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Spotlight on Commerce: Gabriel Sanchez, Improving Operational Efficiency Program Manager, U.S. Census Bureau

Gabriel Sanchez, Improving Operational Efficiency Program Manager, U.S. Census Bureau

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.

Guest blog post by Gabriel Sanchez, Improving Operational Efficiency Program Manager, U.S. Census Bureau

The Improving Operational Efficiency (IOE) program at the U.S. Census Bureau harvests ideas from employees and brings cost saving and efficiency-improving innovation to executive staff for possible investment. The program has invested in 109 projects in the last three years and saved more than $32 million. I am currently revamping the program to streamline and improve metrics, objectives, performance and the harvesting of ideas.

There are several overarching themes within my current responsibilities that relate to the President’s blueprint for America — innovation, efficiency, saving money, avoiding costs, streamlining processes, and creating projects that add strategic value to the organization. By spurring innovation and improving operational efficiency, my program helps government run more efficiently and do more with less.

In my varied career since joining the Department of Commerce in 1998, I have worked in five of the Census Bureau’s12 regional offices as well as the headquarters building in Suitland, Md. My previous position — director of the Dallas Regional Office — was the most challenging, as at the peak of operations during the 2010 Census, it had 111,000 employees in 51 local census offices. I led the enumeration of more than 33 million people while dealing with 45 congressional districts and four of the 10 most populous cities in the country.

I was born in Uruguay and immigrated to the United States at the age of eight. I was raised in New York City, but I have been fortunate to live in various places around the country, which helped ratchet down the big city experience. I was very proud of my heritage when I became the first-ever foreign-born regional director of the Census Bureau. Still, I keep searching for another Uruguayan in the Commerce Department.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Works to Encourage North American Economic Cooperation

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker met with her Mexican and Canadian counterparts, Canadian Minister of International Trade Ed Fast and Mexican Secretary of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo

The United States, Mexico and Canada have come a long way since NAFTA launched a new era of commerce across the continent nearly 20 years ago. The trilateral relationship now accounts for more than $1 trillion in trade each year. In fact, each day, the United States conducts $3 billion dollars in trade with Canada and Mexico. 

Yesterday, at the North American Competitiveness and Innovation Conference (NACIC) in La Jolla, Calif., U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker met with her Mexican and Canadian counterparts, Canadian Minister of International Trade Ed Fast and Mexican Secretary of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo, to discuss how all three countries can continue to work together to promote mutual economic growth and prosperity. 

In a joint statement, the ministers pledged to work together to keep the region competitive and help North American businesses and workers succeed through enhanced regulatory cooperation and coordinated efforts to facilitate increased trade, including the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.

North America is already one of the most attractive places for businesses to invest and create jobs. More than 460 million consumers live in the region. Combined, the U.S., Canada and Mexico account for one-quarter of the world’s GDP. North America is a source of abundant and affordable energy, is home to a skilled workforce, and has made tremendous investments in research and development.

One Year After Sandy, Commerce Continues Helping Communities Rebuild

Satellite view of Superstorm Sandy, 10-29-12

One year ago today, Sandy made landfall along the mid-Atlantic coast. The storm devastated communities, families, and businesses. While it’s natural to reflect on the tremendous damage the storm wrought, today also presents us with an opportunity to look toward the future.

Before, during and immediately after the storm, the Department of Commerce provided information and data that helped save lives and property and get commerce flowing again. But our work hasn’t stopped and we continue to help in rebuilding efforts.

From spot-on forecasts delivered four days before the storm’s landfall to economic assistance to working to open ports, Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) and Economic Development Administration (EDA) have been standing with our federal agency partners to assist affected communities. In the last year, the Obama administration has provided direct assistance to more than 230,000 people and small businesses and has announced more than $39.7 billion in funding for recipients. 

EDA serves as the administration’s lead for economic recovery as part of the National Disaster Recovery Framework, which coordinates key areas of assistance in the wake of natural disasters. Since Sandy struck, EDA has provided targeted technical assistance through peer-to-peer forums to assist the New Jersey tourism industry, government procurement roundtables, “Access to Capital Meetings” to inform business resources of traditional and non-traditional financing mechanisms, and providing risk management resources to small businesses in the region. Ultimately, these initiatives have helped provide small businesses, local leaders, and economic development practitioners learn best practices and empowered them to undertake robust recovery efforts.

Spotlight on Commerce: Jorge Ponce, Director of the Policy and Evaluation Division, Department of Commerce Office of Civil Rights

Jorge Ponce, Director Policy and Evaluation Division, Office of Civil Rights U.S. Department of Commerce

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.

Guest blog post by Jorge Ponce, Director Policy and Evaluation Division, Office of Civil Rights U.S. Department of Commerce

Cuba is my birth place. My parents, my sister and I left our homeland for the United States when I was 11 years old in search of freedom. No, I did not come in a raft as I have strong allergies to shark-infested waters! While most people think that if you are Cuban, you must be from Cuban Mecca Miami, I am an anomaly to this assumption. I grew up in Arlington, Virginia, and attended St. Thomas More Elementary School, Bishop O’Connell High School, and graduated from Washington-Lee High School. Subsequently, I attended George Mason University, and completed my graduate studies at Catholic University.   

This year’s celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month is an important one in our history as we celebrated the 500th anniversary of the landing of Juan Ponce de Leon in Florida.

I consider myself to be a civil rights champion. As such, I’ve co-chaired the Council of Federal EEO and Civil Rights Executives from 2001 to 2012, and maintained its webpage. I have met with the top leadership of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management regularly to address civil rights issues in the Federal Government.  

MBDA Deputy Director Receives Hispanic Business Community Award

Photo of Castillo with event organizers

Cross-posted from MBDA.gov blog by Alberto Betancourt, Press Secretary

The Hispanic Heritage Foundation held their first Hispanic Business Community Awards celebration Oct. 23 at the Capital One Bank headquarters in McLean, Va. The awards recognized the impact of Latino business leaders on the Greater Washington, DC community.

Alejandra Y. Castillo, MBDA National Deputy Director, was one of five awardees honored at the event. Castillo received the Public Service Leadership award.

“I’m very honored to receive this award,” she said. “I have a rewarding job where every day I come to work and have the unique privilege of honoring my father. He emigrated from the Dominican Republic and started his own business. That’s what inspires me to help minority-owned companies grow their own business.”

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker also congratulated Castillo on the recognition. MBDA blog

Secretary Pritzker meets with business leaders in New York City

Secretary Pritzker and her Chief of Staff, Bruce Andrews, Meet with Mayor Bloomberg in his City Hall Office

Today, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker traveled to New York City for a series of events and meetings with business leaders from a variety of sectors. The trip also included a meeting with New York City Michael Bloomberg in his City Hall “bullpen.”

The Secretary’s first stop was to a give remarks at the Association for Better New York, a leading organization of business leaders dedicated to improving the quality of life for those that live and work in New York City and for those that visit. In her remarks, Secretary Pritzker discussed her message that America is “Open for Business” and the work that the Obama Administration and the Commerce Department are doing to help grow the economy and create jobs.

Next, Secretary Pritzker met with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in his City Hall office. The discussion focused on ways to improve skills training efforts, spur infrastructure, immigration reform, cities as key drivers of growth, and ways the Commerce Department and the City are collaborating to strengthen the economy and create jobs.

Finally, the Secretary participated in the fall dinner of G100, a private peer-learning community of current, future and recent chief executives of global companies. Secretary Pritzker talked about ways to create jobs, economic growth, immigration reform, and the need for putting an end to the manufactured crises in Washington.

Celebrating National Seafood Month

fish, salmon, and shrimp in a display case

Hey, seafood lovers—did you know it’s National Seafood Month? The United States is a global leader in sustainable seafood, supporting an industry with 1.2 million jobs nationwide and adding $55 billion of value to the nation’s GDP in 2011 (Fisheries Economics of the U.S.). To celebrate, NOAA Fisheries is publishing great seafood stories, including science features, culinary Q&As, and seafood videos and podcasts.

Ensuring that both present and future generations can enjoy the benefits of sustainable seafood is a core responsibility of the Department of Commerce through NOAA Fisheries. From Alaska to Maine, U.S. seafood is responsibly harvested under a strong monitoring, management, and enforcement program that works to keep the marine environment healthy, fish populations thriving, and our seafood industry on the job.

Responsibly harvested seafood starts with sound science, and at the heart of fisheries science is the stock assessment. We break it down for you in this animated video—the ABC’s of stock assessments.

Sound science makes effective management possible. Since 2000, 34 overfished stocks have been rebuilt, including the most recent—the southern stock of black sea bass.

NIST Releases Preliminary Cybersecurity Framework, Will Seek Comments

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) today released its Preliminary Cybersecurity Framework to help critical infrastructure owners and operators reduce cybersecurity risks in industries such as power generation, transportation and telecommunications. In the coming days, NIST will open a 45-day public comment period on the Preliminary Framework and plans to release the official framework in February 2014, as called for in Executive Order 13636—Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity

In February 2013, President Obama directed NIST to work with stakeholders to develop a voluntary framework for reducing cyber risks, recognizing that U.S. national and economic security depends on the reliable functioning of critical infrastructure. Through a request for information and a series of workshops held throughout 2013, NIST engaged with more than 3,000 individuals and organizations on standards, best practices and guidelines that can provide businesses, their suppliers, their customers and government agencies with a shared set of expected protections for critical information and IT infrastructure. 

The Preliminary Framework outlines a set of steps that can be customized to various sectors and adapted by both large and small organizations while providing a consistent approach to cybersecurity. It offers a common language and mechanism for organizations to determine and describe their current cybersecurity posture, as well as their target state for cybersecurity. The framework will help them to identify and prioritize opportunities for improvement within the context of risk management and to assess progress toward their goals. 

Obama Administration Awards $20.5 Million In Make It In America Challenge Grants

Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, along with U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, and Delta Regional Authority Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill, today announced the 10 winners of the Make it in America Challenge, an Obama administration initiative to accelerate job creation and encourage business investment in the United States. The 10 grantees will receive a total of $20.5 million for projects supporting regional economic development, advanced skills training, greater supply chain access and other enhancements. The programs are designed to encourage U.S. companies to keep, expand or re-shore their manufacturing operations—and jobs—in America, and to entice foreign companies to build facilities and make their products here.

The Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), the Labor Department’sEmployment and Training Administration (ETA), and the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) are providing funding for the winning proposals. Additionally, Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP) plans to make awards in early FY2014.

“Given our competitive advantages in energy costs, research and development, labor productivity, and intellectual property protection, there is no better place to do business than the United States," said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. The Make it in America Challenge grants support innovative, regionally-based strategies that will encourage businesses to capitalize on those advantages.”  Full release

Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Discusses Tackling the Skills Gap

Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez and National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling with members of the Business Leaders United for Workforce Partnerships

Millions of jobs have been created in the years since the recession ended, but many Americans are still out of work. In fact, there are about 4 million job openings right now, and yet about 4 million Americans have been job-searching more than 6 months. Many employers simply cannot find workers with the skills necessary to do the jobs available.

Business Leaders United for Workforce Partnerships (BLU) is working to address the skills mis-match by creating sector partnerships that align employers’ hiring needs with local and regional training systems.  Yesterday, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker joined Secretary of Labor Tom Perez and National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling to speak to BLU about what the Administration is doing to invest in workforce skills training and to hear about ways employers are proactively developing partnerships to create a pipeline of skilled workers in their local areas.

Business leaders cited how their initiative, investments, and partnerships with local community colleges, Workforce Investment Boards, non-profits, and each other industry peers and others have reduced nursing shortages in Louisville; helped the long-term unemployed train for and gain employment in the financial services industry in southern California; and developed an electrical contracting apprenticeship program with 100% job placement in Tennessee. An export-oriented metal forming manufacturer in Minnesota described how he has worked with local community and technical colleges to create certificate programs to develop the skilled workforce the company needs.