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Blog Category: Office of the Secretary

Acting Secretary Blank Talks Administration Support for American Manufacturing

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

I just returned from the White House Business Council American Economic Competitiveness Forum on Manufacturing where I had an opportunity to hear from a group of American manufacturers—representing businesses of all sizes from across the country—about how the Obama administration can continue to support them as they build things here and sell them everywhere. As we have seen in recent months, manufacturing is one of the bright spots for our economy. 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. In fact, just last month, an additional 25,000 new manufacturing jobs were added.

In terms of production, manufacturing output is up 20 percent since 2009, and increased again in July. One manufacturing sector that has been consistently strong is the motor vehicles and parts industry, which has added 165,000 jobs since June 2009a sector that might not even exist in the U.S. today if not for the assistance this administration gave to the U.S. auto industry in 2009.

This matters because we know that manufacturing jobs are good jobs that pay more than average and provide greater benefits. They strengthen economic security for middle class families.

There is a powerful link between America’s ability to make things and America’s ability to innovate, compete, and create good jobs. We have come to realize that you can’t separate innovation and production—they have to sit near each other. Manufacturers perform 70 percent of all private sector R&D, investing in and producing technological advances that accounted for 90 percent of U.S. patents.  Economic research indicates that innovation—in new products or new processes—was central to three-quarters of the nation’s economic growth since World War II and it is not an accident that the manufacturing sectors where America is most competitive are all advanced manufacturing, where new technologies, new products or new production processes are central to the success of specific firms.

U.S. Manufacturing Continues to Create Jobs in the U.S.

Guest blog post by Mark Doms, Department of Commerce Chief Economist, Economics & Statistics Administration

Earlier today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released a report showing that the private sector added 172,000 jobs last month, and overall employment rose by 163,000. While there’s more work to be done, the economy is creating jobs on a consistent basis. The economy has added private sector jobs for 29 straight months, for a total of 4.5 million jobs. In fact, since the beginning of the year, the economy has added over 1.1 million private sector jobs. Today’s employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to recover from the deepest recession since the Great Depression.

Additionally, the BLS report also showed that the manufacturing sector continues to be a bright spot, which is especially important for middle class families, because these jobs pay high wages and provide high levels of benefits.

The good news is that the U.S. manufacturing sector’s recovery continues: 532,000 new manufacturing jobs have been created over the past 30 months, with 25,000 being added in July. In terms of production, manufacturing output is up 19.8 percent from the trough reached in June 2009.

A part of manufacturing that has been consistently strong is the motor vehicles and parts industry, which has added 165,000 jobs since June 2009. Further, production of cars and trucks in the U.S. reached 10.5 million units at an annual rate in June, a sharp contrast to the shockingly low level of 3.7 million units witnessed in January, 2009.  To continue the revival in manufacturing jobs and output, it is crucial that we implement President Obama’s proposals providing tax incentives for manufacturers, supporting training for the workforce, creating manufacturing hubs, and ending tax breaks for companies that send jobs overseas and provide tax incentives for companies bringing jobs back to the United States.

Acting Secretary Blank Speaks at White House Business Council Forum on Travel and Tourism

Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank joined business leaders from across the country earlier this week at the White House Business Council American Economic Competitiveness Forum on Travel and Tourism

Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank joined business leaders from across the country earlier this week at the White House Business Council American Economic Competitiveness Forum on Travel and Tourism to discuss the administration’s actions to help grow travel and tourism and support the millions of jobs associated with the industry. Travel and tourism is a bright spot for the American economy, leading the recovery with growth that has outpaced the growth of the overall economy by almost 800 percent and on pace for another year of record high international visitors to the U.S. 

Since even before the passage of the Travel Promotion Act in 2010, the Administration has been focused on the importance of travel and tourism.  The President recognized the importance of developing the travel and tourism industry and issued an Executive Order last January that created a new inter-agency Task Force co-chaired by the Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior and charged them with developing a National Travel and Tourism Strategy to increase both domestic and international travel throughout the United States, with the goal of increasing the United States’ market share of worldwide travel. The Task Force included representatives from every agency and department whose mission intersects with the travel and tourism industry. The Task Force released the National Strategy in May with an ambitious goal of attracting 100 million international visitors ($250 billion in spending) to the U.S. annually by 2021 -- a 60% increase above the 62 million international visitors in 2011.

The National Travel and Tourism Strategy laid out a blueprint for reaching that goal by focusing on five areas:

  • Promoting the United States
  • Enabling and enhancing travel and tourism to and within the United States
  • Providing world-class customer service and visitor experiences
  • Coordinating across government
  • Conducting research and measuring results

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.