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Blog Category: Office of the Secretary

Deputy Secretary Blank Announces 20 Companies Joining Infrastructure Business Development Trade Mission to Brazil, Colombia and Panama

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank today announced the 20 companies that will join her on an infrastructure business development trade mission to Sao Paulo, Brazil; Bogota, Colombia; and Panama City, Panama from May 12-18, 2013. The governments of these countries have each outlined ambitious infrastructure development plans for the years ahead, and this trade mission will help U.S. companies in a broad range of infrastructure industry sectors make the connections they need to expand their business opportunities in Brazil, Colombia and Panama.

The trade mission will support President Obama’s National Export Initiative, a government-wide strategy to promote American exports and create 2 million export-supported jobs by the end of 2014. Last year, exports hit another all-time record, reaching $2.2 trillion. And, between 2009 and 2012 exports have supported 1.3 million additional jobs.

The mission will also highlight the successes in the U.S. trade relationships with Colombia and Panama, specifically, since free trade agreements with each country have taken effect. The Deputy Secretary and the business delegation will be in Colombia on the one-year anniversary of the implementation of that Free Trade Agreement (FTA), May 15.

The mission will include export-ready U.S. firms in a broad range of leading U.S. infrastructure and industrial sectors, with an emphasis on project management (including construction, architecture and design), transportation (including road/highways, rail, airports, and intelligent transportation systems), energy (including distribution, transmission, and smart grid), water resources management (including water treatment, distribution and collection), and safety and security. The mission will help U.S. businesses in initiating or expanding exports to Brazil, Colombia and Panama by making business-to-business introductions, providing market access information, and facilitating access to government decision makers.

See the entire list of 20 companies and learn more about the opportunities in each of these three export markets.

Deputy Secretary Blank Highlights "Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership" Initiative

Deputy Secretary Blank Highlights "Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership" Initiative at Hexcel Corporation

Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank today highlighted the newly-announced “Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership,” an Obama Administration initiative that will help accelerate the resurgence of manufacturing and create jobs in cities across the country.

This effort rewards communities that demonstrate their plans to attract and expand manufacturing in their area, using targeted investments in workforce training, infrastructure, research, and other key assets.

Deputy Secretary Blank unveiled the initiative this week and visited Hexcel Corporation today, which is located in an area of Utah that has leveraged the resources of the public sector, private firms, and educational institutions to achieve a successful model of economic development that the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership encourages. During her visit, Deputy Secretary Blank took a tour of Hexcel’s Salt Lake City facility and participated in a roundtable with local business, government and educational leaders.

Deputy Secretary Blank Announces New Federal Partnership to Promote Manufacturing Investment in American Communities, Create Jobs

Mayor Scott Smith, Able Engineering President and CEO Lee Benson and Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank During a Tour of the Able Engineering Facility in Mesa, Arizona

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank today announced the launch of the “Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership,” an Obama Administration initiative that will help accelerate the resurgence of manufacturing and create jobs in cities across the country.

This effort rewards communities that demonstrate their plans to attract and expand manufacturing in their area, using targeted investments in workforce training, infrastructure, research, and other key assets.

Deputy Secretary Blank unveiled the initiative at the new, 200,000-square foot Able Engineering facility in Mesa, Arizona, a community that has leveraged the resources of the public sector, private firms and educational institutions to achieve a successful model of economic development. Mesa was hard-hit when Williams Air Force Base closed in 1993, leaving many aerospace engineers unemployed. The city took over the site, converted it to the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, and came up with a plan to attract aerospace companies to the area, where they could capitalize on the existing workforce and benefit from being located near similar firms and nearby colleges. In just fifteen years, Able has grown into a multi-million dollar conglomerate, servicing aircraft from around the world.  Its continued growth and support for its workforce demonstrate the benefits of operating within a community like Mesa’s.

Fact Sheet | Press Release

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank Honors Four Organizations for Excellence in Performance and Innovation

Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank presenting the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the nation’s highest Presidential honor for organizational performance excellence and innovation

Today, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank presented four U.S. organizations with the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the nation’s highest Presidential honor for organizational performance excellence and innovation. The recipients of the award, which is commemorating its 25th anniversary, will share their best practices as part of a national effort to improve America’s performance and competitive standing in the world. 

Deputy Secretary Blank lauded the Baldrige Award winners for being leaders in their fields and committed to the value of performance and quality. Studies have shown that Baldrige winners grow their revenues, create jobs, maintain healthy finances, and produce superior results.

At the awards ceremony, President Obama also delivered a video message to the recipients, saying that the United States’ “free market is the greatest engine of prosperity the world has ever known, and that engine is powered by our dreamers, our risk takers and our innovators.” Further, he said, “These honorees exhibit the kind of job creating innovation that’s always kept our economy growing and vibrant and prosperous.”

Honoring the Memory of Ron Brown

Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown

Cross post from the White House Blog

The following blog post was written by U.S. Commerce Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank and Special Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation Jonathan Greenblatt.

Today, we honor the anniversary of the passing of former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown. Secretary Brown was a dedicated public servant whose untimely death during a trade mission to Croatia on April 3, 1996 ended his life far too soon. His vision continues to be important and today’s work at the Department of Commerce builds on his legacy. 

Secretary Brown served his country in Korea as a soldier in the U.S. Army and in the halls of Congress as chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee. He also broke down barriers – becoming the first African American chairman of the Democratic National Committee and the first African American to serve as U.S. Secretary of Commerce. In this latter role, he made perhaps his largest impact.

During his tenure at Commerce, Secretary Brown pioneered a focus on exports that helped to boost the U.S. economy in the 1990s and contributed to one of the largest periods of economic expansion in our nation’s history. During a time when emerging markets in Asia and Latin America were opening up to trade, Secretary Brown led a concerted effort to support this advancement and to secure access for U.S. goods and services. He was a proponent of free trade, seeing business as a powerful force to create good jobs at home and to accelerate prosperity around the world. He also was an advocate of fair trade, seeking to ensure that U.S. workers would be helped and not harmed by new trading arrangements that would increase flows of capital and commerce.

A Chance to Comment on Commerce’s Report on Cybersecurity Incentives

Cybersecurity (keyboard with a key silhouette on it)

As part of the Executive Order  signed by President Obama last month directing agencies to use their existing authorities and work with the private sector to better protect our nation’s power, water, and other critical systems, the Commerce Department is preparing a report on ways to incentivize companies and organizations to improve their cybersecurity.  To better understand what stakeholders –  such as companies, trade associations, academics and others – believe would best serve as incentives, the Department has released a series of questions to gather  public comments in a Notice of Inquiry published today.

The national and economic security of the United States depends on the strength of our nation’s critical infrastructure. The cyber threat to critical infrastructure is growing, and represents one of the most serious national security challenges that the United States must confront. As the President stated in the Executive Order, “repeated cyber intrusions into America’s critical infrastructure demonstrate a need for improved cybersecurity.”

As a first step toward protecting critical infrastructure, the Executive Order tasks the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to identify the systems that could be affected by a cybersecurity incident which could in catastrophic regional or national effects on public health or safety, economic security, or national security.  Second, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will develop a framework consisting of a set of standards, methodologies, procedures, and processes that align policy, business, and technological approaches to address cyber risks. This Cybersecurity Framework will provide a prioritized, flexible, repeatable, performance-based, and cost-effective approach to improving cybersecurity, which will help owners and operators of critical infrastructure identify, assess and mange cyber risk. Third, DHS will work with sector-specific agencies to develop the Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity Program to promote voluntary adoption of the Framework.

Spotlight on Commerce: Geovette Washington, Deputy General Counsel

Geovette Washington, Deputy General Counsel

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

Guest blog post by Geovette Washington, Deputy General Counsel

Serving as Deputy General Counsel in the Department of Commerce has been one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences in my career. The people with whom I have worked over the last three years are outstanding. The issues I have dealt with are interesting, challenging, and critical to the Department’s work. Most important, being Deputy General Counsel has presented a wonderful opportunity to fulfill my lifelong commitment to service. 

As Deputy General Counsel, my job is to provide legal advice to the various parts of this Department. However, my role, and the role of all of the attorneys within the Office of the General Counsel, goes well beyond simply providing legal advice to our clients. We work to make sure that the people of the Department do not simply get a review of the legal sufficiency of their work, but also a partner in their mission. That partnership between OGC and the rest of the Department has been a point of emphasis for me during my time at Commerce and is vital to the execution of the President’s vision for creating an America Build to Last. The creativity and dynamic engagement of OGC attorneys helps Commerce agencies execute their plans to build a 21st century America that has the tools, infrastructure, and expertise to thrive.  

Encouraging partnership between OGC and its clients is critical to fostering a ethos of service within OGC, and service–particularly of public service–is something I value highly and was a central tenant of my upbringing.  

Spotlight on Commerce: Denise Yaag, Director, Office of Executive Resources

Denise Yaag, Director, Office of Executive Resources

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

Guest blog post by Denise Yaag, Director, Office of Executive Resources

Having been born and raised in Takoma Park, Maryland, it could perhaps seem unsurprising that I ended up working for the federal government.  In fact, I made a very deliberate choice 26 years ago to dedicate my career to serving my country and I do not regret that decision to this day. 

As Director of the Office of Executive Resources, I support the Secretary in managing executive and senior professional employment throughout the Department of Commerce. I’ve helped to ensure alignment and cascading of Departmental and organizational goals with performance goals of the executive and senior professional cadre in order to enhance organizational and individual performance, accountability, and results. One of the most enjoyable and satisfying responsibilities of my position is working with the Office of White House Liaison to coordinate bringing new political appointees on our rolls. Over the years I’ve had the pleasure and privilege to get to know some truly brilliant and accomplished individuals who have served our president and our nation, helping execute the administration’s agenda and the programs that help America compete in the global economy. 

While government service always seemed appealing, the field of human resources was not always part of the plan. I have had a lifelong interest in science. In elementary school, when given the choice of an elective course to take, I chose geology, finding myself the only girl in a classroom full of boys. In high school, I was one of only a few female students in the Chemistry Club. And at the risk of dating myself, this trend continued into college, where I was regularly one of a just a small number of women in labs. I was on track to enter what we now call a “STEM” (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) career field.

Building on the Strength of U.S.-Brazil Economic Relationship

Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank traveled to Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro for the U.S.-Brazil CEO

Last week Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank traveled to Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro for the U.S.-Brazil CEO Forum and other events aimed at strengthening the economic and commercial ties between the two nations.

The U.S.-Brazil CEO Forum was created in 2007 to bring private sector leaders from both countries together to develop joint recommendations on how to deepen our commercial ties, and to present those recommendations to the U.S. and Brazilian governments. The Forum has identified five areas as priorities: tax and trade issues; education and innovation; infrastructure; energy; and aviation.

Deputy Secretary Blank served as the U.S. Government’s co-chair for the CEO Forum along with Michael Froman, the Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs at the White House.  They were joined by their Brazilian co-chairs, Minister of Development, Industry, and Foreign Trade Fernando Pimentel and Presidential Chief of Staff Gleisi Hoffman.  

The meeting was led by about 20 CEOs from both countries, whose priorities for improving the economic and commercial relationship between Brazil and the U.S. set the agenda for the meeting.  As one of the U.S. Government’s co-chairs, Deputy Secretary Blank gave an update to the members of the CEO Forum on the progress that the two governments made to implement the recommendations that the CEOs made at their previous meeting last year.  The CEOs then led the main discussion and came up with several new recommendations that will be formally released in the coming weeks, including:

  • Calling upon the governments to take advantage of the momentum from the recently-approved Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) to take on additional tax issues that could eventually pave the way for a Bilateral Tax Treaty.
  • Continuing to make progress on Brazil’s participation in the Global Entry Program, making it easier for Brazilians traveling to the United States on business to get through immigration at U.S. airports.
  • Continuing efforts to increase cooperation in the area of infrastructure and take advantage of the U.S. infrastructure trade mission, scheduled for May, to create opportunities for U.S. and Brazilian companies to partner on infrastructure improvements.
  • Continuing to cooperate on education and workforce development issues by supporting programs like President Obama’s “100,000 Strong in the Americas” initiative and Brazil’s “Scientific Mobility Program.”
  • Building upon the work of the Strategic Energy Dialogue and involve the private sector in energy infrastructure and policy discussions.
  • Building on cooperation between the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and Brazil’s National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI) to engage in more formal worksharing efforts to support innovation.
  • Continuing work begun under the Aviation Partnership Agreement to advance aviation cooperation and use the Aviation Partnership as a model for other sectors.

In Rio de Janeiro, Deputy Secretary Blank met with more business leaders and also delivered remarks at a Columbia University event focused on innovation and economic development which was part of the launch of the university’s new Global Center in that city.   She emphasized the importance of U.S.-Brazil collaboration in areas such as infrastructure development, clean energy, student exchanges, and more.  Finally, she announced that U.S.-Brazil partnerships would continue to grow in the near future due to a high-level, infrastructure-focused trade mission to Brazil – as well as Colombia and Panama – that will take place in mid-May. 

Spotlight on Commerce: Katina Rojas Joy, Deputy Director, Office of Business Liaison

Katina Rojas Joy, Deputy Director, Office of Business Liaison

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

Guest blog post by Katina Rojas Joy, Deputy Director, Office of Business Liaison

As Deputy Director in the Office of Business Liaison, my primary goal is to execute the Secretary's international trade missions. Our office executed an infrastructure trade mission to New Dehli, India last year, and we are currently planning a transportation and infrastructure trade mission to Colombia, Brazil, and Panama. The President wants to double U.S. exports by the end of 2014, and I am proud to play in role in meeting the President’s established export goal. During trade mission promotion and planning, much of my time is spent interfacing with US companies, small and medium sized businesses, U.S. embassies, and trade associations.  I have also served on several White House interagency and Commerce policy initiatives:  Summer Jobs +, Doing Business in Africa, the Affordable Care Act, Hurricane Sandy response and recovery and the expansion of Commerce’s patent and trademark field offices. These new field offices will speed up the patent process and help American businesses innovate, grow, and create jobs.

I grew up in the Bronx and Puerto Rico. My grandmother migrated to New York City in the 1950’s and found work in the garment industry, which at the time, along with manufacturing, was a booming industry in NYC. My mom, was born in Puerto Rico and raised my brother and I on her own and worked in clerical jobs at Local 1199 SEIU and Bronx Lebanon Hospital until she retired last October.