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Blog Category: Office of the Secretary

10 Partnerships Selected through the Advanced Manufacturing Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge to Support American Manufacturing and Encourage Investment in the U.S.

Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge

The Obama administration announced that 10 public-private partnerships across America will receive $20 million in total awards to help revitalize American manufacturing and encourage companies to invest in the United States. These Investments will promote job creation and economic growth in local industry clusters in Arizona, California, Michigan, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Washington.

The 10 partnerships were selected through the Advanced Manufacturing Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, which is a competitive multi-agency grant process announced in May 2012 to support initiatives that strengthen advanced manufacturing at the local level. These public-private partnerships consist of small and large businesses, colleges, nonprofits and other local stakeholders that “cluster” in a particular area. The funds will help the winning clusters support local efforts to spur job creation through a variety of projects, including initiatives that connect innovative small suppliers with large companies, link research with the start-ups that can commercialize new ideas, and train workers with skills that firms need to capitalize on business opportunities.  

The Advanced Manufacturing Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge is a partnership between the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, the U.S. Small Business Administration, and the National Science Foundation.

As part of President Obama's commitment to creating an economy built to last, the administration has invested more than $200 million promoting regional innovation clusters. The administration created an interagency task force, known as the Taskforce for the Advancement of Regional Innovation Clusters, to develop and administer interagency grant competitions. This is the third round of the Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge and, in addition to the six partnering agencies, this initiative also leverages technical assistance from up to eight other federal agencies.

See the full list of winners.

Spotlight on Commerce: Cristina Bartolomei, Equal Employment Opportunity Specialist and Hispanic Employment Manager

Phot of Cristina Bartolomei with Video equipment

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 by Cristina Bartolomei, Equal Employment Opportunity Specialist and Hispanic Employment Program Manager at the Office of Civil Rights, Office of the Secretary

As an Equal Employment Opportunity Specialist and Hispanic Employment Program Manager for the Office of Civil Rights at the Office of the Secretary, I work every day to serve the Hispanic community and other minorities in and outside of Commerce to identify policies, practices and procedures that may enhance or hinder their equal representation within the Department.

Growing up in San Juan, Puerto Rico as the third child of four, my father often called me the defensora de los oprimidos or “defender of the oppressed,” as I always attempted to dissect and analyze sibling disagreements until the parties involved made peace with one another. My siblings didn’t seem too fond of me doing this and, looking back, I don’t blame them. It was in those days that I found myself daydreaming about being part of something bigger than myself, about doing something truly meaningful in the lives of others. 

Many years later, I find myself working for a Cabinet department in the Nation’s Capital, proudly serving the President of the United States. Every day I work with internal and external organizations to educate about and improve Hispanic-American representation at the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Sometimes it feels as if I’m still daydreaming–but real it is, and this reality is ingrained in the choices we make.

Acting Secretary Blank Announces $40 Million Initiative to Challenge Businesses to Make it in America

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank Announces $40 Million Initiative to Challenge Businesses to Make it in America (Photo: Roberto Westbrook and STIHL Inc.)

Yesterday, Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank traveled to Virginia Beach, Va., where she toured the STIHL manufacturing plant and announced a new initiative to strengthen the economy by supporting American businesses as they make things here in America and create jobs. The Make it in America Challenge is designed to accelerate the trend of insourcing, where companies are bringing jobs back and making additional investments in America. The competition, which is being funded by the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration and National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership and the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, will build upon the administration’s bottom-up approach to strengthening the economy and creating jobs by partnering with state, regional and local economies.

The national competition will help provide the critical infrastructure, strategic planning, capacity building, technical assistance, and workforce skills training necessary for American communities to be the desired home for more businesses. The Make it in America Challenge builds on the administration’s efforts to encourage companies—large and small, foreign and domestic, manufacturers and services firms—to increase investment in the United States.

Acting Secretary Blank also highlighted two ongoing efforts by the Department of Commerce to attract foreign direct investment. SelectUSA, a program the president launched last year, continues to showcase the United States as the world’s premier business location and to provide easy access to federal-level programs and services related to business investment. Also, Commerce’s Commercial Services officers have been trained to help foreign investors who want information about how to invest in the U.S and who want to link up with local and state economic development leaders to create jobs in America.

Acting Secretary Blank Announces Grants to Establish Proof of Concept Centers for Emerging Technologies

$7 million invested in seven communities to help entrepreneurs out-innovate the world and create American jobs.

Today, Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank visited the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va. today, where she announced the winners of the third round of the i6 Challenge, a national competition to advance American innovation, foster entrepreneurship, increase the commercialization of ideas into viable companies, and create jobs. The initiative seeks to accelerate innovative product development, spur the formation of start-ups, and create small businesses by supporting Proof of Concept Centers at universities and research consortiums across the country, which are helping to jumpstart the production of emerging technologies and revolutionize manufacturing processes.

In her remarks, Blank noted that job creation remains the Administration’s top priority, noting a number of economic studies suggesting that innovative new products and processes account for about two-thirds of U.S. economic growth since World War II. Innovation also drives increases in productivity and rising incomes. The Proof of Concept Centers funded by the i6 Challenge grants support innovation by providing the tools and the support entrepreneurs and researchers need to take new products to market, launch businesses, and to create jobs. Proof of Concept Centers incorporate a range of services, such as technology and market evaluation as well as business planning, that are critical to regional economic growth and job creation.

2011 Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States Report

Cover: Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States Report

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released its report on Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States in 2011.

As we continue to fight back from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage report released today provides further evidence of how critical it is that we implement policies that benefit and create security for struggling families and our middle class—and not just the wealthiest Americans. 

Today’s report shows that while too many American families are still struggling, the nation’s poverty rate fell and the percentage of Americans with health insurance coverage rose in 2011. It is clear that had President Obama not taken swift and aggressive action to grow our economy and create jobs, today’s report would have shown much higher poverty rates, lower incomes, and a greater share of the population without health insurance. 

Though our poverty rate remains unacceptably high, this report shows that the poverty rate ticked down in 2011 after rising for several years in the wake of the Great Recession. Poverty fell for all age groups, including children, elderly, and non-elderly adults. A key reason for this decline was that 2.2 million more people had full-time jobs last year, in part because unemployment fell by 0.9 percentage points from December 2010 to December 2011. Government programs also continued to provide a vital safety net. 

Acting Secretary Blank cut the ribbon at the International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago

Acting Secretary Blank cut the ribbon at the International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago

Yesterday, Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank traveled to Chicago, Illinois to deliver remarks at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS), hosted by the Association for Manufacturing Technology. Acting Secretary Blank discussed the importance of manufacturing to boosting U.S. economic growth, job creation and exports and highlighted the administration's continuing efforts to build things here and sell them everywhere.

Blank noted that President Obama has been committed to U.S. manufacturing since his very first day in office, and shared three key facts that show manufacturing is making a comeback. First, after a decade when America lost six million manufacturing jobs, we’ve now added more than a half million back since January 2010. These are good-paying jobs that strengthen economic security for the middle class. Second, our manufacturing output is up 20 percent since 2009–with big growth in areas like cars and car parts. Third, manufactured exports have increased in nearly all industry categories, jumping over 36 percent from 2009 to 2011.

After finishing her remarks, Blank toured the floor exhibits. She stopped by the Local Motors exhibition to hear about their crowd-sourced car. The Defense Advance Research Project Agency challenged Local Motors, a small company based in Chandler, Arizona to design a vehicle in four weeks and build it in three months. To meet this deadline Local Motors crowd-sourced the vehicle design, selected one of the over 162 high-quality designs that came in and then built it ahead of schedule.

Acting Secretary Blank departed IMTS and traveled to Cree-Racine in Racine, Wisconsin, a local manufacturer of energy-efficient LED lights. They recently formed a partnership with a distributor in India and last year won the President’s E-Award for their success in increasing exports. Because of that success, they’re expanding their facility and creating nearly 500 more jobs in Wisconsin.

Acting Secretary Blank then traveled to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she spoke with local business leaders about steps that can be taken to grow the American economy and create jobs. Her remarks focused on the importance of increasing consumer spending, spurring innovation in manufacturing, increasing business investments in the U.S., and growing U.S. exports. She drew attention to a joint venture between five federal agencies, the Departments of Defense, Energy, and Commerce, the National Science Foundation, and NASA, and local manufacturers for a pilot project that is focused on additive manufacturing.   

Additive manufacturing, often referred to as 3D printing, is a new way of making products and components from a digital model, and will have implications in a wide range of industries including defense, aerospace, automotive, and metals manufacturing. Like an office printer that puts 2D digital files on a piece of paper, a 3D printer creates components by depositing thin layers of material one after another using a digital blueprint until the exact component required has been created.  The Department of Defense envisions customizing parts on site for operational systems that would otherwise be expensive to make or ship. The Department of Energy anticipates that additive processes would be able to save more than 50 percent energy use compared to today’s "subtractive" manufacturing processes.

This pilot institute will set a research agenda, driven by private sector needs. It will encourage researchers and entrepreneurs to take risks, test prototypes, fail quickly and get back up to try again. This is a great public-private partnership, with funding from the Federal government, two states and many manufacturers. The Department is tracking this pilot closely, to learn how best to help fund and establish these sort of public-private collaborations all over the country.

In addition to highlighting manufacturing, Blank outlined steps needed to grow the American economy and create jobs. She focused on the importance of increasing consumer spending, increasing business investments in the U.S., and growing U.S. exports. She also highlighted the need for U.S. investments in infrastructure and education to build an economy to last.

Doing More with Less: Taxpayers Will Save with Commerce’s New Adobe Contract

Doing more with less logo

Guest blog post by Commerce Chief Information Officer Simon Szykman             

Last summer, President Obama launched the Campaign to Cut Waste, saying, “No amount of waste is acceptable, not when it’s your money. Just as families are living within their means, government should too, so we can invest in the things that we know will create good jobs and grow the economy.” 

We’re doing just that at the Commerce Department.

This campaign is an administration-wide effort to make government more transparent and accountable to the American people. As part of this ongoing initiative, the Commerce Department is looking for new ways to boost efficiencies and to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. The Department’s fiscal year 2013 budget request identified a total of $176 million in savings through lower-cost acquisitions, reduced overhead expenses, and better management of facilities and vehicles. 

Today, we’re launching a blog series to highlight some of these Department-wide efforts to eliminate wasteful spending and support an economy built to last.

International Traveler Spending On Pace For a Record Setting Year

Happy tourist jumping in Glacier National Park

Guest blog post by Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar

Travel and tourism spending by international visitors is helping to boost the U.S. economy. The U.S. Department of Commerce released data yesterday showing that international visitors have spent an estimated $82.2 billion on U.S. travel and tourism-related goods and services year to date, an increase of 11 percent when compared to the same period last year. Many people do not know that this boosts exports – when foreign citizens travel to America and buy goods and services from American companies, that counts as a U.S. export. The new data indicate that the first half of 2012 set a new record for U.S. travel and tourism exports, and, if these trends continue, international visitors could end up injecting close to $170 billion into the U.S. economy by year-end.

These increases help explain why the Obama administration is working hard to make the United States the top destination for international travelers. The U.S. Departments of Commerce and Interior are implementing the National Travel and Tourism Strategy, which they presented to the President in May. The National Strategy is a blueprint for expanding travel to and within the U.S., setting out the goal of attracting over 100 million international visitors annually by 2021, more than a 50 percent increase over the number expected this year. These international visitors would spend an estimated $250 billion per year, creating jobs and spurring economic growth in communities across the country.

Acting Secretary Blank Applauds Steamfitters’ Job Training as Key to Building a 21st Century Economy

    Acting Secretary Blank Applauds Steamfitters’ Job Training as Key to Building a 21st Century Economy

This morning, Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank joined U.S. Representatives Chaka Fattah and Allyson Schwartz on a tour of the job training facilities of Steamfitters Local 420 in Philadelphia, where classes are held for apprentices and journeyworkers to develop and improve their skills so they can better serve clients and become qualified for a broader range of employment opportunities.

The rigorous training and education being offered at the facility has made a difference in the lives of hundreds of people throughout the region. The steamfitters local union 420 training center services the entire state and the work being done by members helps keep the region's infrastructure running smoothly, helping to make southeastern Pennsylvania an attractive place to do business.

Today's visit was an opportunity for local business leaders, workers and entrepreneurs to showcase all that they are doing to support manufacturing, train a 21st century workforce, and help the American economy recover from the worst recession since the Great Depression. 

While there is still more work to be done, our private sector has now had 29 straight months of job growth, creating 4.5 million new jobs. Over the past two and one-half years, more than a half-million manufacturing jobs have been created in the U.S.— the strongest job growth in that sector since the 1990s.

Pennsylvania alone has gained over 10,000 new manufacturing jobs since January, 2010. And these manufacturing jobs are good jobs that pay more than average and provide greater benefits.

During the visit, Acting Secretary Blank affirmed Commerce’s efforts to build a strong environment for manufacturing and innovation in the U.S. For example, the Obama administration recently announced the launch of a new public-private institute for manufacturing innovation as part of its ongoing efforts to help revitalize American manufacturing and encourage companies to invest in the United States. This new partnership, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII), includes manufacturing firms, universities, community colleges, and non-profit organizations from the Ohio-Pennsylvania-West Virginia "Tech Belt."

Though progress has been made, more work remains. This is why the Obama administration continues to call on Congress to pass legislation to give our companies a tax break if they move operations and jobs back. President Obama has also called for helping state and local governments hire or retain teachers, police, and firefighters; and putting construction workers by to work while repairing crumbling American infrastructure. These proposals would create a million new jobs, according to independent economists.

After visiting the steamfitters' training facilities, Acting Secretary Blank traveled to Allentown, Pennsylvania, to announce a grant to help local small manufacturers lower operating costs and create jobs. She was joined by Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, local business leaders, and entrepreneurs to highlight Obama administration efforts to help local companies and workers build things here so they can sell them everywhere.

Commerce Joins Announcement on New Public-Private Partnership to Support Additive Manufacturing Innovation

Acting Secretary Blank signs her name next to Secretary Chu's on a robot designed by a high school team from Knoxville, TN that was built via additive manufacturing (3-D printing).

Today, Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank joined White House National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling, Undersecretary of Defense Frank Kendall, and other Obama administration officials to announce the launch of a new public-private institute for manufacturing innovation in Youngstown, Ohio as part of ongoing efforts to help revitalize American manufacturing and encourage companies to invest in the United States. This new partnership, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII), was selected through a competitive process, led by the Department of Defense, to award an initial $30 million in federal funding, matched by $40 million from the winning consortium, which includes manufacturing firms, universities, community colleges, and non-profit organizations from the Ohio-Pennsylvania-West Virginia "Tech Belt." The institute focuses on additive manufacturing, often referred to as 3-D printing, which will have implications in a wide range of industries including defense, aerospace, automotive, and metals manufacturing. In her remarks, Acting Secretary Blank discussed the role of American manufacturing in driving economic growth and creating good jobs in the United States.

Youngstown, Ohio and the surrounding region knows what happens when manufacturing production declines. But in this area once known as the "rust belt," investments like this new pilot institute demonstrate the potential within a region to bring together the capabilities of America’s companies and universities, in partnership with the federal government, to invest in the cutting-edge technologies and skills our manufacturers need to compete. With this initiative, Youngstown is poised to become the epicenter of burgeoning new industries from its leadership in additive manufacturing or 3-D printing.