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Blog Category: Office of the Secretary

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.

Spotlight on Commerce: Kate McAdams, Senior Advisor, Department of Commerce

Kate McAdams, Senior Adviser to the Secretary

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.

Guest blog post by Kate McAdams, Senior Adviser to the Secretary, Department of Commerce

In addition to my role on the Secretary's senior management team, I lead the Department's effort to ensure a skilled workforce, one of the pillars of our Open for Business Agenda. For the first time, the Department of Commerce is focusing on the critical importance of a globally competitive workforce as part of the Department's mission to help set the conditions for economic growth and opportunity. In addition to developing strategic partnerships with the Departments of Labor and Education, we are building on the Department's existing assets, including access to business leaders; data tools; economic development planning expertise; and Manufacturing Extension Partnership centers that serve the needs of small and medium manufacturers. To date, I have been spending time developing partnerships and our internal "skills team" that focuses on expanding job-driven training that ensures employers find the skilled workers they need and workers access quality jobs and career paths.

Recognizing that more can be accomplished through a team effort is inherent in my approach to solving problems and achieving outcomes due to a lifelong passion for playing competitive sports. Growing up playing ice hockey on a team of all boys, to playing women's ice hockey in college, to even "old man's hockey" as an adult, I am hard-wired to think about how to accomplish goals by utilizing my strengths in combination with those of my teammates. This is the case in my new position at Commerce and past positions in city government, and even when I was the sole employee of an organization I found a way to be more impactful through strategic partnerships. Particularly in public service positions, the fast pace and limited resources require creativity when building and utilizing teams.  I am lucky to have worked for two respected mayors and now I view it as a true honor to work for Secretary Pritzker and President Obama.  

I often say I am lucky for the professional opportunities I’ve experienced, but was recently chided for saying so, as if it was out of my control. What I actually mean is better described by the quote “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” I believe that hard work is noticed and is the best preparation for the next opportunity, and as I learned from coaches at a very young age, "keep your head on a swivel" to attempt to prepare for the unexpected. This is my advice for young people starting a career – seek out leaders you want to work for and projects to which you want exposure. Keeping your head on a swivel was my hockey coach’s term to be looking forward, backwards, left and right – to be cognizant of your strengths, weaknesses and the position of your teammates who will help you achieve your goals.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Touts Importance of Workforce Development at Clemson University's International Center for Automotive Research

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Touts Importance of Workforce Development at Clemson University's International Center for Automotive Research

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker today toured the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR), a campus where academia, the private sector, and government organizations are working together to research and develop leading-edge technologies, and educate and train students for jobs in the automotive industry.

Ensuring that America has a strong and skilled workforce is essential to our economic competitiveness, and that is why Secretary Pritzker has made workforce development a key pillar of the Commerce Department’s “Open for Business Agenda.”  In fact, she is the first Commerce Secretary to focus on how we can best prepare workers with in-demand job skills. The Commerce Department is playing a key role in this effort by partnering with businesses and other federal agencies to facilitate industry-driven training programs.

CU-ICAR is one example of an educational institution working directly with the private sector to conduct research and training that meets the needs of industry. Since collaboration between academia, the private sector and government started in 2003, CU-ICAR has grown into a 250-acre campus educating students and conducting research that is relevant to the global automotive community. CU-ICAR is studying advanced and highly efficient engine concepts that utilize a variety of fuels, developing technologies that increase vehicle electrification and efficiency, developing and utilizing advanced materials and processes that can reduce vehicle weight and decrease manufacturing costs. CU-ICAR is also working on identifying opportunities and technologies to reduce energy consumption in factories, and addressing issues of safety by designing improved human-machine interfaces and vehicle-to-vehicle communications.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Celebrates BMW’s Investment in U.S. Manufacturing

Secretary Pritzker Speaks with Workers While Touring the BMW Facilities in Spartanburg, South Carolina

Foreign direct investment (FDI) fuels U.S. economic growth and creates good, high-paying jobs, which is why the Commerce Department is so focused on attracting more FDI to the United States. At an event today at the BMW manufacturing facility in Spartanburg, South Carolina, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker applauded the German automaker for announcing an investment of approximately $1 billion in a new X7 production line at the plant.

BMW’s announcement, which is expected to create 800 new jobs by 2016, builds upon the company’s substantial commitment to production in the United States. BMW has made investments of $6.3 billion since coming to South Carolina in 1992. In 2012, the company announced that it would be expanding its Spartanburg facility to make it the largest plant in the BMW Group production network, a move that is expected to bring 1,000 new jobs to South Carolina by the end of 2014.

Secretary Pritzker delivered remarks at the announcement, focusing on the importance of FDI to the U.S. economy and job creation. The United States is both the largest recipient and source of FDI in the world. As of 2011, the most recent data available, majority-owned subsidiaries of multinational firms with U.S. operations employ more than 5.6 million workers and pay an average annual compensation of $77,600. These firms also spent more than $45 billion in R&D in the United States and accounted for 20.5 percent of U.S. goods exported in 2011. Through the SelectUSA program, which Secretary Pritzker described in her remarks, the Department of Commerce is working to attract increased investment to the United States.

Clemson University’s Public-Private Partnerships Help Create Next-Generation Workforce

Secretary Pritzker and John Ballato, Clemson University vice president for economic development, toured the Clemson University-International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR)

Guest blog post by Dr. John Ballato, Clemson University vice president for economic development, and Kris Frady, director of operations for the Clemson University Center for Workforce Development
 
We had the privilege today of showing U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker the cutting-edge research and education that are helping South Carolina play a leading role in the nation’s economic revival.
 
She toured the Clemson University-International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) and then participated in a roundtable discussion with education and business leaders about how to develop a well-qualified workforce.
 
Her visit put a spotlight on the public-private partnerships that are helping create the next generation of engineers, scientists and technicians that America needs to remain competitive.
 
CU-ICAR in Greenville, S.C. is one of four Clemson University innovation campuses placed strategically across the state where businesses and communities need them most. It is an excellent example of what higher education, government and industry can accomplish when they work synergistically for the common good. It creates win-win partnerships.

Spotlight on Commerce: Lisa Casias, Deputy Chief Financial Officer, Department of Commerce

Spotlight on Commerce: Lisa Casias, Deputy Chief Financial Officer, Department of Commerce

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.

Guest blog post by Lisa Casias, Deputy Chief Financial Officer, Department of Commerce 

As the Deputy Chief Financial Officer and Director for Financial Management, I work with all of the bureaus CFOs and financial management teams to provide support to the Department’s program managers in meeting their missions.  As a community we ensure that we meet the many requirements of the federal government’s financial reporting mandates, maintain robust internal control environments, and maintain the systems to produce financial information.  Perhaps, the most important aspect of our work is to ensure program managers have the information needed for decision making.  I am also responsible for the Office of Secretary’s budget operations and most recently the travel, fleet and personal property offices. 

I have worked in the Department for over 22 years in both the Office of Secretary and Office of Inspector General. I have held different positions within these organizations and added new areas to my portfolio over that time.  While some choose career paths that cross into many federal agencies, the opportunities to continually learn new things and ability to work with outstanding financial and administrative communities have kept me in the Department.

One of the most interesting aspects in working at the Department level is the ability to engage with all of the bureaus and learn their missions as we support their financial management needs.  As demonstrated in the Department’s Strategic Plan, the Department plays a critical role in the nation’s economy and the financial and administrative management communities are an integral part of mission success. 

I attribute my ability to follow my dreams (yes, I always wanted to be an accountant) and my career successes to the support of my parents.  I grew up in Dumont, New Jersey where my parents had migrated from England. They taught by example instilling in both my sister and me the importance of having strong work ethic, integrity and belief in oneself. They stayed in the United States as they believed we would have more opportunities to achieve our dreams, including obtaining a college education.  We were the first in our family to graduate from college. 

Views of the Trade Mission: A Learning Experience and Wealth of Opportunity

Kurt Bergman, Chief Executive Officer, Michael Baker International

Guest blog post by Kurt Bergman, Chief Executive Officer, Michael Baker International

As the CEO of Michael Baker International, I was honored when we were selected to accompany U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker on an infrastructure related trade mission to the UAE, Qatar and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. After eight whirlwind days, I look back and reflect on what I learned and felt about the trip and the wealth of opportunity in our future: 

  1. The Middle East continues to be one of the most exciting infrastructure markets on the planet, with well thought, visionary initiatives across the infrastructure spectrum of water, power, surface transportation, aviation and others as well as developments of incredible forethought about the environment, including how we will live and work in the future.
  2. The U.S. and Middle East relations continue to be strong and there is a distinct desire for American companies to participate in this market.
  3. As a global company, the U.S. Embassy Commercial office staff are an incredible asset to assist you.
  4. No matter how long you have worked in the global market, there is always something new to learn.

As we traveled from Abu Dhabi to Dubai, Riyadh and Doha, I was in awe of the size, scope and magnitude of the projects that were being conceived, planned, designed and constructed. The projects we were briefed on included the Qatari Supreme Council for Legacy's FIFA World Cup 2022 program investing over $100 Billion USD to create a fan experience based on sustainability, access and enjoyment with an eye to the future. Another program was the Saudi Arabian metro initiatives in Riyadh and Jeddah where 100 of kilometers of innovative, futuristic public light rail valued at over $50 Billion USD are being installed with a four year completion goal. The Emirati Al Satiyya island development was a wonder to contemplate with over 148 square kilometers of environmentally sensitive towns centered around a world class school, entertainment and culture containing three museums being designed by different work class Pritzker prize winning architects. Nowhere else in the world is there such a desire and drive across an entire region for sustainability, cultural and environmental stewardship and quality. Michael Baker International is excited to continue our  legacy of support in the region that goes back to the 1950s and our support to the Saudi Royal Family and to supporting the U.S. State and Defense missions throughout the region today.

Secretary Penny Pritzker Meets with Saudi Entrepreneurs About Challenges and Opportunities in the Region

On Tuesday night, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker met with a dozen Saudi entrepreneurs in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as part of her trade mission to the Middle East. The entrepreneurs work in a variety of sectors, including retail, real estate, food services, and more.

Secretary Pritzker briefly discussed her experiences as an entrepreneur with more than 27 years in business. Then, the male and female participants shared their own stories of entrepreneurship, and discussed challenges and opportunities for entrepreneurs in the region.

The attendees ranged from: a hamburger chain owner who built his first restaurant in 2009 with four employees and now has 17 franchises and 130 employees across the country; an entrepreneur who created a new real-estate-development division at his family’s business; and, a serial entrepreneur who launched an electronic recycling facility, an investment company, and a design school.

The group discussed the importance of education and skills training for entrepreneurs. Secretary Pritzker highlighted the success of the King Abdullah Scholarship Program, which sends tens of thousands of students to study at U.S. universities each year.