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Blog Category: Office of the Secretary

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.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Talks About Efforts to Boost Exports in the Rural Delta

Secretary Pritzker promoting rural exports in Memphis

Exports are an important tool for economic development and job creation, which is why the Obama Administration has made increased exports a central pillar of its strategy for economic growth. With the recent launch of NEI/NEXT, the next phase of the successful National Export Initiative, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Pritzker has made it a priority to expand the U.S. export base and to help more American businesses of all sizes – including rural businesses – capitalize on opportunities in foreign markets.

As part of this effort, Secretary Pritzker traveled to Memphis, Tennessee Thursday to participate in the “Made in Rural America” Regional Forum, focused on boosting rural exports. Hosted by the Delta Regional Authority (DRA), the forum convened small business owners, industry representatives, business support organizations, and local, state, and federal leaders to discuss ways to help rural businesses grow and reach the 95% of customers that live outside our borders. Secretary Pritzker participated in an armchair discussion with DRA Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill and discussed how we can all work together to enhance opportunities for businesses in rural communities and how we can focus on ways to increase exports from the Delta region’s many businesses. Today’s forum is the second of five regional forums to be held across the country, aimed at helping local businesses integrate exports into their economic growth strategies.

At the Forum, Secretary Pritzker discussed the Commerce Department’s resources to help rural businesses compete in the global marketplace. The Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration (ITA) has trade specialists in more than 100 U.S. cities and over 70 countries worldwide to help companies take advantage of business opportunities abroad and connect them to trade events, foreign buyers, and other partners. In fact, about 85 percent of ITA’s clients are small and medium-sized businesses, and on average 38 percent are rural exporters.

Since the launch of the NEI in 2010, 1.6 million more Americans are earning a paycheck from an export-supported job, bringing the total to 11.3 million jobs – the highest in 20 years.

Secretary Pritzker Discusses the Power of Government Data and Announces the Department of Commerce Will Hire Its First-Ever Chief Data Officer

Announces the Department of Commerce Will Hire Its First-Ever Chief Data Officer

Today, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker discussed the Department of Commerce’s expanding role as “America’s Data Agency” at the 2014 Esri International User’s Conference in San Diego, California. The annual conference, hosted by Esri, a geographic information systems (GIS) software development company is attended by 16,000 data experts, including those from federal, state, local, and regional governments; Fortune 1000 companies; small business owners; university scholars; and K-12 teachers. 

During her address, Secretary Pritzker described how the Department of Commerce’s data collection – which literally reaches from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun – not only informs trillions of dollars of private and public investments each year and plants the seeds of economic growth, but also saves lives. Because of Commerce Department data, Secretary Pritzker explained, communities vulnerable to tornados have seen warning times triple and tornado warning accuracy double over the past 25 years, giving residents greater time to search for shelter in the event of an emergency. The breadth of the Department’s data collection and dissemination, which touches of the lives of millions of Americans every day, is why many, including Secretary Pritzker call the Department of Commerce “America’s Data Agency.”

To develop and implement a vision for the next phase in the open data revolution, Secretary Pritzker announced that the Department of Commerce will hire its first-ever Chief Data Officer. This leader, Secretary Pritzker explained, will oversee improvements to data collection and dissemination in order to ensure that Commerce’s data programs are coordinated, comprehensive, and strategic. To bolster the Chief Data Officer’s efforts, Secretary Pritzker explained that the Department will create a data advisory council, which will be comprised of private sector leaders who will advise the Department on how to best use and unleash more government data.

Secretary Pritzker also announced the launch of the International Trade Administration’s “Developer Portal,” which will centralize data that is vital to exporting businesses across the country. Finally, Secretary Pritzker invited conference attendees to participate in a panel discussion later in the week in San Diego on how businesses can best utilize data from the American Community Survey (ACS), an annual statistical survey that helps guide $400 billion in federal spending each year.

Secretary Pritzker Discusses Fostering a 21st Century Workforce with Walter Isaacson at the 2014 Aspen Ideas Festival

Today, at the 2014 Aspen Ideas Festival, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker spoke about the Obama Administration and the Commerce Department’s efforts to strengthen the American workforce and prepare our workforce for 21st century jobs through skills development. She discussed these efforts with Walter Isaacson, President and CEO of the Aspen Institute, during an armchair discussion titled “21st Century Workforce.”

Since taking office a year ago, Secretary Pritzker has spoken to over a thousand business leaders and more than one-third of Fortune 500 CEOs, and one of the top concerns that they have shared is finding the right workers to fill available jobs. To ensure the economy’s long term competitiveness, the United States must maintain a strong workforce with the skills that businesses need. That is why the Department of Commerce is making workforce development a top priority for the first time ever.

In her discussion with Isaacson, Secretary Pritzker talked about some of the initiatives that the Commerce Department is leading to equip the American workforce with skills for jobs in thriving industries. For example, the Department recently launched a membership call for the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE), an advisory council that will assists the Department in finding new approaches to industry-led skills training. This spring, Secretary Pritzker also joined President Obama and Vice President Biden to announce a combined $600 million in Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) and apprenticeship grants, which will enable a number of communities to train workers for challenging careers in growing American industries, such as advanced manufacturing, IT, and healthcare.

Lutheran Services in America Works to Strengthen Local Communities

Charlotte Haberaecker, President and CEO of Lutheran Services in America (LSA)

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Commerce in the Community series highlighting the work of community leaders and organizations that are strengthening the middle class and providing ladders of opportunity for all Americans.

Below is an interview with Charlotte Haberaecker, President and CEO of Lutheran Services in America (LSA), one of the nation’s largest health and human services networks. Prior to joining LSA in 2012, Charlotte was the number-two executive at Global Impact, a $110 million non-profit organization that provides funding for critical humanitarian needs at home and around the world. Previously, she held senior leadership positions at Price Waterhouse where she directed a management consulting practice and Fannie Mae where she led an industry transformation initiative. 

Q1: Tell us about Lutheran Services in America. What is your mission and main focus?

Lutheran Services in America (www.lutheranservices.org) is one of the largest health and human services networks in the country. Our more than 300 members provide a broad range of critical services from health care to children and family services, senior services, disaster relief, refugee services, disability support, housing, and employment support, among others.  Collectively, LSA members touch the lives of 1 in 50 Americans each year in thousands of communities across the United States.

Ranked at #25 on the Philanthropy 400, the LSA network represents close to $21 billion in combined annual revenues in the U.S. Our members employ close to 250,000 people in all 50 states and parts of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Our members provide services to all, regardless of their religious affiliation, race, or social or economic background.

LSA works to ensure our members’ resilience in an increasingly evolving environment. Our newly revised mission is to “build valuable connections, amplify our voices and empower our members,” and our vision is a network of “connected, strong and thriving” members that “transform the lives of people and communities.” A distinguishing characteristic of our network is the deep trust and sharing that come from a shared set of values and goals. Our network strives to help people become self-sufficient so they can lead more independent, secure and higher quality lives. The deep trust facilitates rapid innovation and scale.

We help our members to build resilience through specialized programming for CEOs and executives; we also work to help build the capacity and infrastructure of our member organizations, for example by exploring new business models that can create more sustainable revenue streams. We also find opportunities for our 307 members to work together to achieve outcomes they couldn’t achieve on their own so they can grow and continue to serve their communities for generations to come.