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Blog Category: Office of the Secretary

Manufacturing Council Ensuring We Build It In America

Acting Secretary Blank Chairs the 5th Manufacturing Council Meeting

Let’s build it in America.

That’s what we’ve done for generations.  And today, the private sector members of the Manufacturing Council had the opportunity to meet with Acting Secretary Blank, Under Secretary Sánchez, Assistant Secretary Lamb-Hale and others from the federal government to continue the discussion on how to enhance our global competitiveness and make the important investments necessary to ensure American manufacturers and communities across the country can continue to innovate here, manufacture here and have the skilled workforce they need to do it.

The Council and the team at Commerce and within the Obama administration are committed to helping businesses invest, grow and create jobs in America. We are tackling head-on the issues that the manufacturing industry, through the Council, have identified as most important. Some of these issues are a comprehensive energy strategy, passage of the trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panamaworkforce development initiatives and tax and regulatory matters.

And, we’re making progress. Today, Secretary Blank discussed the American Jobs Act with the Council, highlighting, in particular, the pieces on infrastructure investment, the extension of 100% business expensing and payroll tax holidays that the Council has addressed.

And, we’re also making strides toward connecting the key players in these areas so they join forces. The Council is working with Skills for America’s Future, Change the Equation, the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness and the Departments of Labor and Education to look at concrete next steps to address the workforce issues. The Commerce Department, along with partner agencies, announced the winners of our i6 Green Challenge. These winners will have the ability to leverage resources from five federal agencies to take their clean technology innovations and bring them to market.

$102 Million in Wetlands and Barrier Island Restoration Awards for Louisiana

Acting Secretary Blank Announces $102 Million in Wetlands and Barrier Island Restoration Awards for Louisiana Photo Credit: Tracie Morris Schaefer

Earlier today, Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank announced $102 million for three Louisiana projects in the Barataria and Terrebone basins, to restore deteriorated wetlands and barrier island habitats along the state’s coast. These awards are funded by the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) program.  U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Director Garret Graves and Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Project Director Bobby Guichet also participated in the announcement.

Great Lakes Dredge & Dock and Weeks Marine have been contracted to restore beach, dune and marsh on Pelican Island in Plaquemines Parish, and West Belle Pass barrier headland in Lafourche Parish, respectively. The state of Louisiana will receive the third award to rebuild marsh and construct an 11,000-foot long protective ridge in the Bayou Dupont area in Jefferson Parish. The three projects will employ local citizens and generate further economic benefits for local businesses and coastal communities.

At the event, Blank also outlined help the American Jobs Act would provide Louisiana – putting people to work and boosting businesses. The plan would provide a significant new tax cut for small businesses, make major reforms to unemployment insurance to help get more Americans back on the job, and it would put more money in the pockets of Americans by reducing payroll taxes paid by workers.

The Jobs Act would complement the coastal restoration work funded by the awards announced by Blank today.

Spotlight on Commerce: William A. Ramos, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs

Spotlight on Commerce: William A. Ramos, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of winning the future through their work.

William A. Ramos is the Director of Intergovernmental Affairs

As Director of Intergovernmental Affairs in the Office of the Secretary, I have the privilege to serve President Obama and the Department of Commerce Secretary promoting their policies, programs and initiatives with state and local elected officials as it relates to the 12 bureaus within the department.  In a city where politics and government looks inward toward Capitol Hill, I have the unique opportunity to look toward the 50 states and five territorial capitals, the 3,068 counties, and thousands of cities, townships and villages and their governmental associations.  From the 2010 Decennial Census, promoting the National Export Initiative, to NOAA’s work with governors and mayors and everything in between, the work with these elected and appointed officials is important to the President, the Secretary and to our nation. 

I do this work with the assistance and collaboration of 12 very dedicated Bureau Directors of Intergovernmental Affairs, who stand ready to assist state/local and territorial officials and their staffs to improve the understanding of the Department of Commerce’s critical work across the country and around the world by conducting outreach and education activities.

Prior to my appointment to the Obama Administration, I was Director of the Washington, DC office of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund, leading a team that represented NALEO’s mission of empowering Latinos to fully participate in the American political process by advocating on Capitol Hill and the Administration on policy issues related to immigration, naturalization, the Census, voting rights protection and representation in the administration.  I began my career at ASPIRA of Florida, a youth leadership development organization, and have worked in governmental relations with America’s Promise – The Alliance for Youth and the YMCA of the USA here in Washington, DC.  I was also the Director of Policy and Legislation for a Miami-Dade County Commissioner.

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank Visits University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus to Highlight the American Jobs Act

Acting Secretary Blank watches researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus demonstrate some of their work on medical innovations.

Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank visited the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, which houses both the University of Colorado Hospital and Children’s Hospital Colorado, as well as the Schools of Medicine, Nursing, Dental Medicine, Pharmacy and Public Health accompanied by Governor John Hickenlooper. While at the Anschutz Medical Campus, she toured the facilities and observed some researchers working on their innovations in the medical field.

At Anschutz, Blank discussed details of President Obama’s American Jobs Act.  Blank highlighted the different ways the plan could make an immediate impact on job creation: cutting taxes for small businesses, putting more money in the pockets of consumers through an expanded payroll tax cut, and preventing the layoffs of teachers, firefighters and policemen, while putting construction workers to work through much-needed renovations to school, roads, rail and airports renovations. Blank underlined the need for Congress to act quickly on the bipartisan measures in the Jobs Act.

The plan would:

  • Slash the payroll tax in half for 98 percent of businesses, benefitting 130,000 Colorado companies;
  • Allow localities to avoid laying off teachers, firefighters and cops – 7,000 in Colorado alone;
  • Modernize at least 35,000 public schools, supporting renovations across the country and as many as 3,400 jobs in Colorado;
  • Put the long-term unemployed – a group that totals 98,000 in Colorado – back to work by making the most innovative reforms to unemployment insurance in 40 years;
  • Extend unemployment insurance, preventing 5 million Americans, including 33,700 in Colorado, from losing their benefits; and,
  • Cut payroll taxes in half for 160 million workers next year, giving the typical Colorado family a $1,740 tax cut.

The U.S. Department of Commerce Celebrates the United States’s Entry into the Open Government Partnership

Commerce's OpenGov Banner

President Obama has made openness a high priority in his Administration, committing his Administration to an “unprecedented level of openness in Government” on his first full day in office. 

Since then, the Administration has:

  • disclosed more information requested under the Freedom of Information Act;
  • made voluminous information available on government websites;
  • used technology in innovative ways that harness government information to improve the lives of ordinary citizens.

As President Obama today signs the Open Government Partnership declaration, the U.S. Department of Commerce is proud to highlight some of the ways that it has advanced America’s domestic open government agenda and created a more efficient and effective government through greater transparency, participation, and collaboration.

In 2010, the Census Bureau contributed more than 164,000 files to ensure that the Data.gov program met its first-anniversary goal of 250,000 data sets. The Census Bureau added data sets and tools including American FactFinder, the preeminent tool for accessing Census data; the intercensal Population and Housing Unit Estimates, the official numbers for non-decennial years; and the International Database, one of the most-frequently-requested pages on www.census.gov.

The Department is working to help raise awareness of existing programs and ongoing efforts that will benefit the American people in their everyday lives. One such example of these types of efforts is the NOAA Climate Services Portal. The NOAA Climate Services Portal improves access to high-value climate information to the public. The NOAA Climate Services Portal (NCSP), a collaborative cross-NOAA effort, was officially rolled out in prototype mode in February 2010. The NCSP offers a user-focused way for multiple audiences to access NOAA’s climate data, information, and services in a standards-based manner. While NOAA’s climate information is expansive, users have highlighted the need for a “one-stop-shop” that effectively organizes the information and makes it easy to find what is needed. Although in its current prototype mode the NCSP is just scratching the surface of what NOAA has to offer, plans call for continuing to add NOAA data, information, and services. Another key existing program that opens up government services to citizens is CommerceConnect.  CommerceConnect is a one-stop-shop to help U.S. businesses transform themselves into globally competitive enterprises, by connecting them with government information, counseling and services.

Acting Secretary Blank Meets with Travel and Tourism Advisory Board and Announces the Latest Data on International Visitation and Visitor Expenditures

This morning Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank met with key business leaders at the final meeting of the Commerce Department’s Travel and Tourism Advisory Board to discuss the President’s plan to create jobs across America, highlighting the essential role of the travel and tourism industry to American jobs and the American economy.  She announced that international visitors spent a record-setting $13.3 billion on travel to, and tourism-related activities within, the United States during the month of July – $1.8 billion or 15 percent more than was spent in July 2010.

The travel and tourism industry accounts for 25 percent of exports in services and 7 percent of all U.S. exports. Travel and tourism is one the industries targeted to help grow jobs across America and achieve the goal of doubling exports through President Obama’s National Export Initiative (NEI).   The Board meeting highlighted collaboration between the federal government and the private sector to address policy issues to help increase legitimate international travel to the United States.

The United States Travel and Tourism Advisory Board is the premier source of industry advice to the Secretary of Commerce.  The Board has met five times throughout their charter term, providing industry input on travel facilitation, airport security, marketing, communications, research and data and energy policy. It has been rechartered and is accepting applications for the next board - deadline is Friday.

Acting Secretary Blank, SBA Administrator Mills, Mayor Nutter Highlight Federal Support for Philadelphia’s Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses

Acting Secretary Blank, SBA Administrator Mills, Mayor Nutter, CEO Desh Deshponde at NACIE in Philadelphia (Photo: Jason Heritage, Ben Franklin Partners)

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank, along with Small Business Administration Administrator Karen Mills, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development John Fernandez, addressed the media today in Philadelphia in conjunction with a meeting of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE) to discuss federal support for area entrepreneurs and small businesses, research and commercialization efforts in the private sector, and the President’s American Jobs Act. 

The event was held before a crowd of local business leaders at The Navy Yard - a business incubator and home to the new Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster for Energy Efficient Buildings.

"The Navy Yard is a prime example of both a growing regional innovation cluster and the value of public-private partnerships that support innovation and entrepreneurship," Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Blank said. "It is part of the rebuilding of America's very economic foundation with investments in the building-block priorities that will help ensure the U.S. is home to the industries of the 21st century and the jobs they support."

Blank called for swift passage of the President’s American Jobs Act to help put more people back to work and put more money in the pockets of working Americans. The plan calls for cutting in half the payroll tax that comes out of every worker's paycheck, saving families an average of $1,500 a year. It also provides a payroll tax cut to 98 percent of businesses and eliminates the payroll tax on a firms’ new hires or employees to whom they give a raise.

Acting Secretary Blank Participates in 'September 11th Day of Service and Remembrance' at Ballou Senior High School

Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank along with Ballou's Ruth Jones, GWU's Provost Steve Lerman and others plant a rhododendron in honor of a local student killed on September 11, 2001 ((Photo: Jati Lindsay))

On Sunday, Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank participated in a “September 11th Day of Service and Remembrance” at Ballou Senior High School in Southeast Washington D.C. This year’s 9/11 National Day of Service coincides with the third annual George Washington University Freshman Day of Service. Approximately 2,300 George Washington University freshmen and student leaders will visit 15 sites in the Washington, D.C. area to volunteer their time on service projects such as school beautification and restoration as well as environmental clean-up. About 150 students from George Washington University were assigned to Ballou for a variety of tasks.

Upon arrival, Acting Secretary Blank met with Principal Branch to learn more about the schools and the “New Ballou” effort underway that will help improve student academic performance and meet the myriad needs the students have.

After an orientation with all the George Washington University students, Dr. Blank participated in planting a rhododendron in honor of a local student who was killed on the September 11, 2001 attack on the Pentagon. Bernard Brown was a student at a feeder school for Ballou and had he survived, he would have probably attended the high school. She then pulled up weeds in the vegetable garden alongside freshman George Washington University students.

After helping in the garden, Dr. Blank, along with George Washington University Provost Steve Lerman and several other members of George Washington University, took a tour of the New Ballou with Ruth Jones, the Director of Resource Development at Ballou. The group saw the transformation of the school that included a new computer lab and stocked library. The tour ended in the science lab where students were painting a mural of areas of scientific study. Dr. Blank rolled up her sleeves and helped some of the students with the mural of plant cells.

Chatting with Citizens in Cincinnati about President Obama’s Job Plan

Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank enjoys Graeter's Ice Cream while on a tour with CEO Rich Graeter. Also enjoying the ice cream is Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory.

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

First thing this morning, I’ll be on a plane to Cincinnati to join Mayor Mark Mallory for a visit to Graeter’s Ice Cream, a locally and family owned ice cream company founded in 1870. At Graeter’s, I'll explain the details of President Obama’s American Jobs Act, specifically how it will spur economic growth and accelerate job creation. 

After my tour (and hopefully a sample or two of that ice cream), I will host a White House Business Council roundtable discussion with local business leaders to discuss the jobs plan in further detail, challenges facing America’s business community, ways to improve U.S. economic competitiveness and the help that is available to businesses from agencies across the federal government. 

Before the end of the day, I’ll be sitting down with the editorial board of the Cincinnati Enquirer to answer all their questions about President Obama’s jobs plan.

The American Jobs Act is a set of ideas that have been supported by both Democrats AND Republicans that needs to be passed right away. This plan will put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of working Americans. As the folks in Cincinnati will attest, Americans are working hard each and every day to meet their responsibilities. The only question now is whether Washington will meet its responsibilities. The time for obstruction and gridlock is over. Congress needs to pass the American Jobs Act.

UPDATE: Read Acting Secretary Blank's remarks

Commerce Emphasizing Innovation and Efficiency in IT Security Operations

Simon Szyman at pdoium

Guest blog post by Simon Szykman, Chief Information Officer, U.S. Department of Commerce

You missed it! The Department of Commerce's Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) hosted its inaugural Innovating Security Conference to increase knowledge and awareness of various initiatives, exchange information and ideas, and engage in discussions on ways to further protect and strengthen the security posture of the department’s information systems. Facing security threats that are evolving and growing in sophistication, while at the same time anticipating a constrained outlook for the future due to budget pressures, it is imperative for organizations across the department to pursue improvements in both efficiency and effectiveness by examining operations, collaborating on common objectives, improving information sharing, and identifying opportunities to leverage one another’s independent activities.

The two-day conference is one means of moving toward a higher level of efficiency and effectiveness by emphasizing internal collaborations and open dialogue. The conference included participation and invited speakers from Commerce, as well as from other federal agencies and the private sector, in order to leverage their best practices, lessons learned and knowledge in areas related to information system security. In addition to keynote and panel sessions, service offerings of Commerce internal service providers as well as industry vendors were highlighted during the event.