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The Commerce Blog

Spotlight on Commerce: Anne Rung, Senior Director of Administration at U.S. Department of Commerce

Portrait of Anne Rung

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of winning the future through their work.

Anne Rung is the Senior Director of Administration at the U.S. Department of Commerce.

A year ago I moved from Pennsylvania, where I was born and raised, to Washington, D.C., to join the Department of Commerce as Senior Director of Administration.  Prior to my move to Washington, I  worked for Governor Edward Rendell in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  Under Governor Rendell, I served as Deputy Secretary for Procurement and Administration for the state’s largest operating agency, the Department of General Services (DGS).  Because of significant budget challenges in Pennsylvania, our team at DGS focused on reform efforts to drive down costs and improve efficiencies.

I joined the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Administration and CFO to assist with similar reform efforts underway at the Department of Commerce, including acquisition reform – a top priority of Secretary Locke.  Under his leadership, we’ve embarked on an Acquisition Improvement program to deliver greater results, greater savings and greater acquisition efficiencies.  Our efforts include a new approach to defining requirements, better identifying and managing high-risk projects, smarter buying, and performance metrics to ensure accountability.

Protecting Innovation to Ensure New Opportunities for American Businesses, Higher Wages, and Greater Economic Security for American Families

Map of U.S. showing distribution of Green Tech patents

Innovation is a principal driver behind our nation’s economic growth and job creation. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) serves America’s innovators by granting the intellectual property rights they need to secure investment capital, build companies, and bring their products and services to the global marketplace. USPTO is an integral partner in President Obama’s drive to create the foundation for our economic future where we out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.  USPTO is proud to play a role in accelerating socially conscious technologies in emerging fields like alternative fuels, clean energy, and green technology.

Last fall the USPTO extended the deadline for filing petitions under its Green Technology Pilot Program.  Under the pilot, patent applications involving reduced greenhouse gas emissions, energy conservation and environmental quality are accelerated in their review at no cost to the inventor.

Program statistics show that stakeholders participating in the Green Tech Pilot have obtained patents much more quickly as compared to the standard examination process.  Currently, the average time between granting of a green technology petition and first office action on the merits is just 49 days.  In many instances, applicants have had their Green Technology inventions patented in less than one year from the application filing date.

More than 1,900 petitions have been granted to green technology patent applicants since the pilot began in December 2009. Of the 1,900 petitions granted so far, USPTO issued the program’s 350th patent for a configuration of a wind turbine housing on June 28.

By advancing a commitment to building a more sustainable energy future, USPTO is able to spur additional innovation and promote green collar jobs that provide our world with alternatives to harmful energy practices. This ensures that the U.S. is not just the world’s Chief Global Competitor, but also its Chief Global Citizen.

The ability to develop tools in the name of cause-based enterprising is an endeavor that may still require investment capital, but leaves the rest of the world inspired through human capital—and that’s an example of the sort of nuanced innovation that continues to mark excellence in American leadership.

Obama Administration’s Strong Cities, Strong Communities Initiative Strengthens Local Capacity to Help Spark Economic Growth

Guest blog post by John Fernandez, Assistant Secretary for Economic Development, Economic Development Administration

Mayors across the country are working hard to strengthen local economic ecosystems, given the economic challenges cities face today.

As a former Mayor myself, I understand those challenges–How do we create more jobs? How do we attract new businesses? How do we enhance our workforce? And equally as important, how do we leverage the state and federal resources that may be available to help us achieve our economic goals and objectives?

The Obama administration understands these challenges and knows that cities play a vital role in strengthening our nation’s economy.  

We are finding ways to be a better partner, and that is why today the administration launched the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) initiative in Fresno, Calif., and five other cities: Chester, Pa.; Cleveland, Ohio; Detroit, Mich.; Memphis, Tenn.; and New Orleans, La.

We know that development happens from the bottom up - that the best ideas come from America’s communities. Whether investment comes from the federal government, states, the private sector, or ideally all of the above, resources do more good when they serve a well-developed, robust plan.

In Fresno, for example, this bottom up approach will help the region capitalize on the coming high-speed rail station to improve the downtown area and to build on a successful neighborhood development program to help create new economic opportunity and jobs.

We can’t have a strong national economy without strong cities. The 14 federal agencies participating in this effort are working to break down traditional Washington silos and identify ways to partner more effectively with cities and regions across the country.

This is an important initiative that will help to support cities across the nation, create a new framework for intergovernmental cooperation and strengthen the American economy.

Spotlight on Commerce: Bryan Erwin, Director of the Advocacy Center of the International Trade Administration

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of winning the future through their work.

Bryan Erwin is the Director of the Advocacy Center of the International Trade Administration.

As the Director of the Advocacy Center of the International Trade Administration, it is my duty to ensure that sales of U.S. products and services have the best possible chance competing abroad. I am constantly reaching out to exporters and letting them know that this Administration stands ready to assist them win new business. Through our efforts at the Advocacy Center, we work very hard to ensure that America’s exports are as competitive as possible. That often means talking with foreign governments and business leaders to ensure U.S. companies competing for public international contracts aren’t at a disadvantage. I firmly believe that American companies can’t be beat if they have a level playing field. This level playing field not only helps exporters win public international contracts, it also helps put Americans back to work. In fact, we have supported over 100,000 U.S. jobs this year alone.

An example of how the Advocacy Center works occurred earlier this year when we were contacted by an aerospace company from Iowa.  They were competing against Israeli and French firms for a half a billion dollar contract to supply avionics to a South American company.  Our Regional Managers worked closely with ITA colleagues, including Trade Specialists in Iowa, Commercial Service personnel in South America, colleagues at headquarters and interagency colleagues to approve the company for advocacy and begin to work on their behalf.  In addition to great efforts by the Embassy Team, we helped to facilitate both Secretary Locke and Under Secretary Sanchez’s advocacy to their counterparts, stressing the value of U.S. goods and service and urging a transparent procurement process.  The company won the procurement and estimates that 150 jobs will be retained or created as a result.

Commerce Announces Appointment of First-Ever Chief Manufacturing Officer

Portrait of Molnar

The Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) today announced the appointment of the agency’s first-ever Chief Manufacturing Officer. The manufacturing sector is critical to the U.S. economy, and the Obama administration is committed to building domestic manufacturing capabilities to create the new products, new industries and new jobs of the future. The new position will leverage NIST’s strong relationships with industry to accelerate innovation that will create 21st-century manufacturing jobs and enhance our global competitiveness.

As Chief Manufacturing Officer, manufacturing industry executive Michael F. Molnar will be responsible for planning and coordination of the Institute’s broad array of manufacturing research and services programs and will support the broader Advanced Manufacturing Partnership recently launched by President Obama that brings industry, universities and the federal government together to invest in emerging technologies. NIST is particularly well-positioned to support this goal because of its unique mission to work closely with industry.

Molnar has extensive industrial experience, with past leadership roles in manufacturing technology, advanced manufacturing engineering, metrology and quality systems. He will serve as the central point of contact with the White House, the Department of Commerce and other agencies on technical and policy issues related to manufacturing.

2nd Quarter Performance Excellence Awards Ceremony

Early in his tenure, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke issued a challenge to the entire Commerce Department to improve service delivery to the American public and to develop measureable standards by which each of the bureaus could judge their customer service and internal performance.  It is this vision that launched the Commerce Performance Excellence program, putting the department at the cutting edge of the Administration’s efforts to increase the return on investment of government programs.  The program supports the education of staff, recognition of significant achievements and the sharing of winning strategies to help the department become more engaged in improving processes to deliver more effective and efficient services.

On May 25, 2011, Secretary Locke recognized three exemplary employee teams from the Census Bureau, NOAA, and the Economic Development Administration with Performance Excellence Awards.  For the second time in less than one year, Commerce employees were honored for successfully implementing streamlined processes to better the administration and delivery of service to the American people.

In this video, Secretary Locke, Acting Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank and others discuss the program, the awards and why process improvement matters.

In addition to its efforts to identify and promote quality improvements by role model teams throughout Commerce, the Performance Excellence program also deploys a system of Balanced Scorecards, quarterly Performance Reviews, and team process improvements to all bureaus.  Employees can learn learn more about the Performance Excellence program and Award recipients as well as information on the Balanced Scorecard or how they can improve processes in their own office by visiting the Performance Excellence page on the Commerce Intranet.

EDA Grantee Honored as Champion of Change at the White House

Champion of Change Award Winners

This week, Roland Arriola, founder and president of recent EDA grantee Texas Valley Communities Foundation, was honored at the White House as a ‘Champion of Change’ for the foundation’s work to advance the innovation economy and empower and inspire other members of the Lower Rio Grande Valley community.

The Champions of Change Series: Winning the Future Across America is a White House initiative to spotlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities and helping the nation rise to meet the many challenges of the 21st century. Arriola and other winners were joined by White House Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and White House Senior Policy Advisor for Rural Affairs Doug McKalip and participated in a roundtable discussion on Rural America.

The Texas Valley Communities Foundation received a $1 million EDA grant last week along with the city of Mercedes and the Texas Polytechnic Institute of Mercedes, Texas, to help develop a feasibility study for a ‘Technopolis Village’, a community focused on innovation and identifying ways to enhance and produce positive economic growth that spans the regional economy.
 
Learn more about the Champions of Change Series and the award winners. Learn more about the Texas Valley Communities Foundation project that received an EDA grant.

NOAA Ship Fairweather Sets Sail to Map Areas of the Arctic

NOAA Fairweather

NOAA Ship Fairweather, a 231-foot survey vessel, departed Kodiak, Alaska, today on a mission to conduct hydrographic surveys in remote areas of the Arctic where depths have not been measured since before the U.S. bought Alaska in 1867.

Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will use the data to update nautical charts to help mariners safely navigate this  important but sparsely charted region, which is now seeing increased vessel traffic because of the significant loss of  Arctic sea ice.

Over the next two months, Fairweather will conduct hydrographic surveys covering 402 square nautical miles of navigationally significant waters in Kotzebue Sound, a regional distribution hub in northwestern Alaska in the Arctic Circle.

“The reduction in Arctic ice coverage is leading over time to a growth of vessel traffic in the Arctic, and this growth is driving an increase in maritime concerns,” explained NOAA Corps Capt. David Neander, commanding officer of the Fairweather. “Starting in 2010, we began surveying in critical Arctic areas where marine transportation dynamics are changing rapidly. These areas are increasingly transited by the offshore oil and gas industry, cruise liners, military craft, tugs and barges and fishing vessels.”

Fairweather and her survey launches are equipped with state-of-the-art acoustic technology to measure ocean depths, collect 3-D imagery of the seafloor, and detect underwater hazards that could pose a danger to surface vessels. The ship itself will survey the deeper waters, while the launches work in shallow areas.

Manufacturing: The Resurgence of American Innovation and Jobs

Tektite founder, Scott Mele, receiving the Export Achievement Award from the Department of Commerce. Scott Mele on left, Congressman Rush Holt on right.

Guest blog post from Miles Bodnar, Marketing Manager at Tektite Industries

Cross-posted on the NIST MEP blog

There’s something really great that’s going on in America right now: people are talking about manufacturing again. If you ask individuals from the baby boomer generation, they’ll tell you that manufacturing was a cornerstone of the economy when they were growing up. Everyone’s job was associated with manufacturing in one way or another and we were proud of our products Made in the USA. Manufacturing was a part of patriotism.

Since the baby boomer generation has grown up, the world has certainly changed. What hasn’t changed though is that manufacturing is still a pillar of our economy. America is still the number one manufacturing country in the world; we out-produce number-two China by more than 40 percent. Despite our economic challenges in 2009, America created an estimated $1.7 trillion worth of goods according to the United Nations. Manufacturing will always serve as the foundation of our economy for two main reasons: manufacturing challenges us to become more innovative and manufacturing growth creates jobs.

The timeline of our company, Tektite Industries, is the perfect example of this. Like many start ups, company founder Scott Mele founded Tektite in his garage in 1990, developing and distributing the most advanced and quality flashlight in the world. A year later, the organization was manufacturing a Chemical Lightstick Alternative® and Mark-Lite®, which was designed to reduce solid waste produced by chemical sticks there by creating a more “green” alternative.  Over the past 20 years, our company has developed into a vertically integrated LED lighting manufacturer that produces specialty lighting products, incorporating leading edge technology. From specialty flashlights, strobes, to signaling lights, we mold our parts, assemble our electronics, CNC machine, and stamp our metal parts all in New Jersey.

We here at Tektite Industries have only been able to evolve throughout the decades because of innovation. Manufacturing never stops–it just changes. Innovation is all about identifying ways to differentiate ourselves and implementing new ideas to serve new markets. While foreign products may be cheaper in price, we out perform all foreign competitors and produce the best quality available. We use technology and innovative ideas to train our workforce, becoming more efficient and productive while creating new jobs. This creates a ripple effect throughout our economy. It is estimated that for every new manufacturing job created, four to seven additional jobs are created for the economy.

NIST Working to Develop Adaptable Robots That Can Assist—and Even Empower—Human Production Workers

NIST’s new Autonomous Assembly Testbed includes an automated guided vehicle (left), conveyers, mannequins and an underslung robot arm (right).

Guest blog by Albert J. Wavering, the Chief of the Intelligent Systems Division of the Engineering Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Robots have explored Mars, descended into volcanoes, and roamed the ocean depths.  Today, they also perform humdrum chores, such as vacuuming and waxing floors.  And in between the ordinary and the extraordinary, robots are carrying out a growing array of tasks, from painting and spot-welding in factories to delivering food trays in hospitals.

But, when it comes to these automated machines, you haven’t seen anything yet, especially in the manufacturing world, where robots were first put to use 50 years ago in a General Motors factory.  In fact, the first factory robot became something of celebrity, earning an appearance, along with one of its inventors, on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

Even today, however, manufacturing robots are akin to electromechanical hulks that blindly perform relatively simple, repetitive jobs and—Tonight Show demo notwithstanding—must be safely separated from human workers by fences and gates.

In laboratories around the world, the race is on to build a new generation of robots that are smarter, more flexible, and far more versatile than the current one.  A successful leap to more adept and adaptable robots could set the stage for a revolution in U.S. manufacturing that reaches from the largest factories to the smallest job shops.

Automation technology has found a place performing repetitive and, often, dirty and dangerous factory tasks. It also has helped U.S. manufacturers to achieve productivity increases that are the envy of the world.

But the best could be yet to come.  The next wave of robots could be the springboard to new U.S. companies and new domestic manufacturing jobs.