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Secretary Pritzker Discusses the Power of Government Data and Announces the Department of Commerce Will Hire Its First-Ever Chief Data Officer

Announces the Department of Commerce Will Hire Its First-Ever Chief Data Officer

Today, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker discussed the Department of Commerce’s expanding role as “America’s Data Agency” at the 2014 Esri International User’s Conference in San Diego, California. The annual conference, hosted by Esri, a geographic information systems (GIS) software development company is attended by 16,000 data experts, including those from federal, state, local, and regional governments; Fortune 1000 companies; small business owners; university scholars; and K-12 teachers. 

During her address, Secretary Pritzker described how the Department of Commerce’s data collection – which literally reaches from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun – not only informs trillions of dollars of private and public investments each year and plants the seeds of economic growth, but also saves lives. Because of Commerce Department data, Secretary Pritzker explained, communities vulnerable to tornados have seen warning times triple and tornado warning accuracy double over the past 25 years, giving residents greater time to search for shelter in the event of an emergency. The breadth of the Department’s data collection and dissemination, which touches of the lives of millions of Americans every day, is why many, including Secretary Pritzker call the Department of Commerce “America’s Data Agency.”

To develop and implement a vision for the next phase in the open data revolution, Secretary Pritzker announced that the Department of Commerce will hire its first-ever Chief Data Officer. This leader, Secretary Pritzker explained, will oversee improvements to data collection and dissemination in order to ensure that Commerce’s data programs are coordinated, comprehensive, and strategic. To bolster the Chief Data Officer’s efforts, Secretary Pritzker explained that the Department will create a data advisory council, which will be comprised of private sector leaders who will advise the Department on how to best use and unleash more government data.

Secretary Pritzker also announced the launch of the International Trade Administration’s “Developer Portal,” which will centralize data that is vital to exporting businesses across the country. Finally, Secretary Pritzker invited conference attendees to participate in a panel discussion later in the week in San Diego on how businesses can best utilize data from the American Community Survey (ACS), an annual statistical survey that helps guide $400 billion in federal spending each year.

New Commerce Department report explores huge benefits, low cost of government data

Fostering Innovation, Creating Jobs, Driving Better Decisions: The Value of Government Data

Cross post by Mark Doms, Under Secretary for Economic Affairs

Today we are pleased to roll out an important new Commerce Department report on government data. “Fostering Innovation, Creating Jobs, Driving Better Decisions: The Value of Government Data,” arrives as our society increasingly focuses on how the intelligent use of data can make our businesses more competitive, our governments smarter, and our citizens better informed. 

And when it comes to data, as the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs, I have a special appreciation for the Commerce Department’s two preeminent statistical agencies, the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis. These agencies inform us on how our $17 trillion economy is evolving and how our population (318 million and counting) is changing, data critical to our country. Although “Big Data” is all the rage these days, the government has been in this  business for a long time: the first Decennial Census was in 1790, gathering information on close to four million people, a huge dataset for its day, and not too shabby by today’s standards as well. 

Just how valuable is the data we provide? Our report seeks to answer this question by exploring the range of federal statistics and how they are applied in decision-making. Examples of our data include gross domestic product, employment, consumer prices, corporate profits, retail sales, agricultural supply and demand, population, international trade and much more.

Introducing ITA’s Trade Developer Portal

ITA's Trade Developer Portal.

Cross post by Kimberly Becht, Deputy Program Manager for Web Presence in the International Trade Administration.

In support of President Obama’s Open Government Initiative and the Commerce Department’s strategic plan, the International Trade Administration (ITA) has taken a major step in making its data open and accessible to the public through its Trade Developer Portal.

Announced today by Secretary Pritzker, the portal is a collection of application programming interfaces (APIs) that allow software developers to create web and mobile applications using information produced by ITA and other trade promotion agencies.

Making its data public to software developers is one more way ITA is helping U.S. businesses export and enabling foreign investment in American companies through the use of cutting edge technologies.

The Trade Developer Portal helps fulfill the Department’s top priority of making federal data open and available to third party developers in order to foster economic growth.

Currently, the developer portal includes:

  • access to information about trade events;
  • market research;
  • trade leads;
  • locations of domestic and international export assistance centers; and
  • trade news and articles.

Our developer portal can help developers show country-specific pages based on U.S. government data.

Over the next few months, we plan to add APIs around business opportunities, tariff information for goods and services covered under Free Trade Agreements, and frequent questions asked by exporters. We are continuously adding and enriching data sets with the long-term goal of sharing all publicly disseminated information produced by ITA and other trade promotion agencies.

Through the portal, we will engage developers by showcasing applications, providing access to our data owners, and soliciting input to help us improve the quality of public data. The picture on the left is just one example of what can be done using the information currently available in our Trade Developer Portal.

If you have any questions about the portal or need assistance using our APIs, please let us know.  We are excited to partner with you in the next phase of the open data revolution!

Five Things Small Businesses Should Know About Export Control Reform

Small businesses are growing at unprecedented rates. They employ about half – 55 million – of the nation’s private workforce and account for 99.7% percent of all employers in the U.S. Through exporting, they have the opportunity to grow even more: two-thirds of the world’s purchasing power is in foreign countries. In a 2013 survey of 500 small business owners, the National Small Business Association (NSBA) found that 63% of participants who did not already export said that they would be interested in doing so, but cited lack of information on exporting as an obstacle for small businesses.

In 2009, President Obama launched the Export Control Reform (ECR) initiative, a significant effort aimed at enhancing our national and economic security through reform of the export control system—a system that had not been comprehensively updated in decades. The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) administers export controls for commercial and some military commodities and technologies. Now, the President’s ECR initiative is transferring tens of thousands of less sensitive military items from the State Department’s jurisdiction to the more flexible Commerce regulations. Most are parts and components; many are manufactured by small businesses. Moving these items to Commerce benefits small businesses because BIS’s regulations allow for more nuanced distinctions among technologies, destinations, and end users than the State Department’s regulations.

  Here are five things small businesses should know about ECR:

  1. Who is affected? ECR affects second and third tier small and medium suppliers in the defense industry. These sectors include aerospace, military vehicles, marine vessels, space, satellites, and electronics.
  2. ECR eases the financial burden: Currently, exporters subject to the State Department’s International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) pay $250 per license to the State Department, even to export an item that sells for $200. In addition, all manufacturers and exporters have to pay a minimum registration fee of $2,250 per year, even if they don’t export. Commerce, however, is prohibited by statute from charging licensing and registration fees. For an estimated 60% of former State Department registrants whose products are moving to the Commerce Department then, there are no annual registration requirements or associated fees. This directly affects the bottom line.
  3. More flexible regulations: License Exception Strategic Trade Authorization (STA) establishes a license-free zone covering the first export transaction for many parts and components that have been transferred to Commerce. STA provides small businesses with an opportunity to ship license-free to 36 countries, so long as certain safeguards are observed.
  4. How can ECR help you? ECR helps small businesses by increasing the security of supply from small companies that are the second and third tier suppliers, facilitating timely and reliable supplier relationships between U.S. exporters and their foreign customer base, and enhancing their long-term health and competitiveness.
  5. Resources: BIS recognizes that this transition requires considerable outreach and education to affected industries. This is why we work with non-profit educational groups representing small defense exporters, conduct weekly ECR conference calls open industries and companies, and have added interactive tools to our website to help U.S. companies comply with the new regulations under the ECR initiative. In addition, we provide free counseling via phone (Washington DC:  202-482-4811; BIS Western Regional Office:  949-660-0144 and 408-998-8806). We host 30 seminars and events annually, and the BIS website also has a variety of online tools and resources in our Exporter Portal.

Improving Resilience by Building a Weather-Ready Nation

NOAA GOES East image of Hurricane Katrina, August 2005

NOAA's mission of reducing loss of life, property, and the disruption from high impact weather and water-related events has existed since its inception.  However, in recent years the significant societal impacts resulting even from well forecast extreme events have shifted the attention toward better decision support services for communities, businesses, and the public -- decisions ranging from years in advance such as coastal community planning to mitigate impacts from rising sea level, to farmers minimizing impacts from drought heading into growing season, to immediate lifesaving decisions such as a family seeking adequate shelter after their NOAA Weather Radio alerts them to a tornado warning.  

To this end, NOAA is committed to building a "Weather-Ready Nation" where society is prepared for and responds appropriately to these events. The Weather-Ready Nation strategic priority is about building community resilience in the face of increasing vulnerability to extreme weather, water, climate, and environmental threats.  NOAA also recognizes it is essential to work collaboratively with external stakeholders across all levels of government, industry, nonprofits, and academia.  In February, 2014, NOAA launched the Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador initiative to recognize organizations committed to working with NOAA and contributing to a Weather-Ready Nation.

What can you do?

  • Know your risk: Hurricanes, droughts, tornadoes, snowstorms, flooding – severe weather impacts every part of the country. The first step to becoming weather-ready is to understand the type of hazardous weather that can affect where you live and work, and how the weather could impact you and your family. 
  • Take action: Be Force of Nature by making sure that you and your family are prepared for severe weather. This includes creating a disaster supplies kit and making sure that you can receive emergency messages.
  • Be an example: Be a positive influence on your community by sharing your weather preparedness story. Be a Force of Nature by letting your friends and family know what you did to become weather-ready.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Visits Shanghai Ahead of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Visits Shanghai Ahead of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue

This week, U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker traveled to China, where she made a stop in Shanghai ahead of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) starting today in Beijing. At a roundtable with American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai on Tuesday, Secretary Pritzker met with a number of CEOs and business leaders from companies doing work in China. They discussed the business climate in China and ways the Department of Commerce can be effective in helping companies expand opportunities in China. Secretary Pritzker also discussed her visit to the Shanghai Free Trade Zone on Monday, as well as the upcoming S&ED and what she hoped would get accomplished during the upcoming talks.

Secretary Pritzker also met with the Commercial Service Officers at the consulate in Shanghai. The Commercial Service (CS), part of the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration (ITA), plays a vital role in helping American companies start exporting or expand their reach into international markets. CS helps U.S. businesses overcome trade barriers, find global business opportunities and partners, and attract investment to U.S. shores.

As part of President Obama’s deliberate decision to deepen U.S. engagement with Asia, Secretary Pritzker has been working to strengthen commercial ties with the region. In April, she delivered remarks at the John Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), outlining the Administration’s focus on strengthening the U.S.-Asia economic relationship. There, she also announced ITA’s plans to expand its presence in fast-growing markets in Asia and Africa and to open offices in five new countries, including its first in Burma. Then last month, Secretary Pritzker led a commercial diplomacy mission to Vietnam, the Philippines and Burma in conjunction with a delegation of U.S. CEOs and the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council, underscoring U.S. government support for high-level private sector engagement in the Asia-Pacific region. This week’s trip to China builds on these efforts to promote U.S. businesses and strengthen economic ties in the Asia-Pacific region.

Looking for Economic Information on Coastal Areas? Visit BEA’s Website

Recreational boats parked in a marina

How much economic activity is generated by a state in a coastal area? How much do people living in coastal areas earn?

A visit to BEA’s Economic Information for Coastal Areas section on its website provides you with that information – and much more.

You can get details on the sources of personal income, such as wages and salaries, how much income came from investments and how much came from transfer benefits such as unemployment checks and Social Security benefits. This information is available for coastal states and for coastal counties. You can also find out how much income per person was generated in coastal counties and states.

You also can find out earnings generated by people working in different industries for coastal states and coastal counties. For instance, you can look up earnings for people employed in fishing, hunting and trapping. Or for those employed in oil and gas extraction, food manufacturing or transportation. That information also is available on a state and county level.

Business owners and entrepreneurs can use BEA’s coastal economic statistics to help them make more informed decisions about investing and hiring in those areas.

The site, launched two years ago, stems from a joint project with the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Commerce's NIST to Host Next Meeting on Developing a Collaborative Nationwide Disaster Resilience Framework

Disaster Resilience Workshop

As part of President Obama's Climate Action Plan, Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is leading a collaborative nationwide effort to develop a framework that U.S. communities can use to prepare for, resist, respond to, and recover from hazard events more rapidly and at a lower cost. 

On July 30, NIST will host the second in a series of regional workshops devoted to developing a community-centric "disaster resilience framework" to minimize the impacts of hazards and quickly restore vital functions and services in the aftermath of disasters.  

The workshop will begin with a session on resilience lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy, the 2012 "superstorm" that affected many states along the Atlantic seaboard. Sandy killed more than 150 people, caused an estimated $65 billion in damage, and left millions without power for extended periods. The devastation also underscored the complex web of interdependencies and vulnerabilities of buildings and infrastructure systems.

In breakout sessions, participants will help to develop sections of the framework, which will focus on communities, buildings, and infrastructure lifelines. Topics will include buildings and facilities, transportation systems, energy systems, communication and information systems, water and wastewater systems, and social vulnerabilities.

NIST seeks input from a broad array of stakeholders, including planners, designers, facility owners and users, government officials, utility owners, regulators, standards and model code developers, insurers, trade and professional associations, disaster response and recovery groups, and researchers.

Secretary Pritzker Discusses Fostering a 21st Century Workforce with Walter Isaacson at the 2014 Aspen Ideas Festival

Today, at the 2014 Aspen Ideas Festival, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker spoke about the Obama Administration and the Commerce Department’s efforts to strengthen the American workforce and prepare our workforce for 21st century jobs through skills development. She discussed these efforts with Walter Isaacson, President and CEO of the Aspen Institute, during an armchair discussion titled “21st Century Workforce.”

Since taking office a year ago, Secretary Pritzker has spoken to over a thousand business leaders and more than one-third of Fortune 500 CEOs, and one of the top concerns that they have shared is finding the right workers to fill available jobs. To ensure the economy’s long term competitiveness, the United States must maintain a strong workforce with the skills that businesses need. That is why the Department of Commerce is making workforce development a top priority for the first time ever.

In her discussion with Isaacson, Secretary Pritzker talked about some of the initiatives that the Commerce Department is leading to equip the American workforce with skills for jobs in thriving industries. For example, the Department recently launched a membership call for the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE), an advisory council that will assists the Department in finding new approaches to industry-led skills training. This spring, Secretary Pritzker also joined President Obama and Vice President Biden to announce a combined $600 million in Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) and apprenticeship grants, which will enable a number of communities to train workers for challenging careers in growing American industries, such as advanced manufacturing, IT, and healthcare.

The Fourth of July, 2014: Independence Day

The Fourth of July 2014

As we celebrate this Independence Day, we reflect on how America's Founders enshrined the importance of statistics in our Constitution as a vital tool for measuring our people, places and economy. Since 1790, the U.S. Census has been much more than a simple head count; it has charted the growth and composition of our nation. The questions have evolved over time to address our changing needs. Today, the 10-year census, the economic census and the American Community Survey give Congress and community leaders the information they need to make informed decisions that shape our democracy. These statistics are how we know how our country is doing.

On this day in 1776, the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence, setting the 13 colonies on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation. As always, this most American of holidays will be marked with red, white and blue flags, fireworks, parades and backyard barbecues across the country.

For fascinating figures on the Fourth’s fireworks, flags, cookouts, historical facts on the Declaration of Independence and more, see the Census Bureau’s Facts for Features.