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Blog Category: Office of the Secretary

Commerce Veteran Hiring at 16-Year High

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Commerce is proud to announce that in the last year, veteran hiring reached a 16-year high, raising the total representation of veteran new hires to 12.5 percent.

Two years ago, on November 9, 2009, President Barack Obama issued Executive Order 13518: Employment of Veterans in the Federal Government. This Executive order charged all Cabinet-level departments with establishing a Veterans Employment Office, developing an operational plan, and providing mandatory annual training to hiring managers and senior human resources practitioners on veterans preferences and special appointing authorities for veterans.

In response to the President’s Executive Order, Commerce hired Sean Lenahan, former U.S. Coast Guard officer, as their Veterans Employment Program Manager to head the Veterans Employment Team and lead all Department-level veterans hiring initiatives. The Department’s Veterans Employment Team consists of members from the Census Bureau, the Patent and Trademark Office, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

“Our Veterans Employment Team has worked tirelessly to enhance employment opportunities for veterans throughout the Department,” said Bill Fleming, Director of Human Resources, Department of Commerce.  Mr. Fleming, a U.S. Army veteran, is one of the many veterans that hold key senior leadership positions within the Department.  Michael Phelps, Director, Office of the Budget, and Barry Berkowitz, Director, Office of Acquisition Management, are both highly decorated, retired officers of the U.S. Air Force.

Building Networks to Advance the Innovation Economy

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Guest blog post by John Fernandez, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development

Like President Obama, the top priority of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s new Secretary John Bryson is jobs. Advancing innovative economies is key to achieving sustainable job creation.

Today I traveled to Columbus, Ohio to address innovators, technology business leaders and economic development professionals to discuss ways to accelerate America’s innovation economy to create good jobs and increase our global competitiveness.

I was joined by my colleagues Phil Singerman, Associate Director for Innovation and Industry Services at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and Sean Greene, Associate Administrator for Investment and Special Adviser for Innovation at the Small Business Administration at a conference hosted by State Science & Technology Institute (SSTI) – an organization that seeks to improve the economy through science and technology.  We discussed how under President Obama’s leadership federal agencies are making the smart investments needed to promote American innovation and support entrepreneurship and small business development.

Commerce Employees Saving Taxpayer Money

The BEA team with Secretary John Bryson and Acting Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank

Secretary Bryson and Acting Deputy Secretary Blank have recognized three Commerce teams that are improving customer service and saving taxpayer money.  Teams from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), Census Bureau, and Department of Commerce Human Resources offices have received the Performance Excellence Award.

The Performance Excellence Award is distributed to teams that support the Secretary’s vision of an evolving department and continuously improve service delivery to the American public. Bryson hopes to establish the department as a role model for other federal agencies. In an effort to go the extra mile, process improvement teams are examining the department’s infrastructure to identify and remove inefficiencies.  As a result, processes are streamlined to enhance the administration and delivery of services to customers. Although the sector is very diverse, it is definitely possible to improve service delivery through department-wide collaboration.

Today, Bryson recognized three teams that have developed new processes to accelerate reduced costs and improve programs within their purview.

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.