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Blog Category: Office of the Secretary

Commerce Agencies Participate in Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force

Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force

President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, chaired by Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan, released a rebuilding strategy to serve as a model for communities across the nation facing greater risks from extreme weather and to continue helping the Sandy-affected region rebuild.  The Commerce Department made significant contributions to the Rebuilding Strategy containing 69 policy recommendations that will help homeowners stay in and repair their homes, strengthen small businesses and revitalize local economies and ensure entire communities are better able to withstand and recover from future storms. 
 
The Rebuilding Strategy includes policy recommendations that will have a significant impact on how the region rebuilds and how we will improve our ability to withstand and recover effectively from future flood-related disasters across the country.

Federal agencies collected and disseminated vast quantities of scientific data that aided Hurricane Sandy preparation, response, and recovery. Interagency data sharing has been central to this process. Before the storm, the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) worked with FEMA to deliver Geographical Information System (GIS)-ready storm surge depth grids and forecasts. After the storm, FEMA, state, and local emergency managers used aerial imagery collected by NOAA to guide evacuations, monitor local conditions, assess damages, and allocate response resources. Hours after the storm passed, NOAA also began surveying the waterways that lead to critical petroleum facilities within the Port of New York/New Jersey, helping to ensure safe navigation and restoring the flow of emergency fuel supplies by morning. Within five days, NOAA, working with the Coast Guard and Army Corps, restored maritime commerce, including transportation of food, fuel, and rebuilding supplies, to all major ports in the affected region.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Announces First Business Development Mission to Mexico

Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker recently announced that she will lead her first business development mission to Mexico City and Monterrey, Mexico from November 18-22, 2013. This mission will promote U.S. exports to Mexico by helping export-ready U.S. companies launch or increase their business in a number of key industry sectors, including: advanced manufacturing, information and communications technology, and health IT and medical devices.

In announcing the mission, Secretary Pritzker said, “Exports are an essential component for spurring growth and creating jobs in America. The United States and Mexico have strong business ties and increasing opportunities for trade and collaboration between our two nations will help bolster economic success across our border.” 

Earlier this summer, President Obama and President Peña Nieto met to underscore and discuss the strategic importance of the bilateral relationship between the United States and Mexico. In so doing, they noted the potential for mutual economic gains by strengthening commercial ties between our countries.

Secretary Pritzker Discusses Economic Benefits of Immigration Reform in Iowa

Secretary Pritzker visited Des Moines, Iowa, today as part of her overall listening tour to hear directly from business leaders on how the public and private sectors can work together to strengthen the economy and create American jobs. 

While in Des Moines, Secretary Pritzker met with local business leaders on the need to pass comprehensive immigration reform, which is key to the country’s economic growth. Commonsense immigration reform will reduce the deficit and grow the economy. In fact, the Senate-passed bill would grow the economy by 5.4 percent over the next two decades and increase labor force participation by 3.5 percent in 2023 and 5 percent in 2033, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. 

Immigrants and children of immigrants make significant contributions to the U.S. economy. In Iowa, the labor force is 5.3 percent foreign born and these men and women generate $216 million in income for the state each year.

During the roundtable, Secretary Pritzker heard from representatives from the health care community who favor immigration reform as a way to address a shortage of physicians in the area. Many around the table said that Iowa would be better served if the foreign-born students trained in Iowa's schools – and in their technology programs in particular – were allowed to stay in the United States. Others said that immigration reform would help them expand the pool of labor available to fill entry-level jobs. 

Commonsense comprehensive immigration reform will strengthen the U.S. economy and create jobs while at the same time fostering innovation and entrepreneurism.

Secretary Pritzker Tours Manufacturing Company, Vermeer Corporation, in Iowa

Secretary Pritzker Tours Manufacturing Company, Vermeer Corporation, in Iowa (photo credit: A.J. Hodgeman)

Today, Secretary Pritzker toured the Vermeer Corporation in Pella, Iowa. Her second stop in Iowa, the visit, which is part of her nationwide listening tour, gave her an opportunity to learn how the 65-year-old manufacturing company has innovated to stay successful and competitive in the 21st century economy. 

The Vermeer Corporation, one of the largest employers in Pella, is a family-owned and managed U.S. manufacturer that serves customers with forage, specialty excavation, environmental and underground equipment products to more efficiently and responsibly work farms and ranches, improve infrastructure and manage natural resources. The company’s founder, Gary Vermeer, is credited with inventing agricultural equipment now in widespread use around the world. 

Secretary Pritzker first toured Vermeer’s facilities with company CEO Mary Andriga and U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, where she saw several of the company’s machines in action. The secretary saw a reclaimer, a machine used to purify water in the process of drilling to install underground utilities, as well as a leveler, which is used in surface mining. She also saw Vermeer's Parts and Distribution Center, which ships out 800 packages a day. Vermeer has 65,000 active part numbers in inventory, and ships 30 percent of its parts internationally. 

She also learned about the company’s efforts in exporting – Vermeer's products are distributed through a network of more than 500 dealerships around the globe. Thanks in part to exports, the company’s annual sales are estimated at approximately $1 billion. 

In fact, Vermeer earned a Presidential “E-Star” Award for exports in 1998, recognition American entities can receive for making a significant contribution to the expansion of U.S. exports.  

Following the tour, Secretary Pritzker led a roundtable discussion with Vermeer executives and other local leaders from the Des Moines and Pella, Iowa business community. They talked about what the government is doing well in supporting manufacturers and where there is room for improvement, and the secretary heard from the business leaders what more the Commerce Department can do to continue helping American manufacturers.

Vermeer Corporation Welcomes Secretary Pritzker to Pella, Iowa Manufacturing Facility

Mary Vermeer Andringa, President and CEO of Vermeer Corporation in Pella, Iowa

Guest blog post by Mary Andringa, President & CEO of Vermeer Corporation

As the CEO of Vermeer Corporation and the former chair of the National Association of Manufacturers, it is especially exciting to have Secretary Pritzker visit us here in Pella, Iowa today.  When you look back at the origins of the Department of Commerce, you’ll see that the National Association of Manufacturers was at the center of support for its development. It’s fitting that the relationship between Commerce and the manufacturing community dates back before the Department’s official conception. The two share similar visions of progress - both strive to create jobs, promote economic growth and encourage sustainable development in communities big and small.

This year, Vermeer Corporation celebrates 65 years of manufacturing high-quality equipment. What all started with one man – my father, Gary Vermeer – has evolved into a global industrial and agricultural equipment company helping make a real impact in a progressing world. Vermeer does more than manufacture yellow iron. Our equipment is used by customers to improve infrastructure that keeps people connected, work farms and ranches that support a vibrant food supply, and manage natural resources in an efficient and responsible way.

Today, Secretary Pritzker will see examples of Vermeer’s global footprint by touring our manufacturing high-bay where Vermeer’s largest machine to date – the 200-ton T1655 Terrain Leveler surface excavation machine - is built and then exported around the world; the Vermeer Parts Center where more than 65,000 active parts are stocked and shipments are made domestically and internationally daily; and lastly, our lean brush chipper assembly line where the number of days from raw steel to finished product has been reduced from 52 days to 2 days as part of our lean journey that began in 1997.

On behalf of Vermeer Corporation and the Iowa-based CEOs who will meet with her today in Pella, we welcome the opportunity to represent the voice of Midwest business as the Secretary acclimates herself to the opportunities and challenges industry faces to grow domestically and abroad. We thank the Secretary for making the commitment to listening to the leaders who are working everyday to grow American jobs and American business opportunities.

Secretary Pritzker Tours Loud Recording Studios and Speaks With Music and Entertainment Industry Leaders

Secretary Pritzker Tours Loud Recording Studios and Speaks With Music and Entertainment Industry Leaders

Today, as part of her nationwide listening tour, Secretary Penny Pritzker toured Loud Recording Studios with Cary Sherman, Chairman and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Jim Catino, Vice President of A&R for Sony Music Nashville. The music industry is a vibrant part of Nashville’s economy and the American economy as a whole. In fact, entertainment, literary and artistic originals contributed $74 billion to the U.S. economy last year, according to the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.

According to a report by the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Music City Music Council, the music industry sustains more than 56,000 jobs and contributes both to the local economy and the region’s gross domestic product.

During the roundtable, Secretary Pritzker not only discussed how the music and entertainment industries are contributing to the health of the creative economy, but also the key role the Commerce Department plays in supporting and protecting intellectual property and innovation.

Secretary Pritzker Speaks with More Than 100 CEOs in Her First Five Weeks

The Department of Commerce is Open for Business

In Secretary Pritzker’s first five weeks as Secretary of Commerce, she has met with or spoken to more than 100 CEOs and entrepreneurs. Since assuming the office of secretary, she has prioritized meeting and speaking with representatives of the business community to hear directly from them about how she can serve as a bridge to the business community. 

By calling top business leaders to discuss Commerce’s work in supporting American businesses and conducting small roundtable discussions, Secretary Pritzker is leveraging the opportunity to have an open dialogue and receive feedback from the business community about the commercial climates they encounter at home and abroad. Throughout these discussions, she has been hearing about the challenges companies face, the opportunities they see to increase U.S. competitiveness, and factors driving growth and investment in companies’ respective sectors.

In discussing inbound investment with CEOs of companies of all sizes, Secretary Pritzker has been talking about the upcoming SelectUSA Summit. She is amplifying what the President said last week; that this conference will connect business leaders from around the world with local leaders, “who are ready to prove there’s no better place to do business than right here in the United States of America.” 

The feedback gained from these conversations is vital to growing the partnership between business and government. Secretary Pritzker is appreciative of the input she has received from over 100 CEOs of small-and medium-sized companies she has encountered during her roundtables and phone calls, and taken their feedback seriously. As she continues her nationwide listening tour, she is hopeful to continue to gain invaluable input from business leaders throughout the country that will help shape her agenda as Secretary of Commerce.

Incentives to Support Adoption of the Cybersecurity Framework

Guest post by Michael Daniel, Special Assistant to the President and the Cybersecurity Coordinator. Cross-post from Whitehouse.gov

The systems that run our nation’s critical infrastructure such as the electric grid, our drinking water, our trains, and other transportation are increasingly networked. As with any networked system, these systems are potentially vulnerable to a wide range of threats, and protecting this critical infrastructure from cyber threats is among our highest security priorities. That is why, earlier this year, the President signed an Executive Order designed to increase the level of core capabilities for our critical infrastructure to manage cyber risk. The Order does this by focusing on three key areas: information sharing, privacy, and adoption of cybersecurity practices.

To promote cybersecurity practices and develop these core capabilities, we are working with critical infrastructure owners and operators to create a Cybersecurity Framework – a set of core practices to develop capabilities to manage cybersecurity risk. These are the known practices that many firms already do, in part or across the enterprise and across a wide range of sectors. The draft Framework will be complete in October. After a final Framework is released in February 2014, we will create a Voluntary Program to help encourage critical infrastructure companies to adopt the Framework. 

While this effort is underway, work on how to incentivize companies to join a Program is also under consideration. While the set of core practices have been known for years, barriers to adoption exist, such as the challenge of clearly identifying the benefits of making certain cybersecurity investments. As directed in the EO, the Departments of Homeland Security, Commerce, and Treasury have identified potential incentives and provided their recommendations to the President, through the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism and the Assistant to the President for Economic Affairs.

Secretary Pritzker Visits the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Gaithersburg, Md., Campus

Secretary Pritzker tours the NIST Trace Contraband Detection laboratory with Acting Deputy Secretary and NIST Director Patrick Gallagher.  The laboratory helps law enforcement agencies protect the public and enforce the law by developing improved methods and standards for trace detection of drugs and explosives.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker visited the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Md., today, as part of her nationwide listening tour. The campus hosts approximately 2,700 NIST staff members, as well as visiting researchers, post-doctorate fellows and undergraduate students.

The Secretary met with NIST senior executives to discuss Commerce priorities and took a tour of a laboratory focused on the most effective ways to collect and accurately analyze small or trace amounts of contraband such as drugs or explosives. The NIST Trace Contraband Detection Program supports the deployment and effective use of detection devices throughout the United States. NIST scientists use their  existing expertise in particle analysis, analytical chemistry and chemical microscopy to study the explosives collection and detection process in detail and to help field methods.

Secretary Pritzker saw demonstrations of some NIST-developed devices that could speed the processing of airline passengers while accurately assessing them for trace contraband. A shoe-sampler uses air jets to blow samples off of shoes still on the wearer’s feet, while another device checks IDs for samples transferred on fingertips. She also learned about the program making use of a 3-D printing machine to rapidly create new devices for improving detection methods. Through these efforts, NIST supports standards that ensure detectors in the field today work as expected and develops the specialized measurement expertise that will be needed for the next generation of explosive detection equipment.

Secretary Penny Pritzker Visits APS Technology

Today, U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker visited APS Technology (APS) in Wallingford, Conn., as part of her nationwide listening tour. Secretary Pritzker is traveling across the country meeting with business leaders and entrepreneurs to discuss how the administration and the Department of Commerce can work with the private sector to help strengthen the economy and create jobs.

First, Secretary Pritzker toured APS’ facilities with company executives, including APS President Bill Turner and Senior Vice President Denis Biglin, along with Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy. She was able to see some of the company’s projects, which include a variety of drilling tools that are used by the oil and gas industry.

APS started in 1994 providing contract engineering services and has experienced tremendous growth to become a leading provider of products to the oil and gas drilling industry around the world. APS has grown from 79 employees in 2008 to more than 300 employees, including 265 in the U.S. The company’s exports now account for 85 percent of their business.