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Blog Category: Office of the Secretary

Taking Action to Attract the World’s Top Talented Professionals

Guest Blog Post by Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker

Today, the Obama Administration announced new steps to make it easier for highly skilled workers and talented researchers from other countries to contribute to our economy and ultimately become Americans. These measures are part of administrative reforms first announced in 2012, and reflect our commitment to attracting and retaining highly-skilled immigrants, continuing our economic recovery, and encouraging job creation.

Specifically, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a proposed rule that would—for the first time—allow work authorization for the spouses of H-1B workers who have begun the process of applying for a green card through their employers. Once enacted, this proposed rule would empower these spouses to put their own education and skills to work for the country that they and their families now call home.  This rule change was requested in a “We the People” petition to the White House.

At the same time, DHS is also proposing another new rule to make it easier for outstanding professors and researchers in other countries to demonstrate their eligibility for the EB-1 visa, a type of green card reserved for the world’s best and brightest. Just as great athletes and performers are already able to provide a range of evidence to support their petition for an EB-1, professors and researchers would be able to present diverse achievements such as groundbreaking patents or prestigious scientific grants.

These measures build on continuing Administration efforts to streamline existing systems, eliminate inefficiency, and increase transparency, such as by the launch of Entrepreneur Pathways, an online resource center that gives immigrant entrepreneurs an intuitive way to navigate opportunities to start and grow a business in the United States.

New Expansion to Support New Opportunities

Guest blog post by Arun Kumar, Assistant Secretary for Global Markets and Director General of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service

Last week, Commerce Secretary Pritzker made an important announcement that demonstrates the United States’ commitment to supporting developing economies and the Department of Commerce’s commitment to U.S. businesses competing overseas.

The Department’s International Trade Administration will open offices in five new markets, bringing Foreign Commercial Service (CS) officers into some of the world's most rapidly developing economies. In cooperation with the U.S. State Department, we will open offices in Angola, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Burma this calendar year.

These new offices, and our staff additions in other offices around the world, will make us more capable of supporting U.S. exporters. We can support more Gold Key Matchmaking, we can conduct more market research, and we can help connect U.S. companies to more global markets.

As a new member of the Department of Commerce team, I'm very excited to be a part of this major expansion - especially in such important markets for U.S. businesses.

Secretary Pritzker Talks About Two Keys to an Innovative and Competitive Economy: a Skilled Workforce and Entrepreneurship

Secretary Pritzker Talks About Two Keys to an Innovative and Competitive Economy: a Skilled Workforce and Entrepreneurship

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 first time.

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.

Commerce's Advocacy Center Supports Jobs at Boeing Facility in Arizona

Secretary Pritzker signs an Apache helicopter during a visit to Boeing's Mesa, Arizona facility. She is joined by Kim Smith, Boeing VP Attack Helicopter Programs, and David Koopersmith, Boeing VP/GM Vertical Lift Organization

As the country’s Chief Commercial Advocate, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker works to ensure that U.S. companies have the best possible chance of selling their goods and services abroad.

Through the International Trade Administration’s Advocacy Center (AC), the Department of Commerce helps level the playing field for American businesses by coordinating U.S. government resources on behalf of U.S. companies that are bidding on contracts to sell goods and services to overseas governments. This kind of collaboration and advocacy helps exporters win contracts and protects American jobs. In fact, the work of the Advocacy Center supported close to 200,000 U.S. jobs in fiscal year 2014 alone.

This week, Secretary Pritzker visited the Boeing facility in Mesa, Arizona, which has benefited from the efforts of the Advocacy Center. Just last August, the Advocacy Center helped Boeing win a $1.6 billion contract to sell 36 Apache helicopters made in Mesa to South Korea, which will support several hundred U.S. jobs.

Boeing is one of the many U.S. companies that receive support from the Advocacy Center, which is currently handling almost 1,000 active cases on behalf of companies of varying sizes and business sectors. With proven success, Commerce Department will continue to advocate for U.S. exporters so that America can remain competitive in an increasingly global economy.

As a resource to help U.S. businesses sell their goods and services abroad, the Advocacy Center is a key component of President Obama’s National Export Initiative (NEI), a government-wide effort to support U.S. businesses in exporting to the 95 percent of worldwide consumers who live outside America’s borders. Since NEI was launched in March 2010, the Advocacy Center has been successful in 228 cases, which have a U.S. export content value of $163.7 billion.

Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Re-Launched With Expanded Role

The U.S. Department of Commerce announced today the re-launch of its Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, one of 13 federal agency offices under the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Housed within the Office of the Secretary, the Center serves to connect community- and faith-based organizations to Commerce resources and programs, engage a diverse array of stakeholders in the work of the agency, and promote economic development and job creation through local partnerships.

In direct alignment with the Department’s “Open for Business Agenda,” the Center has created Commerce’s first-ever “Community Development Resource Toolkit,” which highlights how community-based organizations can utilize Commerce Department programs to promote local-level economic development. The Center has also revamped its website and will begin a “Commerce in the Community” blog series highlighting the many ways in which local business, nonprofit and religious leaders are partnering with Commerce to make a positive impact at the local level. Additionally, the Center will begin a series of place-based convenings this summer, focused on connecting communities with Commerce Department programs and resources, while also promoting local partnerships around skills and workforce development.

On March 30, 2014, the Center co-hosted Business Sunday - its first event under Secretary Pritkzer - at 19th Street Baptist Church in Washington, DC. A collaboration between the Minority Business Development Agency and the Small Business Administration, Business Sunday is focused on providing current and aspiring business leaders from congregations and communities around the country with the federal resources they need to start and grow their companies. As a reflection of the President’s commitment to job creation and economic opportunity for all Americans, Business Sunday connects people to valuable technical assistance, grant information and other resources from the Minority Business Development Agency, BusinessUSA and the Small Business Administration.

The Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships is led by Director Josh Dickson. Originally from Upstate New York, Josh is a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School and a long-time community organizer who’s been involved in numerous initiatives focused on engaging faith-based and neighborhood organizations in community development. In his role as Director, Josh will oversee faith-based and community partnership projects across all Commerce bureaus as well as within the Office of the Secretary.

Secretary Pritzker Delivers Remarks on America’s Economic Future in the Asia-Pacific

In her remarks, Secretary Pritzker discussed the United States’ commitment to strengthening commercial and economic ties throughout the Asia-Pacific, which is a critical dimension of the president’s rebalance toward this fast-growing region. The Asia-Pacific region presents rapidly growing opportunities for American businesses and workers. The region accounts for nearly 60 percent of world GDP and 40 percent of global trade. Secretary Pritzker highlighted the United States’ leadership role in efforts such as the Trans Pacific Partnership, and she also emphasized the growing U.S. ties with both longstanding and emerging trade partners.

Read a summary of her remarks and audience tweets below.

Join the Conversation on Investment

Vinai Thummalapally, Executive Director, SelectUSA

Guest blog post by Vinai Thummalapally, Executive Director, SelectUSA

This month, SelectUSA is really upping our game when it comes to online engagement around investment.  We hope you’ll join the conversation on Twitter at #SelectUSA!

Our colleagues across the Commerce Department will be sharing their thoughts on how innovation, data and hard work contribute to job creation. We’re collaborating with our friends at the State Department’s Economic & Business Affairs Bureau, as well as with our Commerce and State colleagues throughout the United States and globally at our embassies and consulates. 

But we’re not stopping with Commerce and State. We’re reaching out across the U.S. federal government through the Interagency Investment Working Group (IIWG), to more than twenty other agencies.  (You can find all of our Commerce and IIWG twitter profiles here.)

This is a big conversation, but most importantly, we hope to be hearing from YOU.

We’re broadening the conversation at #SelectUSA to talk about how investment in the United States drives job creation and how we can work together to attract even more jobs.

Did you know that, as of 2011 (the most recent data available), U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies employed more than 5.6 million workers and paid an average annual salary of $77,600?  According to preliminary estimates from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows totaled $187.5 billion in 2013, rising from $160.1 billion in 2012.  The United States also recently took back the top spot in A.T. Kearney’s FDI Confidence Index.

What do these numbers mean to you?  Are you an investor looking to expand your operations in the United States?  Are you seeking to attract more investment to your town, city, county or state?  How can SelectUSA assist you?  

Secretary Pritzker Announces Inaugural Members of the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship Initiative

 Secretary Pritzker Announces Inaugural Members of the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship Initiative

Secretary Pritzker will today chair the first-ever meeting of the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE) initiative, a group of successful American businesspeople who have committed to sharing their time, energy, ideas, and experience to help develop the next generation of entrepreneurs.

President Obama announced that the Administration would form a committee of entrepreneurs, to be chaired by Secretary Pritzker, last October during the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) are also partners in this effort.

Research indicates that new and young companies are responsible for virtually all new job growth across the United States. Not only do they create positions for those entering the job market for the first time, but they also absorb workers who may have been laid off from companies that are contracting.

Members have agreed to participate in an ongoing dialogue with policy makers globally to discuss how to create an environment where creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship can grow and thrive.  They will also participate in outreach and mentorship activities to help promote start-up culture, and energize their own personal and professional networks to challenge and inspire budding entrepreneurs and raise awareness of the many resources available to them.

The inaugural members of PAGE are:

  •     Rich Barton, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman, Zillow
  •     Tory Burch, Chief Executive Officer, Tory Burch; Founder, Tory Burch Foundation
  •     Steve Case, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Revolution
  •     Helen Greiner, Founder and CEO, CyPhy Works; CoFounder, iRobot Corporation
  •     Reid Hoffman, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman, LinkedIn
  •     Quincy Jones, Chief Executive Officer, Quincy Jones Productions
  •     Salman Khan, Founder and Executive Director, Khan Academy
  •     Daphne Koller, Co-Founder and President, Coursera
  •     Hamdi Ulukaya, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Chobani
  •     Nina Vaca, Chief Executive Officer, Pinnacle Technical Resources
  •     Alexa von Tobel, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, LearnVest

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker to Receive Harry S. Truman Award

There are 3.9 million unfilled jobs in the United States and many of these jobs, in fields such as healthcare, manufacturing, and engineering, require post-secondary training, and some unemployed workers find that their skills are incompatible with the requirements needed for these new high-tech jobs. In order to help more Americans get back to work, it is essential to align workers’ skills with the needs of industry employers.

For the first time ever, the Commerce Department is making skills a top priority and is working closely with the Labor and Education Departments to ensure that every American has the skills needed to compete in today’s economy. That means more on-the-job training and more apprenticeships that help train American workers with the skills employers need, and match them to good quality jobs that lead to a career path.  

Community colleges and technical colleges are a major part of the solution. Every day, these institutions provide 13 million students across the country with the education they need to be competitive in today’s economy. These two-year institutions continue to improve the quality and relevance of the education that their students receive. Last week, Secretary Pritzker explored the partnership between BMW and three of South Carolina’s local technical colleges. Through the BMW Scholars Program, students have the opportunity to rotate through the body shops, paint shops, and assembly lines, gaining hands-on experience in the field. These college-business apprenticeships are just one example of new ways to better place students on direct paths to good jobs while providing strong candidates to businesses.

The rules of the job market are changing: firms are requiring candidates to have stronger skills sets to remain competitive, and community colleges are helping provide the skills these candidates need. Groups like the American Association of Community Colleges provide a voice for these community colleges, and the U.S. Department of Commerce will continue to partner with them, businesses, government and other regional and national institutions to ensure that America can continue to compete in a 21st century global economy.

In honor of her work to improve and expand workforce skills training, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker will be presented with the Harry S. Truman Award by the American Association of Community Colleges on Saturday, April 4. The Truman Award recognizes leaders outside of the field of education for their major contributions to community colleges. Past honorees have included President Obama, President Clinton, and Senator Kennedy. Secretary Pritzker will be receiving the award for her previous work in education and training and her current advocacy for skill development as an administration-wide priority.

Life Lessons in Public Service

Maria Cardona and Secretary Ron Brown

Guest blog post Maria Cardona, Principal at the Dewey Square Group and a Political Commentator on CNN and CNN Español. She serves on the boards of several non-profit groups and has named several times as one of the top 100 Hispanic leaders in the country by Hispanic Business.

ED NOTE: Maria Cardona was the Deputy Press Secretary for Secretary Ron Brown and served at the Department of Commerce for six years during the Clinton Administration

Most everything I learned about public service, I learned from Secretary Ron Brown. He was the best kind of mentor, short on personal advice, long on teaching by example. The first time he walked into the Department of Commerce, he told his staff he wanted to meet the cafeteria workers and the janitorial staff. When he was taken to the cafeteria, the workers almost fainted. They had never seen the Secretary – any Secretary - walk into the cafeteria before. Some even cried. This exemplifies my biggest lessons from my time with Ron: to always meet people where they are, make it personal, and never think, no matter what title you have, you are better than anyone else in the room.

Ron had the ability to make you feel important no matter who you were. He was just as comfortable speaking with Saudi kings as he was shooting the breeze with homeless teenagers in the favelas in Brazil. His message was always the same no matter who he talked to: The United States business community was there to help bring more economic opportunity to their citizens, while expanding market opportunities for US businesses.

The Secretary would always say he was a big fan of “doing well by doing good.”  He was visionary about where the next opportunities for US economic expansion would come from, and he was unapologetic about making the deals that would help American enterprises sell more goods abroad, creating jobs and opportunities on both ends. But he never forgot about the people behind the progress. He would always want to meet the local business leaders, the workers, the families that were starting to prosper because of these expanded opportunities. Ron was always treated like royalty wherever he went in the world, but he never played the part.