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Smarter Manufacturing Makes Businesses More Competitive

Sustainable Manufacturing Initiative logo

Guest blog post by Morgan Barr, an International Economist within the Manufacturing and Services division at the International Trade Administration. She works on sustainable manufacturing issues as well as negotiations for trade agreements.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Sustainable Manufacturing Initiative (SMI) has developed tools and resources to help companies, particularly small and medium sized enterprises, implement sustainable business practices faster and more effectively. The benefits to manufacturers include lower energy and resource costs, increased marketability of products and services and lower regulatory costs and risk.

The Sustainable Manufacturing Initiative developed a number of business friendly resources that are available through its website:

  • Sustainable Business Clearinghouse - This searchable clearinghouse provides information and links to almost 900 federal and state programs and resources dedicated to supporting sustainable business practices.  It includes everything from lean and green assessments, to training, to financial assistance for green improvements.  Users can search by government or non-governmental programs, geographic location, sustainability issue, industry sector and type of assistance.
  • OECD Sustainable Manufacturing Metrics Toolkit - This toolkit provides a simplified set of core sustainability metrics for facilities and products that any company can use to both measure performance and make decisions on improvement.
  • Sustainable Manufacturing 101 Training - This training can be used to train employees anywhere in the company from purchasing to the production line. It is designed to take users through the various aspects of the practice, from energy efficiency to designing for the environment to remanufacturing. This module is currently not available, but scheduled to be completed by October 2011 and will be available on the SMI website.

The More You Know: Key Statistics for Manufacturers and Exporters

Graphic of a spreadsheet overlaid with two charts

Economists, journalists, Wall Street executives and main street businesses as well as consumers look at a variety of economic indicators and data for information and to get a picture of how the economy is doing. The indicators above give us an idea of how our manufacturing sector is fairing in the turmoil of economic indicators that keep us on our toes every day.

Great sources for this information are right here within the Department of Commerce, through our Bureau of the Census (Business and Industry, Manufacturing) where we regularly release reports on sales, inventories, employment, job creation and capacity utilization.

Looking at today’s trade in goods and services numbers will show you a pretty good story about the state of America’s manufacturing sector. For instance, in the first four months of 2011, U.S. exports of manufacturing products increased by $56.9 billion (16.5 percent) to reach $401.4 billion up from $344.5 billion recorded in the first four months of 2010. Major growth categories by value in the first four months of 2011 include petroleum and coal products (up 66%), base chemicals (up 21%), nonferrous metal products (up 34.7%), motor vehicles (up 19%), and agricultural and construction machinery (up 25.4%).

To see where those exports are going, the International Trade Administration provides data and resources on trade statistics, including state and metro export data, profiles of exporting companies, as well as a nifty mapping tool that allows you to see the geographic reach of our exports by product or state. 

Information is golden and having the tools at your fingertips to sift through the relevant information and make sense of it yourself is a powerful advantage.

Expert Advice on Exporting from Successful Companies

As today’s trade numbers show, the appetite for American-made products abroad is growing rapidly. That’s why these five companies have made exporting part of their long-term growth strategy. They know that 95% of all consumers live outside the United States and therefore, the more markets they target, the more diversified their customer base will be. That strategy has served them well as they generally held up better during the recession than companies that didn't export.

But they also know some of the ups and downs for manufacturers just starting to export: concern about the language and cultural differences, not knowing where to start or how to make inroads into new markets, fear that foreign consumers won’t pay once the products leave the country.

And that’s why Jack Hollender, Dan Kleiman, Al Powers, Jason Speer and Terry Koehn agreed to share their experience. In the video below, each shares insight and expertise about getting started in exporting.

In addition to these wise words, the Department of Commerce’s National Export Initiative is designed to help more companies overcome these and other hurdles to exporting. To get their assistance, simply call 1-800-USA-TRADE or go online to Export.gov. Commerce Department experts will work with you to design and implement a market entry or expansion strategy, conduct an international search to find potential agents or distributors for your unique business and contact potential overseas businesses--all on your behalf. Many of these services are free or extremely low cost.

Protecting Our Electronic Main Street

Cybersecurity and the Electronic Main Street

Guest blog post by Ari Schwartz, Internet Policy Adviser at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and member of the Internet Policy Task Force at the Department of Commerce.

As we all know, the Internet has led to incredible commercial growth and an unprecedented means for self-expression and innovation.  Some industry analysts now estimate that the Internet now carries some $10 trillion in online transactions annually.

However, each time a new technology dramatically expands the boundaries of commerce, there are dishonest, dangerous people who try to disrupt and exploit the new pathways for their own gain. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that as the Web, e-mail, and e-commerce have become the electronic version of Main Street, hackers, spammers, and cybercriminals have emerged as major threats to its welfare. An estimated 67,000 new malicious viruses, worms, spyware and other threats are released every day. 

To paraphrase Willy Sutton: It’s where the money. . . and the information is.

A new Commerce Department report issued today calls for a public-private partnership and voluntary codes of conduct to help strengthen the cybersecurity of companies that increasingly rely on the Internet to do business, but are not part of the critical infrastructure sector as defined by the administration’s recent cybersecurity legislative proposal.  Issued by the department’s Internet Policy Task Force, the report targets what it calls the Internet and Information Innovation Sector or the I3S.  These are businesses that range from Mom and Pop manufacturers or startups that sell most of their products and services online to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to cloud computing firms that provide anytime, anywhere access to applications and personal or public data.

U.S. EDA Supports Downtown Business HUB in California’s San Joaquin Valley

Image of video clip showing Guevara

Guest blog by Thomas Guevara, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Regional Affairs, U.S. Economic Development Administration

On June 7, 2011, I was honored to join U.S. Congressman and Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management Jeff Denham (CA-19), Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, and Fresno Area Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Dora Westerlund for the ribbon-cutting for the Fresno Area Hispanic Foundation’s Downtown Business HUB (DBH). The innovative business incubator facility located in Fresno, California will provide local entrepreneurs of various ethnicities the opportunity to develop and grow their ideas for new products and services to create the economy of the future.

Manufacturing is Vibrant and Vital in America

Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke (center) announces the appointment of 24 members of the Manufacturing Council

Guest blog by Jennifer Pilat, Deputy Director for the Office of Advisory Committees within the International Trade Administration. She oversees the Manufacturing Council as well as a number of other private-sector advisory committees.

Superconductors and streetcars. Photovoltaic cells, cars and steel. Cardboard boxes, pharmaceuticals, linens. A vibrant manufacturing sector isn't just critical for the millions of Americans whose jobs depend on it, but is also absolutely central to driving the innovation that fuels the American economy. It is that belief that led U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to appoint the private sector members that comprise the 2010 – 2012 Manufacturing Council. 

The Manufacturing Council serves as the principal private sector advisory committee to the Secretary of Commerce on the United States manufacturing sector and advises the Secretary on matters relating to the competitiveness of the manufacturing sector, and government policies and programs that affect U.S. manufacturers.

Secretary Locke recently designated Joe Anderson, Chairman and Chief Executive Office of TAG Holdings, LLC as the Chair of the Manufacturing Council and Chandra Brown, President of United Streetcar and Vice-President of Business Development and Government Relations of Oregon Iron Works as the Council Vice-Chair. 

The next Council meeting will be held in Clackamas, Oregon at the United Streetcar facility, where members will discuss the free trade agreements with Panama and Colombia, ideas for energy policy to support manufacturing, and educating and training the workforce needed to fill today’s available manufacturing jobs and those that will drive the future of American manufacturing. You can read more about the past work of the Council, on their website: http://www.manufacturing.gov/council. 

Secretary Locke Meets with German Federal Minister of Economics and Technology

Locke and Rösler

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke met with the recently-appointed Vice Chancellor and Federal Minister of Economics and Technology Dr. Philipp Rösler today and discussed ways to strengthen U.S.-Germany commercial relations.  Locke and Rösler had a productive conversation on a variety of topics, including U.S. commitment to the Transatlantic Economic Council and the upcoming re-launch of the U.S.-German Informal Commerce Exchange this fall, where issues related to regulatory and standards cooperation, renewable energy, e-mobility and market access will be discussed.  Locke also expressed the Commerce Department’s desire to work closely with the new leadership of the Ministry of Economics and Technology under Rösler. He is a member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s official delegation to the United States.

 

NIST Workshop Aims to Advance Usability in Electronic Health Records

Matt Quinn of NIST with large projection screen

Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is hosting a workshop today on usability in electronic health records (EHR) at its campus in Gaithersburg, Md. "A Community-Building Workshop: Measuring, Evaluating and Improving the Usability of Electronic Health Records" brings together industry, government, academia and healthcare providers to identify models and methods for collaborating to improve the usability of EHR systems.

Usability refers to how easy EHR systems are to learn and operate, while maximizing efficiency. A health information technology (IT) industry task force identified usability as one of the major factors hindering widespread adoption of EHRs in clinical settings. The task force also noted that usability has a strong, often direct relationship with clinical productivity, user satisfaction, lower error rate and less user fatigue.

"Moving the science and practice of evaluating EHR usability forward has required an open and transparent community effort,” said NIST computer scientist Matt Quinn, one of the workshop's organizers. “We hope to build on our workshop from last year to encourage further collaboration among stakeholders, collect constructive feedback on methods for evaluating usability, and identify priority areas for future work."

The NIST health IT usability initiative focuses on providing guidance to the public and private sectors in the development of health IT usability standards and measures. NIST collaborates closely with industry, academia and other government agencies to share best practices on electronic health record usability and gather technical feedback on the development of EHR usability evaluation methods.

Workshop sessions include an overview of current programs for improving EHR usability, models for collaboration, efforts to support the needs of developers and care delivery organizations, and various breakout sessions, concluding with next steps on building a stronger community to improve health IT usability.   

For more information on today’s workshop, visit: http://www.nist.gov/healthcare/usability/usability-technical-workshop.cfm.

Commerce Department Hosts First Innovation Advisory Board Meeting

Commerce Department Hosts First Innovation Advisory Board Meeting

The Innovation Advisory Board held its first meeting today at the United States Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, Va.  Acting Deputy Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank led the meeting and Secretary Gary Locke welcomed and thanked the new board members for their service. The 15-member board will guide a study of U.S. economic competitiveness and innovation to help inform national policies at the heart of U.S. job creation and global competitiveness. 

In the State of the Union, President Obama launched a commitment to winning the future by out innovating the rest of the world. The board will build upon the early work and findings of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness and Startup America to advise the U.S. Department of Commerce as it produces a report by January 2012 assessing America's capacity for innovation and our global economic competitiveness. The study will analyze all facets of the economy impacted by national policy, including trade and exports, education, research and development, immigration, technology commercialization, intellectual property and tax policy.   

The Innovation Advisory Board was established by the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, signed by President Obama in January of this year. See list of board members. See a statement on today’s inaugural meeting from Acting Deputy Commerce Secretary Blank.

Locke and Duncan Discuss Comprehensive Immigration Reform with Members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Secretary Gary Locke and Education Secretary Arne Duncan participated in a conference call today to discuss comprehensive immigration reform with members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The pair made the case for why effective immigration reform is vital to U.S. economic competitiveness and why the involvement of the business community is crucial to move this important priority forward. Approximately 175 people from at least 30 states joined the call, including 80 CEOs and representatives from businesses, local and state chambers of commerce and industry and trade associations. 

Locke discussed how comprehensive reform will help create jobs in the U.S. and stressed the need to build an immigration system that will attract the brightest, most highly-skilled people from around the world, so their skills, ideas and entrepreneurial spirit can help start new businesses, enhancing U.S. global competitiveness.  Locke specifically highlighted two proposed approaches for reforming the current visa system: encouraging top foreign talents who receive a graduate degree in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) to remain in the U.S. after they graduate by allowing them to acquire legal permanent residence; and issuing two-year visas to immigrant entrepreneurs whose start-up companies receive investment from a U.S. investor, and giving these entrepreneurs permanent residence if their companies create full-time jobs in the U.S. within those two years.  Locke urged members of the Chamber to help make the case in their communities that comprehensive immigration reform is an economic imperative critical to America’s future economic competitiveness. 

Locke asked participants on the call to add their voice to the national conversation by visiting www.whitehouse.gov/immigrationaction and hosting a conversation in their community about why we need to fix the broken immigration system.