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Blog Category: Office of the Secretary

Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank Announces New Manufacturing Council Members

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank today announced the appointment of 26 members to the 2013 Manufacturing Council (Council). The Council, established in 2004 and directed by the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration, helps to ensure that there is regular communication between the U.S. government and the manufacturing sector.

The Council is comprised of up to 30 members that represent a diverse cross section of the manufacturing industry, including steel, textile, semiconductor, and medical manufacturers.  Their products support a wide range of industries such as the auto, apparel, aerospace, and energy efficiency sectors.

The Council advises the Secretary of Commerce on government policies and programs that affect U.S. manufacturing and provides a forum for proposing solutions to industry-related problems. The Council also works to ensure that the United States remains the preeminent destination for investment in manufacturing throughout the world. The Secretaries of Labor, Energy, and Treasury serve as ex officio members of the Council to better collaborate on cross-cutting issues the Council will address. See the complete list of members of the 2013 Manufacturing Council.

Doing Business in Africa Forum Presents Opportunities for American Businesses in Sub-Saharan Region

Francisco Sánchez, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade and Minority Business Development Agency National Director David Hinson Address the Doing Business in Africa Forum

Guest blog post by Francisco Sánchez, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade and David Hinson, National Director, Minority Business Development Agency

Earlier this week, we attended the Doing Business in Africa Forum at the White House. This was the first forum of the Doing Business in Africa campaign that the Commerce Department launched three months ago in Johannesburg, South Africa. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank gave the opening remarks and focused on strengthening commercial ties between the United States and Sub-Saharan Africa. She emphasized that as the continent’s wealth increases, so does the demand for improved infrastructure, energy services, and high-quality consumer and agricultural products – all of which American companies are well positioned to provide. In fact, Sub-Saharan Africa is home to six of the ten fastest-growing countries in the world, which helps explain why over the past decade, U.S. trade to and from Africa has tripled, with U.S. exports now topping $21 billion.  Michael Strautmanis, Deputy Assistant to the President and Counselor for Strategic Engagement, welcomed the group of federal government officials, African-born U.S. business and financial leaders, and African-American entrepreneurs, corporate executives, fund managers and investment advisors. Mr. Strautmanis emphasized the need for a collective approach from federal agencies to provide expanded investment and trade financing support to help U.S businesses become more effective global competitors, particularly in the Sub-Saharan region.

Amplifying that message, both of us, along with representatives from government entities including the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, Export-Import Bank, Small Business Administration, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, U.S. Trade and Development Agency and Millennium Challenge Corporation, described for the assembled group how all of our services are structured under the Doing Business in Africa campaign to help them seize opportunities in the Sub-Saharan Africa region. 

Deputy Secretary Blank Travels to BMW in Spartanburg, SC to Highlight Revitalization of American Manufacturing

Deputy Secretary Blank is joined by Brian Barron, Department Manager for X3 Assembly and Josef Kerscher, the President of BMW Manufacturing, on the Spartanburg assembly floor

Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank visited BMW Manufacturing today and delivered remarks on the President’s plan to make America a magnet for jobs and manufacturing. The Deputy Secretary highlighted the President’s proposals for a new Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership, the SelectUSA program, and the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation.  Blank’s visit comes on the heels of President Obama’s State of the Union Address, in which he outlined a broad agenda for revitalizing U.S. manufacturing, spurring innovation, and accelerating export growth.

During her remarks, Blank emphasized key Commerce programs that will drive President Obama’s “Make America a Magnet for Jobs by Investing in Manufacturing” plan. For example, Commerce is going to lead a team of federal agencies in the new Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership.  The President has proposed a new program to support communities that do the hard work and analysis to identify key projects that will bolster their ability to attract investment.  A competitive process will select communities that have done effective planning but need a little help to build additional assets.  For instance, the program could provide matching funds to co-invest in things like a business park or a new tech transfer program with local universities. Local leaders will need to show that they’ve put together a strong plan to attract investments from a particular industry where their community has a comparative advantage.  That means they’ll need to collaborate closely across the public and private sectors, local foundations, and local research and teaching institutions. By supporting communities that are actively working to become investment hubs, the program will help entice both manufacturers and their supply chains to come to a particular area. 

Spotlight on Commerce: Izella Mitchell Dornell, Deputy Chief Information Officer

Izella Dornell, Deputy Chief Information Officer, 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 Izella Mitchell Dornell, Deputy Chief Information Officer

As Deputy Chief Information Officer for the Department, I am responsible for leading the effort that provides Department Information Technology (IT) program and project oversight for all major IT investments all appropriately aligned with the Department and mission objectives and goals. My responsibilities also include facilitating the current shared service initiatives for the Herbert C. Hoover Building resident bureaus (Commerce headquarters), which include email cloud migration, web hosting, IT security, a tier one service/help desk call center, and video teleconferencing capability. I employ a combination of leadership and management skills to provide our team members with the necessary resources to enable their individual and collective professional growth. I also implement effective fiscal strategies, performance assessments, healthy customer service focus, and the management and operations for the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO).

I consider myself a Texan, but I grew up in Alabama, graduating at the top of my high school class in Birmingham, Alabama, with a keen interest in science and mathematics. I earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and physics from Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee, and a master’s of business administration degree from the University of Houston. Because I am a firm believer in education, I completed several Executive Leadership programs at Harvard, Simmons College, and Penn State University.

Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank Visits Washington, D.C. Auto Show

Deputy Secretary Blank Inspects a Display Model at the Washington, D.C. Auto Show

Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank visited the Washington, D.C. Auto Show. While there, she visited various exhibits including Ford, Toyota, Chrysler, GM, Honda, and Volkswagen. At each exhibit, Blank spoke with representatives of each car maker and “kicked the tires” of the models on display.

Many of the Commerce Department’s bureaus support the auto manufacturing industry. For example, the International Trade Administration works hard to increase exports of domestically-produced autos and auto parts. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has numerous ongoing partnerships with automotive manufacturers and their suppliers on advanced technologies, such as alternative fuel sources, advanced materials and automation. NIST also provides advanced measurements, standards, and calibrations for the manufacturing of vehicles and for the automotive components themselves. To improve the next-generation of automotive safety, NIST works with automobile manufacturers and suppliers to provide the underlying measurement infrastructure.

Since GM and Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy, the American auto industry has added more than 290,000 jobs – the best growth since 1997 and U.S. passenger vehicle sales reached approximately 14.4 million units in 2012, up 13.4 percent from 2011’s 12.7 million, marking the highest level since 2007.

Deputy Secretary Blank Highlights Workforce Skills Development as Key to Attracting Investment, Creating Good Jobs

Yesterday, Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank delivered keynote remarks at an event focused on the importance of developing a skilled workforce in order to attract more investment and create more good jobs.

The event, hosted by German Ambassador Peter Ammon, attracted CEOs of German-owned companies that have invested in the United States (such as STIHL, BMW, Volkswagen, and Siemens) as well as leaders of U.S. community colleges, universities, and think tanks. 

Blank cited key Obama administration programs that are strengthening the links between colleges and employers–ensuring that more graduates are ready to fill jobs that are open right now in areas such as advanced manufacturing. She also praised the German Embassy’s newly-announced “Skills Initiative,” an effort to help more German companies form partnerships to train American workers and expand their operations in the U.S.

Blank emphasized that education and training are crucial not only for helping individual workers find good jobs, but also for fostering a deeper pool of talented and skilled citizens throughout society. She noted that the U.S. has historically led the way to establish free public education and world-class public universities. She also cited Germany’s unique “dual system”–a model that blends education with hands-on training–which is well-known for helping young people who have graduated high school but who are not pursuing four-year degrees.

Blank stressed the importance of continued leadership and partnership between the U.S. and Germany overall, noting that hundreds of thousands of Americans go to work each day at German companies that operate in the U.S., and vice versa.

“Our People. Our Future.” Helping One Another Through Service

National Day of Service logo (Learn. Serve. Pledge.)

Guest blog post by Dr. Rebecca Blank, Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce

As we head into the inaugural weekend, I’m looking forward to the National Day of Service on Saturday. Four years ago, President-elect Obama asked all of us to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by participating in a National Day of Service. We’ve made this a tradition in every year since then. The president believes that the strength of our country comes from our people. That’s why the theme of this year’s inauguration is “Our people. Our future.” It is through the combined hard work of Americans in the four years since the president first took office that we’re getting back on track. But our work isn’t done. There is still plenty of work to be done in our nation and in our communities and the president is asking for our help.

That is why on Saturday, I will be visiting a local elementary school in Washington, D.C. to lend a hand in beautifying the building and improving the learning environment for children who will be America’s next generation of leaders. Thousands of fellow Americans in all 50 states will be helping their neighbors by:

  • Rebuilding homes destroyed by natural disaster
  • Providing guidance on how to start a business or get a job
  • Mentoring students
  • Cleaning up their local parks
  • Providing for the less fortunate among us
  • Educating members of their community on medical concerns and resources available
  • Serving our veterans and military families in return for their service to us.

To participate in the National Day of Service, go to www.2013pic.org/service and learn about ways to participate. Then, sign up to serve on Saturday, January 19, to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and pledge to serve in your community in the future.

Once you have selected your project, continue the conversation with others in your community and across America on Twitter. The Day of Service hashtag is #iserve and we’d love to hear what you are doing to make our future a brighter one.

2012 Annual Office of General Counsel Awards Ceremony

On Thursday, December 6, 2012 General Counsel Kerry presided over the Office of General Counsel Annual Awards Ceremony.  He was joined by Acting Secretary Blank who delivered remarks, thanking the office for their tireless work over the past year.  The Acting Secretary acknowledged the great assistance that the office’s attorneys and support staff have provided to her and the entire Department of Commerce.

General Counsel Kerry detailed the broad range of accomplishments achieved by the OGC office over the past year.  He highlighted the successful litigation of the GPX case and efforts to move legislation through Congress as a result.  He also applauded contributions to various other litigation, legislation, reforms and regulation matters handled over the past year by each office within OGC.

GC Kerry and Deputy General Counsel Geovette Washington presented the Attorney of the Year Awards and the Support Staff of the Year Award.  The 2012 recipients are:

Attorney of the Year – Daniel Calhoun – Office of the Chief Counsel for Import Administration

Daniel was instrumental in insuring that Import Administration can, as a matter of domestic law, implement the WTO disputes on zeroing in a coherent process and has been a central player in disputes regarding antidumping and countervailing duty laws.

Support Staff of the Year – Stephanie Dyer – Office of the Assistant General Counsel for Administration, Ethics Law and Programs Division

Stephanie performed outstanding work in implementing a new financial disclosure report electronic filing system and the new reporting requirements of the STOCK Act, which were enacted earlier in 2012. 

New Monster.com Collaboration with Joining Forces Initiative Is a Win for America’s Veterans and Companies

Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank Speaks at the National Veteran Employment Summit

Guest blog post by Dr. Rebecca Blank, Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce

Yesterday, I spoke at the National Veteran Employment Summit hosted by Monster and Military.com. I announced that Monster has signed up to participate in the Joining Forces effort to help hire or train 250,000 veterans and military spouses. The companies participating in Joining Forces know that hiring veterans is not only the right thing to do, but it’s also good business. America’s veterans have the leadership, the character, and the team-oriented approach that employers want and need.

Under the president’s leadership, the administration is working hard to make sure veterans find job opportunities. We’re making improvements in how the military transitions service members from the battlefield to the workplace. We're also ensuring that the post-9/11 GI Bill stays strong. And, through Joining Forces—led by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden—we're ensuring that veterans and military families have the support they need to land a job when they return to civilian life.

The Commerce Department is particularly proud to support the efforts of companies who are hiring men and women who have bravely served our nation. 

Moving forward, the Department will encourage even more businesses to make hard commitments to hire veterans and we will actively share the "best practices" we find in veteran hiring. More broadly, we will continue to give veteran-entrepreneurs, veteran business owners, and veterans in the workforce the tools they need to succeed.

I believe that America’s capacity to innovate and compete in the 21st century is tied to our commitment to unleash the full potential of our veterans. We must continue to do everything we can to provide them with paths to good jobs that will help our nation maintain and strengthen its global leadership.

Expanding Access to New Markets in Sub-Saharan Africa for American Businesses

Part of week-long trip to expand access to new markets in Sub-Saharan Africa for American businesses

Guest blog post by Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank

During the last week I’ve been in South and East Africa to advance key elements of President Obama’s “Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa,” focusing on the promotion of economic growth, trade and investment in the continent.

On Wednesday in Johannesburg, we launched the “Doing Business in Africa” campaign at an event hosted by Business Unity South Africa and the Corporate Council on Africa. Among other things, I announced our commitments to train more of our business counselors and to organize Africa Global Business Summits in order to increase the visibility of opportunities in Africa for American entrepreneurs and business owners  

Then, on Thursday and Friday, I traveled to Nairobi, Kenya, to meet with heads of state and senior trade ministers from the East African Community (EAC), a regional organization that includes Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. We signed an agreement to launch the Commercial Dialogue between the EAC and the U.S., the first of its kind in Africa. Our goal is to create an environment where American businesses can both invest in the region and sell their products and services to meet the increasing demand from the growing middle class in East Africa.

Overall, the mutual economic growth of the U.S. and Africa is dependent on strong and growing person-to-person relationships. That’s why I highlighted the fact that Under Secretary for International Trade Francisco Sánchez was simultaneously leading a delegation of 14 U.S. businesses on a trade mission to South Africa and Zambia. (Read more here about how this is already expanding markets for some American businesses). Also, I was pleased to hear that–next week–the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Terrence McCulley, will lead a Nigerian business delegation to a number of U.S. cities to see some of our biggest trade shows.  

The Obama administration will continue to build bridges with Sub-Saharan Africa as we look to the future. Clearly, people both here in the U.S. and in Sub-Saharan Africa will continue to work with each other, learn from each other, and build on each other’s growing prosperity.