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Blog Category: Office of the Secretary

Secretary Pritzker: Commerce Department Helps Keep Alaska Open for Business

Secretary Pritzker meeting with CEOs representing the Alaska Native Corporations

The Department of Commerce is focused on creating the conditions for businesses to grow, hire, and strengthen the economy in all 50 states. This week, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker is in Alaska to showcase how the Department keeps the Last Frontier open for business.

Secretary Pritzker met with business leaders in Anchorage this morning to discuss challenges and opportunities facing the business community in the state and resources for Alaska businesses that are looking to grow. Among the roundtable participants were representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, as well as the transportation, logistics, and travel and tourism industries.

During their conversation, they discussed workforce development challenges, the need for infrastructure development to seize the economic opportunities of a changing Arctic, and the importance of making it easier  for visitors to enter the United States. With more than 1.9 million visitors during fiscal year 2014, Alaska’s expanding travel and tourism industry is critical to economic growth and job creation in the state.

She also highlighted the Commerce Department’s “Open for Business Agenda,” of which trade and investment is a key pillar. Alaska’s merchandise exports have grown from about $3.2 billion in 2009 to $4.5 billion in 2013, but the Commerce Department wants to help Alaska reach even more international buyers. Secretary Pritzker announced that the Commerce Department is getting ready to reopen the U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC) in Alaska in the coming weeks. USEACs around the country connect U.S. companies with international buyers, provide them with market intelligence and trade counseling, and facilitate business matchmaking and commercial diplomacy support.

AAR Lands Multi-million Dollar Supply Chain Deal with Kenya Airways with Help of U.S. Government Advocacy Efforts

For the first time since the Obama administration’s “Doing Business in Africa” initiative went into effect, an aviation company has landed a multi-year deal in Africa. AAR, a global aerospace, government and defense contractor, recently announced a five-year deal with Kenya Airways. Under the conditions of this multi-million dollar accord, Kenya Airways agrees to provide power-by-the-hour component support for its fleet of 737NG aircraft, while AAR places inventory on site in Nairobi and offers rotable pool support from its newly established supply chain in Brussels.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s leadership and staff from Washington D.C., Chicago and the U.S. Embassy in Kenya aided the finalization of this arrangement by connecting AAR’s top executives with African government and business officials during a visit to Nairobi, Kenya. The successful advocacy strategy was also supported by several inter-agency partners including the U.S. State Department.

Deals like these are one of the key reasons the U.S. Department of Commerce and Bloomberg Philanthropies hosted the inaugural U.S.-Africa Business Forum on Tuesday. The event, part of President Obama’s U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit, focused on trade and investment opportunities on the continent. The Forum highlighted U.S. private sector engagement in Africa in the areas of finance and capital investment, infrastructure, power and energy, agriculture, consumer goods, and information communication technology. Heads of state engaged with business executives from both sides of the Atlantic in conversations about successes and solutions to build greater access for trade and investment in Africa. The day served as a catalytic opportunity for American companies to increase economic partnerships and investment in Africa and ended with the announcement that U.S. companies plan to invest more than $14 billion in the continent.

While these announcements and deals are exciting moments, they take great preparation and negotiation. For example, AAR contacted the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Advocacy Center for assistance in reaching decision-makers at Kenya Airways, including the CEO. Over the course of several months, AAR representatives were provided with assistance on meeting legal requirements, establishing business protocols, and cultivating key business relationships in Kenya. The advocacy effort was brought to the attention of then-Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank, who in late 2012, personally advocated on behalf of AAR to Kenya Airways and government officials during her trip to Nairobi, Kenya; providing an additional measure of support which helped secure the business deal for AAR.

Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Highlights U.S. Commitment to Doing Business In Africa

Secretary Pritzker Joins Mayor Bloomberg and President Obama at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum

Yesterday, at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker highlighted a number of Commerce Department efforts to help more American businesses explore opportunities in Africa’s fast-growing markets. The Forum, focused on trade and investment opportunities on the continent, was part of President Obama’s three-day U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, the largest event that any U.S. president has ever convened with African heads of state or government.

Co-hosted by the Department of Commerce and Bloomberg Philanthropies, the U.S.-Africa Business Forum was created to encourage greater U.S. investment in Africa, foster business deals, and help create jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. During remarks at the Forum, President Obama announced that U.S. businesses have already committed to investing $14 billion in clean energy, aviation, banking, and construction projects, among other commitments totaling more than $33 billion that support economic growth in Africa and thousands of U.S. jobs.

The Commerce Department leads the Doing Business in Africa (DBIA) campaign, which was launched in 2012 as part of the President Obama’s “U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa.” DBIA aims to increase U.S. trade promotion to Africa, address market barriers, expand the availability of trade financing, and attract more American companies to explore sub-Saharan Africa trade and investment opportunities.

In an op-ed published by Forbes, Secretary Pritzker and Michael Bloomberg touted the business deals signed during the forum and made the case for Africa as a prime investment location. “We know what is possible when American companies work hand-in-hand with African counterparts: we can help raise living standards and pave the way for future growth.” One example of the benefits of these partnerships can be seen through IBM, who opened Africa’s first major commercial technology research lab in Kenya to pioneer consumer-facing innovations aimed at African markets. This forum was only the beginning, and highlighted American companies willingness to increase their economic partnerships and investment in Africa.

Secretary Pritzker Highlights the Work by the Commerce Department to Improve Trade and Investment with Africa at the Historic U.S.-Africa Business Forum

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker delivered opening remarks at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum, a day focused on trade and investment opportunities on the continent. In her remarks, Secretary Pritzker stated that the U.S.-Africa economic relationship is fundamental to our mutual peace and prosperity. She discussed the work that the Commerce Department is doing to advance President Obama’s vision for the future of U.S.-Africa relations, including expanding the Foreign Commercial Service presence across the continent. She announced that the Department of Commerce and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency will lead 10 new trade missions to Africa and 10 reverse trade missions to the United States by 2020. She also announced the start of NIST’s Global Cities Challenge to catalyze the development of “smart cities,” as well as the launch of a new web portal for American businesses to explore opportunities in Africa. We want to make doing business in Africa easier for every business. Noting that increased trade and investment in Africa will spur growth on both sides of the Atlantic, Secretary Pritzker expressed her hope that the business and government leaders will keep the U.S.-Africa partnership open for more growth and success.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Joins U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue

Secretary Penny Pritzker Joins U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue

On the final day of her visit to India, Secretary Pritzker and Secretary of State John Kerry met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss opportunities for strengthening the U.S.-India commercial relationship. Their trip was the first U.S. Cabinet-level visit to New Delhi since Prime Minister Modi was elected.

Secretaries Kerry and Pritzker were in New Delhi for the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue, which took place July 31. Launched in 2010, the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue is the highest level regularly scheduled dialogue between the two governments and provides a forum to discuss U.S.-Indian relations. Secretary Pritzker led discussions aimed at strengthening the commercial and economic ties between the U.S. and India, focusing on ways the U.S. can collaborate with India’s new government to promote growth in both nations. Secretary Pritzker underscored the desire of U.S. firms to do more business in India, and discussed how U.S. businesses can collaborate with India in the areas of infrastructure and manufacturing to help the country meet its development goals.

While in New Delhi, Secretary Pritzker joined the AmCham Infrastructure Committee at a breakfast meeting focused on receiving U.S. industry feedback on the opportunities and challenges that they face in the Indian infrastructure sector.

Secretary Pritzker also met with several other Indian government officials, including her counterpart, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman. During their discussion, Secretary Pritzker pressed forward on plans to create an infrastructure platform that will help U.S. firms serve as a partner on significant infrastructure projects in India. Secretary Pritzker also joined the Indian Minister of Finance, Defence, and Corporate Affairs Arun Jaitley for a joint bilateral meeting with Secretary Kerry. In addition, Secretary Pritzker met with Indian Minister of Power Piyush Goyal and discussed how American firms can use their capabilities and expertise to help India meet its ambitious energy-development goals.

U.S.-Africa Business Success Stories: How a Supplier of Powerboats to the U.S. Military Started Doing Business in Nigeria

Note: This post is part of the U.S.-Africa Business Success Stories series highlighting the work of the Department of Commerce to strengthen the economic relationship between U.S. and African businesses. This series will lead up to the U.S. Africa Business Forum on August 5th, the first of its kind event, which will convene African heads of state and government, U.S. government officials and business leaders to discuss trade and investment opportunities on the continent.

Hann Powerboats’ customers include the United States Air Force, United States Navy, and the United States Army Corps of Engineers – and now, because of assistance that the company received from the Department of Commerce, they can add another name to their impressive list: the Nigerian oil and gas company, MOP Marine.

U.S. businesses like Hann Powerboats are increasingly seeing tremendous economic opportunity in Africa, and the reason why is simple: Africa is thriving. From 1995 to 2013, Africa experienced an average annual GDP growth rate of 4.5 percent. In 2012, eight of the twenty fastest growing economies in the world were in sub-Saharan Africa, and, according to the IMF, in 2013, total U.S. two-way goods with the region were $63 billion. Africa’s potential to be the world’s next major economic story is why businesses in the United States, like Hann Powerboats, want to offer their products, services, and expertise to help unlock even more of Africa’s potential – that is why the Obama Administration and the Department of Commerce remain committed to assisting American businesses in finding opportunity in this economically expanding region.

Hann Powerboats became interested in expanding its business to Africa when it was approached by a potential client in Nigeria to secure MOP Marine’s need for patrol boats. Hann Powerboats asked for assistance from the Tampa Bay U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC) and the U.S. Commercial Service (CS) team in Lagos to help with vetting this potential partner, and CS Lagos was able to facilitate meetings between Hann Powerboats and MOP Marine. The Tampa Bay USEAC then helped put Hann Powerboats in touch with the Nigerian Embassy in Washington D.C. to help with them acquire proper documentation. The result of this assistance allowed Hann Powerboats to make sales to MOP Marine for over $4 million.

The U.S. Partnerships and Initiatives Spurring Economic Growth in Africa

President Obama has called Africa “the world's next great economic success story.” According to the African Development Bank, Africa maintained an average GDP growth rate of 3.9 percent in 2013, exceeding the 3 percent rate for the global economy.  U.S. exports to the continent of Africa have grown 39 percent since 2009, reaching $50.2 billion in 2013. The brightest spot has been U.S. merchandise exports to sub-Saharan Africa, which have increased 58 percent since 2009.

Building on this progress, the Department of Commerce and Bloomberg Philanthropies are co-hosting the U.S. Africa Business Forum on August 5, a day focused on trade and investment opportunities on the continent. Part of the first-ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit taking place August 4-6, the Forum is part of the Administration’s efforts to explore Africa’s huge economic potential:

  • U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa: In 2012, President Obama announced the U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa, a comprehensive policy strategy to address the opportunities and challenges in Africa in a forward-looking way. The Strategy focuses on strengthening democratic institutions; spurring economic growth, trade, and investment; advancing peace and security; and promoting opportunity and development. 
  • Doing Business in Africa: As part of the Strategy, the Department of Commerce launched the Doing Business in Africa Campaign, which has helped U.S. businesses take advantage of the many export and investment opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa. As part of the campaign, Commerce has expanded trade promotion programs tailored toward Africa and dedicated an online Africa business portal directing businesses to federal resources.
  • Commercial Service expansion: To expand Commerce’s human resources footprint in Africa, Secretary Pritzker recently announced the opening of new U.S. Commercial Service offices across the continent. The U.S. Commercial Service helps U.S. businesses start exporting or increase sales to new global markets. By expanding its Commercial Service teams in Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, and Libya, and opening offices in Angola, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Mozambique for the first time, the Department of Commerce hopes to help U.S. businesses find their next customer abroad and create jobs in Africa.

Commerce Joins Federal Partners to Present Job Training Programs Review

Commerce Joins Federal Partners to Present Job Training Programs Review

Guest Blog Post by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker

A strong, skilled American workforce is essential to ensuring that U.S. businesses are able to compete in the global economy. In the 2014 State of the Union Address, President Obama asked that I join Vice President Biden, Secretary Perez, and Secretary Duncan to lead a review of federal training programs, to ensure that these programs prepare workers for the jobs that are available right now. On Tuesday we presented our findings and recommendations to the President at an event at the White House. President Obama also signed H.R. 803, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which will help improve business engagement and accountability across federally-funded training programs.

As a business leader of 27 years, I know the importance of hiring skilled workers. In our “Open for Business Agenda,” the Department of Commerce is making workforce development a top priority for the first time ever. While the Department does not directly fund job training programs, many of our initiatives support efforts to match workers to local industry needs. The Economic Development Administration (EDA) and National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) in particular have taken significant leadership roles in the Department’s skilled workforce policy. For example, the Economic Development Administration (EDA) funds critical efforts that help communities address local economic needs, including workforce needs. In addition, the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) works with manufacturers around the country to help them improve their processes and create and retain jobs.

Commerce is coordinating with other federal partners to leverage support for job-driven training initiatives. For example,  we are working in coordination with the Department of Labor (DOL) on their Center for Workforce & Industry Partnerships (CWIP), which will bring together key agencies across the federal government to support workforce and industry partnerships and form a common vision and approach to partnerships. To better align economic development and workforce development goals, EDA is working to develop stronger ties between EDA Regional Offices and Department of Labor (DOL) regional offices, and is incorporating job-driven training principles into its new Comprehensive Economic Development Strategies guidelines for economic development districts. Also, NIST MEP is working closely with DOL’s Registered Apprenticeships Program to spread awareness of their resources to common clients.  In fact, MEP and DOL co-hosted a webinar on these programs last week, and MEP helped DOL host an advanced manufacturing industry roundtable in Chicago last month to inform the upcoming solicitation for federal apprenticeship funding, one of the major announcements to come out of the Administration’s work on job-driven training.

We are also leveraging Commerce data to develop new tools for connecting job-seekers to available positions. Today, at the 21st Century Career Counseling Jobs Data Jam in Baltimore, Md., Under Secretary for Economic Affairs Mark Doms and Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez spoke with technology leaders and app developers to explore opportunities to use government data to help workers find jobs and training opportunities.

The Department of Commerce is leveraging our resources and will continue to collaborate with our other interagency partners, as well as businesses and educational institutions, to ensure that both workers and businesses get the best out of workforce skills programs. The report we presented on Tuesday offers a blueprint for our future actions to help more Americans climb the ladder of opportunity. 

U.S.-Africa Business Success Stories: A Kodak Moment: How the Department of Commerce Brokered a Deal between Eastman Kodak and an Egyptian Bank

Ed. Note: This post is part of the U.S.-Africa Business Success Stories series highlighting the work of the Department of Commerce to strengthen the economic relationship between U.S. and African businesses. This series will lead up to the U.S. Africa Business Forum on August 5th, which will convene African heads of state and government to meet with President Obama, Secretary Pritzker, and former Mayor Michael Bloomberg to discuss trade and investment opportunities for African heads of government and American business leaders.

When the Department of Commerce helped Eastman Kodak broker an exporting deal with one of Egypt’s largest state-owned banks, it was a true Kodak moment. American businesses like Kodak are becoming increasingly engaged in exporting to Africa, and the reasons why are clear:

  • Africa has made great strides towards achieving sustainable economic growth and widespread poverty alleviation.
  • Gross domestic product (GDP) in Africa is expected to rise 6 percent per year over the next decade.
  • Africa is set to have a larger workforce than India or China by the year 2040.
  • According to the World Bank, almost half of Africa’s countries have attained middle-income status.

Africa’s potential as the world’s next major economic story is why businesses in the United States, like Kodak, want to offer their products, services, and expertise to help unlock even more of Africa’s potential – and the Obama Administration and Department of Commerce are committed to helping these exporting businesses each step of the way.

Kodak, the company best known for pioneering photographic film products, has been an active client of the nearby Rochester U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC) for decades. This long-standing relationship connected Kodak with one of the largest state-owned banks in Egypt, Banque Misr. When the bank was about to place an order to purchase Kodak Scanners, Banque Misr was told that Kodak had encountered a financial problem not familiar to many outside the U.S.: Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

To better understand Kodak’s financial situation, Banque Misr contacted the U.S. Commercial Service in Egypt, which then contacted the Rochester USEAC. The Rochester USEAC  was able to confirm that Kodak was still operational and headquartered in Rochester. With the help of Tim McCall, a trade specialist in Rochester, and the U.S. Commercial Service, the bank received the proper paperwork and placed an order to Kodak which amounted to roughly $185,000 in export sales.

The Obama Administration and the Department of Commerce believe that Kodak’s and Banque Misr’s example can encourage other U.S. companies to do business in Africa. That is why, last year, President Obama announced the launch of Trade Africa, a partnership between the United States and East African Community (EAC) – Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. Trade Africa aims to increase exports from the EAC to the U.S. by 40 percent, reduce the average time needed to import or export a container from African ports by 15 percent, and decrease by 30 percent the average time a truck takes to transit certain borders, making it easier for businesses on both side of the Atlantic to trade. 

Businesses interested in learning more about exporting should contact their local U.S. Export Assistance Center.

Secretary Pritzker Underscores Importance of Innovation and American Manufacturing at Visit to Whirlpool Corporation

Secretary Pritzker receives a tour of the Whirlpool Corporate Headquarters by Chief Executive Officer Jeff Fettig

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker discussed the importance of innovation and American manufacturing to the U.S. economy during a tour and panel discussion with business leaders and CEOs at the Whirlpool Corporation’s headquarters in Benton Harbor, Michigan. As the world’s leading global manufacturer and marketer of major home appliances, the Whirlpool Corporation has effectively  integrated innovative thinking into its core values and mission.

Speaking on a panel titled “The Global Innovation Forum,” and moderated by Doug Rothwell, Chief Executive Officer and President of the Business Leaders of Michigan, Secretary Pritzker explained that one of the key priorities of the Commerce Department’s “Open for Business Agenda” is to strengthen American innovation, with a focus on supporting manufacturing. Secretary Pritzker also highlighted how the Obama Administration and the Department of Commerce are spearheading three manufacturing initiatives to accomplish this objective.

First, Secretary Pritzker talked about the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI), a bipartisan, industry-driven proposal to create a network of commercialization hubs owned and operated by universities and corporations. These hubs will conduct skills training and accelerate new technologies into the market, all aimed at benefiting a region’s manufacturing base, rather than just a single company.  In addition, Secretary Pritzker discussed the successes of the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP). IMCP is a federal designation that recognizes communities that should serve as models for the rest of the country – because they each have clear strategies to become magnets for manufacturing, along with coordinated efforts in key areas, like workforce training, supplier networks, research and innovation, infrastructure and site development, exporting, and access to capital. Recent research shows that communities who make these investments in a coordinated fashion experience higher growth in employment, wages, number of establishments, and number of patents.