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The Commerce Blog

Secretary Locke Blog: Help Now Available for Employers Offering Early Retiree Health Insurance

Today, the Department of Health and Human Services began accepting applications for a program that provides much needed financial relief for employers – as well as unions and state and local governments – providing coverage to early retirees.

The Early Retiree Reinsurance Program will provide $5 billion in financial assistance to help maintain coverage for early retirees age 55 and older who are not yet eligible for Medicare - another example of how health care reform is, and will continue to be, good for business.

As health care costs have skyrocketed, it has become harder for employers to provide health insurance not only to their current employees but also their retirees. A survey found that over the past several decades the percent of firms offering retiree health insurance has dropped by more than half. In 1988, two-thirds of large firms provided health benefits to retiring workers. In 2009, less than a third did so.  See the Secretary's White House blog

For applications and more information about the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program visit www.hhs.gov/ociio.

Secretary Locke Lauds New National Space Policy as Pro Business

Image of rocket launchPresident Obama’s new National Space Policy sets goals and guidelines for American space activities and promotes a robust and competitive U.S. commercial space sector, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said today.  The policy also puts increased emphasis on space-based environmental observations and international cooperation, both critical functions of the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The policy, released today, is the Obama administration’s first comprehensive policy guiding our endeavors in space. It addresses commercial space by directing government agencies to encourage and facilitate the growth of a U.S. commercial space sector through increased U.S. purchases of commercial space goods, reducing the regulatory impact on the space industry and actively promoting the export of U.S. space products.  Read more   White House fact sheet

Find additional information about the National Space Policy at www.space.commerce.gov.

Secretary Locke Joins Presidents Obama and Medvedev for U.S.-Russia Business Summit

Photo of Medevev, Obama and Locke at table.Commerce Secretary Gary Locke participated in the U.S.-Russia Business Summit today alongside President Obama, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Russia’s Minister of Economic Development Elvira Nabiullina at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Talking with both U.S. and Russian business and association leaders, Locke discussed further developing bilateral commercial relations and highlighted examples of new plans for cooperation between U.S. and Russian companies. Locke and Nabiullina co-chair the U.S.-Russia Business Development and Economic Relations Working Group and together solicited input from Summit participants. Read more  White House "Reset" fact sheet   DOC Fact sheet  White House blog   Press conference video

Task Force on Space Industry Workforce and Commerce's Economic Development Administration Launches Interactive Web Site

Satellite image of Florida

The Task Force on Space Industry Workforce and Economic Development has launched an interactive Web site to encourage public comment on ways to promote economic growth and sustainability in the Space Coast region as it adapts to changes in America’s space program. The site offers valuable information about the work the Obama administration is doing to create jobs in the region by fostering a more supportive entrepreneurial environment.  Full release   Secretary Locke visit to Space Coast blog

Commerce's NIST Team Advances in Translating 'Language' of Nanopores

Image of nanopresScientists from Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have moved a step closer to developing the means for a rapid diagnostic blood test that can scan for thousands of disease markers and other chemical indicators of health. The team reports it has learned how to decode the electrical signals generated by a nanopore—a "gate" less than two nanometers wide in an artificial cell membrane. 

Nanopores are not new themselves; for more than a decade, scientists have sought to use a nanopore-based electrical detector to characterize single-stranded DNA for genetic sequencing applications. More recently, NIST scientists turned their attention to using nanopores to identify, quantify and characterize each of the more than 20,000 proteins the body produces—a capability that would provide a snapshot of a patient's overall health at a given moment. But while nanopores permit molecules to enter into them one at a time, determining what specific individual molecule has just passed through has not been easy.  Read more here

Secretary Locke Joins Vice President Biden for Intellectual Property Enforcement Strategy Event

Photo of officials at White House meeting.U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke joined Vice President Joe Biden and other administration officials today at the White House to introduce the U.S. Government’s intellectual property enforcement strategy. Participants included U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Ron Kirk and U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel. In her White House Blog, Espinel wrote,

“I am pleased to announce that today we unveiled the administration’s first Joint Strategic Plan to combat intellectual property theft.  The U.S. economy leads the world in innovation and creativity thanks to American inventors, artists and workers.  Our ability to develop new technology, designs and artistic works supports jobs and allows us to export great new products and services around the world. Our citizens need to feel confident that they can invest in new innovation and intellectual property, knowing it will be safe from theft.  Ensuring that our ideas and ingenuity are protected helps us create jobs and increase our exports.”

Intellectual property refers to the ideas behind inventions, the artistry that goes into books and music, and the logos of companies whose brands we have come to trust that must be protected. Intellectual property represents the hard work, creativity, resourcefulness, investment and ingenuity of the American public.  White House Intellectual Property Website   White House video

Commerce's Carribean Trade Mission Yields Positive Results for U.S. Firms

Dominican Republic and Jamaica offer small- and medium-sized companies opportunity

Wrapping up the administration’s first trade mission to the Caribbean, Commerce Department senior adviser and Deputy Chief of Staff Rick Wade stressed that geographical proximity and shared historical and cultural ties make the Dominican Republic and Jamaica prime destinations for U.S. goods and services. Wade led a 10-company U.S. trade mission to the region to promote export opportunities June 13-19.

“In today’s global marketplace, it is critical for companies to establish alliances with partners in other markets in order to be competitive,” Wade said. “Because of its close proximity and a favorable trading relationship over time, the Caribbean is a natural area for U.S. firms to explore new export opportunities that will result in more jobs for American workers.”

The United States is the primary trading partner for both countries. In 2009, U.S. exports to the Dominican Republic and Jamaica totaled $5.27 billion and $1.45 billion, respectively.  Read more  Upcoming trade missions

Secretary Locke, Cabinet and Government Officials Participate in President's National Conversation on Fatherhood Panel

Image of YoutTuve video-click for videoU.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke joined a panel discussion on President Barack Obama's National Conversation on Fatherhood today in Washington. The conversation is intended to address the challenge of father absence in many communities by encouraging personal responsibility among dads across the country and assessing how we can all work together–individuals, community and faith-based organizations, and the government–to strengthen families and support father involvement. Following the panel discussion, President Obama concluded the first year of this National Conversation with a speech at a community organization in Washington, D.C.   Obama remarks   Obama YouTube video   Fatherhood.gov   En español

Secretary Locke Announces $10.27 Million in Grants to Gulf Coast Region

Grants to aid economic recovery for communities impacted by BP oil spill

Following his second visit to the Gulf Coast to talk with local businesses impacted by the BP oil spill, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced today eight grants for the Gulf region totaling $10.27 million – most for economic development planning and coastal management.

Locke heard firsthand from affected businesses last week when he traveled to Mobile, Ala., Biloxi, Miss., and New Orleans, La.

“People’s livelihoods across the Gulf are at risk,” Locke said. “From day one, the Obama administration has been committed to containing the damage from the BP oil spill and extending to the people of the Gulf the help they need to confront this ordeal. These grants are one more aspect of the administration-wide commitment to doing whatever it takes to help folks deal with the unexpected challenges brought on by this environmental disaster.”

Three grants will be administered through the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) and five other grants will be administered through Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (NOAA).  Read more

Secretary Locke Discusses Clean Energy Technologies at Energy Efficiency Forum

Secretary Locke on podium in front of audienceU.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke delivered the keynote address, "Connections between Energy Efficiency and the Economy” at the 21st annual Energy Efficiency Forum in Washington today. In his remarks, Locke said,

"Investments in emerging technologies like solar, wind and advanced batteries are vital to this nation's future, and the Obama administration is making unprecedented investments to help them grow. . . .  The president has already made $80 billion in clean energy investments through the Recovery Act – with a good portion going to the type of basic R&D that is often too risky or too expensive for private sector investors."

The 2010 Energy Efficiency Forum, sponsored by the U.S. Energy Association and Johnson Controls, brings together leading energy experts, policy makers, business executives, and top administration officials to discuss the critical role that energy efficiency in buildings, vehicles and industry plays as the foundation for international agreements, national strategies and local actions.  Remarks