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Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank Urges Hurricane Preparedness

NOAA satellite image of Hurricane Irene (NOAA photo, Aug. 26)

As you know, Hurricane Irene is making its way up the East Coast of the United States. Make no mistake: This is a large and destructive storm and needs to be taken seriously, especially by the millions of people who live, work or travel in Irene’s projected path. 

Time is quickly running out for people to make emergency preparations and move out of harm’s way.

According to our meteorologists at Commerce/NOAA’s National Hurricane Center, Irene will approach the coast of North Carolina tonight, then move north and affect the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Irene is a large storm and its high winds and heavy rain will affect a large area. Hurricanes like Irene are capable of causing other serious and life-threatening hazards, such as coastal surges, inland flooding and tornadoes. 

We strongly urge all affected Commerce employees and their families to finalize their preparations, so that they can meet their basic needs for a minimum of 72 hours. Visit FEMA’s preparedness sites www.ready.gov or www.listo.gov for tips on how you can make an emergency kit and put an emergency plan in place.

To follow the latest on Hurricane Irene, please visit NOAA’s National Hurricane Center on the Web at www.nhc.noaa.gov/#IRENE and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NHC_Atlantic. Monitor local media or listen to NOAA Weather Radio for the latest developments and check your local National Weather Service forecast at www.weather.gov.  We also encourage you to consult our Tropical Cyclone Preparedness Guide.

Moreover, please heed the direction of your local officials, and be sure to know your evacuation route in case evacuation orders are given. 

Should you need to seek higher ground or take cover, shelters in North Carolina and other states are being prepared along the East Coast. You can find more information about open Red Cross shelters at www.redcross.org

We’re ready. Please be ready, too.

Commerce and NOAA have been actively mobilizing: Our National Hurricane Center meteorologists have been issuing forecasts, watches and warnings to the media, emergency managers and the public. At the same time, we’re also preparing to respond if necessary to Irene’s aftermath when National Weather Service local forecast offices will issue a variety of severe weather alerts for inland high winds, flooding and severe weather, including tornadoes. 

The larger federal government family is aggressively preparing for two phases of this operation–response and recovery–and has teams and assets moving into all of the states/regions across the East Coast that will be impacted by Hurricane Irene. We are continuing to do everything we can to support the governors and their teams.

On a final note, I want to thank all the NOAA staff who have been working hard this week to ensure that Americans have the most accurate and timely storm updates, watches and warnings—as well as those who will be working through the weekend and coming days to see this storm through and assist in the response phase. Your service to Commerce and the nation is deeply appreciated.

High Tech in Rural America

Worker from PRO-TEC inspecting coated steel (Photo: PRO-TEC)

Guest blog post by Patrick D. Gallagher, Commerce's Undersecretary of Standards and Technology and Director, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

That’s right. Rural America is also high tech. From the plains of the heartland to the cattle lands of the West and the rolling hills of farmlands in the East, our smaller communities are home to high-tech businesses that help expand U.S. exports and provide high-skilled, high-paying jobs.

Today, I was honored to take a tour of one such company, PRO-TEC Coating Co. in Leipsic, Ohio, population 2,093. The company employs about 250 people in a state-of-the-art facility surrounded by corn and soybean fields in the northwest corner of the state.  A joint venture between U.S. Steel Corporation and Kobe Steel Ltd. of Japan, PRO-TEC manufactures ultra high-strength coated steel, primarily for the auto industry.  The company is currently constructing an advanced $400 million continuous annealing processing line with an annual capacity of 500,000 tons that will expand its current capacity by 50 percent and create new manufacturing jobs.

Acting Secretary Blank Tours Steel Facility in Warren, Ohio

 Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank Tours Thomas Steel in Warren, OH

Blank highlights Obama administration economic initiatives and new Commerce program designed to attract foreign investment, create jobs

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank traveled to Warren, Ohio, today to tour Thomas Steel Strip Corporation, a member of the Tata Steel Europe Group and a manufacturer of cold-rolled strips usually used as steel casings for batteries. Thomas Steel employs more than 250 people.

After the tour, Blank discussed the importance of strengthening our education, infrastructure and innovation capacity as ways to rebuild our economic foundation, create jobs and enhance our global competitiveness. She also underscored the steps the administration has already taken to achieve these priorities–from investing in community colleges and funding transportation projects across the country, to launching the President’s National Export Initiative and pushing to shorten the time it takes to approve a patent. 

Blank also highlighted the significance of foreign direct investment (FDI), citing Tata Steel as an example of foreign companies whose investments the U.S. must attract more of to strengthen economic growth and job creation.  With FDI supporting more than five million American jobs, Blank discussed a new government-wide initiative, housed at Commerce–SelectUSA–which seeks to cut federal red tape for domestic and foreign investors, remove barriers to new investment and boost business growth in the United States. 

From Frozen Sheep Heads to Prairie Dogs, Rural Offices Help Exporters Compete

Winners of an ITA Export Assistance Center Excellence Award

Guest blog post by Carrie Bevis, intern in Commerce's International Trade Administration, Office of Public Affairs

Many of the U.S. Export Assistance Centers (USEACs) are small offices that serve a wide territory mainly made up of rural communities. The specialists at these offices must be flexible, resourceful, and willing to accommodate the needs of a diverse clientele. Recently, three of them spoke with International Trade Update about their work: Carey Hester, director of the Missoula, Montana, USEAC; Cinnamon King, director of the Sioux Falls, South Dakota, USEAC; and Heather Ranck, an international trade specialist in the Fargo, North Dakota, USEAC.

According to Ranck, the USEACs play a greater role in rural areas. “We become a precious resource to businesses because we can connect companies to resources that are perceived as distant, through our amazing network.” Hester added that “often, small rural companies are less familiar and less trusting of trade, thus requiring more dependence on their Commercial Service officer. We really have to sell the idea of exporting to these companies. I am the face of the federal government to a lot of the companies out here.”

Personal contact is very important, according to Ranck. “Our work with clients is very relationship based. You have to drive out to visit them, learn about their company, and build trust before you begin export assistance. A lot of our clients become our friends.”

EDA Promotes Economic and Job Growth in Rural America

August 24, 2011 - U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development John Fernandez, Federal Co-Chairman of the Delta Regional Authority Chris Masingill and Doug O'Brien, Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, participate in White House Rural Council Roundtable in Pine Bluff, AR.

Guest Blog by John Fernandez, Assistant Secretary for Economic Development.

President Obama has taken significant steps to improve the lives of rural Americans and has provided broad support for rural communities. He signed an Executive Order in June establishing the first White House Rural Council. The Administration has also set goals of modernizing infrastructure by providing broadband access to 10 million Americans, expanding educational opportunities for students in rural areas, providing affordable health care, promoting innovation and expanding the production of renewable energy.  

Last week, as part of his three day bus tour, President Obama stopped in Peosta, Iowa to participate in the White House Rural Economic Forum, which brought together farmers, small business owners, private sector leaders, rural organizations, and government officials to discuss ideas and initiatives to accelerate hiring and spur innovation in rural America. The President has also announced a series of initiatives that leverage existing programs and funding to help small businesses and meet the critical needs in rural communities. In the coming weeks, the President will put forth additional proposals that will help put people back to work and give the middle class greater economic security. Promoting economic and job growth in rural communities is central to these goals.

The U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) has been investing to strengthen rural economic ecosystems for over four decades. Earlier this week, I traveled to Louisiana, Tennessee and Arkansas with Federal Co-Chairman of the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) Chris Masingill and Doug O'Brien, Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to conduct project site visits and participate in White House Rural Council Roundtables in Houma and Bastrop, LA as well as Pine Bluff, AR. We heard from stakeholders in the region about how the federal government has and can be a better partner as we invest in rural economies.

On August 26, 2011, EDA will host a webinar to discuss best practices to promote rural small business development. White House Rural Council members Chris Masingill of DRA and Federal Co-Chairman of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) Earl Gohl will share best practices and successes with close to 400 participants.

Department of Commerce Headquarters to Open On Schedule Wednesday, August 24

Image of HCHB headquarters ith view of Washington Monument

All structural checks indicate that the Department of Commerce headquarters building (HCHB) is safe and we expect all employees to report to work Wednesday, August 24th, at their regularly scheduled time.  Federal employees should check with www.opm.gov for further updates and leave guidelines, which will be posted by 4:00 AM Wednesday.  The DOC Status Line (202-482-7400) will be updated accordingly.

Commerce's NOAA Launches National Initiative to Build "Weather-Ready" Nation

Commerce's NOAA Launches National Initiative to Build "Weather-Ready" Nation

As communities across the country become increasingly vulnerable to severe weather events, the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently launched a comprehensive initiative to build a “Weather-ready” nation to make America safer by saving more lives and protecting livelihoods during such events as tornado outbreaks, intense heat waves, flooding, active hurricane seasons, and solar storms that threaten electrical and communication systems.

NOAA also announced that 2011 tied the 2008 record for billion-dollar disasters in the United States so far experiencing nine separate disasters, each with an economic loss of $1 billion or more. The latest event to surpass the $1 billion price tag is this summer’s flooding along the Missouri and Souris rivers in the upper Midwest. This year’s losses have so far amounted to more than $35 billion. Release

Rural America: Wellspring of Innovation

Staff seated in classroom listening to instructor

Guest blog post by Robert L. Stoll, Commissioner for Patents, United States Patent and Trademark Office

Looking at today’s sophisticated high-definition television sets it is hard to imagine that their very foundation could have ever been conceived by a rural farm boy. Yet the legendary account of this farm boy’s inspiration for his image dissector occurred as he was plowing a field.  His name was Philo Farnsworth and at that moment the idea that would become electronic television was born. Just like his 19th century counterparts, John Deere, Cyrus McCormick, Eli Whitney and George Washington Carver, one of the fathers of the modern television industry found inspiration from his rural environment. 

That practice remains alive and well today.  We see it in places like Blaine, Minnesota where Pam Turner invented the Spiral Eye™ Sewing Needle; Athens, Texas where Lesia Farmer invented products for the kitchen; Wake Forest, North Carolina where Michael Sykes invented a home building system; and Sonora, California where Julia Rhodes invented KleenSlate Concepts®, dry erase products.  Today, in the age of the Internet, more inventions are collaborative efforts rather than creations in isolation like Farnsworth’s invention.  But even with all that is available at the touch of a keystroke it is still important to have experts readily accessible to support today’s American innovators wherever they may be.

Acting Secretary Blank Hosts Meeting with Local Business Leaders in Martinsville, Va. , Tours Foreign Direct Investment Facility in N.C.

Blank tours AlBaad USA in Reidsville, N.C.

Today, Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank traveled to Martinsville, Va., to host a roundtable meeting with local business leaders.  The discussion, part of the Obama Administration’s White House Business Council’s ongoing Winning the Future roundtable event series, is to better communicate with America’s business community about the challenges they are facing and turn that input into concrete action that will improve U.S. economic competitiveness. The meeting was also an opportunity for businesses to learn about help that is available from agencies across the federal government.

After  the roundtable, she toured the production facility of AlBaad USA with Gov. Bev Perdue and U.S. Rep. Brad Miller in Reidsville, N.C. AlBaad USA is an Israeli-owned wet wipe and cleaning supply company that has made a $35 million investment in its U.S. operation, employing nearly 200 people. 

After the tour, Blank discussed the importance of strengthening our education, infrastructure and innovation capacity as ways to rebuild our economic foundation, create jobs and enhance our global competitiveness. She also underscored the steps the administration has already taken to achieve these priorities – from investing in community colleges and funding transportation projects across the country, to launching the President’s National Export Initiative and pushing to shorten the time it takes to approve a patent. 

Blank also highlighted the significance of foreign direct investment (FDI), citing AlBaad USA as an example of foreign companies whose investments the U.S. must attract more of to strengthen economic growth and job creation.  With FDI supporting more than 5 million American jobs, Blank discussed a new government-wide initiative, housed at Commerce – SelectUSA – which seeks to cut federal red tape for domestic and foreign investors, remove barriers to new investment and boost business growth in the United States. 

Launched in June, SelectUSA was created by Executive Order in direct response to concerns the Obama administration has heard from the business community. In addition to its work removing federal-level barriers to foreign investment, SelectUSA also brings together information on federal programs and services available to companies looking to invest in the United States in one, easy-to-access location, supported by a comprehensive website at www.SelectUSA.gov. The website also provides snapshots of the competitive landscape in major U.S. industries and a direct line to state and local economic development agencies.

NOAA’s Lubchenco: Putting Science to Work for Everyone

ABC correspondent and town hall moderator Clayton Sandell, Lubchenco and Jim Crocker, Trustee, Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator Jane Lubchenco kicked off a nine-day trip to Colorado, California and Alaska with a town hall discussion at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science on Wednesday, Aug. 17. ABC Denver correspondent Clayton Sandell moderated the discussion.  Dr. Lubchenco, a Colorado native, focused the discussion on NOAA’s value to the nation and Colorado, especially at a time when extreme weather events are creating serious challenges for people and communities. Later in Aspen, she spoke at the 8th  Annual American Renewable Energy Day Conference.

At the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, she said:

Our scientists build and improve our understanding of how the world works and how it is changing.  But we do so much more than that.  But we do so much more than that. NOAA puts that science to work for everyone – each and every day.  NOAA scientists use science to create and share trusted information and solutions to some of the greatest challenges on this planet:  such as knowing when and where severe storms will strike, testing seafood for safety, tracking and understanding climate change, using satellite to guide search and rescue operation, responding to oil spills, and working to restore oceans to a healthy state. So, these may seem like a disparate collection of services and stewardship, but they center around oceans, coasts, climate and weather- and are all based on science.

and

Science plays a pivotal role in our lives every day.  All things NOAA start with science. For less than a nickel a day, per person per year, NOAA puts that science to work for every American providing essential services:

  • Like healthy oceans.
  • Like severe weather forecasting, warnings and research.
  • Like disaster preparedness, and oil spill response and habitat restoration.
  • Like seafood safety testing and satellite-aided search and rescue.
One of the best bargains in the country! Using science, we develop solutions for a sustainable future– a future with natural resources that our families, our grandchildren, and generations to come can enjoy and use, if we use them wisely first.