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New BEA Data Provide Insights on How Harsh Winter Impacted Industries in First Quarter

Real value added —a measure of an industry’s contribution to GDP—for agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting declined 31 percent in the first quarter, reflecting a drop in the production of farm-type products, including livestock and dairy.

How much did the harsh winter weather affect the U.S. economy in the first quarter of this year?

We know that the economy, as measured by gross domestic product (GDP), contracted at an annual rate of 2.9 percent over January, February and March, the first quarterly decline in three years. But how were different industries affected and was weather a factor?  New data released today by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis provide fresh insights on that front.

The economy’s downturn in the first quarter was widespread, with 19 of 22 major industry groups contributing to the drop in U.S. economic activity, the new BEA data show.  Some of the leading contributors to the downturn included industries that were impacted by the unusually harsh winter weather that hit most of the United States, including “agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting.”

Severe weather conditions can have both positive and negative (although mostly negative) effects on the Nation’s economic performance. For some industries this is intuitive, like “agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting” and “construction;” for other industries, like “mining,” and “nondurable-goods manufacturing,” the link may not be as intuitive.

Real value added —a measure of an industry’s contribution to GDP—for agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting declined 31 percent in the first quarter, reflecting a drop in the production of farm-type products, including livestock and dairy. 

Construction fell almost 9 percent, reflecting a notable decline in nonresidential construction activity that began in January and continued through March; unusually cold and wet weather hampered construction activity. 

Perhaps somewhat surprising, the utility industry also contributed to the decline in GDP in the first quarter.  While demand for additional utilities, for example electricity generation, was evident with the severe winter weather, a surge in the costs of the inputs used by the utilities industry—things like energy, materials, and purchased services used in the production process—caused real value added to drop over 16 percent in the first quarter. 

Working to Ensure Public Safety Has Cutting-Edge, Reliable Communications

Working to Ensure Public Safety Has Cutting-Edge, Reliable Communications

Guest blog post by Stephen Fletcher, Associate Administrator, Office of Public Safety Communications, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)

First responders know the deadly consequences of not having a communications network that is reliable and interoperable, a problem highlighted during the September 2001 terrorist attacks and Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.  

The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is working to ensure our nation’s first responders have access to the most advanced communications when responding to an emergency or natural disaster.

NTIA is working closely with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), an independent authority within the agency, as it works towards creating a nationwide public safety broadband network. In support of that effort, NTIA also is working to ensure states are prepared to take full advantage of this network once it is deployed.

NTIA awarded $116 million in grants to 54 states and territories to help plan for the broadband network that FirstNet will deploy. The State and Local Implementation Grant Program (SLIGP) is helping states prepare for the development and implementation of a more resilient broadband network, which will enable first responders to communicate efficiently and, consequently, save lives.

With the help of SLIGP funding, states and territories have begun to initiate collaborative relationships with public safety stakeholders through enhanced statewide governance, as well as by conducting education and outreach regarding the public safety broadband network, consulting with FirstNet, and identifying potential users. For example, FloridaNet, the team facilitating Florida’s broadband coverage needs, used SLIGP funding to host a listening tour – a series of eight, three-hour sessions across the state – and a webinar earlier this year to provide an overview of FirstNet and the role played by FloridaNet for law enforcement, fire, emergency medical services, emergency management, hospitals, Tribal Nations, and other stakeholders.

Going forward, NTIA will support its SLIGP grantees by engaging in outreach and technical assistance activities, such as holding webinars and conference calls, developing programmatic best practice documents, and conducting site visits. Through this work, and the work of many others, the United States is on its way to developing a public safety broadband network that stands tough in the face of crisis.

Supporting the Best Environment for U.S. Exporters

Supporting the Best Environment for U.S. Exporters

One way the International Trade Administration (ITA) supports U.S. exporters is through specific teams of specialists who focus on specific industry sectors.

From marine technology, to health care, to automobile manufacturing, ITA offers export support in a variety of sectors.

To promote professional development and to make sure our specialists stay on top of the latest business trends and opportunities, our teams come together to share lessons learned, study best practices, and discuss ways their industry is changing.

This month, the Environmental Technology team did just that.

Their week-long conference included various seminars which built on existing knowledge of export policies and emerging environmental technologies. These conferences benefit exporters because they keep the commercial service specialists up to date on the latest and greatest in their industry. The main focus of this year’s training sessions was ways the team can address pollution issues related to water, air, and soil, and to learn about new recycling technologies.

Other ways ITA supports environmental technology exporters are through programs such as;

The environmental sector is a large and growing industry. Environmental technologies make up a $735 billion global market with U.S. exports currently comprising about $45 billion of this market. Therefore there is much growth potential for U.S. envirotech exporters.

Industry-specific offices are just one of the ways ITA constantly works to make exporting easier for American businesses.

You can find out more about our industry teams and how they support exporters at export.gov. Or you can contact the Environmental Technology Team so they can help lead you in the right direction.

SEWW Energy, Inc. Inks a $175 million deal spanning 7 years following West Africa Trade Mission with Commerce Department

SEWW Energy, Inc. David Ellis, SVP, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and Kevon Makell, Chairman, President, & Chief Executive Officer for SEWW Energy, Inc. while on the West Africa Trade Mission

Guest blog post by Kevon Makell, President & Chief Executive Officer of SEWW Energy, Inc.

Ed Note: This post is part of the U.S.-Africa Business Success Stories series highlighting the work of the Department of Commerce to strengthen the economic relationship between U.S. and African businesses. This series will lead up to the U.S. Africa Business Forum on August 5th, the first of its kind event, which will convene African heads of state and government, U.S. government officials and business leaders to discuss trade and investment opportunities on the continent.

The West Africa Trade Mission was a rousing success for SEWW Energy, Incorporated. Being selected to participate in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Trade Mission, with host Secretary Penny Pritzker, was a critical move for my company. It provided us an opportunity to realize years of groundwork that my team and I have labored over and prepared for, waiting for the right moment to execute. It was obvious when we landed that success was in the air as the first delegates stepped off the plane, landing in Accra, Ghana.

Accompanied by Vice President David Ellis, our tag team duo spent part of the first day with the Managing Director of Electricity of Ghana, moving our idea of West Africa electrification across the goal line. This was the defining moment we have waited for.  In anticipation, we worked through the night praying that preparation and opportunity would meet. My goal during this important trip was to confirm the signing of a major contract on day two.  All the strategy sessions, planning details, what-if scenarios, infrastructure analysis and playbook calls all came down to this moment. SEWW Energy was focused on carrying out the mission to serve the underserved with the “Power To” change lives and make a positive difference in West Africa.

The seven-day trip solidified SEWW’s vision of becoming an international player in developing micro and macro grids electrification systems for the Accra, Ghana region. We are ecstatic to be the first company to sign a solid contract to lead the upgrade and expansion projects in the Greater Accra Region spanning seven-years, at $25 million per year. The project is supported by the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) and will include efforts to improve the transmission and distribution of electricity, in the West African nation. 

Within the seven-year time frame, SEWW Energy has been authorized to provide products and services in support of the project that will include network transmission, the rebuilding of substations, and the design of smart grids. ECG has identified infrastructure challenges that have consistently troubled Ghana including: rapid energy demand growth, inadequate network capacity, network outages, and poor energy supply reliability. SEWW Energy will spearhead solutions to reduce the cost of power supply and address security, reliability, and efficiency. Additionally, we will train local citizens in Ghana to operate and maintain the new infrastructures.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you U.S. Department of Commerce, Secretary Pritzker and my wonderful Team SEWW. We are now moving full speed ahead to Power the World!

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Businesses interested in learning more about the benefits of exporting should contact their local U.S. Export Assistance Center.

Please check back regularly for moresuccess stories about companies doing business in Africa.

NOAA and Partners Provide Real-time Information to Keep Economic Activity Flowing in Port of Jacksonville

The air gap sensor installed on the Dames Point Bridge in Jacksonville, Fla., ensured that Carnival Cruise Lines could continue serving the Port of Jacksonville while the bridge was undergoing repairs. According to a 2009 study completed by Martin Associates, the cruise industry generates more than $67 million in annual economic impact for Northeast Florida.

Our country’s port system is an essential driver of the U.S. economy and for connecting us to the rest of the world.  Every day, U.S. ports and waterways handle millions of tons of domestic and international cargo ranging from agricultural products to heating oil and automobiles.

As demand for U.S. goods and services increases, U.S. ports are responding by implementing innovative technologies. Today, the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its local partner, the Jacksonville Marine Transportation Exchange, dedicated the newest Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System, or PORTS®, in the country.  

Part of NOAA’s network of observational platforms, PORTS® puts real-time, actionable information, or environmental intelligence, into the hands of people who need it to make informed decisions.

The new Jacksonville PORTS®, the second largest ever established in the system, includes a broad suite of operational sensors with water level, meteorological, visibility, salinity, air gap (under bridge clearance), and tidal currents. These sensors are the new “eyes” for the Port of Jacksonville giving 20/20 vision to port operators, ship captains, shipping companies, and others. Jacksonville PORTS® will provide mariners with better maritime information about currents and water levels so they can navigate more efficiently and safely.

PORTS®, combined with up-to-date nautical charts and precise positioning information, can provide mariners with a clearer picture of the potential dangers in the water.  In addition, as ships increase in size and carry more cargo, PORTS® provides shipping companies with information to ensure they safely enter and exit our ports.

Census Bureau Releases Disability Facts and Figures in Recognition of ADA Anniversary

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Cross blog post from Disability.gov

In preparation for the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on July 26, the U.S. Census Bureau released its collection of the most recent data pertaining to Americans with disabilities. The numbers are striking. People with disabilities represented 19 percent of the U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized population. Persons with a disability have a physical or mental impairment that affects one or more major life activities, such as walking, bathing, dressing, eating, preparing meals, going outside the home, or doing housework. A disability can occur at birth or at any point in a person’s life.

  • Approximately 57 million Americans have a disability. There are more people with disabilities living in America than the entire population of Canada or the Caribbean.
  • More Americans with disabilities require the assistance of others to perform basic activities of daily living than the entire population of Greece.
  • If you take the population of Ireland and cut it in half, that’s roughly the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s or other neurocognitive disorders.
  • The number of Americans with vision impairments is comparable to the entire population of Switzerland, and there are more Americans with hearing impairments than in all of Denmark, Paraguay or Hong Kong.
  • By age in the U.S., 8 percent of children under 15 had a disability; 21 percent of people 15 and older had a disability; 17 percent of people 21 to 64 had a disability; and 50 percent of adults 65 and older had a disability.
  • West Virginia had the highest rate at 19% of the U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized population with a disability, the highest rate of any state in the nation. Utah, at 9 percent, had the lowest rate.

On July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodations, commercial facilities, telecommunications, and state and local government services.

U.S.-Africa Business Success Stories: How a Texas Oil Company Started Doing Business in Cameroon and Morocco

Note: This post is part of the U.S.-Africa Business Success Stories series highlighting the work of the Department of Commerce to strengthen the economic relationship between U.S. and African businesses. This series will lead up to the U.S. Africa Business Forum on August 5th, the first of its kind event, which will convene African heads of state and government, U.S. government officials and business leaders to discuss trade and investment opportunities on the continent.

The geographic distance between Texas-based Arnold Oil Company and Sub-Saharan Africa may be thousands of miles, but their economic relationship has never been closer. U.S. businesses like the Arnold Oil Company are increasingly finding economic opportunity in Sub-Saharan Africa: between 2001 to 2012, U.S. trade to sub-Saharan Africa tripled from $6.9 billion to $22.5 billion dollars. Africa is now home to six of the top ten fastest growing economies in the world, leading President Obama to call sub-Saharan Africa the “world’s next major economic success story.” That is why the Department of Commerce is working to facilitate and advocate for American businesses in this growing region, and U.S. firms are eager to help unlock even more of Africa’s economic potential.

A family-owned supplier of automotive and oil lubricant products, the Arnold Oil Company became interested in expanding its business abroad. They met with the U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC) in Austin to request assistance in developing an exporting and marketing plan for their products. After creating a plan that satisfied the company, the USEAC arranged for a meeting with a representative from the U.S. Export-Import Bank to assist the Arnold Oil Company with financing its exports.

But the USEAC took its assistance one step further, introducing the Arnold Oil Company to a buyer in Cameroon, who eventually was signed as a distributer. As a result of this relationship, the Arnold Oil Company was able to ship their first exports of oil lubricants to Morocco, generating revenue of more than $24,000 in 2013. With assistance from the USEAC, the Arnold Oil Company was able to expand its business into one of the most economically dynamic regions in the world.

FirstNet: Deploying a Resilient Broadband Network for the Nation’s First Responders

FirstNet:  Deploying a Resilient Broadband Network for the Nation’s First Responders

Guest blog post by TJ Kennedy, FirstNet Acting General Manager

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), an independent entity within the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, was established by Congress to develop a nationwide broadband network for the millions of first responders whose mission requires them to be resilient every time they are called to duty.  Whether they are responding to day-to-day emergencies – such as traffic accidents – or large-scale disasters like wildfires and hurricanes, the nation’s firefighters, law enforcement personnel, and emergency medical services are critical to ensuring our safety and security during all types of hazards.

A great deal of progress has been made to enhance emergency communications in light of the interoperability and operability challenges that hampered the rescue and response operations to the September 11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina.  But we owe it to our nation’s first responders to ensure they have reliable and interoperable communications all of the time.

To deploy a nationwide public safety broadband network, FirstNet is working closely with first responders in all 56 states and territories to ensure their communications needs are built into the nationwide network from day one, so they can seamlessly share information and communicate under all conditions.  And like first responders themselves, the network must be resilient:  it must be able to withstand the elements and recover rapidly from disruptions, including deliberate attacks, accidents, or naturally occurring weather situations.

Census Bureau Updates Interactive HIV/AIDS Database; New Prevalence Estimates from More Than 100 Countries

Census Bureau Updates Interactive HIV/AIDS Database; New Prevalence Estimates from More Than 100 Countries

The U.S. Census Bureau today released its annually updated interactive global resource on the prevalence of HIV infection and AIDS cases and deaths. First developed in 1987, the database now holds more than 164,000 statistics, an increase of approximately 5,900 new estimates in the last year, and is the most comprehensive resource of its kind in the world.

The Census Bureau database is maintained with funding from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The Census Bureau’s HIV/AIDS database is the world’s only resource that consolidates HIV/AIDS information for policymakers, academics and health care professionals who conduct research to help end the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The current annual updates and long time series of globally available findings in the database serve as a comprehensive and valuable resource for the many health care leaders throughout the world conducting research on HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment.

The tool consists of a library of statistics from more than 14,900 sources in international scientific and medical journals, individual countries’ annual HIV/AIDS surveillance reports, and papers and posters presented at international conferences. China represents 28 percent of the new records in the database, the largest increase by a single country.

The menu-driven access tool enables users to search for statistical information in countries and territories across the world, as well as by subpopulation, geographic subarea (such as urban and rural), age, sex and year from the 1960s to 2013.

HIV-related statistics for the United States are available separately from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Secretary Pritzker Underscores Importance of Innovation and American Manufacturing at Visit to Whirlpool Corporation

Secretary Pritzker receives a tour of the Whirlpool Corporate Headquarters by Chief Executive Officer Jeff Fettig

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker discussed the importance of innovation and American manufacturing to the U.S. economy during a tour and panel discussion with business leaders and CEOs at the Whirlpool Corporation’s headquarters in Benton Harbor, Michigan. As the world’s leading global manufacturer and marketer of major home appliances, the Whirlpool Corporation has effectively  integrated innovative thinking into its core values and mission.

Speaking on a panel titled “The Global Innovation Forum,” and moderated by Doug Rothwell, Chief Executive Officer and President of the Business Leaders of Michigan, Secretary Pritzker explained that one of the key priorities of the Commerce Department’s “Open for Business Agenda” is to strengthen American innovation, with a focus on supporting manufacturing. Secretary Pritzker also highlighted how the Obama Administration and the Department of Commerce are spearheading three manufacturing initiatives to accomplish this objective.

First, Secretary Pritzker talked about the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI), a bipartisan, industry-driven proposal to create a network of commercialization hubs owned and operated by universities and corporations. These hubs will conduct skills training and accelerate new technologies into the market, all aimed at benefiting a region’s manufacturing base, rather than just a single company.  In addition, Secretary Pritzker discussed the successes of the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP). IMCP is a federal designation that recognizes communities that should serve as models for the rest of the country – because they each have clear strategies to become magnets for manufacturing, along with coordinated efforts in key areas, like workforce training, supplier networks, research and innovation, infrastructure and site development, exporting, and access to capital. Recent research shows that communities who make these investments in a coordinated fashion experience higher growth in employment, wages, number of establishments, and number of patents.