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Blog Category: U.S. Commercial Service

Spotlight on Commerce: Jose "Pepe" F. Burgos, Director U.S. Commercial Service-Puerto Rico

Jose "Pepe" F. Burgos, Director U.S. Commercial Service-Puerto Rico

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 in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month

Guest blog post by Jose "Pepe" F. Burgos, Director U.S. Commercial Service-Puerto Rico

My name is Jose F. Burgos. My nickname is Pepe and I was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. My mother was from the town of Aguadilla in the west part of the island, and my father was from Humacao on the opposite side of the island. I was raised in Aguadilla by my mother and brothers after my father passed away when I was four years old. When I was 13 years old, my mother and older sister passed away in a car accident. Then I was raised by one of my cousins and their family. I have one brother who lives in Baltimore and we are very close. I was blessed to grow in a very family-oriented environment surrounded by my cousins and friends.

At first I wanted to be a doctor, but when I start studying and got to physics and organic chemistry, I realized medicine was not for me. I decided to study business, but I was not sure what kind of business. I decided to study international business with the main purpose to obtain a job to travel around the world.

Eleven years into my career, I realize how big international business can be – that it is more than traveling and is a daily learning experience. I worked three years in the Puerto Rico Trade Company and I have been currently working for the past eight years as Director of the U.S. Commercial Service in Puerto Rico. 

My passion for international commerce grew during my academic years, ultimately leading to my earning a Master’s Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in International Business & Marketing from the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico and a professional development certification from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in International Trade Policy.

It has been a rewarding and amazing opportunity to be able to do what I always wanted to do and work in the field that I studied. 

Since 2006, I have been working as Director of the US Department of Commerce for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. I have assisted companies from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in exporting to countries around the world, and provided advice with all the logistic components, including market intelligence, trade counseling, business matchmaking, and advocacy/commercial diplomacy support.

My support has helped companies survive difficult economic times and helped them be among the companies that are creating new jobs for residents in the islands.

International Trade Administration’s Commercial Service Makes Exporting Easier for Small Businesses

U.S. Commercial Service Logo

In early 2011, Vanport Outfitters received its first commercial overseas order from Japan. That is when they started working with the U.S. Commercial Service, which assisted them throughout the export process. Some challenges Vanport faced included building brand awareness and finding quality contacts overseas to do business with. To address these issues, Vanport used U.S. Commercial Service business matchmaking services. “As a small company, few have heard of us, and are already selling competing products from better known firms. We find that we have to work hard to demonstrate that we’re serious about our craft. We really enjoyed working with the U.S. Commercial Service and found that the services provided helped make selling our goods outside the country easy, and we are continuing to build our brand awareness,” said Thomas Craig, Business Manager at Vanport Outfitters.

The company decided to focus on their export potential and actively pursue other markets, and in doing so, relied on assistance provided by the Trade Information Center, including market research, trade counseling, and assistance with export regulations. The result was that Vanport Outfitters has received additional orders from ten different countries, and is planning to export into East Asia, Oceania, Europe, and Canada.

Guest blog post: Developing Foreign Business is Easier than You Think

Portrait of Friesen

Guest blog post by Dr. Cody Friesen, founder and president of Fluidic Energy, an associate professor at Arizona State University and a member of the U.S. Manufacturing Council.

As the founder of Fluidic Energy and a member of the Department of Commerce’s Manufacturing Council, I’m always mindful of the state of the economy. It’s impossible not to notice the beneficial impact of trade, and the importance of manufacturing, to the continued growth of U.S. exports.

The Manufacturing Council exists to advise Commerce leadership on the best policies to support manufacturing and U.S. exports.As great as exporting sounds in theory, the barriers to exporting can seem high to many small or medium-sized companies, but that’s really not the case.

I had the privilege of joining Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank and 19 other American companies on a trade mission to Latin America, discussing infrastructure development in the region.

We were able to meet one-on-one with government officials and foreign company executives who will be shaping the growing infrastructure of these growing economies. We made crucial contacts and learned the critical facts in each country that will help us to maximize the opportunities for our company in the region.

The Department of Commerce was instrumental in pulling together the meetings most meaningful to Fluidic. The Gold Key Matching Service and the local International Trade Administration staff, especially the U.S. Commercial Service personnel, in each country made it possible to rapidly assess potential business opportunities.

Acting Secretary Blank Announces $40 Million Initiative to Challenge Businesses to Make it in America

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank Announces $40 Million Initiative to Challenge Businesses to Make it in America (Photo: Roberto Westbrook and STIHL Inc.)

Yesterday, Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank traveled to Virginia Beach, Va., where she toured the STIHL manufacturing plant and announced a new initiative to strengthen the economy by supporting American businesses as they make things here in America and create jobs. The Make it in America Challenge is designed to accelerate the trend of insourcing, where companies are bringing jobs back and making additional investments in America. The competition, which is being funded by the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration and National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership and the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, will build upon the administration’s bottom-up approach to strengthening the economy and creating jobs by partnering with state, regional and local economies.

The national competition will help provide the critical infrastructure, strategic planning, capacity building, technical assistance, and workforce skills training necessary for American communities to be the desired home for more businesses. The Make it in America Challenge builds on the administration’s efforts to encourage companies—large and small, foreign and domestic, manufacturers and services firms—to increase investment in the United States.

Acting Secretary Blank also highlighted two ongoing efforts by the Department of Commerce to attract foreign direct investment. SelectUSA, a program the president launched last year, continues to showcase the United States as the world’s premier business location and to provide easy access to federal-level programs and services related to business investment. Also, Commerce’s Commercial Services officers have been trained to help foreign investors who want information about how to invest in the U.S and who want to link up with local and state economic development leaders to create jobs in America.

China Travel Log 4: On His Final Day in China, Secretary Bryson Highlights Travel to the U.S.

Secretary John Bryson spent his last day in China in the financial capital of Shanghai.

He began his day with a group of American business leaders based in China. The leaders, members of American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai and the U.S.-China Business Council, exchanged ideas and shared information about the opportunities and challenges of day to day business operations in China.

As Secretary Bryson said to the group, our bilateral trade with China reached over $500 billion last year, with U.S. merchandise exports reaching $100 billion for the first time. However, with a trade deficit close to $300 billion, we still have a lot of work to do.

The Secretary then gave remarks at a tourism event, highlighting the robust and growing travel of Chinese tourists to the United States.

In his remarks, Secretary Bryson pointed out that "travel and tourism between our countries is crucial to building stronger cultural and economic ties. This generates greater understanding and friendship between our people. And yes, it also generates greater prosperity."

Assistant Secretary for Trade Promotion and Director General of the U.S. & Foreign Commercial Service Suresh Kumar to Return to the Private Sector

After two years leading the Commerce Department’s U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service (USFCS), Assistant Secretary for Trade Promotion Suresh Kumar announced his decision today to return to the private sector.

The USFCS, which is part of Commerce’s International Trade Administration, is a global network of trade specialists with offices across America and in more than 70 countries around the world. The organization’s job is to help connect U.S. companies looking to sell their products overseas with foreign buyers.

On Kumar’s watch, the Commercial Service has gotten better results with fewer resources. It’s also gone from an organization that tended to measure its progress with difficult-to-quantify anecdotes to one that’s metrics driven – a change that’s been critical in helping determine what’s working and what isn’t in the Department’s efforts to meet President Obama’s National Export Initiative goal of doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014.

“Ultimately, leaders are measured by whether they leave an organization better than they found it,” U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson said. “With the changes Suresh helped usher in, the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service is, without question, in a better position to succeed today.  “Improvements to the technology available to USFCS staff and the repositioning of Commercial Service Officers to markets with the best potential for U.S. export growth will benefit American businesses eager to export for years to come.”

Just a few statistics illustrate how the organization has grown stronger and more effective during Kumar’s tenure:In 2009, 158 U.S. companies went on Commerce-organized trade missions. Last year, there were 527.In 2009, there were 8,900 participants in Commerce’s International Buyers Program, which recruits qualified foreign buyers, sales representatives and business partners to U.S. trade shows. Last year, there were 15,600.

“Those measurements tell a good story, but the statistic that’s most important to me and to the President is 303,000; that’s the number of jobs supported last year by the exports the USFCS helped facilitate,” Bryson said.That figure has more than doubled since 2009. “We wish Suresh the best in his future endeavors, and I know he’ll continue to support the expansion of global trade in the private sector.”

Kumar has agreed to stay on until March 2 to help with the transition.

Assistant Secretary Suresh Kumar Blogs on 30th Anniversary DEC Conference

District Export Council Conference logo

Guest blog post by Assistant Secretary for Trade Promotion and Director General for the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service Suresh Kumar

I’m proud to be speaking at the 30th District Export Council Conference (DEC), in Las Vegas, Nevada.  We have more than 40 DECs represented from across the country at the conference this year.  The DECs are comprised of business leaders from around the country who are nominated by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Commercial Service (often in consultation with other DEC members and local partner organizations) and appointed by the Secretary of Commerce.  The DECs provide guidance and mentoring to U.S. businesses looking to export, and work closely with the U.S. Commercial Service, referring these businesses to our network of U.S. Export Assistance Centers.   By supporting firms in their local communities which are looking to progress from their first international business plan to their first export sale, DEC members empower the U.S. Commercial Service in our mission of broadening and deepening the U.S. exporter base. 

Nationwide, there are 59 DECs which include the expertise of 1500 exporters and export service providers throughout the United States, who volunteer their time to promote numerous trade related activities.  DECs also create seminars that make trade finance both understandable and accessible to small exporters, host international buyer delegations, design breakthrough guides to help firms export, put exporters on the Internet and help build export assistance partnerships to strengthen the support given to local businesses interested in exporting.  As such, the DECs are critical to our effort in promoting our country's economic growth and supporting new and higher-paying jobs for their communities.

At No Cost to Taxpayers, ITA Helps Veterans Learn a New Career and Local Businesses Benefit

U.S. Department District Director Anne Evans, Congressman Joe Courtney, Andrew Lavery (Military Intern), and Connecticut State Representative Pamela Sawyer

One of the International Trade Administration’s (ITA) key efforts is to strengthen the competitiveness of U.S. industry while promoting trade and investment to ensure that every American who wants a job can find one. This work is done at ITA’s offices and US Export Assistance Centers (USEAC) throughout the United States. The USEAC in Middletown, Connecticut is entirely focused on helping local companies export and create jobs. The office only has two full time employees to meet the needs of the over 2500 Connecticut companies they assist. Even though their staffing levels have decreased in recent years, they are working smarter and are providing 300% more export assistance than 4 years ago.

One of the smarter ways the USEAC is meeting the increasing demands for export programs from their 2500+ clients is to rely on the support of volunteer interns.  These interns provide a valuable service to companies and the office, while learning new skills and a new career. Over the past 2 ½ years many of those interns have been transitioning service members and veterans. Our military interns are mission-focused and exceptional leaders. The Military Internship Program benefits Connecticut exporters and gives back to those who have sacrificed the most for our cherished freedom. The mission is to train our veteran interns in business skills in a business comfortable environment while supporting them in their transition to civilian careers. Upon completion of the program, with our help, each military intern has found full time employment.  At no cost to the taxpayer, companies are getting valuable exporting expertise and veterans are finding new careers in the private sector. This effort fits right into President Obama’s challenged to the private sector to hire or train 100,000 unemployed veterans or their spouses by the end of 2013. Just as many American businesses are finding creative ways to meet their bottom lines, so are the trade specialists in local offices around the country who serve the needs of their clients and provide training to our veterans who have served our country.

The Commercial Service Will Find You the Perfect Partner this Valentine’s Day

U.S. Commercial Service Logo

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Commercial Service can help businesses find their perfect match in each of more than 80 countries in just 15 business days. Our trained staff helps companies increase their sales by connecting them with strategic international partners through its International Partner Search.

It’s simple - companies provide background and marketing materials about what they do, and the Commercial Service uses its worldwide network and extensive contacts in the appropriate target markets to identify potential business opportunities. The result is a detailed description of up to five prequalified prospects. Working only with prequalified international partners that best meet each company’s business needs saves time and money. Commercial Service customers receive information on the marketability and sales potential of their products and services, as well as background on their prospective international partners.

For businesses that prefer face-to-face meetings, the Commercial Service offers the Gold Key Service, a tailored program where companies travel to a target business market and meet with potential agents, distributors, sales representatives, and other business partners. Before traveling, companies can get customized briefings by U.S. Commercial Service staff on industry sector market research and guidance with travel, accommodations, interpreter services, and clerical support. Following the trip, participants share their experiences with U.S. Commercial Service staff and together develop appropriate follow-up strategies. Businesses short on time also have the opportunity to use the Video Gold Key Service, which uses video conferencing in lieu of travel.

Ready to get started? Find your local Commercial Service specialist to schedule a meeting!