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The Commerce Blog

NOAA’s Stunning Science On a Sphere® Now in 100 Locations Worldwide

Image of the Spehere

A glowing six-foot diameter sphere, suspended from the ceiling of NOAA headquarters in Silver Spring, Md., is the 100th Science On a Sphere® installed around the world. The 3-D display system, which was unveiled November 22, illuminates awe-inspiring animations of planet Earth and is used by educators, curators and scientists alike to explore global environmental data, such as swirling hurricanes, clouds and ocean currents. 

Science On a Sphere® (SOS) is seen by 33 million people annually in 15 countries, 27 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and American Samoa. Using computers and video projectors, the system displays planetary data on an opaque carbon fiber sphere, and presenters can draw from more than 400 annotated datasets to highlight weather observations, climate models, ocean acidification plus the latest solar system imagery.  Read more

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Visits iwis Motorsystems in Munich, Germany

Secretary Pritzker poses with members of iwis Motorsystems after a tour of the facilities

On her visit to Munich today, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Secretary Pritzker toured iwis Motorsystems, a family-owned company that is making investments and creating jobs in the United States. One key aspect of U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker’s “Open for Business Agenda” is the importance of attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) to the United States. A report recently released by the Department of Commerce and the Council of Economic Advisors found that foreign-owned companies employ 5.6 million people in the United States, so it is clear that FDI is a major driver to job creation and economic growth.

A “Mittelstand” (medium-sized) company, iwis is a leading supplier of automotive products used in a vast array of engines and vehicles, and has growing investments in the United States. The company has a production facility in Indianapolis, Indiana, and a subsidiary, iwis engine systems, in Troy, Michigan. Additionally, operations have recently begun at a new facility in Murray, Kentucky, to produce timing drive systems. This latest facility accounts for a $12.5 million investment and, when fully operational, will employ 75 people.

The Commerce Department’s SelectUSA program is working to attract even more of these job-creating investments. German firms like iwis are poised to make an even bigger impact in the United States – Germany sent one of the largest delegations to the SelectUSA Summit that President Obama and Secretary Pritzker hosted on Octover 31 – November 1. For 2012, FDI from Germany totaled more than $272 billion.

Secretary Pritzker Tours BMW Factory and Training Facilities in Germany

Groupf photo of Pritzker and apprentice training program students

Following the announcement of her strategic vision for the Department of Commerce last week, which includes a focus on ensuring that workers are prepared with the skills that employers need, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker today toured BMW's training facilities at their headquarters in Munich, Germany with CEO Dr. Norbert Reithofer and Head of Apprentice Training Jan Eggert.  

Secretary Pritzker went to BMW to learn more about how the company implements the German Dual System of Vocational training, through which students receive a technical degree at a local educational institution while simultaneously participating in on-the-job training. BMW has a unique apprenticeship program, which is currently training 4,500 apprentices worldwide with the skills the company anticipates it will need from future employees. BMW has spent 1.2 billion euros on professional development since 2007.

While the majority of BMW apprentices are located in Germany, the company is expanding its program internationally, including at their Spartanburg, South Carolina plant. BMW employs more than 7,000 workers in South Carolina, and they have 70 apprentices at the facility who they are training for BMW careers. The apprenticeship program in Spartanburg has been in place since 2011 and works with three local technical colleges. 

Secretary Pritzker has made skills development a top priority of the Commerce Department for the very first time, and is encouraging businesses to partner with local education institutions on programs that train high-quality workers for in-demand jobs. She will work closely with her counterparts, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, on these workforce training initiatives. BMW's model is one that can help inform these efforts.

NOAA: Much Colder Air In Store for Plains, Heavy Rain, Snow and Mixed Precipitation

Map of U.S. with temperature predictions

Arctic front will bring coldest weather so far this season

The Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued its annual winter outlook today through the National Weather Service. 

A cold front moving across the Plains will bring temperatures plummeting as much as 10-25 degrees below normal across much of the central and northern Plains on Thursday, as well as areas of heavy snow across parts of the Rockies and central Plains Thursday into Friday. Mixed precipitation is forecast for parts of the southern Plains into the Southwest, with heavy rain possible across the Desert Southwest. Read more For interactive map, visit http://www.weather.gov/.

NIST Investigation of Joplin, Mo., Tornado Details Proposed Measures for Saving Lives and Property

Destruction caused by the Joplin, Missouri, tornado that struck on May 22, 2011 causing 161 fatalities and more than 1,000 injuries. The tornado was the deadliest single tornado since official U.S. recordkeeping began in 1950.

The Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released a report today on the impacts of the May 22, 2011 tornado that struck Joplin, Mo. Nationally accepted standards for building design and construction, public shelters and emergency communications can significantly reduce deaths and the steep economic costs of property damage caused by tornadoes were among the key conclusions of the two-year technical investigation.

The recommendations are featured in a draft report issued for public comment today and announced at a press briefing held at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin. The NIST study is the first to scientifically assess the impact of a tornado in four major categories: tornado characteristics, building performance, human behavior and emergency communication—and the impact of each on life-safety, the ability to protect people from injury or death. It also is the first to recommend that standards and model codes be developed and adopted for designing buildings to better resist tornadoes.

The NIST report includes a number of recommendations for future research and development of technologies and strategies to advance tornado wind measurements, strengthen emergency communications, increase warning time, derive more accurate tornado hazard maps and significantly improve public response during tornado events.

NIST welcomes comments on the draft report and recommendations—available online at http://www.nist.gov/manuscript-publication-search.cfm?pub_id=914787 — which must be received by 5 p.m. Eastern Time on Monday, Jan. 6, 2014. Comments may be submitted via email todisaster[at]nist[dot]gov or mailed to NIST Technical Investigation Joplin, 100 Bureau Dr., Stop 8611, Gaithersburg, Md. 20899-8611.

Census Bureau Releases New Interactive Visualization of Jobs, Businesses and Other Key Economic Statistics

Census Bureau Releases New Interactive Visualization of Jobs, Businesses and Other Key Economic Statistics

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released a new interactive tool designed to visualize the key economic findings found in the statistical agency's most recent Business Dynamics Statistics report released in July. The Business Dynamics Statistics Visualization Tool spans four decades of information about America's economy - providing key insights on job creation and loss during the most recent recession. Economic measures such as employment, number of establishments and number of firms can be analyzed for a single year or multiple years from 1977 to 2011.

The tool has three major components: an interactive thematic map for the 50 states, interactive bar charts that give side-by-side comparisons of states and business sectors as well as time series data comparisons over a range of time.  It also is providing a new and easy way for users to look at key economic trends about America's economy by visualizing statistics over time.

In partnership with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the Census Bureau has produced annual data series for the Business Dynamics Statistics since 2008. For more information on the Business Dynamics Statistics program, go to <http://www.census.gov/ces/dataproducts/bds/>.

Guidance on how to use the visualization tool can be found at <http://www.census.gov/ces/dataproducts/bds/what_to_do_first.html>.

Other Economic Statistics Tools for Use

The Census Bureau's first mobile app, America's Economy, provides smartphone and tablet users with real-time releases of the economic statistics that drive decisions on employment, housing construction, international trade, retail sales and manufacturing, and are important tools for businesses, economists, planners and policymakers. For more information on the app, visit the mobile app home page.

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker Discusses "Open for Business Agenda" at Lake Shore Cryotronics in Ohio

Pritzker touring plant with Lakeshore Cryotronics officials

Secretary Penny Pritzker traveled to Westerville, Ohio yesterday to deliver a speech highlighting the Obama Administration’s economic growth agenda and the Department of Commerce’s priorities. Secretary Pritzker announced a new strategic vision for the Department, the “Open for Business Agenda,” November 14.  In Ohio, Secretary Pritzker toured and delivered remarks at Lake Shore Cryotronics, an international leader in the development of cryogenic temperature sensors and instrumentation.

Promoting trade and investment is a major part of Secretary Pritzker’s “Open for Business Agenda.” Nationwide, America’s businesses are exporting: the United States hit a record $2.2 trillion dollars in exports last year, up $600 billion dollars from 2009 when President Obama launched his National Export Initiative. Lake Shore Cryotronics, for example, generates 60 percent of sales from exports. Nearly 10 million U.S. jobs are now supported by exports, up 1.3 million since 2009. But the United States still under-exports, which is why the Secretary is gearing up to launch NEI 2.0, which will aim to help more U.S. companies sell their goods and services to more markets around the world.

In order to achieve greater economic growth and create more good jobs, Secretary Pritzker talked about the need to attract more foreign investment to the United States. According to Columbus 2020, an economic development organization for the 11-county Columbus Region, about 39,000 people in Central Ohio are employed by foreign-owned companies. But as of 2011, 5.6 million jobs nationwide million jobs are supported by foreign direct investment, supporting $437.8 billion in wages to U.S. employees. Global businesses want to be here in the United States because of our stable rule of law, intellectual property protections, solid financial markets, world-class universities, strong consumer base, and our low-cost and abundant energy. That is why President Obama launched SelectUSA at the Commerce Department in 2011. SelectUSA has been working with foreign CEOs and economic development groups across the country to put even more deals in the pipeline.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Selects San Jose City Hall as Permanent Space for Silicon Valley Satellite Office

View of exterior of City Hall (credit: Atsuke)

Today, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced that the San Jose City Hall building will be the permanent location for the USPTO’s Silicon Valley satellite office, and is scheduled to open by the end of 2014.

The selection of a permanent USPTO office in the Silicon Valley is a key part of the Commerce Department and Obama administration’s efforts to strengthen American innovation. As a driver of U.S. competitiveness and job growth, promoting and strengthening innovation is a major priority in U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker’s “Open for Business Agenda,” which was launched last week.

The USPTO plays a vital role in helping protect cutting-edge, American ideas that drive our economy and keep the U.S. globally competitive. The satellite offices specifically advance the Department’s innovation agenda by helping entrepreneurs get their products to market more quickly, provide tailored resources to local start-ups and industries, and create good paying, high-skilled jobs.

Secretary Pritzker Outlines Bold Policy Agenda Focused on U.S. Trade and Investment, Innovation, and Data

Secretary Pritzker Outlines Bold Policy Agenda Focused on U.S. Trade and Investment, Innovation, and Data

Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker today outlined a bold new policy agenda for the Department of Commerce, centered on U.S. trade and investment, innovation, and data.  This “Open for Business” Agenda reflects the department’s role as the voice of business, and the Obama Administration’s focus on economic growth and job creation. Additionally, this new vision recognizes the demands of a globally competitive economy.

Among the new initiatives Secretary Pritzker announced are a revitalized National Export Initiative, an enhanced and expanded program to attract foreign investment, a first-of-its-kind, Commerce effort to ensure skills training programs meet industry needs, and a focus on public-private partnerships that enable businesses and communities to make better use of government data.

Secretary Pritzker also committed to leading a robust environmental agenda at Commerce, and to ensuring that operational excellence and public accountability are top priorities of departmental leadership. 

Watch Secretary Pritzker Unveil Her New Strategic Vision and Top Priorities for the Department of Commerce

Please tune in today, as U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker unveils her new strategic vision and top priorities for the Department of Commerce in a speech at 1776 in Washington, D.C.

The event will be webcast below. You can follow the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #OpenForBusiness.

Shortly after the event, Secretary Pritzker will take questions via Facebook from 12:15-12:45 pm Eastern time. We encourage you to participate by visiting the Department of Commerce’s official Facebook page and asking her a question about the Department’s priorities and the Obama administration’s efforts to spur economic growth and job creation.