mission with stops in Ghana and Nigeria. This mission will promote U.S. exports to Africa by helping American firms launch or increase their business in the energy sector in West Africa.  It will also help the African region develop and manage energy resources and systems, build out power generation and transmission, and distribution.  

Africa is home to seven of the ten fastest growing economies in the world, and helping U.S. business expand their presence in these African markets is a top priority for the Department of Commerce and the Obama Administration. There is tremendous potential for U.S. companies to sell their goods and services in countries like Ghana and Nigeria, which have energy needs that our firms have the goods, services, and expertise to address. Expanding trade and investment is a critical tool for economic growth and job creation in the U.S., and trade missions like this one are one way to help grow U.S. exports.

Acorn Energy, Inc., Joins Commerce Department Sponsored Trade Mission Because of Enormous Potential in West African Energy Market

Acorn Energy, Inc., Joins Commerce Department Sponsored Trade Mission Because of Enormous Potential in West African Energy Market

Guest post by Walter Czarnecki, President and COO of OmniMetrix, an Acorn Energy division.

On behalf of Acorn Energy, Inc., I am honored and excited to join US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker on her upcoming West Africa Energy Business Development Trade Mission to Ghana and Nigeria. Acorn Energy is an energy technology investment group and holding company focused on M2M/Internet of Things remote monitoring technologies and includes four divisions: OmniMetrix, GridSense, DSIT and US Seismic Systems. Our technologies are deployed globally, including sites in Kenya, South Africa, Turkey and elsewhere, and we see West Africa as an important international market in which to expand and serve.

We have been following the vast potential for market growth in Ghana and Nigeria for each Acorn technology. Last month Nigeria surpassed South Africa to become Africa’s largest economy, yet Nigeria experiences near-daily blackouts and plans to invest $3.5 billion this year to improve its energy and electricity infrastructure. Likewise, grid failures are common and have persisted for decades. GridSense, our transformer and distribution network monitoring division, works with utilities globally to specifically address this problem, and we look forward to exploring how GridSense can help West African utilities make their networks more reliable.

When utility power is lost, backup generators come online, and Nigeria has nearly 60 million backup generators. OmniMetrix, the Acorn division that provides M2M remote monitoring and control for backup generators, is well positioned to increase the reliability and reduce failures across Nigeria’s backup generator fleet. Backup generators globally fail 10-15% of the time when called upon. It is now possible to diagnose and predict common problems that prevent backup generators from running when needed. We look forward to exploring how we can eliminate this problem in Ghana and Nigeria.

What’s NEXT for U.S. exports?

New data-based, customer service-driven initiative to ensure that more American businesses can fully capitalize on markets that are opening up around the world.

Exports are critical to the U.S economy. They fuel economic growth in our communities, support good middle class jobs, and unlock opportunity for American companies, entrepreneurs, farmers, ranchers, and workers, enabling U.S. companies to compete in the growing global marketplace. By selling Made-in-America goods and services to international customers, U.S. businesses – including small and medium-sized and minority- and women-owned businesses – are able to grow faster, hire more employees, pay higher wages, and help spread American ideas, innovation and values.

Recognizing the many opportunities exports create for our economy, U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker today announced that the Obama Administration will build on the success of the National Export Initiative (NEI) by launching NEI/NEXT: a new customer service-driven strategy with improved information resources that will ensure American businesses are fully able to capitalize on expanded opportunities to sell their goods and services abroad. NEI/NEXT will help more American companies reach more overseas markets by improving data, providing information on specific export opportunities, working more closely with financing organizations and service providers, and partnering with states and communities to empower local export efforts.

In 2010, President Obama launched the National Export Initiative (NEI), a comprehensive government-wide effort to help U.S. companies increase exports, expand into new markets, and compete globally. Under the NEI, the United States has had four straight record-breaking years of exports – hitting an all-time high of $2.3 trillion dollars last year – up $700 billion from 2009. A new economic report released today by the Department of Commerce, shows that nearly one-third of the country’s economic growth since mid-2009 has been driven by exports. Nearly 30,000 businesses have started exporting for the first time. And most importantly, since 2009, the number of jobs supported by exports has grown by 1.6 million to more than 11.3 million – the highest in 20 years.

Even with all this success, far too many American companies remain focused on domestic markets. Less than 5 percent of U.S. companies export, and more than half of those exporters sell to only one market. To help bridge that gap, and look for new opportunities to help U.S. businesses export, the Department of Commerce, along with 20 federal agency partners last year began to take a fresh look at the NEI. This interagency group solicited extensive stakeholder feedback and incorporated lessons learned under the NEI, to develop an economic growth strategy that would help make trade a central part of America’s economic DNA. The end product of that interagency review, NEI/NEXT will take the NEI strategy to next level by institutionalizing our progress from the past four years and serving as a framework to guide the development of new, innovative initiatives.

NEI/NEXT will be implemented through the Export Promotion Cabinet and Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee (TPCC), which consists of representatives from 20 federal departments and agencies with export-related programs. The Secretary of Commerce chairs the TPCC.

Secretary Penny Pritzker Announces Next Phase of the National Export Initiative -- NEI/NEXT

Today, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker announced NEI/NEXT – a data-based, customer service-driven initiative to ensure that more American businesses can fully capitalize on markets that are opening up around the world. Through five core objectives, NEI/NEXT will build on Administration-wide achievements under the National Export Initiative (NEI), to help all businesses reach the 95 percent of consumers who live outside the United States.

If you missed her speech, below is a collection of tweets from her account and audience members that summarizes her remarks.

Commerce and Department of Homeland Security: A new partnership built on shared principles

Guest Blog Post by Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker

About a month ago, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson  and I each sent our respective workforces (around 280,000 people combined) a declaration of joint principles we developed to capture our shared mission.

Today, I want to share this message more broadly. We all owe Secretary Johnson, his leadership team, and the more than 240,000 men and women of the Department of Homeland Security a debt of gratitude for their hard and often dangerous work securing our borders and keeping this country safe.

Secretary Johnson is also keenly aware of the essential role DHS plays every day in facilitating the lawful trade of goods and services—trade that is vital to our economic security and competitiveness, and that is at the core of Commerce’s mission.

DHS and Commerce are therefore key partners in the Administration’s economic growth agenda. During our recent meetings, Secretary Johnson and I have recommitted ourselves to personally overseeing progress in a variety of initiatives that are priorities of both Departments.

National Climate Assessment Underscores Urgent Need for Americans and Our Businesses to Prepare for Climate Change in the United States

Cover of the third U.S. National Climate Assessment report

Guest Blog Post by Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker

The effects of climate change on our planet are becoming more evident, and its impact on our communities, and key sectors of the economy, is becoming more profound.

As part of its overall efforts to provide scientific information about climate change, the Obama Administration released the third U.S. National Climate Assessment. This report – a key deliverable of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan – is a comprehensive, authoritative scientific assessment about climate changes that are happening now in the U.S. and further changes that we can expect to see throughout this century.

The report communicates the impacts of climate change according to geographic region of the U.S., and by economic and societal sector—including agriculture, energy, and health. These tailored findings help translate scientific insights into practical, useable knowledge that can help decision-makers and citizens anticipate and prepare for specific climate-change impacts.

Among the 12 key findings, the report concludes that evidence of human-induced climate change continues to strengthen and that impacts are increasing across the country. Over the next 100 years, we can expect these impacts to further increase unless the global emissions of heat-trapping greenhouses gases are stabilized or reduced. 

While these findings are indeed sobering and provide real-cause for concern, there is also reason for hope. Ultimately, the amount of climate change, severity of impacts, and how we will prepare for those impacts will be largely be determined by the decisions we make today. 

Taking Action to Attract the World’s Top Talented Professionals

Guest Blog Post by Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker

Today, the Obama Administration announced new steps to make it easier for highly skilled workers and talented researchers from other countries to contribute to our economy and ultimately become Americans. These measures are part of administrative reforms first announced in 2012, and reflect our commitment to attracting and retaining highly-skilled immigrants, continuing our economic recovery, and encouraging job creation.

Specifically, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a proposed rule that would—for the first time—allow work authorization for the spouses of H-1B workers who have begun the process of applying for a green card through their employers. Once enacted, this proposed rule would empower these spouses to put their own education and skills to work for the country that they and their families now call home.  This rule change was requested in a “We the People” petition to the White House.

At the same time, DHS is also proposing another new rule to make it easier for outstanding professors and researchers in other countries to demonstrate their eligibility for the EB-1 visa, a type of green card reserved for the world’s best and brightest. Just as great athletes and performers are already able to provide a range of evidence to support their petition for an EB-1, professors and researchers would be able to present diverse achievements such as groundbreaking patents or prestigious scientific grants.

These measures build on continuing Administration efforts to streamline existing systems, eliminate inefficiency, and increase transparency, such as by the launch of Entrepreneur Pathways, an online resource center that gives immigrant entrepreneurs an intuitive way to navigate opportunities to start and grow a business in the United States.

Commerce Department Collaborates with Regional Partners to Make the U.S. a Magnet for Advanced Manufacturing and Good Paying Jobs

This week, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker met with the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP) Steering Committee 2.0 and the Manufacturing Council to discuss issues affecting the health of America’s manufacturing industry, including progress on the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI).

In his 2013 and 2014 State of the Union Addresses, President Obama called for the creation of a nationwide network devoted to innovating and scaling-up advanced manufacturing technologies and processes to create good paying jobs and spur economic growth. These efforts, known as the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) consist of regional hubs, bringing together companies, universities, community colleges, and government to accelerate the development and adoption of cutting-edge manufacturing technologies for making new, globally competitive products. The President has asked Congress to authorize a one-time $1 billion investment—to be matched by private and other non-federal funds—to create an initial network of up to 15 hubs. Over the span of 10 years, he has proposed building out NNMI to encompass 45 such hubs.

Significant progress has already been made to accelerate the development of the NNMI. In January, President Obama announced the selection of the Next Generation Power Electronics Manufacturing Innovation Institute, headquartered at North Carolina State University, to lead a manufacturing innovation institute for next generation power electronics. It is focused on enabling energy-efficient, high-power electronic chips and devices by making wide bandgap semiconductor technologies cost-competitive with current silicon-based power electronics. President Obama also announced two additional institutes in February – the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute, headquartered in Chicago, and the Lightweight and Modern Metals Manufacturing Innovation Institute, headquartered in the Detroit area. These announcements build on the NNMI pilot – the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, now known as America Makes – launched in August 2012 in Youngstown, Ohio.