Innovation is key to supporting economic growth and
creating jobs in the United States. In order to ensure that the United States
stays competitive, the Department of Commerce works to create the conditions
that empower Americans to turn their ideas into successful businesses, grow
their ventures, and create jobs.
Wednesday, on the third day of the Ed Innovation Summit
in Scottsdale, Ariz., Secretary Pritzker spoke with former Washington Post
executive editor Len Downie about what the Department of Commerce is doing to
support innovation. Secretary Pritzker shared that since taking office almost
one year ago, she has spoken to more than 1,000 CEOs and business leaders,
including more than 150 of Fortune 500 companies, around the country. One of
the top concerns they have shared is the challenge of finding the workers with
the right skills to fill available jobs, which is a threat to our nation’s
long-term competitiveness. In order to best equip workers for the jobs that are
available now, and will be available in the future, Secretary Pritzker has made
skills development a top priority for the Department of Commerce for the very
Central to this effort is breaking down silos between the
public and private sectors to create programs that match workers’ skills to the
needs of businesses. The Department of Commerce is working closely with the
Departments of Education and Labor, as well as businesses, training
organizations, academic institutions, and state and local governments to do
just that. Earlier this month, Secretary Pritzker traveled to Pittsburgh with
President Obama and Vice President Biden, where they announced $100 million in
competitive grants to support apprenticeships and a nearly $500 million grant
competition to support partnerships between community colleges, employers, and
industry association that will help develop job-driven training programs -- a
first for the Department.
Another important aspect driving innovation is
encouraging a start-up culture in which entrepreneurs can thrive. However, as
Secretary Pritzker mentioned during her Ed Innovation talk, the rate of new
business formation is actually declining in the United States. Research
indicates that new and young companies are responsible for virtually all new
job growth across the United States, so supporting entrepreneurship is a
priority for the Administration.
Earlier this month, President Obama announced the
inaugural members of the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship
(PAGE). Chaired by Secretary Pritzker, PAGE is an initiative to help develop
the next generation of entrepreneurs across the globe and right here in the
United States. The 11 PAGE members will participate in an ongoing dialogue with
policy makers globally to discuss how to create an environment in which
creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship can grow and thrive. They will
also participate in outreach and mentorship activities to help promote a
start-up culture, and energize their own personal and professional networks to
challenge, inspire, and educate budding entrepreneurs.
Following her armchair discussion at the Ed Innovation
Summit, Secretary Pritzker toured SkySong, the ASU Scottsdale Innovation
Center, and met with local entrepreneurs. SkySong is a mixed use development
designed to help companies grow by providing business services and programs
offered or facilitated by Arizona State University, which include access to new
technologies, capital networks, and a skilled workforce.
In her roundtable with SkySong's entrepreneurs, Secretary
Pritzker discussed ways in which the federal government can serve as a catalyst
to innovation. For example, the Department of Commerce protects entrepreneurs'
intellectual property through the Patent and Trademark Office, enabling
innovators to capitalize on their ideas. Another part of the Commerce
Department, the Economic Development Administration (EDA), makes investments
that help fund business incubators like SkySong. In fact, EDA helped create
SkySong's technology transfer accelerator, known as Furnace, in 2012.
The investments in entrepreneurs have already paid off
for Arizona. According to a 2012 study by the Greater Phoenix Economic Council,
SkySong-based companies, which range from start-ups to large companies like
Ticketmaster and Recruiting.com, have generated more than $460 million in
economic impact for the Greater Phoenix area since SkySong's inception in 2008.
As part of its mission to help create an environment that
stimulates economic growth and job creation, the Department of Commerce is
dedicated to identifying and supporting successful programs for workforce
training and entrepreneurship.