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Blog Category: Office of the Secretary

Spotlight on Commerce: Lisa Casias, Deputy Chief Financial Officer, Department of Commerce

Spotlight on Commerce: Lisa Casias, Deputy Chief Financial Officer, Department of Commerce

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.

Guest blog post by Lisa Casias, Deputy Chief Financial Officer, Department of Commerce 

As the Deputy Chief Financial Officer and Director for Financial Management, I work with all of the bureaus CFOs and financial management teams to provide support to the Department’s program managers in meeting their missions.  As a community we ensure that we meet the many requirements of the federal government’s financial reporting mandates, maintain robust internal control environments, and maintain the systems to produce financial information.  Perhaps, the most important aspect of our work is to ensure program managers have the information needed for decision making.  I am also responsible for the Office of Secretary’s budget operations and most recently the travel, fleet and personal property offices. 

I have worked in the Department for over 22 years in both the Office of Secretary and Office of Inspector General. I have held different positions within these organizations and added new areas to my portfolio over that time.  While some choose career paths that cross into many federal agencies, the opportunities to continually learn new things and ability to work with outstanding financial and administrative communities have kept me in the Department.

One of the most interesting aspects in working at the Department level is the ability to engage with all of the bureaus and learn their missions as we support their financial management needs.  As demonstrated in the Department’s Strategic Plan, the Department plays a critical role in the nation’s economy and the financial and administrative management communities are an integral part of mission success. 

I attribute my ability to follow my dreams (yes, I always wanted to be an accountant) and my career successes to the support of my parents.  I grew up in Dumont, New Jersey where my parents had migrated from England. They taught by example instilling in both my sister and me the importance of having strong work ethic, integrity and belief in oneself. They stayed in the United States as they believed we would have more opportunities to achieve our dreams, including obtaining a college education.  We were the first in our family to graduate from college. 

Views of the Trade Mission: A Learning Experience and Wealth of Opportunity

Kurt Bergman, Chief Executive Officer, Michael Baker International

Guest blog post by Kurt Bergman, Chief Executive Officer, Michael Baker International

As the CEO of Michael Baker International, I was honored when we were selected to accompany U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker on an infrastructure related trade mission to the UAE, Qatar and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. After eight whirlwind days, I look back and reflect on what I learned and felt about the trip and the wealth of opportunity in our future: 

  1. The Middle East continues to be one of the most exciting infrastructure markets on the planet, with well thought, visionary initiatives across the infrastructure spectrum of water, power, surface transportation, aviation and others as well as developments of incredible forethought about the environment, including how we will live and work in the future.
  2. The U.S. and Middle East relations continue to be strong and there is a distinct desire for American companies to participate in this market.
  3. As a global company, the U.S. Embassy Commercial office staff are an incredible asset to assist you.
  4. No matter how long you have worked in the global market, there is always something new to learn.

As we traveled from Abu Dhabi to Dubai, Riyadh and Doha, I was in awe of the size, scope and magnitude of the projects that were being conceived, planned, designed and constructed. The projects we were briefed on included the Qatari Supreme Council for Legacy's FIFA World Cup 2022 program investing over $100 Billion USD to create a fan experience based on sustainability, access and enjoyment with an eye to the future. Another program was the Saudi Arabian metro initiatives in Riyadh and Jeddah where 100 of kilometers of innovative, futuristic public light rail valued at over $50 Billion USD are being installed with a four year completion goal. The Emirati Al Satiyya island development was a wonder to contemplate with over 148 square kilometers of environmentally sensitive towns centered around a world class school, entertainment and culture containing three museums being designed by different work class Pritzker prize winning architects. Nowhere else in the world is there such a desire and drive across an entire region for sustainability, cultural and environmental stewardship and quality. Michael Baker International is excited to continue our  legacy of support in the region that goes back to the 1950s and our support to the Saudi Royal Family and to supporting the U.S. State and Defense missions throughout the region today.

Secretary Penny Pritzker Meets with Saudi Entrepreneurs About Challenges and Opportunities in the Region

On Tuesday night, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker met with a dozen Saudi entrepreneurs in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as part of her trade mission to the Middle East. The entrepreneurs work in a variety of sectors, including retail, real estate, food services, and more.

Secretary Pritzker briefly discussed her experiences as an entrepreneur with more than 27 years in business. Then, the male and female participants shared their own stories of entrepreneurship, and discussed challenges and opportunities for entrepreneurs in the region.

The attendees ranged from: a hamburger chain owner who built his first restaurant in 2009 with four employees and now has 17 franchises and 130 employees across the country; an entrepreneur who created a new real-estate-development division at his family’s business; and, a serial entrepreneur who launched an electronic recycling facility, an investment company, and a design school.

The group discussed the importance of education and skills training for entrepreneurs. Secretary Pritzker highlighted the success of the King Abdullah Scholarship Program, which sends tens of thousands of students to study at U.S. universities each year.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Tours Solar Park in Dubai

Secretary Pritzker speaks to the Dubai Chamber of Commerce

On Monday in Dubai, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker toured the Mohammed bin Rashid Solar Park by helicopter, getting a firsthand look at how cooperation between the U.S. and Dubai can lead to tremendous opportunities for businesses in both countries.

The solar park was built by First Solar, a company based in Tempe, Arizona that is currently accompanying Secretary Pritzker as part of her trade mission to the Middle East. Completed in October of 2013, the solar park is a 13 megawatt power plant and the largest solar facility of its kind in the Middle East.This solar park proves U.S. businesses can serve as strong business partners to the Gulf region as UAE invests in its infrastructure and transportation systems.

After the tour, Secretary Pritzker and the business delegation met with Dubai Electricity and Water Authority  (DEWA) project specialists and DEWA CEO Al Tayer to further discuss DEWA’s investments in water, electricity and renewable energy projects, all of which offer additional opportunities for American companies to serve as partners.

In addition to her tour of the solar park, Secretary Pritzker held several meetings on Monday to support U.S. companies as they explore business opportunities in Dubai’s infrastructure expansion. She met with Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) officials and World Expo 2020 committee members to congratulate Dubai on winning the World Expo 2020 bid and to offer the Commerce Department’s support in preparation for the Expo. Held every five years, the World Expo attracts millions of visitors to the six-month long exhibition of trade, innovation and products from around the world. Dubai Expo 2020 will focus on sustainability, mobility, and opportunity, and will be a platform for connectivity to help pioneer new partnerships for growth and sustainability for the future.    

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Kicks Off Middle East Trade Mission in Abu Dhabi

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Kicks Off Middle East Trade Mission in Abu Dhabi

With rapidly growing economies and an expanding middle class driving demand for U.S. products and services, countries in the Gulf region are ramping up investments in transportation, renewable energy, and other infrastructure projects. That is why U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker is leading a trade mission to the region this week, her second since being sworn in last June. Along with a delegation of 21 export-ready U.S. companies, Secretary Pritzker started her trip in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, a country with which the U.S. has a growing trade relationship. As the UAE undertakes major investment in its infrastructure and transportation systems, there are tremendous opportunities for U.S. firms to serve as strong partners. 

On Sunday morning, Secretary Pritzker led the trade mission’s business delegation on visits to two government-established entities that are making investments in infrastructure, in order to help these U.S. companies explore possible export or investment opportunities in the UAE. First they met with Khaldoon Mubarak, the CEO of Mubadala, a development company that is investing in renewable energy, educational facilities, transportation, and logistics. Mubadala has already partnered with a number of U.S. companies, including General Electric, Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The delegation also visited the Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority, which currently serves approximately 40 percent of the UAE’s population and is working to expand its capacity.
 
Secretary Pritzker then delivered remarks to business and government officials at a luncheon hosted by the United States–United Arab Emirates Business Council, the United States Chamber of Commerce, AmCham Abu Dhabi, and the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce & Industry. In her remarks, she highlighted the growing U.S.-UAE bilateral trade relationship, noting that U.S. exports to the UAE have more than doubled since 2009. Secretary Pritzker underscored that the companies on the trade mission are eager to do business in the UAE, and to serve as partners on a number of infrastructure projects the country has undertaken in areas such as renewable energy and transportation.

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

Secretary Pritzker Committed to Strengthening the Role of Women in Business and Technology

Penny Pritzker, Secretary of Commerce

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

As President Obama declared in his State of the Union address, “When women succeed, America succeeds.” Here at the Department of Commerce, we are committed to strengthening the role of women in business and technology. Among the Department’s many initiatives aimed toward advancing this goal are the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) efforts to empower our country’s women to innovate and create good jobs.

The USPTO provides the training and tools to encourage more women to get involved in, and contribute to, our innovation and knowledge-based economy.

In fiscal year 2013 alone, USPTO worked with over 3,000 girls through targeted programming focused on intellectual property (IP) and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) opportunities, including workshops on 3D printing, invention concepts, engineering design, game development, product packaging, and patent and trademark protection.

One of USPTO’s many successful collaborations occurred this past November when they teamed up with representatives from Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority to support the 2013 Girls Rock: Emerging Young Leaders Empowerment Conference, hosted at Woodson High School in Washington, DC. Over 300 girls spent the day learning about applied chemistry, coding, and robotics, and the USPTO workshop focused on encouraging girls to combine their STEM skills with IP knowledge and entrepreneurship skills.

In an effort to build regional clusters to spur creativity and entrepreneurship and to encourage more women and minorities to innovate, USPTO has also focused greater attention on programs with school districts including Alexandria City, District of Columbia, Prince Georges County, Howard County, Detroit, MI, and Los Angeles, CA.

USPTO’s outreach also includes their participation in many public-private partnerships, like supporting the Women Veterans Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship program and providing female veterans with the tools to become successful entrepreneurs.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Begins Trade Mission to Middle East

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker leaves today for the Middle East for her second trade mission. She will lead 21 U.S. companies on the trade mission, which is focused on export opportunities for U.S. businesses in the infrastructure sector.  This trade mission will mark the first time in 15 years a U.S. Commerce Secretary has taken a trade mission to the Persian Gulf.  The delegation will make three stops over the next week including the United Arab Emirates, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.

In addition to export opportunities for U.S. businesses in the infrastructure sector, this trade mission will focus on areas such as project management and engineering (including construction, architecture and design), renewable energy (solar, wind, and waste-to-energy), smart grid and energy efficiency, and environmental technologies (including water/wastewater, air pollution control, and waste management). Each of these areas is critically important to growing and expanding U.S. business opportunities in the region.

Last week, Secretary Pritzker delivered remarks to the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council, the U.S.-Qatar Business Council, and the U.S.-Saudi Arabian Business Council where she discussed the decades-long security and commercial relationship between the United States and the Middle East and the growing opportunities for expanding business in the region. She stressed the importance of this trade mission as a demonstration of the United States’ commitment to a sustained economic partnership in the Gulf region.

Secretary Pritzker recently returned from her first trade mission to Mexico which provided 17 U.S. companies with opportunities to establish relationships and promote their technologies and services in Mexico’s advanced manufacturing, information and communications technology, health IT and medical device sectors. The mission also allowed Secretary Pritzker to focus on a key pillar of the Department's "Open for Business" agenda, helping U.S. businesses export goods and services and expanding investment opportunities in the U.S.

Greeley and Hansen Sees Trade Mission as Opportunity to Advance Aggressive International Growth Objectives

John C. Robak, President & Chief Operating Officer of Greeley and Hansen

Guest post by John C. Robak 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 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.

Greeley and Hansen is excited to participate in the upcoming Department of Commerce Trade Mission with Secretary Pritzker and other business delegates to the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. As the individual who directs the international business operations for Greeley and Hansen, I believe the projected growth in these countries is phenomenal, and can provide significant business opportunities for Greeley and Hansen’s water and wastewater engineering, architectural, and management consulting services. We have set forth an aggressive plan for international growth, and this important trade mission will allow us to further assess the long-range needs of these countries for water and wastewater infrastructure and to better identify potential long-term project opportunities for our firm.

Traveling with Secretary Pritzker will provide unprecedented access to high-level decision makers in each of these countries.  Having had the opportunity to be a delegate on previous infrastructure trade missions with the U.S. Commerce Department, I know first-hand that Greeley and Hansen will gain valuable information and insight into the market for water and wastewater services, but more importantly, we will also be able to establish valuable contacts that can help us launch the expansion of our operations in these potential high-growth markets for our firm. Participating in these past trade missions has led to real business opportunities for us in other emerging markets across the globe that are also interested in gaining access to U.S. technology and intellectual capital to help build sustainable infrastructure that will support continued growth and expansion.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Announces Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Request

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker today released the fiscal year 2015 budget request for the U.S. Department of Commerce. The FY15 budget request supports and builds on President Obama’s vision for creating economic opportunity for all Americans, and includes critical funding for key Commerce priorities: promoting trade and investment, spurring innovation, and fueling our data-driven economy. The $8.8 billion FY15 budget request directly aligns with the Department’s “Open for Business Agenda,” which reflects Commerce's role as the voice of business and the Obama Administration’s focus on economic growth and job creation. 

The Commerce Department’s fiscal year 2015 budget reflects the Department's role as the voice of business in the Administration by making critical investments in our long-term growth and competitiveness. The budget prioritizes high-tech manufacturing and innovation, U.S. trade and investment, infrastructure, skills training, unleashing government data and gathering and acting on environmental intelligence, while also cutting red tape to help businesses grow. 

The FY 2015 Department of Commerce budget includes key investments in the following areas:

Promoting Trade and Investment: To promote exports and greater foreign investment in the U.S., the budget includes $497 million for the International Trade Administration (ITA), an eight percent increase over the 2014 enacted level. Funding for ITA includes $15 million to accelerate operations of the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center (ITEC), an interagency effort to address unfair trade practices and barriers to boost U.S. exports, and $20 million to expand SelectUSA, which promotes re-shoring and actively brings job-creating investment to the United States from around the world.

Spurring Innovation: To foster a more innovative U.S. economy, the budget will increase regional and national capacity for innovative manufacturing, be the principal defender and champion of the digital economy, continue to support research and development (R&D) that leads to transformative changes in technology, and promote intellectual property policy that supports innovation. 

Fueling a Data-Driven Economy: Data powers the 21st century economy, and Commerce Department data touches every American and informs business decisions every day.

Gathering and Acting on Environmental Intelligence: The Department’s environment agenda aims to help communities and businesses prepare for and prosper in a changing environment. The budget provides $2 billion to fully fund the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) next generation of weather satellites, which are critical to its ability to provide accurate information to decision-makers throughout the government and private sector, as well as time-sensitive weather forecasts and warnings that help protect lives and property.

Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative: The President is also proposing the Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative, which will be fully paid for with a balanced package of spending and tax reforms. It will demonstrate how, by simply changing a few tax provisions and reforming spending programs, Congress could achieve significant economic goals in research, education, manufacturing and skills training. The initiative is consistent with the model established in Murray-Ryan, providing equal dollar-for-dollar increases above the current law discretionary spending caps for both defense and non-defense. 

More information can be found at the Commerce Department's press release U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Announces Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Request.