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Blog Category: Office of the Secretary

Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank’s Trip to St. Louis Highlights American Manufacturing, Insourcing and Exports

Acting Secretary Blank continued her trip through Missouri today. She traveled to St. Louis to attend a roundtable breakfast with business owners from a range of industries hosted by Helix Center Biotech Incubator, an innovation facility owned and operated by the St. Louis County Economic Council. She was joined by St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and St. Louis County Executive Charley Dooley.

Acting Secretary Blank wrapped up her trip with a visit to Wilco Molding, Inc. a third-generation family-owned custom plastic injection molder as well as a tool and mold machine shop. There, Dr. Blank was joined by Wilco’s President, Kim Williams, along with Denny Coleman, President & CEO of St. Louis County Economic Council, and Tom Dustman, Director of International Sales for Sunnen Products. Acting Secretary Blank reiterated President Obama’s commitment to support manufacturing, to promote U.S. exports, and to encourage American businesses to bring jobs back or to expand operations in America—also known as insourcing She also discussed the importance of building on America’s insourcing trend by bringing more jobs back to states like Missouri. She also highlighted President Obama’s plan, released today, to extend the middle class tax cuts for families making under $250,000. In Missouri, this would help approximately 2.1 million families by preventing a tax increase of about $2,200 for the typical family of four.

During her visits to Missouri manufacturers, Acting Secretary Blank discussed Administration efforts to create good jobs by investing in American manufacturing. The President continues to press Congress to pass legislation that rewards businesses who hire American workers and eliminates tax incentives for companies to ship jobs overseas. The Commerce Department also continues to support the resurgence of American manufacturing and ongoing efforts to provide U.S. companies with the tools and resources they need to sell their products and services in the global marketplace.

Community Colleges as Economic Engines

Terry Calaway, President, Johnson County Community College

Guest blog by Terry Calaway, President, Johnson County Community College

ED NOTE: With 50,000 students a year enrolled in credit and noncredit classes, Johnson County Community College is the state’s largest institution of higher education. JCCC offers a full range of undergraduate credit courses and 50 career and certificate programs that prepare students for employment. JCCC’s noncredit workforce development program is the largest, most comprehensive in the Kansas City area.

Johnson County Community College (JCCC) in Overland Park, Kansas, was fortunate to host Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank during her visit to Kansas City July 23. We were honored to show the Acting Secretary the facility on campus we share with BNSF Railway in a model partnership of industry and education, one that demonstrates how community colleges can serve as economic engines for the county.

Because Kansas City is one of the most important freight transportation hubs in the Midwest, BNSF is building a 443-acre intermodal facility in the southern part of Johnson County, Kansas (a Kansas City suburb). The facility will help the region’s economy grow by shifting more freight traffic from the highway to the rails. The increasing demand to move more freight by rail coupled with the number of current rail workers who will be retiring means that freight railroads will hire more than 15,000 employees this year alone.

JCCC is prepared for these changes, thanks to a long and beneficial relationship with BNSF Railway. The college first entered into partnership discussions with BNSF in 1986. The result is the largest railroad training facility in the country, founded on the college campus. Originally intended to train only BNSF employees, the training center over the years has come to serve other railroads as well. As many as 14,000 railroad employees come to JCCC each year for training from the United States and Mexico.

An American Resurgence in Manufacturing Happening In Kansas City and Columbia, Missouri

Zahner CEO and President Bill Zahner explains how 3-D computer modeling is used to create working files for the plant for fabrication and for the field crews to use for installation

Guest blog post by Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank

I am back in my home state of Missouri today, so it is even more of a treat to witness firsthand the resurgence in American manufacturing. I visited two manufacturers today—the A. Zahner Company, in Kansas City, and Environmental Dynamics International (EDI), in Columbia—and had the chance to talk to some remarkable local businesses leaders and entrepreneurs in both cities.

Under President Obama’s leadership, and with the hard work of businesses and workers like those here in Missouri, our private sector has now seen 28 straight months of job growth—4.4 million jobs. Of course, there is more work to be done, but we are making progress in critical areas. Over the last two and one-half years, we’ve seen the strongest growth in manufacturing jobs since the 1990s. Missouri alone has gained nearly 9,000 new manufacturing jobs since 2010.

On top of that, manufacturers in states like Missouri are realizing that investing here at home is both the right thing to do and the smart thing to do. Many businesses—both here and abroad—are deciding to keep jobs here, bring jobs back to the U.S., or to set up operations here for the first time—a trend called “insourcing.”

We need to do everything possible to support businesses in places like Missouri that are thinking about insourcing. The Obama administration will continue to call on Congress to pass legislation to give our companies a tax break if they move operations and jobs back.

New Patent Office Will Foster Innovation, Creating a Cycle of Job Growth

Eric Kelly, President and CEO of Overland Storage

Guest blog post by Eric Kelly, President and CEO of Overland Storage

As one of the driving forces of technological innovation in the United States, Silicon Valley companies continue to create new products and opportunities that advanceall aspects of our lives. The ability to create intellectual property is critical for companies as they develop new products and protect existing assets. Last year alone, Californians made up more than a quarter of the 108,626 patents issued to U.S. inventors. 

Recently the Commerce Department announced a plan to put a satellite Patent Office in Silicon Valley. As the President and CEO of a global provider of leading data management and data protection solutions, I support this move, as it brings increased resources to streamline the patent process and creating a cycle of job growth that is good for the overall US economy.

I also believe that it is critical that the United States retain our manufacturing base to further protect the intellectual assets of our innovators. The impact of piracy and counterfeiting not only affects company sales, exports and profits, it can threaten the existence of companies that spent years and millions of dollars developing and bringing technology to market.

The world is changing at lightning speed, and Silicon Valley continues to be a force in driving change and enabling companies and individuals adapt to change. We look forward to working with Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank and the entire Commerce Department team in their efforts to ensure that companies can remain agile, innovative and competitive in today's evolving marketplace.

Commerce Department Declares Winners in the Commerce Business Apps Challenge

An online application that allows businesses to compare themselves to their competitors, locate their competition, customers, and suppliers, and find the best places to advertise and their developer team of four won the Commerce Department’s first prize and $5,000 in the nationwide Commerce Business Apps Challenge sponsored by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The winning apps use at least one Department of Commerce data set that assists businesses and/or improves the service delivery of Business.USA.gov to the business community. BusinessUSA is a centralized, one-stop platform to make it easier than ever for businesses to access services to help them grow and hire. All of these winners equip businesses with tools to be more competitive around the world, while creating jobs here at home.

The First Place winner, SizeUp, is a business intelligence tool that uses data from hundreds of sources including the Census Bureau, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, IRS records, county courthouse filings, Yellow Pages and White Pages, business publications, the U.S. Postal Service, and corporate annual reports to provide a comprehensive overview to small- and medium-sized  business about their competitiveness and where to find resources to improve. This will improve the success of small businesses so they can prosper and create new jobs.

The $10,000 contest challenges app developers to find innovative ways to utilize Commerce and other publicly available data and information to support American businesses. 22 entries were submitted to the high-profile judging panel that included Vint Cerf, Chief Internet Evangelist at Google; Tim O’Reilly, founder and CEO of O'Reilly Media and Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer at Facebook among others who selected the three winners.

The Commerce competition awarded a First Place winner ($5,000), a Second Place winner ($3,000) and a Third Place winner ($2,000).

Government Coming to Entrepreneurs

Ali Ansary, co-founder of SeventyK

Guest blog post by Ali Ansary, co-founder of SeventyK.

Ed. Note: SeventyK’s mission is to change cancer care by educating patients, families, and their healthcare providers through innovative ways about age-appropriate treatment and the unique needs of the adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer patient. Unlike pediatric and older adult cancer patients, for over two decades the rate of survival for AYA cancer patients has not improved.

Last Thursday I was honored to be part of a panel at the Colorado University Denver Anschutz Medical Campus where Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank discussed the importance of opening four new USPTO offices, including one in Denver.

As Acting Secretary Blank spoke to the new opportunities and growth that will spur from opening new USPTO offices, two quotes came to mind:

#1: "No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it" (Albert Einstein). 

For the first time, new offices outside of Washington, D.C. will be part of the solution to accelerate innovation in this country—an important recognition that innovation doesn’t happen in one place—it happens across the country. Now entrepreneurs who need to protect their innovation have a direct line to the government locally. A strong move when seeing that IP-intensive industries account for nearly 35 percent of the FY2010 U.S. GDP.

Acting Secretary Blank Speaks About Innovation Imperative at GlobalWIN’s Luncheon

Acting Secretary Blank Enjoys a Laugh With Members of the Global Women’s Innovation Network (Photo by Ben Droz - bendroz.smugmug.com)

Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank delivered remarks at the Global Women’s Innovation Network (GlobalWIN)’s third annual Innovation Luncheon at the Library of Congress today. GlobalWIN provides a forum for women executives and women working in academia, government and business in innovation-related fields. In her remarks, Dr. Blank highlighted the importance of women’s leadership in advancing America’s innovation agenda to compete and create jobs.

Blank emphasized that to be competitive in the 21st century, America needs to encourage students to enter science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. These fields produce many of the inventors and leaders who bring new ideas from the lab to the marketplace. Even though STEM jobs pay about 25 percent more than others, only about 13 percent of U.S. college graduates got degrees in the STEM fields. Blank affirmed that one reason America has so few STEM workers is because women are seriously underrepresented in these fields. Women make up nearly half of America’s labor force—but less than one-fourth of our STEM workforce. Some women lack information, others lack role models or mentors, while others may lack opportunity.

To provide opportunities, the Obama administration launched Educate to Innovate in 2009. This campaign brings together the federal government with private-sector partners with a particular focus on inspiring more girls, women and minorities to explore science and technology. Another example is Race to the Top, made possible by the Recovery Act. With about $4 billion in funding, Race to the Top provides competitive grants that support and reward states with high K-through-12 achievement with the only extra preference allowed in this competition is for states that focus on STEM. A third example of the president’s commitment came this week when he dedicated $100 million for a new corps of high-quality STEM teachers at 50 sites around the U.S. These teachers will get up to $20,000 on top of their base salary in exchange for making a multi-year commitment.

Blank reminded the audience that in the long run, America’s ability to innovate and compete as a nation will determine what kind of economy—and what kind of country—we pass along to the next generation.

Women in the Financial Sector: A White House Forum on Economic Growth

Acting Secretary Blank Presenting to the Women in the Financial Sector: A White House Forum on Economic Growth

Guest blog post by Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank

This morning I spoke with around 100 women from across the U.S. financial services industry at the White House. The forum included business executives as well as stewards of institutional funds.

I’m an economist by training and I’ve studied the role that women play in the workforce. When it comes to decision-making, in the boardroom or anywhere else, the best decisions get made when there is more diversity of perspectives and opinions at the table. So it was great to hear from these leaders.

We talked about the U.S. economy and some of the challenges we face, and I highlighted some of the things that President Obama is pushing for to help strengthen our economy, build on our global competitiveness, and create even more jobs.

Already, GDP has grown for 11 straight quarters and more than 4.4 million private sector jobs have been created over the past 28 months. That’s good news, but clearly we must do more.

For example, we need to expand support for states and localities to hire more teachers, police, and firefighters. We need to expand infrastructure investment, and put unemployed construction workers back to work. We need to reward firms that insource—bringing jobs back to America—and eliminate tax benefits for companies that outsource. And we need to extend tax cuts for middle class families.

In addition, everyone agreed that Americans should be as concerned, perhaps even more concerned, with long-term investments that assure long-term American competitiveness. For example, the president has called on Congress to support more research and development as well as tech transfer in America’s top universities and labs along with investments that will help to increase the skills of the U.S. workforce, provide greater access to higher education and enhance our nation’s educational infrastructure.

Acting Secretary Blank Cuts Ribbon to Open U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Detroit, Michigan

Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank cuts the steel ribbon, officially opening the Elijah J. McCoy USPTO Satellite Office

Acting Secretary Blank wrapped up her 3-day Innovation Tour with a stop in Detroit, Michigan today to participate in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially launch the Elijah J. McCoy USPTO Satellite Office. She was joined by USPTO Director Kappos, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, U.S. Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, U.S. Representatives John Dingell, John Conyers, Jr., Gary Peters, and Hansen Clarke, and local businesses and entrepreneurs.

During the ceremony, Acting Secretary Blank swore in the office’s first seven USPTO Board Judges who will review patents and help speed up the patent process. The Detroit USPTO satellite office will create approximately 120 highly-skilled jobs in its first year of operations.

In her remarks, Blank said:

And now, today, with this new office, we’re making another critical investment in the future of Detroit, the state of Michigan, and the U.S. as a whole.

With the help of the McCoy office, we’re creating a stronger, more efficient patent system. That’s important because patents are the fuel for innovation.

Patents protect the intellectual property of Americans who have game-changing ideas. Patents help put those ideas to work in our economy. And patents help us out-compete the rest of the world.

We’ve already made great progress in improving our patent system. Even though patent filings grew five percent last year, we were able to actually reduce the patent backlog by 10 percent.

The McCoy office will help us continue to expand our patent system’s capacity and productivity.

Blank noted that the new office is just a beginning. An innovation-driven economy demands more support of R&D, help for universities like Michigan, Michigan State and Wayne State to push their research discoveries into the marketplace, and to ensure young people can succeed in science, technology, engineering and math—the STEM fields.

Blank reiterated the President's call that we must stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas and start helping those that are trying to keep jobs here or bring them back. Citizens and government must use all of the tools at their disposal to ensure that America will continue to drive innovation and be a magnet for good jobs for the middle class. The ability to innovate and compete as a nation will determine what kind of economy—and what kind of country—is passed along to the next generation.

Acting Secretary Blank Begins 3-Day Innovation Tour with Stop in Silicon Valley to Discuss Newly Announced Patent and Trademark Office

Acting Secretary Blank Begins 3-Day  Innovation Tour with Stop in Silicon Valley

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank delivered remarks to a full house and participated in a panel discussion at San Jose State University on driving U.S. innovation to create jobs. The panel was moderated by Carl Guardino, President and CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. Blank was joined by Dr. Pat Kennedy, CEO of OSISoft, Eric Kelly, President and CEO of Overland Storage  and Dr. Mohammad Qayoumi, President of San Jose State University. During the discussion, Blank noted some of the 22 ways the Department of Commerce is supporting and fostering American innovation.

In her opening remarks, Blank noted:

This past winter, our [US Patent and Trademark] Alexandria office had a special exhibit on the ground floor – 30 giant iPhones lined up side-by-side.  Each one featured one of the many patents that Steve Jobs received. As Steve said, “The ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world are the ones who do.”

Today, those entrepreneurs, those innovators, and those dreamers – all of you – are the reason I’m so proud to say that the Commerce Department will soon put one of its first four satellite patent offices right here in Silicon Valley.

Today, thousands of inventors here and across the country continue to help lay the foundation for America’s long-term growth and leadership.  The entrepreneurial spirit continues to thrive here in Silicon Valley. With your help, we have seen 28 straight months of private sector job growth – totaling 4.4 million jobs.  

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) plans to open a satellite office in the Silicon Valley area in an effort to help local businesses and entrepreneurs innovate quicker and grow faster. Acting Secretary Blank cited a recent Commerce Department report showed that industries that rely heavily on intellectual property protection support at least 40 million jobs – and about one-third of our GDP. That report showed that these jobs pay about 42 percent more than others. So a better patent system means good jobs and stronger economic security for millions of middle class families. 

After the panel discussion, Acting Secretary Blank attended a lunch at TechShop. TechShop is a membership-based workshop that provides members with access to tools and equipment, instruction, and a community of creative and supportive people so they can build the things they have always wanted to make. Blank spoke with local business leaders to discuss entrepreneurship, innovation and how the new patent satellite office could help to support job creation. She heard ideas about how the satellite office will meet local business needs, how the office will work with regional economic development groups focused on job creation, and whether their might be in interest tailoring the patent office’s services to meet the needs of startups, incubators and accelerators.

Blank will fly to Denver – another newly announced patent office location – and host another series of conversations with local businesses and officials about improving and continuing American innovation tomorrow.