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Blog Category: Office of the Secretary

Meet John Bryson, the new U.S. Secretary of Commerce

Photo of John Bryson

Last night the U.S. Senate confirmed John Bryson as the next U.S. Secretary of Commerce and he was sworn in today.

Before assuming his position as commerce secretary, he was the Chief Executive Officer of Edison International, the parent company of Southern California Edison and Edison Mission Group, for almost 18 years, where he led the company through times of both opportunities and crisis.  Bryson guided Edison through the California energy crisis of 2002 without going bankrupt, built a stronger company in the process and created jobs for American workers, while keeping the lights on for thousands of businesses and millions of families in California.

He was a director of The Boeing Company, The Walt Disney Company and Coda Automotive, Inc., and was a senior advisor to KKR.  He was also chairman of the board of BrightSource Energy, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), and the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC) Board of Overseers.  He also served as co-chairman of the Pacific Council on International Policy (PCIP).

Mr. Bryson was a trustee of the California Institute of Technology and a director of The California Endowment and the W. M. Keck Foundation.  He served on the Advisory Board of Deutsche Bank Americas.  He also previously served on a number of educational and environmental boards, including as chairman of the California Business Roundtable, co-chairman of the Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA), trustee of Stanford University, and as a member of the U.N. Secretary-General’s Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change (AGECC).

The White House blog has quotes from individuals ranging from the COO of Facebook to the former Treasury Secretary John Snow to Mayors across the country supporting the nomination of John Bryson.  Commerce press release   |  White House statement

Acting Secretary Blank Highlights the Obama Administration's Pro-Business Record

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank Delivering the Keynote Address at the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance Annual Meeting

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank today delivered the keynote address at the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance Annual Meeting, where she highlighted the different ways the American Jobs Act would 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 also discussed the Obama administration’s record supporting business expansion, highlighting the 17 different small business tax cuts implemented by the administration, major reform of the patent system that will bring the ideas of innovators to market faster, and investments in education and infrastructure that will help businesses thrive.

The American Jobs Act would:

  • Slash the payroll tax in half for 98 percent of businesses, benefitting 410,000 Florida companies;
  • Allow localities to avoid laying off teachers, firefighters and cops – 25,900 in Florida alone;
  • Modernize at least 35,000 public schools, supporting renovations across the country and as many as 16,600 jobs in Florida;
  • Put the long-term unemployed – a group that totals 498,000 in Florida – back to work by making the most innovative reforms to unemployment insurance in 40 years;
  • Extend unemployment insurance, preventing 5 million Americans, including 148,500 in Florida, from losing their benefits; and,
  • Cut payroll taxes in half for 160 million workers next year, giving the typical Florida family a $1,730 tax cut.

Remarks

So What's in the Trade Agreements with Colombia, Panama and Korea?

Yesterday, President Obama sent three trade agreements to Congress for approval. While each of the trade agreements were negotiated differently, they all share one common goal - to increase opportunities for U.S. businesses, farmers, and workers through improved access for their products and services in foreign markets. Each supports President Obama’s National Export Initiative goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2015.

All Trade Promotion Agreements have one thing in common. They reduce barriers to U.S. exports, and protect U.S. interests and enhance the rule of law in the partner country. The reduction of trade barriers and the creation of a more stable and transparent trading and investment environment make it easier and cheaper for U.S. companies to export their products and services to trading partner markets.This results in jobs here in America.

The most common question about these agreements is, "What exactly is in them?" Below the fold are some of the key specifics for each agreement.

Acting Secretary Blank Addresses Minority-Owned Businesses about the Importance of the American Jobs Act

Acting Secretary Blank Addresses MED Week 2011

This morning Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank addressed the 29th Annual Minority Enterprise Development Week Conference about the importance of Congress passing the American Jobs Act. Dr. Blank emphasized that the American Jobs Act will help a private sector in need of a little boost. It will create jobs. It will prevent the layoffs of teachers and first responders. And it will rebuild the roads, railways and airports that form the very backbone of Commerce. 

She noted that the Obama Administration knows government can’t solve all the problems facing our country. What it can do is help lay a foundation for growth and create smart incentives for minority entrepreneurs and all American businesses to build something special on top of that foundation.

As part of this commitment to business and job growth, among the programs the administration has created are:

  • The Startup America Initiative, which connects established private sector mentors to innovative entrepreneurs;
  • The Small Business Jobs Act, which is providing billions of dollars in lending support and tax cuts for small businesses;
  • The $33 million Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge to drive job growth through public-private partnerships in regions around the country, and we’re pleased to note that three MBDA centers were among the winners.
  • The National Export Initiative, which Commerce leads, is aimed at connecting small and medium sized enterprises with the 95 percent of the world’s consumer who live outside our border and doubling U.S. exports by 2015; and,
  • New aggressive steps by federal agencies, which are the nation’s largest purchaser of goods and services, to improve contracting with small businesses, including minority-owned firms.

The goal is simple. It is to improve the overall competitiveness of American business at home and abroad.

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.