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Blog Category: Jobs

Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge Awards $9 Million to 13 Projects to Boost Rural Economies, Strengthen Regional Industry Clusters

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Guest blog post by Matt Erskine, Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development

Over the last three and a half years, President Obama has been committed to investing in efforts that strengthen rural economies, create jobs, support business growth, and expand opportunity for rural Americans.

Today, the administration announced the 13 winners of a key component of this goal, the Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge. Economic development partnerships and initiatives in Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia will receive awards ranging from nearly $200,000 to more than $1 million.

The projects will promote job creation, accelerate innovation, and provide assistance to entrepreneurs and businesses in a wide range of industrial sectors, including advanced manufacturing, agribusiness, energy and natural resources, technology, and tourism. They range from the Bristol Bay Jobs Accelerator in Alaska, a job training initiative put together by a consortium of 31 Alaskan tribes that will support a fisheries and seafood processing industry cluster; to the I-20 Corridor Regional Accelerator, a project involving the collaboration of institutions in Louisiana and Arkansas to promote science and technology clusters in these states; to the “Project 17: Together We Stand,” a 17-county business development effort led by Kansas State University.

EDA Helps Ohio Auto Community Build a New Future

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Guest blog post by Matt Erskine, Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development

Economic recovery in the wake of an economic disaster—such as the closing of a large employer—doesn’t happen overnight. It requires careful planning, the coordination of human and financial resources, and a willingness to consider alternative directions that will benefit the community in the long run.

This is the story that the city of Moraine, Ohio, can tell. For nearly 90 years, Moraine—located in close proximity to Dayton, Ohio—was the location of a single, prominent manufacturing plant whose successive owners read like an honor roll of 20th century American business: Dayton-Wright Airplane (manufacturer of DeHavilland aircraft), Frigidaire (maker of an iconic line of refrigerators), and, since 1981, General Motors (GM).

When GM announced plans in June 2008 to close this plant, the development came as a blow to the local economy. Just think about the impact to suppliers and the distributors that get their business from them.  According to a report published by the International Economic Development Council, the Moraine region, with more than 90 GM suppliers in 14 surrounding communities, lost more than 800 jobs at larger suppliers in addition to the 4,200 jobs that were lost when GM shut down.

Within weeks of GM’s announcement, staff from the Chicago regional office of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) began working with state and local officials in Ohio to develop a strategy to deal with the effects of the Moraine plant closure. As a first step, an EDA investment helped the city develop a bottom-up Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) to guide the region’s recovery efforts.

Director Kappos Promotes Innovation in Southern California

Director Kappos, seated, being interviewed

Under Secretary and United States Patent and Trademark Office Director David Kappos briefed southern California innovators on the many ways the Obama administration is advancing U.S. innovation. He met with technology entrepreneurs at Powerwave Technologies in Santa Ana, California, hosted by Southern California’s TechVoice chapter in conjunction with CompTIA and locally-based Technology Leadership Political Action Committee (TLPAC). The USPTO is on the eve of publishing a series of new rules implementing the America Invents Act, signed last September by President Obama, which will improve patent quality and make it easier for U.S. innovators to protect their intellectual property (IP) abroad. Attendees were briefed on AIA implementation as well as the USPTO’s plans to open four new satellite offices, including one in the Silicon Valley region of California. “By building partnerships and collaborating with the Orange County Bar and broader community,” Director Kappos said, "the USPTO will better engage its Silicon Valley office with the Southern California IP community.”

Innovation in the Marketplace: Dr. Desh Deshpande on Successful Proof of Concept Centers

Portrait of Desh Deshpande

Guest blog post by Nish Acharya, Director of the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration.

The National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE) supports President Obama’s innovation strategy by helping to develop policies that foster entrepreneurship and identifying new ways to take great ideas from the lab to the marketplace to drive economic growth and create jobs.

One of the guiding forces of NACIE is its co-chair, Dr. Desh Deshpande, who is also Chairman and President of the Sparta Group and has been involved with many other companies, such as A123 Systems, Sycamore Networks, Tejas Networks, Sandstone Capital, and HiveFire. He is also the founder of the Deshpande Foundation, and creator and supporter of the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which is a leading proof of concept center.

In the last of a series of conference calls with members of NACIE, on June 27, participants spoke with Dr. Deshpande, with whom I have worked closely to identify and implement strategies to spur entrepreneurship and innovation.

During the call, Dr. Deshpande defined innovation as coming up with new ideas, while entrepreneurship is putting those ideas into practice. He pointed out that all innovation is contextual, in that no group of individuals can just sit down and solve all the world’s problems. It is important, he noted, that innovators live in the areas where the problems exist. His point echoed one that has been made by several other NACIE members, namely that innovators have a greater chance of success if they begin by solving the problems that exist in their own communities.

The Road to Revitalizing Anderson, Indiana’s Auto Sector

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Guest blog post by Thomas Guevara, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development and a native of Indiana

As auto communities across the country work to strengthen and redefine their economies, the Obama administration is making good on the President’s commitment to invest in American innovation and advanced manufacturing to spur growth.

In my home state of Indiana, the city of Anderson, located about 25 miles northeast of Indianapolis, was once home to one of the greatest concentrations (after Flint, Michigan) of General Motors facilities in the United States. Today, not a single one of those plants is in operation.

While this is a significant challenge, there is also opportunity. That was the focus of the Auto Community Revitalization Roundtable at the Flagship Enterprise Center that I recently attended in Anderson: to hear from communities affected by the loss of manufacturing jobs, offer practical tools, share available resources, and explore solutions for auto communities in Indiana that are on the road to revitalization. The forum was organized by the Manufacturing Alliance of Communities, the Obama administration’s Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers, and the RACER Trust, which was established to clean up and redevelop closed General Motors sites.

The road to revitalization requires a change of mindset. Rather than think of the abandoned facilities and their accompanying infrastructure as a disadvantage, cities such as Anderson are finding ways to repurpose these assets for future economic growth. The built industrial environment—including manufacturing plants, warehouses, road and rail links, etc.—can be refashioned and reused to suit the needs of newer, growing industries to replace the industries that departed. These industries are not the traditional manufacturers that employed our parents, but rather are modern advanced manufacturing sites that are leading the way in global competitiveness and attracting foreign direct investment.

EDA: Economic Recovery in Fremont, California's Auto Community

Ed. note: Cross-posted from U.S. Department of Labor's "Auto Communities" blog by Matt Erskine, Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development (EDA)

We all know the situation a few years ago when President Obama took office: the American auto industry was shedding jobs by the hundreds of thousands and General Motors and Chrysler were in financial crisis. In the year before GM and Chrysler filed for bankruptcy, the auto industry lost more than 400,000 jobs. Had President Obama failed to act, conservative estimates suggest that it would have cost at least an additional million jobs and devastated vast parts of our nation's industrial heartland. But that did not happen because the president quickly intervened to save the U.S. auto industry from collapse. Today, GM, Ford and Chrysler have all returned to profitability.

President Obama's decision to respond so boldly was about more than the auto companies. It was about standing behind the countless workers, communities and businesses—large and small—that depend on the automotive industry. It was also about revitalizing American manufacturing.

Across the administration, federal agencies have outlined an agenda to support growth, job creation, and competitiveness in U.S. manufacturing. The U.S. Commerce Department's Economic Development Administration (EDA) has a strong track record of working with automotive communities to develop plans for economic recovery. The agency's efforts to help revitalize the nation's auto industry have been significant in Fremont, California, where a large auto assembly facility operated by the New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. (NUMMI) was shut down in early 2010. The plant had employed nearly 5,000 workers, with thousands more dependent on it. The blow to the local economy was severe.

Acting Secretary Blank Participates in U.S.-Poland Business Summit in Warsaw, Poland

Acting Secretary Blank Participates in U.S.-Poland Business Summit in Warsaw, Poland

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank and Poland’s Deputy Prime Minister Waldemar Pawlak welcomed participants in the U.S.-Poland Business Summit and Business Roundtable in Warsaw yesterday. This important event fulfills an agreement made during President Obama’s visit to Poland last yearto bring together U.S. and Polish business and government leaders to identify and promote new commercial opportunities and strengthen and expand commercial relations between the two countries.
 
Blank and Pawlak co-chaired the Business Roundtable at an informal session with American and Polish businesses and government officials. They discussed increasing bilateral investment and expanding energy sector cooperation. In her remarks, Acting Secretary Blank called for more cooperation between the two countries to continue vital strides towards creating good paying jobs that will help both economies flourish.
 
In her remarks to the summit, Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank talked about increasing U.S.-Poland economic and commercial ties. She said that over the past ten years, U.S. bilateral trade with Poland has nearly quadrupled and today the U.S. is doing more than ever to link with the E.U.’s fastest growing economy. Complete Readout

Guest Blog Post: Commerce Comes to Your Town – Pittsburgh

Lyn Doverspike, Director of the Commercial Service Pittsburgh Office, Harlan Shober, Washington County Commissioner, Under Secretary Francisco Sanchez, Nate Nevela, District Field Director for U.S. Congressman Tim Murphy , Dennis Gray, Aquatech Vice President of Operations and R.Suresh Kumar, Vice President (Projects) Infrastructure – Major Projects.

Ed. note: Cross-posted from ITA Tradeology blog by Francisco Sánchez, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade

Yesterday I toured Aquatech International’s facility in Canonsburg, right outside of Pittsburgh. The company has been working with Commerce Department staff to export more of their products, and it was great to see up close the great work being done at their facilities.

Established in 1981, Aquatech is a global leader in water purification technology for the world’s industrial and infrastructure markets, with a focus on desalination, water reuse and zero liquid discharge. Aquatech is also a socially responsible company. Their products help to solve the problem of water scarcity abroad. They also help support numerous nonprofits that work to provide clean water to those without access to drinkable water.

Our visit to Aquatech is a part of wider Department of Commerce campaign, announced last month, called “Commerce Comes to Your Town.” Here at the International Trade Administration (ITA), we stand ready to provide American businesses the tools and resources they need to export their goods and services all around the globe, grow their businesses, and create more good-paying manufacturing jobs for Americans.

I can’t stress enough how important exports are for America’s economic future. Forty-one companies that successfully grew their exports recently received the President’s “E” Award during a ceremony at the White House. As part of “Commerce Comes to Your Town,” I’ve spoken in towns across the country and met with business leaders to get their input and spread our message. In fact, earlier in the day, I attended the TechBelt Export Summit in Youngstown, Ohio, where I was able to speak about how important exports are to that region.

NIST: Creating Jobs with Innovation

Image: NIST Under Secretary and Director Patrick Gallagher tours Omega Plastics

Guest blog post by Patrick Gallagher, Under Secretary  of Commerce for Standards and Technology and Director, National Institute of Standards and Technology

We’ve been hearing a lot about manufacturing, especially advanced manufacturing, these days. Things like U.S. manufacturing :

  • Is critical to innovation since it’s responsible for most of our private sector research and development;
  • Is increasingly about sophisticated computer-driven, highly productive worksites requiring skilled workers; and
  • Is a growing source of good jobs.

What we don’t hear about as often are specific cases where U.S. manufacturers are using new technologies to diversify their markets, improve their products, and create or retain jobs. I was fortunate today to visit one such company, Omega Plastics Inc., located in Clinton Township, MI, about an hour outside Detroit.

The event was part of a “Best Practice Tour” sponsored by the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (MMTC), an affiliate of NIST’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP).

New $6 Million Strong Cities, Strong Communities Challenge to Spur Economic Growth in Six Cities

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Guest blog post by Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Matt Erskine

Today, at the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Orlando, Florida, I joined Erika Poethig, the Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), to launch the latest key components of the Obama administration’s Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) initiative, which was announced in July 2011 to help strengthen local capacity and spark economic growth in local communities while ensuring taxpayer dollars are used wisely and efficiently.

The Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA)—an SC2 Federal partner—announced the $6 million Strong Cities, Strong Communities Visioning Challenge to help economically distressed cities leverage innovative strategies to spur local economic and job growth.

The challenge will start with the competitive selection of six cities, one in each of EDA’s regions. Each of the winners will receive up to $1 million to conduct their own two-phase competitions. In the first phase, winning cities will encourage teams of experts in such fields as transportation planning, economic and community development, business incubation, and engineering to submit economic development proposals for their city or region. The highest-rated proposals, as evaluated by a city-appointed review panel, will receive cash awards. In the second phase, the finalists from the first round will compete for a cash prize by developing comprehensive economic development plans.