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Promoting Opportunity for All Americans Through Mentoring

Last week, U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker participated in a Cabinet discussion with President Obama on My Brother’s Keeper – an initiative designed to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential. The President’s My Brother’s Keeper Task Force also released their first progress report with initial recommendations to the President, as well as a blueprint for action by government, business, non-profit and community partners. 

Since its launch in February 2014, the President’s Task Force has met with and heard from thousands of Americans who are already taking action on this front. Further, businesses, cities, organizations and individuals have made commitments to helping youth get a strong start in school and later connect them to support networks and specialized skills they need to find a good job or go to college and work their way up into the middle class.
 
In developing its recommendations, the Task Force identified key milestones in the path to adulthood that are especially predictive of later success, and where interventions can have the greatest impact. These recommendations included:
 
·         Getting a health start and entering school ready to learn;
·         Reading at grade level by third grade;
·         Graduating from high school ready for college and career; 
·         Completing post-secondary education or training;
·         Successfully entering the workforce; and
·         Keeping kids on track and giving them second chances.
 
Specific report recommendations also include launching a public-private campaign to recruit mentors for youth and improve the quality of mentoring programs, and to increase awareness about youth summer employment and use of pre-apprenticeships as good entry-level jobs.  

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Discusses Trade Ties with Vietnamese Government Leaders

Secretary Pritzker with members of the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council in Vietnam

Yesterday U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker was in Vietnam on the first leg of her Asia commercial diplomacy trip. Along with the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council (USABC) members and a delegation of U.S. CEOs, she is visiting Vietnam, as well as the Philippines and Burma later this week, to strengthen trade and investment and encourage deeper business-to-business ties and demonstrate the Obama administration's ongoing commitment to Asia.  

As part of this trip, Secretary Pritzker met with several government leaders to discuss opportunities for U.S. companies to do more business in Vietnam. This afternoon Secretary Pritzker met first with her counterpart Vu Huy Hoang, the Vietnamese Minister of Industry and Trade. The Secretary and the Minister discussed of ways to increase economic engagement between the US and Vietnam, specifically speaking about the investment climate for US firms and trade relations relations and the United States’ commitment to concluding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations. Secretary Pritzker and Minister Hoang then met with the USABC CEO delegation and talked about the U.S. private sector’s commitment to Vietnam.

Secretary Pritzker then met with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and reaffirmed President Obama’s commitment to opening a new phase of bilateral relations with Vietnam.  After discussing outstanding bilateral economic, trade and investment issues, the leaders were joined by the USABC delegation for a conversation about enhancing commercial ties between the United States and Vietnam and throughout the ASEAN region. 

Countdown to Net Zero: NIST Test House Pursues Energy Surplus in Final Month

Countdown to Net Zero: NIST Test House Pursues Energy Surplus in Final Month

Heading into the final stretch of a year-long trial run, the experimental net-zero energy house at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Md., must overcome an energy deficit of 154 kilowatt hours—equivalent to about $20—during the month of June.

The facility was designed to produce at least as much energy as it consumes over the course of a year. At the end of May, the research residence still owed on its total energy bill, which averaged less than $2.00 a month over the first 11 months. In contrast, the monthly expenditure for electric power alone averaged $129 for Maryland households in 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

So, the "countdown to net zero" is on. For those interested in keeping score, NIST is posting a running daily tally of net energy use through June 30. Each day's results will be reported on NIST's NZERTF web page, under Recent Research Results, and highlighted on NIST's Twitter account (use the hashtag #Countdown2NetZero). 

Commerce in the Community: Korean Churches for Community Development works to strengthen local communities through organizational capacity building, leadership development and local partnerships.

Hyepin Im, Founder and President of Korean Churches for Community Development

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 Hyepin Im, the Founder and President of Korean Churches for Community Development (KCCD), the largest Asian faith-based organization involved in church and community development initiatives in the United States.

Question 1: Tell us about Korean Churches for Community Development (KCCD). What is your mission and main focus?

Korean Churches for Community Development (KCCD) was founded in 2001 with the vision to serve as a light and a bridge between the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community and the greater community at large. We are today a national, award-winning nonprofit organization whose mission is to advance the Asian American community's participation, contribution and influence through faith-based and community partnerships. We are unique in that we are the only Asian American organization in the country working in the intersection of church and community development. We can summarize our work into three buckets - building bridges, building capacity, and building resources.

Contrary to the model minority image of AAPI communities, when you disaggregate AAPI community data, many AAPI communities are suffering at comparable or even higher levels of poverty, juvenile delinquency, sickness, low homeownership rates, high school dropout rates, low wealth and other economic indicators with other known communities of color. However, because of the model minority myth, the AAPI community is often overlooked by policy makers and funders in investment, funding and program decisions.

Reliable Electricity and Energy Independence: Exporting Game Changing U.S. Developed Solar Energy Storage Technology to West Africa

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and Alistair Jessop, Senior Vice President, Development, SolarReserve

Guest blog post by Alistair Jessop, Senior Vice President, Development, SolarReserve

SolarReserve has participated in two extremely well-organized and worthwhile business development trade missions led by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. The first mission was in March to the Middle East, focusing on export opportunities for U.S. companies in the infrastructure sector, including renewable energy. Based on the great success of the Middle East mission, the company enthusiastically joined Secretary Pritzker on a second mission – this time the destination was West Africa.

SolarReserve is a leading worldwide developer of utility-scale solar and hybrid power projects which include advanced solar thermal technology. We have more than $1.8 billion of projects in construction and operation, of which $800 million are in Southern Africa. Our aim for the West Africa trade mission was to better understand the renewable energy goals, requirements and timelines of both Ghana and Nigeria with a hope to form relationships with key decision makers and form strong long-term joint venture relationships with local companies.

SolarReserve’s world-leading, US-developed, patented solar thermal technology with integrated molten salt storage has the potential to provide both Ghana and Nigeria a cost-effective, reliable, on-demand, zero emission supply of electricity. This solar thermal technology (which can be delivered either alone or coupled with photovoltaics), can provide a cost effective 24/7 reliable alternative to fossil fuel generation with the enormous benefit of zero emissions.  This technology could make a huge difference in countries across Africa, with regular power cuts affecting both Ghana and Nigeria’s national productivity as well as the lifestyles of those living in these countries. It’s not surprising we find boundless enthusiasm in the region for reliable renewable energy alternatives.

The high calibre of the meetings was incredible, with access to top level government officials and decision makers. One particular high point during the mission in Ghana was meeting John Dramani Mahama, the Ghanaian President, where the group were given the opportunity to ask direct and frank questions - and received clear and fair responses. It was remarkable to have this level of access to the President and a number of the cabinet ministers, and to be able to talk frankly about business opportunities and issues. We left these meetings with confidence in doing business in Ghana.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Leads CEO Mission to Show U.S. Commitment to Asia

The United States is committed to its commercial relationship with Asia. The U.S. economic engagement strategy in the Asia-Pacific region has three key pillars: strengthening partnerships with long-established trading partners, helping develop the “hard” and “soft” infrastructure that moves goods and people, and building and strengthening regional mechanisms that promote a level playing field for all of our businesses. Recognizing that there is tremendous opportunity for mutually-beneficial growth in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region, the Commerce Department is focused on strengthening the trade relationship between the U.S. and ASEAN, and encouraging even deeper business-to-business ties.

As part of these efforts, next week U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker will join a delegation of U.S. CEOs and the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council on a trip to Vietnam, Burma, and the Philippines. These economies present enormous opportunity for U.S. businesses, and the trip is a huge step not only in furthering commercial ties, but also in advancing our overall relationship.

The delegation will stop first in Vietnam, where Secretary Pritzker will meet with government leaders and entrepreneurs to discuss the Commerce Department’s priorities for increasing trade and investment in the region. Vietnam’s economy is experiencing sustained growth following a rapid rate of expansion in the last decade. Energy is one industry sector with a number of opportunities for U.S. businesses in Vietnam. An upcoming reverse trade mission with the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) will connect U.S. companies with leaders in Smart Grid development and implementation. General Electric is already finding success in the country, signing a $94 million contract to bring 52 wind turbines to the Mekong Delta. This deal will support 245 U.S. jobs, and was supported by the International Trade Administration’s Advocacy Center

From Vietnam, the delegation will head to the Philippines, where Secretary Pritzker will deliver remarks on America’s economic engagement in the Asia Pacific region, as well as meet with government and business leaders. The economy in the Philippines has shown much resilience despite tragic natural disasters and volatile financial markets. Economic growth has been consistent during the last two years and is projected to remain so through 2016. Reconstruction efforts could lead to acceleration in the economy and present business opportunities for American companies with experience in sectors like construction and infrastructure.

The trip will wrap up with a final stop in Burma, where Secretary Pritzker will affirm the United States’ support for positive political and economic reforms in meetings with civil society leaders, government officials, and the Burmese business community. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) estimates Burma’s GDP growth accelerated to 7.5 percent in 2013, and expects that growth to continue. Business confidence also is improving, as reflected in a rapid increase in new business registrations – both domestic and foreign-owned. As the country develops, it is well positioned to leverage modern technology available from U.S. firms. U.S. exports to Burma have ranged from electrical machinery, optical and medical equipment, vehicles, and other machinery. As the economy continues to open in Burma, there will be expansive opportunities for U.S. companies to export more goods and services, supporting the modernization and development that will improve the quality of life for Burmese citizens.

Protecting Your IP Overseas – Three Things to Know

Protecting Your IP Overseas – Three Things to Know

Planning to export? Don’t forget about your intellectual property!

Some U.S. companies have found that foreign manufacturers have copied their products, packaging, and business plans, even though they had never done business abroad. Foreign counterfeiters can easily steal your product pictures, brochures and logos from your website, and apply for trademarks and patents in their country, if you have not registered them there already. For this reason, many U.S. small companies seek trademark and patent protection in large potential markets well in advance of actually exporting to those markets.

As World Trade Month 2014 comes to a close, here are three things to remember about protecting your intellectual property (IP) as you embark on making sales internationally.

  1. Contact an IP Attaché. Located in U.S. Embassies and Consulates around the world, they can explain options for protecting IP rights overseas.
  2. Take advantage of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). Under the PCT, an inventor, who has not publicly disclosed his invention, can file a single international patent application in one language to begin the process of seeking patent protection in up to 148 PCT member countries. The PCT gives applicants the flexibility of having more time to study the market to determine the countries in which a patent will be necessary.
  3. Similarly, the Madrid Protocol allows trademark owners to seek protection of their marks in multiple member countries by filing one international application with their home trademark office, in one language, with one set of fees, and in one currency. The owner designates the member countries in which they want trademark protection, and their application information is forwarded to each designated country to examine it according to their domestic trademark laws.

Learn more about how the United States Patent and Trademark Office can help you safeguard your intellectual property overseas.

Department of Commerce Open Government Plan Version 3.0 Published

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Guest blog post by Dr. Catrina Purvis, Chief Privacy Officer and Director of Open Government

On January 21, 2009, President Obama issued the first executive memorandum of his Administration, entitled “Transparency and Open Government.”  This memorandum established three guiding principles for the conduct of government activities.  Government should be transparent.  Government should be participatory.  Government should be collaborative.

The Department of Commerce (the Department) is fully committed to these principles, and we are pleased to present the 2014 Department of Commerce Open Government Plan, version 3.0 (the Plan).  The Plan is updated annually, and this release represents its fifth publication.  It builds on the Department’s long history of information dissemination and the adoption of new tools and technology to facilitate a more transparent and accessible agency.  The Department will continue to encourage and strive for increased participation and collaboration among its employees, with other government agencies and the American people. 

This year’s Plan provides an overview of the Department’s new 2014-2018 Strategic Plan, describes Department program and functional areas which are critical to Open Government, features three “flagship” Open Government initiatives, and highlights Open Government happenings of ongoing initiatives and activities across the Department’s Bureaus and Operating Units (BOUs). It is available on the Department’s Open Government website at www.commerce.gov/open.

We invite the American public to join in as the Department moves toward becoming a more open and effective provider of government services and information. Please feel free to provide feedback by submitting comments to open[at]doc[dot]gov.

Better Materials for Safer Sports: Time to Use Our Heads

A simple example of making a material fail "better": By fine-tuning the thickness of the connecting spokes in a sheet of acrylic, we can change how it transmits force when fractured. With thick spokes (left), fractures propagate in a straight line and concentrate the impact. Thin spokes (right) divert the fracture across the sheet, diffusing the impact.

Guest blog post by Dr. Laurie E. Locascio, Director of the Material Measurement Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology

On Thursday, the White House Healthy Kids and Safe Sports Concussion Summit, President Obama highlighted both the need for greater national awareness of the risks our young athletes face from traumatic brain injuries and the need for increased research on how to combat these potentially life-altering injuries.

In 2009, for example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, emergency departments in the United States treated more than 250,000 sports- and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries, including concussions, among children and adolescents—a figure that’s risen by 60 percent in the past decade.

At the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), we recognize that the use of advanced materials in protective equipment, such as helmets, can play a critical role in this effort. For that reason, NIST is investing $1 million per year for 5 years on tools to accelerate the development of advanced materials that can provide better protection against concussions for the athlete.

Sports equipment often leads the way in adopting new advances in materials—think of carbon nanotubes in high-end tennis rackets and golf clubs. But modern materials science offers the possibility of specifically designing new materials, from the ground up, that are tailored to the special needs of helmets and other protective equipment.

As an example, “shear-thickening suspensions”—specially designed particles suspended in a liquid polymer—can be a high-tech shock absorber that instantly adapts to offer greater resistance to stronger shocks. You’ve encountered a sheer-thickening suspension if you’ve ever tried to stir cornstarch in water quickly.

Other possibilities include micro- or nanostructured materials that either absorb shocks by crumpling in specific ways, rather like some automobile components are designed to protect passengers in a crash, or that selectively deform to channel the energy of shocks away from highly sensitive areas, like the skull. Self-healing polymers and shape-memory metal alloys can both provide reinforcement and extend the longevity of the equipment.

Working to Ensure Americans Remain Connected When Disaster Strikes

Cross-post by Stephen Fletcher, Associate Administrator, National Telecommunications and Information Administration

With the start of summer comes the beginning of the hurricane season along much of the U.S. coast. And with hurricanes comes the increased possibility that communications could be disrupted.

Less than two years ago, Hurricane Sandy left a trail of death and destruction including disrupted communications for millions of people and thousands of businesses along the East Coast. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has reported that about a quarter of cell sites across 10 states and the District of Columbia were knocked out of service during the peak of the storm.

As the Executive Branch agency primarily responsible for advising the President on telecommunications and information issues, the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has been working with other federal agencies to help Americans remain connected in the wake of natural disasters or other emergencies.

In its report released last August, the White House’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force called on NTIA and the U.S. Department of Energy to work with the FCC to develop recommendations that help facilitate improved resiliency for cell phone towers, data centers and other critical communications infrastructure in the event of a power disruption following a disaster. NTIA and the Energy Department expect to complete the recommendations later this year.

In the meantime, the FCC has developed some steps consumers can take to ensure they remain connected should disaster strike and power is lost. The recommendations, developed with the help of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), include charging your wireless phones and other wireless devices ahead of a coming storm and using text messaging instead of making a phone call to help alleviate network congestion during and after a storm strikes.

For more information on what to expect from the upcoming hurricane season, check out the latest predictions for the Atlantic and Central Pacific regions from NTIA’s Commerce sister agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).