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The Commerce Blog

Creating Jobs For All Americans

Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Logo

In the 2011 State of the Union address, President Obama asked every American to take steps to ‘Win the Future’ by out-innovating, out-educating and out-building our global competitors.

The Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) of the United States Department of Commerce is the only federal agency tasked to create new jobs by expanding the U.S. economy though the nation’s 5.8 million minority-owned and operated businesses. The minority business community accounts for over $1 trillion in economic output to the nation and provides nearly six million jobs for U.S. citizens.

MBDA experienced record performance in 2010. The Agency created 6,397 new jobs by assisting minority-owned companies in obtaining nearly $4 billion in contracts and capital, an historic high. During the first two years of the Obama Administration, MBDA created nearly 11,000 new jobs and saved tens of thousands of existing jobs while helping minority-owned firms obtain nearly $7 billion in contracts and capital. In FY 2010, MBDA’s Return on Investment (ROI) was 125x, up from 102x in 2009 and from 70x at the end of the prior administration. This speaks to the increased operating efficiency of the agency during this Administration.

MBDA Opens New Business Center in Cleveland

Director Hinson and officials shown with presentation check

Cleveland is the home of the U.S. Commerce Department’s Minority Business Development Agency’s (MBDA) newest business center. On Thursday, Sept. 1, more than 250 people turned out for the Cleveland MBDA Business Center’s grand opening and press conference held at the Wyndham Hotel.

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, (D-Ohio) delivered remarks; and Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson presented a proclamation recognizing the center’s role in the city.

MBDA National Director David Hinson delivered remarks to the crowd, challenging business owners to take advantage of the new opportunities that will be available through the business center in creating access to capital, contracts and markets.

The $1,125,000 five-year federal grant check was presented to center operator Andrew Jackson, Senior V. P. and Executive Director of the Commission on Economic Inclusion, Greater Cleveland Partnership.

Following the open house and tour of the center, a select group of minority business owners and key economic development stakeholders were invited to a White House Business Roundtable, where business owners shared in a candid conversation about their issues and concerns.

Director Hinson challenged business owners to consider what their companies specifically need to create “one more job.”  

MBDA Business Centers assist minority entrepreneurs with strategic business consulting services. Centers work directly with minority business owners and managers at the local level and provide enhanced assistance through MBDA’s national strategic partners, both within the federal government and the private sector.  

The White House's National Science and Technology Council Recognizes NIST and USPTO for Open Innovation Efforts

The White House's National Science and Technology Council Recognized Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for their open innovation efforts [PDF]. NIST's efforts to encourage market transparency and USPTO's leadership in public/private data access have the potential to scale within and across Federal agencies through interagency policy and implementation groups. By leading in this open government initiative, NIST and USPTO set the stage for entrepreneurs to out-innovate our international competitors and win the future.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office was recognized for its efforts in democratizing government data, supporting President Obama's initiatives to usher in a new era in which the gap between the American people and their government would close. USPTO initially faced some problems in its effort to publish its data online in a free and open format. The Office had traditionally been providing data through a paid subscription service. It also didn't have funding for technology to publish information online in an open format that could easily be retrieved, downloaded, indexed and searched by commonly used web search applications.

The USPTO opted to partner with Google in a no-cost agreement in which Google agreed to disseminate USPTO's bulk electronic patent and trademark data to the public at no charge. The electronic data includes images and text of patent grants and published applications, trademark applications, patent classification information and patent and trademark assignments.

In the end, nearly two terabytes of data, representing patent and trademark data back to 1790, is now available to the public free of charge on Google, with some 13GB of new data added weekly.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology also received recognition for its efforts in encouraging market transparency with its ongoing coordination of standards for the Smart Grid, the next-generation U.S power grid currently under development. After being called upon by Congress in 2007 to take responsibility for this task, NIST, in collaboration with the Department of Energy, faced the challenge of ensuring the myriad products and services that could connect to the Smart Grid would be able to operate together seamlessly.

Hurricane Irene: NOAA’s Efforts Before, During and After

Hurricane Irene as it makes landfall in North Carolina on August 27, 2011

Hurricane season for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is much more than just naming hurricanes. Even before Irene became the first hurricane of the season, NOAA was tracking her. Things kicked into high gear when Irene formed as a hurricane and appeared headed for landfall.

BEFORE

On Tuesday, August 23rd, NOAA forecasters began tracking and forecasting the track of the recently declared Hurricane Irene as it entered the southeastern Bahamas. As it turned out, this track forecast was remarkably accurate. The 48-hour error for Irene was 20 percent better than the 5-year average, and during the time that watches and warning were in effect for the United States, the average 48-hour track error was half of what it would have been 15 years ago. NOAA has a video of the accuracy of the prediction. The accuracy of this forecast is due to the guidance from the forecast model, advances in satellite-based observations and supercomputers, as well as the regular surveillance missions of the NOAA Gulfstream-IV beginning on August 23rd, allowing NOAA forecasters to watch the development of the storm.

On Friday, August 26th, NOAA and the University of Oklahoma deployed  two state-of-the-art mobile radar instrumented vehicles in North Carolina to intercept Hurricane Irene. These vehicles were equipped with dual-polarization technology that provided more accurate estimates of precipitation type and amount. This was also the first hurricane for the National Science Foundation-funded Rapid X-Scan X-band dual polarized radar which is sensitive enough to detect cloud particles. By using these mobile radar instruments, NOAA was able to compare three different radars scanning for three different features of the storm, giving NOAA scientists valuable data about hurricanes and their rainfall characteristics.

On August 26th and 27th, NOAA provided people in the projected path of the Hurricane with an accurate picture of the impact the Hurricane. In order to battle what NOAA calls “hurricane amnesia,” they released warnings about the dangers of inland flooding so as to advise people not to discount the power of the storm. This is part of NOAA’s broader effort to create a ‘Weather-Ready Nation,’ a strategic plan organized by the National Weather Service to increase the public’s knowledge of different environmental and weather related phenomena.

DURING

Listening to Local Businesses in South Carolina

Under Secretary Nancy Potok tours South Carolina MTU, a German-owned diesel engine company with plant manager Jeorge Klisch.

Guest blog post by Nancy Potok, Commerce Deputy Under Secretary, Economics and Statistics Administration

In the heart of South Carolina’s picturesque horse community, I sat down at the Aiken County Chamber of Commerce to begin the first of two White House Business Council roundtable discussions with local business owners in Aiken and Columbia, S.C.  These discussions, focused on rural communities during the month of August, are designed to provide an intimate forum for local businesses to discuss the obstacles they face in creating jobs and growing their businesses. 

Attending that discussion, along with about 20 others was Jeorge Klisch, the plant manager of MTU, a German-owned diesel engine company formerly known as “Detroit Diesel” that has been located in Aiken about a year.  Earlier that morning I took a tour of MTU’s state of the art facility located about twelve miles outside Aiken in the once thriving manufacturing community of Graniteville, S.C.. Having grown up in Detroit with the required elementary school field trip to an automotive plant, I was expecting a hot, loud and oil covered environment.  In contrast, MTU was temperature controlled, clean and high tech.  During the tour, Klitsch shared with me their plans to  bring another 200 jobs to the Aiken area, the need for a skilled workforce, and his efforts to collaborate with surrounding area high schools and technical colleges to adjust their curriculum and support his “ work and learn” initiative that will help fill MTU’s future  need for engineers and technicians.  I noticed an absence of women in the workplace, but before I asked about it, Klisch said he want to dispel myths held by women about manufacturing jobs and plans to focus on introducing young women and girls to manufacturing, where they are significantly underrepresented at MTU.  MTU exports about 50 percent of its products and has invested more than $77 million in this new site with plans for expansion and increased production.  Very impressive and a great indication of the growth potential in the Aiken area.

BEA Computes that Rural America Personal Income Did Better than Urban America in 2009

Image of combine in a field (Photo: U.S. Census Bureau)

Guest blog post by Steve Landefeld, Director of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Off the top of your head, it probably seems obvious that the economies of America’s major cities differ structurally and behaviorally from our nation’s nonmetropolitan and rural areas, right? You are correct, indeed! But the really interesting question is, What can you learn about this from the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis?  BEA measures our regional economies in several ways, including GDP by State, GDP by Metropolitan Area, State Personal Income, Metropolitan Area Personal Income and County Personal Income (AKA: Local Area Personal Income).

To understand the differences between the big, metropolitan areas and the rural parts of the country, your best bet is to turn to BEA’s Local Area Personal Income which details earnings in all 3,143 counties in the U.S.

Technically speaking, nonmetropolitan counties are those that are not part of a metropolitan statistical area, or MSA, as defined by the Office of Management and Budget.  Population in these counties is generally less than 50,000 people. There are 2,032 nonmetropolitan counties in the U.S., almost twice the number of metropolitan counties.  Of course, not all nonmetropolitan areas are rural, nor are all rural areas excluded from official designated metropolitan areas.  Another important consideration is commuting patterns, certainly plenty of Americans live in areas which may be rural, but drive into MSAs to work which intertwines these economies. (What, you thought we’d make it that easy?)

Largest-ever EDA Grant Helps To Revitalize Downtown Cedar Rapids & Create Jobs Following Iowa Floods

Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank and Other Officials Break Ground on the Cedar Rapids Convention Center

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank joined U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, Mayor Ron Corbett and U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development John Fernandez in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, this week to see how federal funds are making a difference following historic floods that ravaged the city and its economy in 2008.

With the help of a $35 million grant–the largest Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) has ever awarded –the city is building a new $75.6 million Convention Complex that will serve as a major catalyst for further economic development and investment in the city–creating hundreds of jobs and leveraging millions in private investment. The 435,000 sq. ft. complex will be the second-largest convention and events center in the state upon its completion in the spring of 2013.

Iowa continues to recover from the economic impact of the floods, which interrupted major manufacturing operations, devastated downtown commercial districts, and damaged or destroyed public infrastructure. The Obama administration continues to invest in rebuilding efforts to strengthen local economies across Iowa. More than $1 billion in federal assistance has been awarded to the state to support flood recovery efforts.

Prior to a groundbreaking ceremony for the complex, Blank and Fernandez visited Ovation Networks, a local wireless technology company that was displaced by the flooding in downtown Cedar Rapids. There they announced a new $2.9 million grant to the East Central Iowa Council of Governments to provide additional business assistance and gap financing to companies still recovering from the floods. Three years ago, the Council received $1.5 million from EDA, which they used to assist local businesses like Ovation Networks to rebuild and return to the downtown area.  |  Release  |  Convention Center remarks  |  Ovation Networks remarks 

Six Cities, Ten Days and Hundreds of Businesses

Sanchez is on a tour of a manufacturing facility

Guest blog post by Francisco Sánchez, Under Secretary for International Trade, International Trade Administration

From Los Angeles to Las Vegas and Albuquerque to Walnut Creek, I spent last week traversing the Southwestern United States talking to small businesses, textile manufacturers, exporters and rural communities about the positive impact exporting has on our economic stability and potential to put people back to work.

During this trip, I met with leaders from more than 150 businesses to discuss President Obama’s National Export Initiative and how important it is for small- and medium-sized businesses to expand their markets through exporting. I also reinforced the importance of leveraging the public-private partnerships that will foster investment, support communities and assist rural businesses to succeed, expand and create jobs.

In New Mexico, I spoke to businesses about the importance of the APEC economies, which have generated nearly 200 million new jobs and 70 percent of overall global economic growth during the past decade. APEC members increasingly represent the global economy of the 21st century.

Acting Secretary Blank Announces $1.5 Million Economic Recovery Investment in Louisiana on 6th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

Map of Louisiana

U.S. Commerce Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank today announced a $1.5 million Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant to the South Central Planning and Development Commission (SCPDC) of Houma, La., to expand emergency command center operations at the Regional Center for Economic Development and Innovation.

Six years after Hurricane Katrina descended on the Gulf Coast, leading to the devastation of parts of Louisiana, the Commission has developed a new permitting and code enforcement software system that enables digital imaging of buildings to allow city reviewers to electronically monitor buildings instead of having to track down and review paper plans, which hindered the city's ability to inspect buildings for structural damage after the hurricanes. Funding will support the new system, which will increase the efficiency of building inspections following disasters, speeding up the rebuilding process.

“The Obama Administration remains deeply committed to recovery efforts in the Gulf Coast and helping those affected rebuild their communities to be stronger and more resilient than ever before,” Blank said. “This EDA grant is just one of many ways this administration is helping to bring innovation and growth back to the Gulf to advance the region’s economic recovery.”

Gulf Coast communities have been hit hard in recent years, but Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida have made significant progress toward recovery since President Obama took office, with help from agencies across the Federal government. The U.S. Commerce Department has invested millions of dollars to jumpstart economic and job growth in the Gulf and has accelerated efforts since President Obama took office. Release

Acting Commerce Secretary Blank Statement on Post-Hurricane Status of Commerce Department

Image of Commerce's Herbert Hoover headquarters with Washington Monument behind

In the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, the Department of Commerce (HCHB) facility was inspected and is open for employees to report to work on Monday, August 29, 2011. Federal employees should check with the Department of Commerce website www.commerce.gov or the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) website www.opm.gov to obtain any information about leave and telework policies and any updates. For Commerce employees, the operating status phone lines are 202-482-7400 or 1-877-860-2329 and will be updated accordingly.