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The Commerce Blog

Secretary Locke Speaks with Silicon Valley Leadership Group on Obama Administration's Efforts to Foster Innovation

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke delivered remarks at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG)’s annual luncheon today, emphasizing the steps the Obama administration has taken to turn around the U.S. economy and create jobs. Locke stressed the administration’s efforts to build a stronger foundation for long-term growth and prosperity by investing in research and development, a 21st century infrastructure and manufacturing, and underlined Silicon Valley’s role as the epicenter of technological innovation.

Sec. Locke wanted it to be known that “when it comes to new ideas, our only criterion is efficacy. It doesn’t matter if they come from the left or the right, the boardroom or academia. We simply will not rest until every American who wants a job can find one.”

Locke emphasized that President Obama’s proposed 2011 budget, while freezing domestic discretionary spending overall, actually increases funding for civilian R&D by nearly 6 percent. Also, he noted President Obama’s support a new business tax cut that will allow small businesses to deduct the full amount of new capital investments immediately.

Locke also highlighted President Obama’s National Export Initiative (NEI), which aims to double U.S. exports over the next five years in support of several million American jobs. The NEI will provide more funding, more focus and more Cabinet-level coordination to increase U.S. exports, and represents the first time the United States will have a government-wide export-promotion strategy with focused attention from the president and his Cabinet.

Remarks

NOAA and FDA Announce Chemical Test for Dispersant in Gulf Seafood

Building upon the extensive testing and protocols already in use by federal, state and local officials for the fishing waters of the Gulf, NOAA and FDA have developed and are using a chemical test to detect dispersants used in the Deepwater Horizon-BP oil spill in fish, oysters, crab and shrimp. Trace amounts of the chemicals used in dispersants are common, and levels for safety have been previously set.

Experts trained in a rigorous sensory analysis process have been testing Gulf seafood for the presence of contaminants, and every seafood sample from reopened waters has passed sensory testing for contamination with oil and dispersant. Nonetheless, to ensure consumers have total confidence in the safety of seafood being harvested from the Gulf, NOAA and FDA have added this second test for dispersant when considering reopening Gulf waters to fishing.

Using this new, second test, in the Gulf scientists have tested 1,735 tissue samples including more than half of those collected to reopen Gulf of Mexico federal waters. Only a few showed trace amounts of dispersants residue (13 of the 1,735) and they were well below the safety threshold of 100 parts per million for finfish and 500 parts per million for shrimp, crabs and oysters. As such, they do not pose a threat to human health.  NOAA release

NIST Study on Charleston Furniture Store Fire Calls for National Safety Improvements

NIST Official at Podium Discussing ReportA report released today by the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) on the June 18, 2007 fire at the Sofa Super Store in Charleston, S.C., calls for national safety improvements and provides 11 recommendations for enhancing building, occupant and firefighter safety. The Sofa Super Store fire trapped and killed nine firefighters, the highest number of firefighter fatalities in a single event since 9/11.

NIST experts traveled to Charleston to gather data within 36 hours of the Sofa Super Store fire. Along with building design documents, video and photographic images, and other records, the study team developed a computer model to simulate and analyze the characteristics of the fire. Based on their study, they were able to outline the major factors that contributed to the rapid spread of fire, which included large, open spaces with furniture providing high-fuel loads; the inward rush of air following the breaking of windows; and a lack of sprinklers.

Specific recommendations in the report call for national model building and fire codes to require sprinklers for all new commercial retail furniture stores regardless of size and for existing retail furniture stores with a display area larger than 2,000 square feet. Other recommendations include ensuring proper fire inspections and building plan examinations, and encouraging research for a better understanding of specific fire situations. Release

Commerce Officials Address Privacy and Innovation at International Conferences

Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information Lawrence E. Strickling today addressed privacy and innovation at the 32nd International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners. In his keynote address, Strickling stressed that preserving trust in the Internet is imperative for its sustainability and continued growth. He noted, for example, that “if users do not trust that their personal information is safe on the Internet, they will worry about using new services. If content providers do not trust that their content will be protected, they will threaten to stop putting it online.”

Strickling called for technologists and entrepreneurs, privacy and consumer advocates, business interests, and the government to work together to develop a privacy policy. He envisions “a strong role for voluntary but enforceable codes of conduct, which must be developed through open, multi-stakeholder processes."

Stressing the importance of engaging the international community on privacy, Strickling added, “The time for greater international cooperation is here. All nations, including the United States, must be ready to work together and begin a proactive and productive dialogue on privacy reform efforts.” (Full Remarks)

Earlier this week, Department of Commerce General Counsel Cam Kerry participated in the keynote panel of the 30th Annual OECD Privacy Guidelines Conference and expressed a desire to create a global environment that protects privacy. (Full Remarks)

Locke Honors Pennsylvania Company for Life-Saving Efforts in Chilean Mine Rescue

Secretary Locke presented a Certificate of Appreciation today to Vice President of Schramm, Inc. Fred Slack, whose Philadelphia company’s products were instrumental in rescuing the 33 miners who were trapped 2,300 feet underground after the collapse of the San Jose Mine in Copiapo, Chile.

“The entire world watched on Oct. 13 as the 33 trapped miners were rescued in less than 22 hours,” Locke said. “Thanks in large part to Schramm’s T-130 rig – now dubbed ‘the rig heard ‘round the world’ – the miners were rescued two months earlier than originally planned.”

Locke was in Detroit speaking at the International District Export Council Conference about the administration’s efforts to grow jobs, the economy and U.S. exports through the National Export Initiative.

He also participated in a roundtable discussion with U.S. Rep. Gary Peters and local business owners, where he heard how the recently passed Small Business Jobs Act is improving the outlook for small businesses throughout Michigan. The passage of the bill – long-encouraged by President Obama – was the most significant step on behalf of U.S. small businesses in more than a decade and accelerates more than $55 billion in tax relief to businesses over the next year.  Press release  | Remarks

Commerce's EDA Announces Winners of the Innovation in Economic Development Awards

U.S. EDA Innovation Awards 2010 logoU.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development John Fernandez today announced the winners of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) 2010 Innovation in Economic Development Awards during the Southeast Workforce and Economic Development Conference co-hosted by EDA and the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration. The recognition contest is in its 10th year.

"The 2010 Innovation Award winners showcase some of the nation’s best practices for promoting economic development through collaborative initiatives and highlight outstanding examples of regional success in the global marketplace," said Fernandez.  "I congratulate all the winners for their tremendous contributions to strengthen our nation's economy."

Formerly known as the Excellence Awards, this year's awards encompass four categories: Innovation in Regional Innovation Clusters (RICs); Innovation in Commercialization; Innovation in Global Export Promotion; Innovation in Green Technology. Winners included CONNECT, La Jolla, Calif.; Bluegrass Business Development Partnership (BBDP), Lexington, Ky.; Pennsylvania Center for Trade Development "Envoy Program," Harrisburg, Pa.; University of Arizona Tech Park's "Solar Zone"; Tucson, Ariz.  Release

Secretary Locke and U.S. Rep. Scott Murphy Highlight New York Project Bringing Jobs and Economic Development to the Region

Secretary Locke listens to Rep. Scott Murphy speak about the importance of the GlobalFoundries new facilityCommerce Secretary Gary Locke joined U.S. Rep. Scott Murphy today in Malta, New York to hear from executives at GlobalFoundries, one of the world's largest independent semiconductor foundries. Locke and Murphy highlighted the impact GlobalFoundries has had on economic development in New York’s Tech Valley and heard firsthand about the company’s progress on the development of its new factory – the largest project of its kind in the United States.

The Fab 8 project is the result of a public-private partnership and will create thousands of jobs in the local community and throughout New York state. The factory will be the most advanced semiconductor fabrication plant in the world, helping to position the United States as a leader in the technology-based economy.

Founded in 2009, GlobalFoundries is creating good-paying jobs in New York through the construction and development of its new facility. The company is also committed to growing U.S. exports, a key component of President Obama’s National Export Initiative, which aims to double U.S. exports over the next five years in support of several million American jobs.

White House Council Launches Interagency Subcommittee on Privacy & Internet Policy

As part of the Obama Administration’s commitment to promoting the vast economic opportunity of the Internet and protecting individual privacy, the National Science and Technology Council has launched a new Subcommittee on Privacy and Internet Policy. Populated by representatives from more than a dozen Departments, agencies and Federal offices, and co-chaired by the two of us, the subcommittee will develop principles and strategic directions with the goal of fostering consensus in legislative, regulatory, and international Internet policy realms.

In this digital age, a thriving and dynamic economy requires Internet policies that promote innovation domestically and globally while ensuring strong and sensible protections of individuals’ private information and the ability of governments to meet their obligations to protect public safety.   

Recognizing the global nature of the digital economy and society, the Subcommittee will monitor and address global privacy policy challenges and develop approaches to meeting those challenges through coordinated U.S. government action.  The Subcommittee is committed to fostering dialogue and cooperation between our Nation and its key trading partners in support of flexible and robust privacy and innovation policies. Such policies are essential to the health of competitive marketplaces for online goods and services.

Senior Commerce Department Official Visits Haiti for Opening of First School Built Since January Earthquake

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Commerce Department Senior Adviser and Deputy Chief of Staff Rick Wade traveled to Haiti this week for the opening of the L’Ecole Nouvelle Royal Caribbean School in Labadee, the first school to be built in Haiti after the devastating January earthquake. American businesses, with the help of the Commerce Department, spearheaded the effort to build the school, which is a project between Royal Caribbean International and InnoVida, a Miami-based producer of residential and commercial buildings. 

“The Commerce Department has been actively involved in encouraging U.S. businesses and the Haitian Diaspora to help in Haiti’s recovery, which will create jobs in Haiti and support jobs in America,” Wade said. 

Over the past few months, Wade has been traveling across the United States to help promote opportunities for U.S. businesses to get involved in Haiti’s reconstruction. The U.S. private sector has an indispensable role to play in spurring investment in Haiti and providing innovative solutions to help Haiti grow and rebuild its communities.

Read more about Rick Wade’s involvement in Haiti’s recovery in his recently-authored opinion editorial. | Release

Efforts to Support American Women Highlighted in Commerce and White House Reports

Sec. Locke Meets with Economic Team This week the National Economic Council released a report on the impact of the recession on women and how the Obama administration’s economic policies benefit American women. Some of these policies include a tax credit for college for working families, expanded and increased student aid, and more manageable loan repayment so women can get the education they need to succeed. The report lays out the economic landscape facing women today and details some of the many ways the administration is committed to making sure the government is working for all Americans, especially American women.

The Commerce Department’s Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) further explored the state of American women and Women-Owned Businesses in the 21st Century in a report issued earlier this month for the White House Council on Women and Girls.  According to the report, women-owned businesses are steadily expanding and account for $1.2 trillion in economic output. Yet they continue to lag behind other companies in several key indicators.

To help reverse this trend, the Obama administration has invested in women’s education and expanded the capital available for women to start a business. The White House has already given out more than 12,000 Small Business Administration Recovery Act loans totaling more than $3 billion to women-owned small businesses.

Learn more about what the administration is doing on behalf of women and the economy and women-owned businesses, or read the reports.