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Using Green Technology to Turn Carbon Dioxide into Cement (and Jobs)

Calera's process - Mineralization via Aqueous Precipitation

In order to meet President Obama’s goal of out-innovating the world in the clean energy economy, the United States Patent and Trademark Office extended the Green Technology Pilot Program. Through this pilot, the USPTO expedites patent applications for any invention that will strongly contribute to improving environmental quality; the discovery or development of renewable energy sources; better use of existing energy resources, or reduction of greenhouse gases. Since the pilot program began in December 2009, a total of 1,918 petitions have been granted to green technology patent applicants, and 328 patents have been issued.

Under this program, California-based Calera Corporation has been able to fast track twelve applications for converting carbon dioxide (CO2) into green “reactive cements” that replace traditional “portland cement” commonly used in the construction of buildings.

The heart of the Calera process, referred to as Mineralization via Aqueous Precipitation, combines carbon dioxide flue gas from power plants with the Earth’s natural waters and converts the gas into stable solid minerals similar to those found in the skeletons of marine animals and plants including metastable calcium and magnesium carbonate and bicarbonate minerals. These minerals can then be used to produce high reactive cements akin to portland cement without the negative environmental impacts derived from mining and processing. For those interested in more details, the USPTO's website has a more in-depth webpage about Calera and this process.

National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship Holds Public Forum at Howard University

NACIE participants around table with Locke

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke addressed a town hall-style public forum at Howard University’s School of Business in Washington, D.C. today as part of a meeting of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE). In his remarks to students, faculty, administrators and business leaders, Locke praised the Council for its ongoing efforts to accelerate innovation and entrepreneurship, and to help America win the future by out-innovating, out-educating and out-building our economic competitors.

Locke thanked the Council for their recommendations and highlighted the importance of NACIE’s work in creating policies that support President Obama’s innovation agenda by improving America’s economic competitiveness and meeting the needs of America’s entrepreneurs.

 

First announced in 2009 and authorized in 2011 America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, the Council advises the Secretary of Commerce on key innovation and entrepreneurship issues and engages with the public and stakeholders to promote effective public policies and regulations.

U.S. Census Bureau Announces Half of U.S. Respondent Businesses Were Home-Based

Two women at a store counter

The Census Bureau today released new national-level statistics on business owners including owner’s age, education level, veteran status and primary function in the business; family-owned and home-based business status; types of customers and workers; and sources of financing for start-up, expansion or capital improvements.

The survey found that more than half (51.6 percent) of all businesses that responded to the 2007 Survey of Business Owners (SBO) were operated primarily from someone’s home in 2007. In addition, only 6.9 percent of these home-based businesses had $250,000 or more in receipts, while 57.1 percent of home-based businesses brought in less than $25,000. About 23.8 percent of employer respondent businesses and 62.9 percent of nonemployer respondent businesses were home-based.

“Most businesses are started by people who dig into their own pockets for at least some of their start-up capital,” said Census Bureau Deputy Director Thomas Mesenbourg. “This is true for both firms with employees and those without them. Furthermore, more than one in five (20.8 percent) of respondent businesses used no start-up capital at all.”       

The two data sets released today are from the 2007 Survey of Business Owners: Characteristics of Businesses: 2007 and Characteristics of Business Owners: 2007. All findings are for respondent firms only.

Numerous organizations such as the MBDA , the Small Business Administration, the National Chamber of Commerce, the Urban League, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and others use these data to track the progress of minorities and women as entrepreneurs. Release  Estimates by Gender, Race and Veteran Status

Secretary Locke Joined President Obama For Jobs and Competitiveness Council Meeting In North Carolina

Chancellor Woodson talks with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke.

Earlier today, Secretary Locke joined President Obama and other senior administration officials for a meeting of the Jobs and Competitiveness Council in the Raleigh-Durham area. Prior to the President's arrival, Secretary Locke participated in one of the five Listening and Action sessions to engage with the local business community and solicit input on how the public and private sectors can partner to create opportunity and job creation for small businesses.

Other participants in the session, titled “Energy Innovation and Smartgrid,” include Jeffrey Immelt, Chairman and CEO of General Electric, Lewis Hay, III, Chairman and CEO of NextEra Energy, Gary Kelly, Chairman, President, and CEO of Southwest Airlines, and Brian Roberts, Chairman and CEO of Comcast Corporation.

Enhancing Trade in Latin America: Opening Opportunities

Sanchez on podium

Guest blog b y Francisco Sánchez, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade

Today I am honored to be speaking at the Association of American Chambers of Commerce at the Latin America Conference in Cartagena, Columbia. I shared with the hundreds of participants that the United States will continue its decades-long effort to increase economic integration throughout Latin America, including the passage and implementation of pending trade agreements with Colombia and Panama.

Latin America is our fastest-growing export market. The United States exports three times as much to Latin America as we do to China. We enjoy significant bilateral trading relationships with most of the countries in the region, and exports to these countries will soon support more than two million U.S. jobs.

Currently, 84 percent of U.S. trade within Latin America is covered by free trade agreements. Passage and implementation of new trade agreements with Colombia and Panama is an Obama administration priority for 2011, and are expected to support tens of thousands of jobs in America.

President Obama has made his commitment to the free trade agreements with Panama and Colombia clear because he believes that the future of the United States is inextricably bound to the future of the people of the Americas.

Panama is one of the fastest-growing economies in Latin America, expanding 6.2 percent in 2010, with similar annual growth forecast through 2015. Exports of U.S. goods to Colombia are expected to increase by more than $1.1 billion once the agreement is fully implemented.

Initiatives such as Pathways to Prosperity and the Americas Competitiveness Forum – two important programs supported by the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration – are critical to improving economic integration that will benefit every nation in the Western Hemisphere.

Trade between countries in the Western Hemisphere is important to all of us, supporting millions of jobs and bettering the lives of our people.

Manufacturers Receive Presidential Award For Their Export Efforts

APS Biogroup Manufacturing Facility

Guest Blog Post by Laura Barmby, the Program Officer for the President’s "E" Awards.  In this capacity, she coordinates the submission and review of applications for this Presidential Award, working with an inter-agency committee.

Last month, Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and Under Secretary Francisco Sánchez presented 27 U.S. companies, organizations, and institutions the President’s "E" Award for Exporting.  The "E" Award is the highest honor presented to exporters and acknowledges the significant contributions of the recipients in supporting U.S. exports.  This year marks 50 years since the establishment of the program by President Kennedy in 1961.
 
In honor of our nation’s manufacturers, I wanted to highlight for you a few of the companies that received the award this year that manufacture unique products.  What caught my attention was that this year we have three winners who took a product found in nature and improved it through a manufacturing process to make a great new product.

Here are a few things these companies have in common:

  • All take something from nature and make it into a product to support health and nutrition
  • All invest back into research and product development
  • All create jobs

Think about the jobs created by these companies:  farmers, scientists, assembly and manufacturing support, shipping, distribution, marketing.

If you have a product or service that you would like to export, visit Trade.gov to find out how to contact your nearest U.S. Export Assistance Center.  With 108 centers nationwide, exporting help is right around the corner!

Smarter Manufacturing Makes Businesses More Competitive

Sustainable Manufacturing Initiative logo

Guest blog post by Morgan Barr, an International Economist within the Manufacturing and Services division at the International Trade Administration. She works on sustainable manufacturing issues as well as negotiations for trade agreements.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Sustainable Manufacturing Initiative (SMI) has developed tools and resources to help companies, particularly small and medium sized enterprises, implement sustainable business practices faster and more effectively. The benefits to manufacturers include lower energy and resource costs, increased marketability of products and services and lower regulatory costs and risk.

The Sustainable Manufacturing Initiative developed a number of business friendly resources that are available through its website:

  • Sustainable Business Clearinghouse - This searchable clearinghouse provides information and links to almost 900 federal and state programs and resources dedicated to supporting sustainable business practices.  It includes everything from lean and green assessments, to training, to financial assistance for green improvements.  Users can search by government or non-governmental programs, geographic location, sustainability issue, industry sector and type of assistance.
  • OECD Sustainable Manufacturing Metrics Toolkit - This toolkit provides a simplified set of core sustainability metrics for facilities and products that any company can use to both measure performance and make decisions on improvement.
  • Sustainable Manufacturing 101 Training - This training can be used to train employees anywhere in the company from purchasing to the production line. It is designed to take users through the various aspects of the practice, from energy efficiency to designing for the environment to remanufacturing. This module is currently not available, but scheduled to be completed by October 2011 and will be available on the SMI website.

The More You Know: Key Statistics for Manufacturers and Exporters

Graphic of a spreadsheet overlaid with two charts

Economists, journalists, Wall Street executives and main street businesses as well as consumers look at a variety of economic indicators and data for information and to get a picture of how the economy is doing. The indicators above give us an idea of how our manufacturing sector is fairing in the turmoil of economic indicators that keep us on our toes every day.

Great sources for this information are right here within the Department of Commerce, through our Bureau of the Census (Business and Industry, Manufacturing) where we regularly release reports on sales, inventories, employment, job creation and capacity utilization.

Looking at today’s trade in goods and services numbers will show you a pretty good story about the state of America’s manufacturing sector. For instance, in the first four months of 2011, U.S. exports of manufacturing products increased by $56.9 billion (16.5 percent) to reach $401.4 billion up from $344.5 billion recorded in the first four months of 2010. Major growth categories by value in the first four months of 2011 include petroleum and coal products (up 66%), base chemicals (up 21%), nonferrous metal products (up 34.7%), motor vehicles (up 19%), and agricultural and construction machinery (up 25.4%).

To see where those exports are going, the International Trade Administration provides data and resources on trade statistics, including state and metro export data, profiles of exporting companies, as well as a nifty mapping tool that allows you to see the geographic reach of our exports by product or state. 

Information is golden and having the tools at your fingertips to sift through the relevant information and make sense of it yourself is a powerful advantage.

Expert Advice on Exporting from Successful Companies

As today’s trade numbers show, the appetite for American-made products abroad is growing rapidly. That’s why these five companies have made exporting part of their long-term growth strategy. They know that 95% of all consumers live outside the United States and therefore, the more markets they target, the more diversified their customer base will be. That strategy has served them well as they generally held up better during the recession than companies that didn't export.

But they also know some of the ups and downs for manufacturers just starting to export: concern about the language and cultural differences, not knowing where to start or how to make inroads into new markets, fear that foreign consumers won’t pay once the products leave the country.

And that’s why Jack Hollender, Dan Kleiman, Al Powers, Jason Speer and Terry Koehn agreed to share their experience. In the video below, each shares insight and expertise about getting started in exporting.

In addition to these wise words, the Department of Commerce’s National Export Initiative is designed to help more companies overcome these and other hurdles to exporting. To get their assistance, simply call 1-800-USA-TRADE or go online to Export.gov. Commerce Department experts will work with you to design and implement a market entry or expansion strategy, conduct an international search to find potential agents or distributors for your unique business and contact potential overseas businesses--all on your behalf. Many of these services are free or extremely low cost.

Protecting Our Electronic Main Street

Cybersecurity and the Electronic Main Street

Guest blog post by Ari Schwartz, Internet Policy Adviser at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and member of the Internet Policy Task Force at the Department of Commerce.

As we all know, the Internet has led to incredible commercial growth and an unprecedented means for self-expression and innovation.  Some industry analysts now estimate that the Internet now carries some $10 trillion in online transactions annually.

However, each time a new technology dramatically expands the boundaries of commerce, there are dishonest, dangerous people who try to disrupt and exploit the new pathways for their own gain. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that as the Web, e-mail, and e-commerce have become the electronic version of Main Street, hackers, spammers, and cybercriminals have emerged as major threats to its welfare. An estimated 67,000 new malicious viruses, worms, spyware and other threats are released every day. 

To paraphrase Willy Sutton: It’s where the money. . . and the information is.

A new Commerce Department report issued today calls for a public-private partnership and voluntary codes of conduct to help strengthen the cybersecurity of companies that increasingly rely on the Internet to do business, but are not part of the critical infrastructure sector as defined by the administration’s recent cybersecurity legislative proposal.  Issued by the department’s Internet Policy Task Force, the report targets what it calls the Internet and Information Innovation Sector or the I3S.  These are businesses that range from Mom and Pop manufacturers or startups that sell most of their products and services online to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to cloud computing firms that provide anytime, anywhere access to applications and personal or public data.