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Blog Category: Office of the Secretary

Delivering an American Economic Comeback

Guest blog post by Penny Pritzker, Secretary of Commerce

All Americans love a comeback story. And that is the story that President Obama weaved in his powerful State of the Union address.

Thanks to the grit, resilience and hard work of the American people and our businesses, more than 2 million jobs were created last year and we hit the lowest unemployment rate in more than five years. We have a manufacturing sector that has added over half-a-million jobs. Our stock market is booming. We have record exports. Our housing market is rebounding. And we've cut our deficits by more than half.

And while we have more work to do to lift incomes, expand opportunity for our people and help businesses with the tools they need to grow and hire, both President Obama and I are optimistic about America's future.

We both know that 2014 can be a breakthrough year for America, and we are better positioned for this century than any nation on earth.

Commerce Department Recognizes Outstanding Employees at 65th Annual Honor Awards

Secretary Pritzker congratulates the NOAA team that collected and disseminated critical information that saved lives when Sandy hit

Today U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and Dr. Pat Gallagher, in his duties as Deputy Secretary, recognized 351 Commerce employees for receiving Honor Awards, the most prestigious award the Department gives out each year.

Since 1949, the Department of Commerce has recognized outstanding employees with Gold or Silver Medals at the Honor Awards.  The employees’ contributions must focus on qualitative and quantitative performance measures reflected in the Department’s Strategic Plan in one of seven categories:  Leadership, Personal and Professional Excellence, Scientific/Engineering Achievement, Organizational Development, Customer Service, Administrative/Technical Support, and Heroism.

This year teams and individuals from across the department made tremendous achievements in everything from assisting companies exporting, making more Commerce data available to businesses and consumers, and creating new tools and resources for American manufacturers.

Commerce will build on the progress made by today’s awardees and will continue to support American businesses with the tools they need to grow and hire, and support President Obama’s efforts to ensure lasting economic security for the United States.

Secretary Pritzker Takes “Open For Business Agenda” to World Economic Forum

Secretary Pritzker on the CNBC Squawk Box set at the World Economic Forum

This week Secretary Pritzker was in Davos, Switzerland at the World Economic Forum (WEF). Her participation in WEF highlighted the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship as part of the Commerce Department’s “Open for Business Agenda.” The Department of Commerce is responsible for promoting the ideas and policies that support innovation and entrepreneurship, which help America maintain its competitive edge, spur wage and job growth, and strengthen the U.S. economy.

Secretary Pritzker participated in a plenary session on the US Economic Outlook with Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and US Trade Representative Michael Froman. During the panel Secretary Pritzker said she was optimistic and bullish about America’s future because the economy and American competitiveness have regained traction. The economy has created 8 million jobs in past 4 years, including more than 2.2 million private sector jobs last year, and nearly 600,000 new jobs in manufacturing. With 10 straight quarters of GDP growth, the recovery is starting to take hold and economists expect continued strong growth in the year ahead.

Secretary Pritzker also reiterated the need for increased trade and investment. Since 95% of consumers live outside of our borders, it is important that we continue to pursue free trade agreements since they have proved to be one of the best ways to open up foreign markets to U.S. exporters. That is why the Obama Administration is pursuing additional trade agreements that will cover 60% of the global GDP and open up new markets to American businesses. The Secretary also promoted SelectUSA, the Administration’s aggressive effort to seek potential investors. 

Secretary Pritzker pushed for a sustained recovery built upon real wage growth. She called for aggressively addressing income inequality by lifting incomes and helping long-term unemployed through increasing the minimum wage and extending unemployment insurance. Pritzker noted that business and government leaders have a moral responsibility to support their workers and thereby strengthen their middle class – in an increasingly interconnected, competitive global economy.

Secretary Pritzker Highlights Strong Economic Partnership Between USA and Canada

International Trade Between U.S. and Canada

Today, Secretary Penny Pritzker and Canada’s International Trade Minister Edward Fast spoke about the future of the U.S.-Canadian economic relationship at a luncheon hosted by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs. The United States and Canada share a long-standing partnership based on history, geography, and the world’s largest bilateral trading relationship. It is the biggest bilateral trade relationship in the world with more than $1 million in trade crossing our border every minute.  

In 2011, President Obama and Prime Minister Harper announced the U.S.-Canada Beyond the Border Action Plan and the U.S.-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council, with initiatives aimed at enhancing economic competitiveness. Canada is the United States’ largest trading partner – and vice versa. With more than $700 billion in two-way trade of goods and services annually and more than $600 billion in direct investment on both sides of the border, millions of jobs in each country depend on shared economic competitiveness. Canada is the number one export market for 36 of our 50 states and is among one of the top five export markets for another ten states.

Those stats reflect the threefold growth of trade in goods since 1990. The total value of goods traded between Canada and the United States in 1990 was $174 billion. By 2012, that had grown to more than $600 billion. Top exports to Canada include transportation equipment, machinery, chemicals, computers and electronics products and food products. The Department of Commerce has been working hard to ensure that number continues to climb.

What’s clear is that the two countries don’t just trade with each other, they build things together.  In addition to aerospace, the auto supply chains are intertwined. Automotive components often cross the border many times before a final product is ready to be sold. In addition, investors pour hundreds of billions of dollars into both economies to build new facilities and to create new jobs. Literally millions of people in both countries rely on the trade and investment relationship for their livelihoods.

Secretary Pritzker Highlights Department's Innovation Agenda at CES

Secretary Pritzker stopped at Intel's booth to look at their new wearable devices, which included a baby monitor.  (Photo credit: Consumer Electronics Association)

Secretary Penny Pritzker this week attended the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), an annual showcase of the very latest in technology innovation. In addition to touring the floor, Secretary Pritzker participated in the "America is Open for Business and Innovation" Super Session, a one-on-one conversation with President and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, Gary Shapiro. Throughout the Super Session, Secretary Pritzker discussed the Commerce Department's initiatives to strengthen America's competitive edge by investing in innovation and entrepreneurship.

Secretary Pritzker highlighted some of the key ways in which the department works to promote innovation. For example, the department has undertaken great efforts to reform the patent process and reduce the patent backlog, and is moving forward with an aggressive agenda to support U.S. manufacturing. She spoke about the compelling economic case for immigration reform, and need for skilled workforce training. These efforts will help create the conditions that allow private sector companies to out-innovate anyone in the world.

Pritzker noted that the companies present at CES are critical to the strength of the U.S. economy. U.S. tech employment in 2012 totaled nearly 6 million, and the tech industry paid an annual average wage of $93,800 that same year. That is 98 percent more than the average private sector wage of $47,400. The app economy alone has created more than 500,000 jobs.

Commerce’s Most Popular 13 Blog Posts of 2013

Vice President Joe Biden Swearing In Penny Prtizker as the 38th U.S. Secretary of Commerce

As we look forward to the new year, we wanted to take a moment to reflect back on Commerce’s most popular blog posts from last year. Take a look at our list of the 13 blog posts that received the most unique views in 2013: 

1.       United States Department of Commerce Plan for Orderly Shutdown Due to Lapse of Congressional Appropriations: Post the first day of the federal government shutdown, which listed the services and activities the department would maintain during the lapse in FY14 appropriations. 

2.       Penny Pritzker Sworn in as 38th U.S. Secretary of Commerce: Post on the swearing in of U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, including a video of Vice President Joe Biden swearing her in and the secretary’s speech at the ceremony. 

3.       USPTO Honors Inventors Hall of Fame Inductees: Post on 17 of America’s greatest innovators, who the USPTO inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame during a ceremony at their headquarters. 

4.       Secretary Pritzker Outlines Bold Policy Agenda Focused on U.S. Trade and Investment, Innovation, and Data: Post on Secretary Pritzker’s unveiling of the Commerce Department’s “Open for Business Agenda,” including a video of the secretary’s remarks at the agenda unveiling. 

5.       Doing Business in Africa Forum Presents Opportunities for American Businesses in Sub-Saharan Region: Guest post from Under Secretary for International Trade Francisco Sánchez and MBDA National Director David Hinson on a Doing Business in Africa Forum at the White House. 

6.       NOAA Provides Easy Access to Historical Hurricane Tracks: Post on NOAA’s Historical Hurricane Tracks website, which provides more than 150 years of Atlantic hurricane tracking data and global hurricane data from as far back as 1842, among other data. 

Acting Deputy Secretary Gallagher Praises Commerce Employees as Top Innovation Leaders in Government

Acting Deputy Secretary Patrick Gallagher praised four Commerce Department employees today for being among the most innovative employees working in government information technology. Employees at both the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) were among the top forward-thinking people working in government IT. 

The employees were chosen by FierceGovernmentIT, the publication that annually recognizes a group it calls the "Fierce 15” and tracks federal government information technology developments in U.S. government. The Commerce employees included on this list are the U.S Census Bureau’s Lisa Wolfisch, along with Patrick Grother, Naomi Lefkovitz and Kevin Stine from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Acting Deputy Secretary Gallagher praised the employees saying they "represent the best the Commerce Department has to offer in spurring innovation across the Federal IT sector. Their efforts have helped provide greater access to our data by businesses and communities and have furthered the administration’s efforts in cybersecurity, privacy standards and biometric technology.” 

Secretary Pritzker Holds First Twitter Chat And Tweets About Open For Business Agenda

Secretary Penny Pritzker held a Twitter chat today where she took questions about the Department’s Open for Business agenda.

The “Open for Business Agenda” focuses on a revitalized National Export Initiative, an enhanced and expanded program to attract foreign investment, a first-of-its-kind, Commerce effort to ensure skills training programs meet industry needs, and a focus on public-private partnerships that enable businesses and communities to make better use of government data.

During her thirty minute chat, she answered 12 questions submitted with the #Open4Biz hashtag. She answered questions from Steve Case, prominent business organizations and a small business owner, among others.

The Secretary answered questions about trade, innovation, job skills, and data. You can see the entire Twitter chat below.

Why Immigration Reform Matters

Secretary Pritzker visited the “Fast for Families” tent on the National Mall to show support for passing commonsense immigration

Guest blog post by Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker

This week, I visited the “Fast for Families” tent on the National Mall with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to show our support for passing commonsense immigration reform. I was humbled by the courageous men and women we spoke with, who are making a personal sacrifice to end the human suffering they have witnessed as a result of our current immigration system. 

The “Fast for Families” was launched by faith, immigrant rights and labor leaders on November 12 and has been ongoing since.  The dedicated leaders who have gathered to fast on the National Mall have been driven by their individual experiences, but they are united in their commitment to seeing Congress pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Those I met with included Rudy Lopez, who had already completed 21 days of his fast. I spoke with the son of Iranian immigrants, the daughter of migrant workers, and an undocumented immigrant from Mexico City who was on the fifth day of her fast. They each had a different story, but they all expressed their desire to live in a country that remains the source of hope and opportunity for people all over the world.

The fact is, the vibrant fabric of this nation has always been made up of immigrants. My great grandfather came to the United States in the 1800s from Czarist Russia, dirt poor, at the age of 10. He taught himself English, worked several jobs, earned his law degree at night, and opened a law practice at the age of 30 in 1902. His story is the story of countless immigrants to this country, who come to America seeking a better life and better opportunities. In doing so, they have contributed to our success as a nation.

In 2011, immigrants started 28 percent of all new businesses in the United States, though they only accounted for 13 percent of the U.S. population. And, more than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or children of immigrants.

The President and the Senate’s bipartisan proposal builds a smart, effective immigration system that continues efforts to secure our borders and makes sure that every business and every worker plays by the same set of rules. Estimates are that the Senate-passed immigration reform bill can grow the economy by $1.4 trillion over the next two decades and reduce the deficit by nearly $850 billion. Commonsense reform will also attract the best minds to America by providing visas to foreign entrepreneurs looking to start businesses here. As well, it will provide our nation’s best and brightest foreign students with an opportunity to pursue an education and stay in this country after graduation.  Immigration reform will also reunite families in a timely and humane manner.

I have traveled all over the country since I was sworn in as Secretary of Commerce nearly 6 months ago, and I have heard tremendous support for passing immigration reform. The business community understands the numerous ways in which immigrants to this country not only benefit our economy but enrich our nation. The passionate example set by the fasters – who are so dedicated to making their voices heard – is one we can all emulate. Their courage and commitment is shining a light on what is morally right for this country and the values we, as Americans, represent. 

Secretary Pritzker to Lead Business Development Mission to Middle East

Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker will lead a senior-executive Business Development Mission to the Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC) of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar March 8-14, 2014.

The trade mission is critical to building on export growth and furthering the Obama Administration’s efforts to help U.S. businesses compete and succeed in the global economy. It is also an important component of the Department of Commerce’s “Open for Business Agenda,” which prioritizes trade and investment.

This mission will highlight export opportunities for U.S. businesses in three leading industry sectors with an emphasis on project management and engineering (including construction, architecture and design), renewable energy (solar, wind, waste-to-energy), smart grid and energy efficiency, and environmental technologies (including water/wastewater; air pollution control; and waste management).