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Blog Category: Office of the Secretary

Supporting Small Business on Saturday and All Year Round

Small Business Saturday

Guest blog post by Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank

Tomorrow is Small Business Saturday, a day to celebrate and support small businesses across the country.

Small businesses play a vital role in creating jobs and economic opportunities nationwide. Making certain that small businesses thrive is a goal we support through many of our efforts here at the Commerce Department: from the Small Business Innovation Research awards, to tools that help small businesses protect their intellectual property, to informative sites that help small businesses export or access the broad array of all federal government tools

Over the last two decades, small businesses and startups have been responsible for creating two out of every three net new jobs in the U.S. Today, over half of all working Americans own or work for a small business. It’s clear that when small businesses succeed, so do our communities.

I want to encourage you to shop at your local small businesses when you can. Check out the participating businesses at www.shopsmall.com.

Whether you live in a big city or a rural area… from coast to coast… Small Business Saturday is an opportunity to support your local businesses and your communities. Happy shopping!

 

Acting Secretary Blank Supports Joining Forces Veterans Hiring Initiative

Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank and Honeywell CEO David Cote at a Joining Forces Veterans Hiring Event

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank today participated in a Joining Forces Veterans Hiring Event that recognized Veterans Day and the contributions of our men and women in uniform. The event, sponsored by Honeywell and their military recruitment partner Orion International, aimed to identify and match veteran job candidates with open positions at Honeywell and recognized Honeywell’s efforts to provide veterans with more career opportunities. Honeywell’s Chairman and CEO Dave Cote and Joining Forces Executive Director Todd Veazie also attended.

“The Department of Commerce takes this administration’s commitment to hiring veterans very seriously, and we will do our part to support the Joining Forces initiative and the good work of companies like Honeywell and Orion International that are connecting members of our military with the quality private-sector jobs they have earned,” said Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank. “Through the Department’s strong relationship with private sector companies all over the country, we will be encouraging other firms to commit to hiring veterans, and we will do all we can to help them make that goal a reality.”

Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank Urges Hurricane Preparedness

U.S. flag over Commerce headquarters

As you know, Hurricane Sandy is making its way up the East Coast of the United States, but the large size of the storm means heavy rain and strong winds will begin affecting the National Capitol Region tonight, and parts of New York and Pennsylvania tomorrow and Wednesday, and New England by Friday.

Make no mistake--this is a large and dangerous storm that needs to be taken seriously, especially by the millions of people who live, work or travel in Sandy’s projected path.

According to our meteorologists at Commerce/NOAA’s National Hurricane Center and National Weather Service, Sandy will make landfall overnight Monday into Tuesday in the mid-Atlantic region. The storm is forecast to have significant and widespread impacts over most of the northeastern United States, both in coastal and inland areas. To follow the latest on Hurricane Sandy, please visit NOAA’s National Hurricane Center on the Web at www.hurricanes.gov, on Facebook and on Twitter at twitter.com/NHC_Atlantic. Monitor local media or listen to NOAA Weather Radio (www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/listcov.htm) for the latest developments and check your local National Weather Service forecast at www.weather.gov.

Now is the time to finalize your preparations for the coming storm. We strongly urge all potentially affected Commerce employees, their families and loved ones to take the appropriate steps to make certain they can meet their basic needs for a minimum of 72 hours. For more information on preparedness, please visit Ready.gov www.ready.gov/hurricanesandwww.listo.gov for tips on how you can make an emergency kit and put an emergency plan in place. We also encourage you to consult our Tropical Cyclone Preparedness Guide: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/os/hurricane/resources/TropicalCyclones11.pdf.

Individuals in the region should continue to monitor NOAA Weather Radio and their local news for updates and directions provided by their local officials. State and local officials make determinations and announcements about evacuations. We urge the public to listen to the instructions of officials, and if told to evacuate - evacuate.

The FEMA smartphone app provides safety tips and displays open shelter information at www.fema.gov/smartphone-app. To find an open Red Cross shelter, download the Red Cross Hurricane app or visit redcross.org.

We’re ready. Please be ready, too.

Commerce and NOAA have been actively mobilizing: Our National Hurricane Center and additional weather service meteorologists have been issuing forecasts, watches and warnings to the media, emergency managers and the public. At the same time, we’re also preparing to respond to Sandy’s aftermath in the event that the National Weather Service local forecast offices need to issue a variety of severe weather alerts for inland high winds, flooding and other severe weather.

On a final note, I want to thank all the NOAA staff who have been working hard to ensure that Americans have the most accurate and timely storm updates, watches and warnings—as well as those who will be working to see this storm through and assist in the response phase. Your service to Commerce and the nation is deeply appreciated.

Spotlight on Commerce: Carly Montoya, Director of Advance, Office of the Secretary

 Carly Montoya, Director of Advance, Office of the Secretary

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 Carly Montoya, Director of Advance, Office of the Secretary

I grew up in Pueblo, Colorado.  My father, Jim, started off as a migrant farm worker and later put four children and my mom through college.   My mother, Pat, started off as a beautician and later went to college when I was in middle school while still raising four kids and helping my father provide for my family.  They did everything they could to support my family so that my brother, sisters and I would have opportunities that they never had.  Because of their sacrifices and their relentless determination, I graduated from Tufts University with a world of opportunities before me.  I chose a career in public service.  

There are a lot of different fields in public service, but advance is a field I was drawn to for one big reason:  Advance is a team effort.   Like my parents taught me, if one person fails, everyone fails.  If one person succeeds, we all succeed. 

Advance is the spoke in the wheel and where everything comes together.   It involves coordinating the objectives of the various departments and bureaus at the Department of Commerce so that the Secretary can engage people who are on the front lines of job creation across America and around the world.  It’s about communicating how the work that we do here at Commerce can nurture an environment where businesses and innovators can create jobs by building things here and selling them everywhere. 

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.