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Blog Category: Office of the Secretary

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.

Commerce Co-Hosts Business and Community Partnerships Summit in Denver, Colorado

US Department of Commerce joined the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Mile High United Way, the Office of Governor John Hickenlooper, the Office of Mayor Michael Hancock and Opportunity Nation to co-host the Denver Business and Community Partnerships Summit.

Guest blog post Joshua Dickson, Director, Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, U.S. Department of Commerce

On Monday, the US Department of Commerce joined the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Mile High United Way, the Office of Governor John Hickenlooper, the Office of Mayor Michael Hancock and Opportunity Nation to co-host the Denver Business and Community Partnerships Summit. This first-of-its-kind event highlighted innovative ways businesses are partnering with nonprofits, faith-based organizations, institutes of higher education and the public sector to improve their communities. In addition to promoting effective cross-sector partnership models focused on workforce development, healthy communities, education and the environment, the Summit educated participants on resources offered by the federal government and provided people an opportunity to connect with others in their community interested in partnering to effect positive change. Leaders from more than 130 organizations, including over 50 businesses and more than 60 nonprofits, participated in this inaugural event. Jay Williams, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, joined Congressman Ed Perlmutter in delivering keynote remarks.

This was an important convening for the Commerce Department because it showcased the critical function that innovative partnerships between community-based organizations and the business community play in driving positive local development, particularly in the areas of skills and workforce training and education. The Summit also exhibited the significant contributions of multiple Commerce resources in facilitating effective community partnerships, including Economic Development Administration grants and Census data from the American Communities Survey.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Opens New Satellite Office in Denver, Colorado to Speed up the Patent Process and Create Local Jobs

Acting Deputy Secretary of Commerce Bruce Andrews (L) is joined by Senator Bennet, Deputy USPTO Director Lee, Mayor Hancock and others at the ribbon cutting for the USPTO's Denver office

Today Acting U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Bruce Andrews and Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee opened the permanent location for the USPTO Rocky Mountain Regional Office in in Denver’s central business district to help the region’s entrepreneurs advance cutting-edge ideas to the marketplace, grow their businesses, and more efficiently navigate the world’s strongest intellectual property system.

Through the ‘Open for Business Agenda,’ the Commerce Department is actively investing in communities across the country to build their capacity to spur innovation. They strongly support innovative startups and enterprises throughout their lifecycle because those companies produce economic growth, support good-paying jobs, and benefit America’s middle class. The Department also believes that this new USPTO satellite office will help the Rocky Mountain region’s inventors and entrepreneurs speed up their innovative products and technologies into the marketplace.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office hopes that by retaining and hiring more talented examiners locally they can further improve the overall quality and transparency of their operations while continuing to reduce patent pendency on a national scale. 

The new Rocky Mountain Regional Satellite Office is expected to create an estimated 130 high-quality, good-paying jobs, that will eventually house patent examiners, Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) judges, and outreach officials in a 45,000-square-foot space located in the Byron G. Rogers Federal Building.

Secretary Pritzker Joins PAGE Member Steve Case on Cincinnati Leg of “Rise of the Rest” Road Tour

Secretary Pritzker Joins PAGE Member Steve Case on Cincinnati Leg of “Rise of the Rest” Road Tour

Today U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker visited Cincinnati, Ohio for the “Rise of the Rest” Road Tour to celebrate America’s entrepreneurial spirit and bring attention to emerging startup economies in communities across the United States. The four-city tour, taking place this week in Detroit, Pittsburg, Cincinnati and Nashville is hosted by Chairman and CEO of Revolution and Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE) member Steve Case. PAGE is a first-of-its-kind collaboration between eleven of America’s most inspiring and prominent entrepreneurs who are using their experience and expertise to help spur business creation in the United States and around the world.

Entrepreneurship is a key driver of economic growth and job creation. Startups account for 20 percent of new jobs created in the United States and are responsible for adding net new employment to the economy. Secretary Pritzker’s visit to Ohio today is part of the Commerce Department’s ongoing efforts to support and highlight America’s thriving entrepreneurial spirit, celebrate our startup culture, and inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Secretary Pritzker began the day in Cincinnati by delivering remarks about the importance of entrepreneurship at a breakfast event with Cincinnati business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs. In her remarks, she discussed the Administration’s efforts to engage with business leaders and local leaders to foster an economic environment that encourages innovation and entrepreneurship, which spur job growth and competitiveness and promote economic development.

Secretary Pritzker then hopped on the bus and headed to Dotloop, a web-based company focused on creating a platform that would simplify real estate transactions. She then toured Cintrifuse a start-up incubator in downtown Cincinnati where she met with a number of entrepreneurs looking to turn their ideas and inventions into new products and technologies. After her Cintrifuse visit, Secretary Pritzker and Steve Case visited Roadtrippers, a web and mobile app for planning road trips. All of the sites Secretary Pritzker visited today demonstrate the power and potential of great American business ideas.

Later in the day Secretary Pritzker and Steve Case sat down for a fireside chat with Rich Boehne CEO of E.W. Scripps Company at the Brandery, a seed startup accelerator. Speaking before an audience of Cincinnati entrepreneurs, they offered practical advice for young companies from their own experiences building businesses and shared more about what the Administration is trying to accomplish by supporting entrepreneurship through the PAGE initiative. ​

Secretary Pritzker Discusses the Importance of a Globally Competitive Workforce at the 2014 CGI America Annual Meeting

Secretary Pritzker Discusses the Importance of a Globally Competitive Workforce at the 2014 CGI America Annual Meeting

At the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) America 2014 Annual Meeting today in Denver, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker spoke about the Commerce Department’s efforts to catalyze job-driven training initiatives and the Obama Administration’s focus on fostering a 21stcentury workforce. Following remarks by former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary Pritzker spoke on a panel moderated by Chelsea Clinton, Clinton Foundation Vice Chair, titled “Charting a New Course: Education and Employing America’s Future Leaders.”

Workforce training is a personal issue for Secretary Pritzker, and she has heard from many CEOs that finding the right workers to fill available jobs is one of their top concerns. That is why Secretary Pritzker has made workforce training a top priority for the Department of Commerce for the very first time.

As Secretary Pritzker noted during the panel, training initiatives must be industry-driven in order to succeed in creating the 21st century workforce that businesses need. The Commerce Department leads a number of initiatives that have already seen progress towards equipping the American workforce with the skills for available jobs. 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. Secretary Pritzker also recently 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 careers in cutting edge industries, such as advanced manufacturing, IT, and healthcare.