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The Commerce Blog

Secretary Bryson Delivers His First Major Address Laying Out His Priorities for the Department

As part of the Obama administration’s ongoing efforts to spur job growth, Commerce Secretary John Bryson will lay out his priorities for the Department, including initiatives related to trade, manufacturing and increasing investment in the United States.

An experienced private sector leader, Bryson led Edison International as Chairman and CEO for 18 years. He also served on the boards of Boeing and Disney and as a senior adviser for the global private equity firm KKR. In little more than a month in office, Secretary Bryson has led trade talks with China to help level the playing field for American companies and workers and has reached out to numerous CEOs, including meeting with the Steering Committee of the President’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership.

Read his complete remarks on how American businesses can Build it Here. Sell it Everywhere.

Building a Weather-Ready Nation

Luchenco on-screen video conference

This week, the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) kicked-off a national dialogue to improve our nation’s readiness for extreme weather. At the Weather-Ready Nation: A Vital Conversation workshop, held in Norman, Okla., participants assessed why the nation has become more vulnerable to severe weather and identified ways to improve the public’s awareness, preparedness and response to future extreme events.

More than 1,000 lives have been lost this year to extreme weather, including about 550 from tornadoes. And the economic losses are equally staggering—at least 12 separate weather disasters, each with $1 billion or more in economic losses.

These impacts moved NOAA’s National Weather Service to launch an initiative called Weather-Ready Nation. The goal is to improve America’s readiness for weather events and save more lives and livelihoods. The Norman event is the first in a series of Weather-Ready Nation activities to be held across the country.

Census Bureau Releases New Race and Ethnic Demographic Information from the 2010 Census

Census Bureau Releases New Race and Ethnic Demographic Information from the 2010 Census

The U.S. Census Bureau today released the first in a series of new, detailed demographic information from the 2010 Census for up to 331 different race and ethnic groups down to the census tract level for Nevada and New Mexico. Data for remaining states will be released on a rolling basis through April, 2012. National level data will be released in May.

These Summary File 2 tables add a new layer of detail to the population and housing topics released earlier this year from the 2010 Census. Information, such as age, relationship and homeownership, previously available only for an area's entire population is now available for specific race and ethnic groups in that community.

Each Summary File 2 table is presented for up to 331 population groups. These include iteration groups for the total population, race alone groups, race alone or in combination groups, multiple-race combinations, American Indian and Alaska Native tribal groupings, detailed Asian groups, detailed Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander groups, detailed Hispanic groups, and race/Hispanic groups. Release

Secretary Bryson Promotes U.S.-Iraq Trade Opportunities at U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Bryson, al-Maliki promote trade (photo: U.S. Chamber of Commerce)

Today, Commerce Secretary John Bryson delivered remarks at a luncheon hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce honoring Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Washington. In his remarks, Secretary Bryson pointed out a variety of resources available to U.S.businesses already in place to encourage and create ongoing trade and investment in a new area of relations between the two countries. These include the U.S.–Iraq Business and Investment Conference, Commerce-led trade missions to Iraq, the Iraq Task Force and Commerce’s Advocacy Center.

Commerce's Under Secretary for International Trade Francisco Sánchez led a historic business development mission to Baghdad in October, 2010. The trade mission brought together representatives from 14 U.S. companies with key Iraqi public and private sector decision-makers, including nearly 200 match-making meetings, to pursue investment and sales opportunities. The Department of Commerce had key involvement at the Baghdad International Trade Fair. There, the U.S. participated for the first time since 1988, showcasing 85 American businesses and organizations at the U.S. Pavilion–the largest foreign presence at the event.

“Working together we can continue to strengthen ties between our nations’ business communities," Bryson said. "For example, on Wednesday, we are facilitating a match-making event for U.S. firms to meet with the Iraqi companies visiting Washington with the Prime Minister. . . .  And, of course, we will continue working through the U.S.-Iraq Business Dialogue and with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the U.S.-Iraq Business Council, as Iraq continues to emerge as a promising market in the region.”

Al-Maliki highlighted the growing commercial ties with the United States and called for the U.S. business community to seize the investment and trade opportunities available in Iraq. Iraq is a promising and important emerging market–one that’s set to grow faster than China–and has needs that encompass everything from infrastructure to small consumer goods. Last year, Prime Minister al-Maliki announced Iraq’s five-year National Development Plan. The plan includes more than 2,700 projects worth about $186 billion and is aimed at diversifying Iraq’s economy away from oil. Meeting those needs can help create jobs here in the U.S.

Commerce Secretary John Bryson Hosts Sixth Meeting of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Commerce Secretary John Bryson Hosts Sixth Meeting of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Commerce Secretary John Bryson hosted the sixth meeting of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE) today at the Commerce Department. The Council advises Bryson and the administration on key innovation and entrepreneurship issues and supports President Obama's innovation strategy by helping to develop policies that foster entrepreneurship and identify new ways to take great ideas from the lab to the marketplace to drive economic growth and job creation. Council members include successful entrepreneurs, investors, and university and non-profit leaders.

“Innovation and entrepreneurship fuel America’s economy. It’s what enables our businesses to create new products and services and generate good, well-paying jobs,” Bryson said today. “That is my foremost priority as Secretary of Commerce. I want the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship to help this administration develop policies that support the innovation we need to keep the U.S. competitive.” 

Bryson called on the NACIE council members to help develop policies that support the innovation needed to keep the U.S. competitive. Since its creation, NACIE has focused on key issues such as improving the commercialization of university research and access to capital to enable entrepreneurs and businesses to turn innovations into new products, new companies and new jobs. Bryson also wanted to discuss how the Department of Commerce can better leverage the expertise of the group and how to enable NACIE to take a broader role in public participation and thought leadership. Speech

President Obama Names Commerce Secretary John Bryson as Co-Chair of White House Office of Manufacturing Policy

President Obama today announced that Secretary John Bryson would join National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling as co-chair of the White House Office of Manufacturing Policy. The Office of Manufacturing Policy is part of the National Economic Council in the White House and works across federal government agencies to coordinate the execution of manufacturing programs and the development of manufacturing policy.

“At this make or break time for the middle class and our economy, we need a strong manufacturing sector that will put Americans back to work making products stamped with three proud words: Made in America,” said President Obama. “I am grateful that Secretary Bryson and Gene Sperling will head up this office to continue our efforts to revitalize this great American industry and fight for American workers and jobs.”

“John Bryson brings to this role decades of business leadership, a passion for manufacturing, and a strong understanding of its importance for jobs and our nation's economic competitiveness. He will play a key leadership role for the president and his economic team on these critical issues,” said Gene Sperling.

“Supporting the manufacturing sector will further our ability to innovate at home and compete around the world while generating more high-wage American jobs,” Secretary Bryson said. “Since day one, President Obama has been focused on supporting the entire United States manufacturing sector but especially small- and medium-sized businesses on the cutting edge of advanced manufacturing. We are introducing an ‘all hands on deck’ approach that coordinates all of our assets - public and private, federal, state, and regional.”

The White House Office of Manufacturing Policy will convene Cabinet-level meetings to aggressively implement the administration’s priority manufacturing initiatives. Release

Census Bureau Releases Most Up-to-Date Statistics for Every Community Nationwide

Data collected from the American Community Survey are used by transportation planners to improve roads and modes of transportation and reduce traffic congestion

The U.S. Census Bureau today released findings from the American Community Survey — the most relied-on source for detailed, up-to-date socio-economic statistics covering every community in the nation every year — for the combined years from 2006 to 2010.

Consisting of about 11 billion individual estimates and covering more than 670,000 distinct geographies, the five-year estimates give even the smallest communities timely information on more than 40 topics, such as educational attainment, income, occupation, commuting to work, language spoken at home, nativity, ancestry and selected monthly homeowner costs.

“These estimates are ideal for public officials to use to make key decisions,” Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said. “School boards will find them helpful in forecasting demand for classroom space, teachers and workforce training programs, and they will be a tremendous asset to planners in identifying traffic concerns and building roads and transit systems to ease commutes. Local governments will also find them useful in forecasting needs for services such as police and fire protection.”

Today's release is based on completed interviews with almost 2 million housing units each year from 2006 through 2010. By pooling several years of survey responses, the American Community Survey can generate detailed statistical portraits of smaller geographies. The Census Bureau issues new sets of these five-year estimates every year, permitting users to track trends in even the smallest of areas over time.

Visitors to the Census Bureau website can find their community's estimates in the American FactFinder database. Release

Economic Partnership with Saudi Arabia Will Help U.S. Expand Trade, Blank Tells Saudi Business Forum

Acting Deputy Secretary Blank addresses the U.S.-Saudi Business Opportunity Forum

On Tuesday, Acting Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank addressed the growing economic importance of Saudi Arabia at the U.S.-Saudi Business Opportunities Forum. In her remarks, Blank stressed the value of a U.S.-Saudi commercial relationship that benefits both Americans and Saudis.

Blank praised King Abdullah for the steps he has taken to encourage economic partnership with the U.S., citing greater public participation within the political system and the appointment of the first woman to lead Saudi Arabia’s education system. These political and social advancements have led to Saudi Arabia’s jump to 12th in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Survey, up from a rank of 64th only a few years ago. Saudi Arabia is committed to expanding and diversifying its economy beyond oil and into new knowledge-based industries, a commitment evidenced by over $750 billion of infrastructure investment to take place over the next five years.

In her speech, Blank reminded us that this progression within Saudi Arabia helps the U.S. expand trade and economic cooperation across our borders. As our 22nd largest market worldwide, Saudi Arabia’s rapidly expanding population and industrial base will continue to provide investment and employment opportunities for American citizens. Last year alone, Saudi Arabia supported more than 1,000 American companies, including some 500 small- and medium-sized businesses. Blank insisted that partnering with Saudi Arabia will be conducive to meeting President Obama’s National Export Initiative goal of doubling exports by the end of 2014.

A Year of Extreme Weather

Aerial view of Burlington, North Dakota inundated with flood waters from the Souris River on June 25, 2011

Guest blog post by Assistant Administrator for Weather Services and Director of the National Weather Service Dr. Jack Hayes

As the extreme weather year of 2011 comes to a close, I want to reflect back on this year’s events and look ahead at ways to reduce the devastating impacts of weather on our society.

Crippling snowstorms in the Northeast and Midwest, violent tornadoes in the South, massive river flooding in the Central U.S., Hurricane Irene in the mid-Atlantic, and the epic drought in the Southern Plains accompanied by heat waves and devastating wildfires in some areas have all combined to make this a record-breaking year.

This is the first year since NOAA began keeping records that 12 separate weather events each caused more than $1 billion in damage.   The real story is not the number of events, but the severity of the impacts. Total economic losses from these 12 events have reached nearly $52 billion, and there have been more than 1000 weather-related death this year.

Could some of these deaths have been prevented; could the economic losses be reduced?   I think so and that is why we have launched a new initiative to build a Weather-Ready Nation.  This effort is designed to improve America’s responsiveness to weather events with the ultimate goal of saving more lives and livelihoods.

Powerful NIST Detectors on Hawaiian Telescope to Probe Origins of Stars, Planets and Galaxies

A composite image of the Whirlpool Galaxy (also known as M51).

The world’s largest submillimeter camera—based on superconducting technology designed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)—is now ready to scan the universe, including faint and faraway parts never seen before.

Mounted on the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii, the NIST technology will help accelerate studies of the origins of stars, planets and galaxies.

The new 4.5-ton SCUBA-2 camera, which contains more than 10,000 of NIST's superconducting sensors, is far more sensitive than its predecessor SCUBA (the highly productive Submillimeter Common-Use Bolometer Array), and will enable astronomers to map the sky hundreds of times faster and with a much larger field of view. SCUBA-2 will produce better images and sky maps, image new targets, and support deeper and broader surveys.

The product of an international research collaboration, SCUBA-2 will image objects ranging from comets in the Earth’s solar system to galaxies at the far ends of the universe. The camera is sensitive to objects associated with very cold gas and dust clouds, which absorb visible light (and therefore look black to optical telescopes) but emit the barest whiffs of submillimeter radiation—at wavelengths below 1 millimeter, between the microwave and infrared bands. Submillimeter light oscillates at terahertz frequencies, hundreds of times faster than cell phones.

“The submillimeter is the last frontier in astronomical imaging,” says NIST physicist Gene Hilton, who developed the fabrication method for the NIST instrument. “It’s been very difficult to develop cameras that work at this wavelength, so the submillimeter is largely unexplored. We’re excited to see what SCUBA-2 will reveal.”  Watch this video on how NIST is making a difference in viewing young stars, planets and galaxies.  Release