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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.

Providing Information for Emergency Preparedness as Arthur Approaches

Providing Information for Emergency Preparedness as Arthur Approaches

Cross-post, U.S. Census Bureau's Director's Blog by John H. Thompson

As many Americans begin to prepare for Hurricane Arthur this week, the Census Bureau’s OnTheMap for Emergency Management tool helps provide federal, state and local officials and emergency planners with the information they may need about communities in the projected path of the storm.

OnTheMap for Emergency Management is a Web-based resource that provides a live view of selected emergencies in the U.S., 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It automatically incorporates real-time updates from federal sources so users can view the potential effects of Tropical Storm Arthur (and other disasters) on the U.S. population and workforce.

Through OnTheMap for Emergency Management, the Census Bureau provides information not just on the number of people affected, but also provides useful information on some of their characteristics (for example, whether they are 65 or older) and their work (such as their employment patterns). Following Super Storm Sandy, New Jersey planners were able to estimate the volume of traffic in effected areas.

As the storm continues to develop, the Census Bureau will work closely with our federal partners to make sure they have the information they need.

For those of you preparing for the storm, you can find hurricane safety tips at www.ready.gov/hurricanes. Visit the National Hurricane Center for the latest Arthur forecasts and remember to follow the National Weather Service for active alerts.

Lutheran Services in America Works to Strengthen Local Communities

Charlotte Haberaecker, President and CEO of Lutheran Services in America (LSA)

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Commerce in the Community series highlighting the work of community leaders and organizations that are strengthening the middle class and providing ladders of opportunity for all Americans.

Below is an interview with Charlotte Haberaecker, President and CEO of Lutheran Services in America (LSA), one of the nation’s largest health and human services networks. Prior to joining LSA in 2012, Charlotte was the number-two executive at Global Impact, a $110 million non-profit organization that provides funding for critical humanitarian needs at home and around the world. Previously, she held senior leadership positions at Price Waterhouse where she directed a management consulting practice and Fannie Mae where she led an industry transformation initiative. 

Q1: Tell us about Lutheran Services in America. What is your mission and main focus?

Lutheran Services in America (www.lutheranservices.org) is one of the largest health and human services networks in the country. Our more than 300 members provide a broad range of critical services from health care to children and family services, senior services, disaster relief, refugee services, disability support, housing, and employment support, among others.  Collectively, LSA members touch the lives of 1 in 50 Americans each year in thousands of communities across the United States.

Ranked at #25 on the Philanthropy 400, the LSA network represents close to $21 billion in combined annual revenues in the U.S. Our members employ close to 250,000 people in all 50 states and parts of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Our members provide services to all, regardless of their religious affiliation, race, or social or economic background.

LSA works to ensure our members’ resilience in an increasingly evolving environment. Our newly revised mission is to “build valuable connections, amplify our voices and empower our members,” and our vision is a network of “connected, strong and thriving” members that “transform the lives of people and communities.” A distinguishing characteristic of our network is the deep trust and sharing that come from a shared set of values and goals. Our network strives to help people become self-sufficient so they can lead more independent, secure and higher quality lives. The deep trust facilitates rapid innovation and scale.

We help our members to build resilience through specialized programming for CEOs and executives; we also work to help build the capacity and infrastructure of our member organizations, for example by exploring new business models that can create more sustainable revenue streams. We also find opportunities for our 307 members to work together to achieve outcomes they couldn’t achieve on their own so they can grow and continue to serve their communities for generations to come.

NIST’s Net-Zero House Provides All Energy Needs for Family, Saving Thousands in Utilities

Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility (NZERTF) in the snow

The net-zero energy test house at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in suburban Washington, D.C., not only absorbed winter's best shot, it came out on top, reaching its one-year anniversary on July 1 with enough surplus energy to power an electric car for about 1,440 miles.*

The 2,700 square-foot (252-square-meter) test house is built to U.S. Green Building Council LEED Platinum standards—the highest standard for sustainable structures. Its features include energy-efficient construction and appliances, as well as energy-generating technologies, such as solar water heating and a solar photovoltaic system.

Despite 38 days when the test house's solar panels were covered with snow or ice, the Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility's (NZERTF) sun-powered generation system produced 13,577 kilowatt hours of energy. That's 491 kilowatt hours more than used by the house and its occupants, a computer-simulated family of two working parents and two children, ages 8 and 14.

In terms of energy consumed per unit of living space—a measure of energy-use intensity—the NIST test house is calculated to be almost 70 percent more efficient than the average house in Washington, D.C., and nearby states.

In relation to cost, the NZERTF's virtual residents saved $4,373 in electricity payments, or $364 a month. However, front-end costs for solar panels, added insulation, triple-paned windows, and other technologies and upgrades aimed at achieving net-zero energy performance are sizable, according to an analysis by NIST economist Joshua Kneifel.