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Blog Category: Office of the Secretary

Secretary Pritzker Meets With Commerce Employees in Houston

Secretary Penny Pritzker meets with Houston-area Commerce Employees.

While in Houston, Texas today, Secretary Pritzker visited a U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC), part of the International Trade Administration (ITA), and met with USEAC employees and employees from the Bureau of Industry and Security’s (BIS) Houston field office. The secretary's visit was part of her latest stop on a nationwide listening tour and was an opportunity to thank the employees for their work for the Department of Commerce. 

USEACs are the domestic arm of ITA’s U.S. Commercial Service, which is comprised of an extensive network of trade specialists located in more than 100 U.S. cities and 80 countries worldwide. The specialists help American companies start exporting or expand their international business presence. Specific services include: world class market research; trade events that promote companies’ product or service to qualified buyers; introductions to buyers and distributors; and counseling and advocacy through every step of the export process.The Houston USEAC in particular has been working with companies in the energy, information technology and transportation sectors to support and increase U.S. exports.

The secretary also met with representatives from BIS’ Houston field office. The Houston office’s mission is to protect U.S. national and domestic security, foreign policy and economic interests. BIS operates a law enforcement program focused on sensitive exports to hostile entities or those that engage in onward proliferation, prohibited foreign boycotts and related public safety laws. The office accomplishes its mission through preventative and investigative enforcement activities and then pursuing appropriate criminal and administrative sanctions against export violators.

Secretary Penny Pritzker Announces $600,000 Investment to Support Entrepreneurship and Job Creation in Louisiana

Secretary Penny Pritzker hears from entrepreneurs at Idea Village in New Orleans, Louisana

Secretary Penny Pritzker today announced that the Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is awarding a $600,000 grant to The Idea Village, Inc., of New Orleans, La., to support programs that assist entrepreneurs in building their businesses and creating jobs. Secretary Pritzker is in New Orleans today as part of her nationwide listening tour, and made the announcement at The Idea Village after meeting with local entrepreneurs, mentors and business leaders.

The EDA investment announced today will support more than 300 businesses, according to grantee estimates. Specifically, it will fund additional technical assistance programs, especially in such growing fields as technology, biomedical engineering, and media production; help with expansion of The Idea Village’s successful “Entrepreneur Season,” a six-month-long program of business assistance and education; and support more forums, workshops, and networking sessions that will be offered during New Orleans’ Entrepreneur Week. EDA previously awarded two grants to The Idea Village – $800,000 in 2009 and $400,000 in 2011 – which helped the organization build their capacity to assist entrepreneurs.

To learn more about the U.S. Economic Development Administration, visit www.eda.gov.

Secretary Pritzker Visits Census Bureau’s Atlanta Regional Office

Secretary Pritzker meets with Reggie Bigham (Deputy Regional Director) and Katrina Carter (Assistant Regional Director) of the Census Bureau's Atlanta Regional Office on Friday, August 23.

Earlier today, Secretary Pritzker visited the Census Bureau’s Atlanta Regional Office. She met with Census Bureau employees as well as staff from the Economic Development Administration and Minority Business Development Agency. Her latest stop on her listening tour, and the first at a Census Bureau regional office, gave her the opportunity to thank the employees for their hard work collecting the data that allows the Census Bureau to measure America’s people, places and economy.

The Census Bureau’s six regional offices form the backbone of the data collection process. Field representatives in the Atlanta region follow up with respondents from South Carolina to Louisiana to gather data for surveys such as the American Community Survey, which provides the only local statistics available for every neighborhood in the nation.

Secretary Pritzker toured the regional office and thanked staff for their hard work and dedication to gathering data critical to the nation: “The information you collect helps government at all levels — federal, state and local. Your data is critical for entrepreneurs and business owners who want to make good decisions. I’ve discussed the importance of the Census Bureau to the President himself, and we talked about how we need to capitalize on our data-rich environment to promote the administration’s initiatives.”

Atlanta Regional Office Deputy Director Reggie Bigham, along with assistant director Katrina Carter, led the office tour. He thanked Secretary Pritzker for including Atlanta on her tour: “We are thankful that you have taken the time to visit our regional office and that you took the time to personally hear from our staff about the many quality activities we perform to collect the vital statistics needed for our nation. We look forward to hearing from you about your vision for our organization as members of the Department of Commerce.”

Secretary Pritzker Discusses Power of Immigration Reform to Drive Florida’s Economy

National Entrepreneur Center Welcomes Secretary Penny Pritzker

Secretary Pritzker visited Orlando, Florida, today as part of her overall listening tour to hear directly from business leaders on how the public and private sectors can work together to strengthen the economy and create American jobs.

While in Orlando, Secretary Pritzker met with local business leaders on the need to pass comprehensive immigration reform, which is key to the country’s economic growth. She shared her story as an entrepreneur coming from a family of entrepreneurs, including her great-grandfather who emigrated from Russia to the United States.

Pritzker referenced a recent White House report citing the Economic Benefits of Fixing Our Broken Immigration System. The value of immigrants to the American economy cannot be understated. More than 40% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children. One-fourth of U.S. Nobel Prize winners over the years have been foreign-born. While immigrants account for only about 13% of the U.S. population, they start about 28% of all new businesses, according to an analysis of Census Bureau data.

Florida businesses were very aware of the power of immigrants to drive an economy. Nearly one-fourth of the labor force is foreign-born and about 30% of business owners are immigrants who generate over $13 billion in annual income. Through reform, it’s estimated that Florida’s economic output would increase next year by $1.8 billion and create 22,000 new jobs. According to one model, reforms in the Senate bill including a pathway to earned citizenship and an expansion of high-skilled and temporary worker programs would increase personal income for Florida families by over $6.5 billion in 2020.

Secretary Pritzker Visits Universal Studios Orlando and Speaks with Leading Executives of Travel and Tourism Companies

Secretary Penny Pritzker at Universal Studios Wizarding World of Harry Potter with COO Bill Davis (left) and John Sprouls, Executive VP (right)

Today, as part of her nationwide listening tour, Secretary Penny Pritzker toured Universal Studios Orlando with Bill Davis, President & COO, Universal Orlando and John McReynolds, SVP External Affairs, Universal Parks and Resorts and held a roundtable with Presidents and CEOs of local travel and tourism companies. Orlando is home to a vibrant travel and tourism industry that doesn’t contribute just to the state of Florida’s economy, but to the nation’s economy as a whole. In fact, international travel is the country’s largest service export with the travel and tourism industry accounting for nearly $1.4 trillion to the U.S. GDP and providing more than 7.5 million jobs for American workers, according to the Department of Commerce.

According to the Orlando Tourism Bureau, in 2011, Orlando benefited from $31.7 billion in visitor spending. Orlando was the fifth most visited U.S. city in 2011 with 2.8 million international visitors and Florida ranked third among states in 2011 with 5.7 million international visitors.

During the roundtable, Secretary Pritzker not only discussed the value of the travel and tourism industry to the overall American economy, but also the key role the Commerce Department plays in supporting and promoting the United States as the premier destination for international travelers. In fact, the Department’s NOAA manages the nation’s marine sanctuaries – a great destination for marine life lovers and history buffs.

Commerce Agencies Participate in Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force

Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force

President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, chaired by Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan, released a rebuilding strategy to serve as a model for communities across the nation facing greater risks from extreme weather and to continue helping the Sandy-affected region rebuild.  The Commerce Department made significant contributions to the Rebuilding Strategy containing 69 policy recommendations that will help homeowners stay in and repair their homes, strengthen small businesses and revitalize local economies and ensure entire communities are better able to withstand and recover from future storms. 
 
The Rebuilding Strategy includes policy recommendations that will have a significant impact on how the region rebuilds and how we will improve our ability to withstand and recover effectively from future flood-related disasters across the country.

Federal agencies collected and disseminated vast quantities of scientific data that aided Hurricane Sandy preparation, response, and recovery. Interagency data sharing has been central to this process. Before the storm, the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) worked with FEMA to deliver Geographical Information System (GIS)-ready storm surge depth grids and forecasts. After the storm, FEMA, state, and local emergency managers used aerial imagery collected by NOAA to guide evacuations, monitor local conditions, assess damages, and allocate response resources. Hours after the storm passed, NOAA also began surveying the waterways that lead to critical petroleum facilities within the Port of New York/New Jersey, helping to ensure safe navigation and restoring the flow of emergency fuel supplies by morning. Within five days, NOAA, working with the Coast Guard and Army Corps, restored maritime commerce, including transportation of food, fuel, and rebuilding supplies, to all major ports in the affected region.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Announces First Business Development Mission to Mexico

Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker recently announced that she will lead her first business development mission to Mexico City and Monterrey, Mexico from November 18-22, 2013. This mission will promote U.S. exports to Mexico by helping export-ready U.S. companies launch or increase their business in a number of key industry sectors, including: advanced manufacturing, information and communications technology, and health IT and medical devices.

In announcing the mission, Secretary Pritzker said, “Exports are an essential component for spurring growth and creating jobs in America. The United States and Mexico have strong business ties and increasing opportunities for trade and collaboration between our two nations will help bolster economic success across our border.” 

Earlier this summer, President Obama and President Peña Nieto met to underscore and discuss the strategic importance of the bilateral relationship between the United States and Mexico. In so doing, they noted the potential for mutual economic gains by strengthening commercial ties between our countries.

Secretary Pritzker Discusses Economic Benefits of Immigration Reform in Iowa

Secretary Pritzker visited Des Moines, Iowa, today as part of her overall listening tour to hear directly from business leaders on how the public and private sectors can work together to strengthen the economy and create American jobs. 

While in Des Moines, Secretary Pritzker met with local business leaders on the need to pass comprehensive immigration reform, which is key to the country’s economic growth. Commonsense immigration reform will reduce the deficit and grow the economy. In fact, the Senate-passed bill would grow the economy by 5.4 percent over the next two decades and increase labor force participation by 3.5 percent in 2023 and 5 percent in 2033, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. 

Immigrants and children of immigrants make significant contributions to the U.S. economy. In Iowa, the labor force is 5.3 percent foreign born and these men and women generate $216 million in income for the state each year.

During the roundtable, Secretary Pritzker heard from representatives from the health care community who favor immigration reform as a way to address a shortage of physicians in the area. Many around the table said that Iowa would be better served if the foreign-born students trained in Iowa's schools – and in their technology programs in particular – were allowed to stay in the United States. Others said that immigration reform would help them expand the pool of labor available to fill entry-level jobs. 

Commonsense comprehensive immigration reform will strengthen the U.S. economy and create jobs while at the same time fostering innovation and entrepreneurism.

Secretary Pritzker Tours Manufacturing Company, Vermeer Corporation, in Iowa

Secretary Pritzker Tours Manufacturing Company, Vermeer Corporation, in Iowa (photo credit: A.J. Hodgeman)

Today, Secretary Pritzker toured the Vermeer Corporation in Pella, Iowa. Her second stop in Iowa, the visit, which is part of her nationwide listening tour, gave her an opportunity to learn how the 65-year-old manufacturing company has innovated to stay successful and competitive in the 21st century economy. 

The Vermeer Corporation, one of the largest employers in Pella, is a family-owned and managed U.S. manufacturer that serves customers with forage, specialty excavation, environmental and underground equipment products to more efficiently and responsibly work farms and ranches, improve infrastructure and manage natural resources. The company’s founder, Gary Vermeer, is credited with inventing agricultural equipment now in widespread use around the world. 

Secretary Pritzker first toured Vermeer’s facilities with company CEO Mary Andriga and U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, where she saw several of the company’s machines in action. The secretary saw a reclaimer, a machine used to purify water in the process of drilling to install underground utilities, as well as a leveler, which is used in surface mining. She also saw Vermeer's Parts and Distribution Center, which ships out 800 packages a day. Vermeer has 65,000 active part numbers in inventory, and ships 30 percent of its parts internationally. 

She also learned about the company’s efforts in exporting – Vermeer's products are distributed through a network of more than 500 dealerships around the globe. Thanks in part to exports, the company’s annual sales are estimated at approximately $1 billion. 

In fact, Vermeer earned a Presidential “E-Star” Award for exports in 1998, recognition American entities can receive for making a significant contribution to the expansion of U.S. exports.  

Following the tour, Secretary Pritzker led a roundtable discussion with Vermeer executives and other local leaders from the Des Moines and Pella, Iowa business community. They talked about what the government is doing well in supporting manufacturers and where there is room for improvement, and the secretary heard from the business leaders what more the Commerce Department can do to continue helping American manufacturers.

Vermeer Corporation Welcomes Secretary Pritzker to Pella, Iowa Manufacturing Facility

Mary Vermeer Andringa, President and CEO of Vermeer Corporation in Pella, Iowa

Guest blog post by Mary Andringa, President & CEO of Vermeer Corporation

As the CEO of Vermeer Corporation and the former chair of the National Association of Manufacturers, it is especially exciting to have Secretary Pritzker visit us here in Pella, Iowa today.  When you look back at the origins of the Department of Commerce, you’ll see that the National Association of Manufacturers was at the center of support for its development. It’s fitting that the relationship between Commerce and the manufacturing community dates back before the Department’s official conception. The two share similar visions of progress - both strive to create jobs, promote economic growth and encourage sustainable development in communities big and small.

This year, Vermeer Corporation celebrates 65 years of manufacturing high-quality equipment. What all started with one man – my father, Gary Vermeer – has evolved into a global industrial and agricultural equipment company helping make a real impact in a progressing world. Vermeer does more than manufacture yellow iron. Our equipment is used by customers to improve infrastructure that keeps people connected, work farms and ranches that support a vibrant food supply, and manage natural resources in an efficient and responsible way.

Today, Secretary Pritzker will see examples of Vermeer’s global footprint by touring our manufacturing high-bay where Vermeer’s largest machine to date – the 200-ton T1655 Terrain Leveler surface excavation machine - is built and then exported around the world; the Vermeer Parts Center where more than 65,000 active parts are stocked and shipments are made domestically and internationally daily; and lastly, our lean brush chipper assembly line where the number of days from raw steel to finished product has been reduced from 52 days to 2 days as part of our lean journey that began in 1997.

On behalf of Vermeer Corporation and the Iowa-based CEOs who will meet with her today in Pella, we welcome the opportunity to represent the voice of Midwest business as the Secretary acclimates herself to the opportunities and challenges industry faces to grow domestically and abroad. We thank the Secretary for making the commitment to listening to the leaders who are working everyday to grow American jobs and American business opportunities.