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NOAA: U.S. Temperature and Precipitation Near-Normal in February

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February 2011 was near normal for both temperature and precipitation averaged across the contiguous United States, according to the latest NOAA State of the Climate Report issued today. The February average temperature was 34.0 F, which is 0.7 F below the long-term (1901–2000) average. Last month’s average precipitation was 1.81 inches, 0.21 inch below the same average. February marked the end of the meteorological winter (December–February), which featured below normal temperature and precipitation for the three-month period.

This monthly analysis is based on records dating back to 1895, prepared by scientists at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.  |  Read more of today's report

Secretary Locke Addresses Asia-Pacific Patent Cooperation Forum

Secretary Locke Addresses the Asia-Pacific Patent Cooperation in the 21st Century Forum

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke joined Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and USPTO Director David Kappos today at the Asia-Pacific Patent Cooperation in the 21st Century Forum at the USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Va. The event featured heads and deputies of Asian-Pacific economies’ patent offices assembled to discuss the urgency of moving forward with patent harmonization in a global process that includes both developed and developing countries.  

Patent harmonization will narrow differences among patent laws, simplify patent applicants’ requirements, and thereby achieve greater efficiency in the global patent system – in turn speeding the movement of innovation from the development phase to the marketplace where it can create new businesses and new jobs.

Locke highlighted the importance of building a better intellectual property infrastructure in our increasingly globalized world and applauded efforts to reduce patent backlogs and produce higher-quality patents, noting the progress made in the U.S. Senate on patent reform legislation that would further these efforts.

“Last week, the U.S. Senate started debating a patent reform bill that would give the patent office the tools it needs to significantly expand its reform efforts,” Locke said.  “Congress has been working for a long time on this issue, and there is strong bipartisan support to get patent reform done this year. So we remain optimistic.”
 
The forum, which began March 6 and runs through March 8, is being convened at an historic moment for intellectual property systems worldwide as patent filings and backlogs continue to increase. Differences among patent systems cause legal uncertainty, complexity and increased costs.  Remarks

Acting Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank Discusses New Women in America Report at Center for American Progress

Acting Deputy Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank Speaking at the Center for American Progress on White House "Women in America" Report

Acting Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank joined Tina Tchen, executive director of the White House Council on Women and Girls; Preeta Bansal, senior policy advisor and general counsel of the Office of Management and Budget; and a panel of experts at the Center for American Progress today to discuss the findings of a new White House report, “Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being.” The discussion focused on women’s present role in families, education, employment, health, and crime in American Society.

In support of the Council on Women and Girls, the Office of Management and Budget and the Commerce Department’s Economics and Statistics Administration worked together to create the report, which was released on the first day of Women’s History Month. 

Among the report’s key findings (PDF):

Secretary Locke Addresses APEC Events in Washington

 Jim Thomas, President of ASTM International and Locke study the agenda

Today, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke delivered remarks at the APEC Automotive Dialogue and the “Green Buildings for Green Growth” seminar, held in the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, as part of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)’s Senior Officials’ Meetings of 2011. At the Green Buildings seminar, which seeks to improve trade and investment in the APEC region for green building products, materials and services, Locke spoke about the importance of standards for building efficiency. And at the Auto Dialogue, which seeks to help U.S. automotive companies gain wider market access in the Asia-Pacific region and to advance U.S. commercial and regional strategic interests in the sector, he  underlined the importance of green technology in the automotive industry.

The next key APEC meetings this year will be held in May in Big Sky, Montana, where the Commerce Department will host the APEC Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Ministerial and related meetings. In November, the United States will host APEC 2011 – the group’s annual meeting – in Honolulu.  |  Green Buildings, Green Growth remarks  |  Auto Dialogue remarks

Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration Invests in Advanced Manufacturing in the Midwest

The Economic Development Administration today awarded $2 million to the Council on Competitiveness, a non-partisan group of CEOs, university presidents and labor leaders that works to advance economic prosperity – to help small- and medium-sized manufacturers in the Midwest compete in the 21st century global economy. The grant will be matched by $2.5 million from private-sector partners and help to catalyze development of state-of-the-art technologies that accelerate the design process, allowing small- and medium-sized companies to become more competitive.

With the funding, the Council on Competitiveness will form the new National Digital Engineering and Manufacturing Consortium, which will develop software, purchase time on supercomputers, and train small- and medium-sized manufacturers in the use of this technology, enabling them to design their own advanced manufacturing processes and products. This will be done in close collaboration with original equipment manufacturer (OEM) customers of these companies, thus ensuring that this cutting-edge technology will help both OEMs and their supply-chain partners in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan.

“As U.S. manufacturers work to keep their competitive edge, government and the private sector are working together to foster a vibrant advanced manufacturing sector in the United States,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development John Fernandez. “This important public-private partnership to strengthen manufacturing in the Midwest is an example of the type of investment that can help America win the future by out-innovating and out-competing the rest of the world.”

Today’s announcement was made at a meeting with small business and manufacturing leaders at the White House with Fernandez, Assistant to the President for Manufacturing Policy Ron Bloom, and U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra. The new public-private partnership was formalized with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding in support of the project. |  Press release

Secretary Locke Testifies Before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation About the Future of American Manufacturing

Secretary Locke testifies before the Senate about the future of American manufacturing

Secretary Locke started his testimony about the Future of American Manufacturing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation by declaring, "The Obama administration believes that manufacturing is essential to America’s economic competitiveness. Manufacturing is a vital source of good middle-class jobs. And it is a key driver of innovation, with 70 percent of all private sector R&Dspending done by manufacturing companies. The United States is still the world’s largest and most productive manufacturer. On its own, U.S. manufacturing would rank today as the seventh-largest economy in the world. And just yesterday, it was reported that U.S. manufacturing activity hit its highest level since 2004.

But manufacturing productivity gains – which are so essential to growth – are partly responsible for millions of lost manufacturing jobs. Factories that once needed 1,000 people to build a product  can now do it with 100. Meanwhile, competitors abroad are consistently producing quality goods at less cost. America can’t escape this global competition. But we can win it, by leading the development of new industries and manufacturing higher value goods that the world's consumers demand.

See video

Secretary Locke Wants Your Questions on the Future of American Manufacturing

Today Secretary Locke will be testifying before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation about the Future of American Manufacturing: Maintaining America's Competitive Edge.  Secretary Locke will be answering questions from Senators during the hearing, but afterwards he wants to hear from you. We invite you to watch the hearing and submit questions about manufacturing via comments on this post, Twitter (use hashtag #LockeChat) and on our Facebook page. As the Secretary’s schedule permits, he’ll answer some of the questions throughout the day.

As a primer, watch the video below. In it U.S. companies from a wide range of industries from health care to plastics talk about why they manufacture their goods in America. The United States offers a highly educated workforce, strong intellectual property protections, and a business climate that supports and encourages innovation. For ET Water, Labcon, Supracor and others, manufacturing in America just makes smart business sense.  |  Senate testimony

See video

Secretary Locke, USPTO Director Kappos Highlight Support for Patent Reform Legislation

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and USPTO Director David Kappos hosted a conference call with reporters today to discuss the administration’s support for pending patent reform legislation and why the administration believes patent reform is critical to promoting innovation and creating jobs.

“Passage of this legislation is essential to America's economic competitiveness and our ability to innovate,” Locke said. “As President Obama said recently, we need to out-innovate the rest of the world if we’re going to win the future. An efficiently operating patent system is critical to this goal.”

On Monday, the Senate began consideration of S.23 – now known as The America Invents Act – and the administration released a Statement of Administration Policy expressing support for the proposed legislation.

While the USPTO has made significant strides in reducing its backlog of more than 700,000 unexamined patent applications and the time it takes to process a patent, reforming the patent system is critical to speeding the transformation of an idea into a market-making product that will drive the jobs and industries of the future.

White House Releases First Comprehensive Federal Report on the Status of American Women in Almost 50 Years

Cover of report

Report released on first day of Women's History Month

Today, the White House released a new report entitled Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being, a statistical portrait showing how women are faring in the United States today and how their lives have changed over time.  This is the first comprehensive federal report on women since 1963, when the Commission on the Status of Women, established by President Kennedy and chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, produced a report on the conditions of women. Women in America Report.

Women in America focuses on five critical areas: people, families and income; education; employment; health; and crime and violence.  The administration will be honoring Women’s History Month throughout March, and will highlight a different section of the report every week.

“The Obama administration has been focused on addressing the challenges faced by women and girls from day one because we know that the success of women and girls is vital to winning the future,” said Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls Valerie Jarrett. “Today’s report not only serves as a look back on American women’s lives, but serves as a guidepost to help us move forward.”

“This collection of data from across the federal government offers the most comprehensive look at women in America since the 1960s,” Acting Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank said. “With this report, this administration can more effectively manage programs that support women and girls and America’s families, and foster the growth of the U.S. economy.” 

The Office of Management and Budget and the Economics and Statistics Administration within the Department of Commerce worked together with federal statistical agencies to create Women in America in support of the Council on Women and Girls. The information informs the efforts of the Council and is aimed at providing facts to a broad range of interested parties, including policymakers, journalists and researchers.  |  White House press release  |  Presidential proclamation

Spotlight on Commerce: Michelle Duff- Mitchell, Deputy Director for the International Trade Administration's National Export Initiative

 Michelle Duff-Mitchell, Deputy Director for the International Trade Administration's National Export Initiative

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the President's vision of winning the future through their work.

Michelle Duff- Mitchell is the Deputy Director for the International Trade Administration's National Export Initiative at the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Last year, President Obama launched the National Export Initiative (NEI) during his State of the Union Address, as a key component of his economic recovery agenda, setting the ambitious goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2015 in order to support and sustain millions of American jobs.

In my role as Deputy Director for the NEI, I have the distinct pleasure of working on an issue that is very dear to me: ensuring America's competitiveness today and in the future.  And it's important to remember that at the center of this ability to compete are the contributions of African-American inventors, entrepreneurs, and intellectuals -- who we celebrate and honor during Black History Month and every month.

Today as the global marketplace expands and takes shape, it gives me great pleasure to continue in the legacy of my African-American forefathers and mothers through my work on the NEI.   As Deputy Director, I have the ability to help American companies find new and innovative ways to grow their sales in international markets and create employment opportunities for American workers.  As Secretary Locke often says, “As American companies sell more of their goods and services abroad, they will need to produce more, which means more good-paying American jobs for our workers.”  With only 1 percent of American companies exporting and only 58 percent of those businesses exporting to just one market, there is tremendous opportunity for America to strengthen our economic footing through the expansion of exports—meaning we aggressively compete for every contract and every job.