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Secretary Pritzker Wheels Around the United Bicycle Institute in Portland, Oregon

Today, as part of Secretary Penny Pritzker’s nationwide listening tour, she toured the United Bicycle Institute in Portland, Oregon. It is the bicycle industry’s leading technical school offering courses in repair, frame building, and mechanic certification for technicians. She also held a roundtable discussion with representatives from the bicycle industry.

In 2012, Bicycling magazine rated Portland as the No. 1 cycling city in the U.S. The United Bicycle Institute (UBI) has established itself as a critical part of the cycling culture in the region. UBI has two facilities, the main facility in Ashland, Oregon and the Portland facility, which includes a 3,000 square foot mechanics classroom and a 2,400 square foot frame building shop.  Founded in 1981, UBI has educated nearly 20,000 students since it opened, many of whom have gone on to careers in the bicycle industry. 

During her tour, Secretary Pritzker viewed the mechanics classroom where students work on a component-by component study of bicycle repair, as well as a study of the bicycle as a complete system. This enables mechanics to work on all types of bicycles. She also visited the frame room, where students are taught by master frame builders. The course of study provides certification for students who want to become professional frame builders. The frame building classes are intensive, but no prior frame building, welding or brazing experience is required. Students learn all the skills they need during the coursework.

Following her tour, Secretary Pritzker participated in a roundtable with business owners in the bicycle industry who expressed their optimism about their ability to grow in the future.

Portland was Secretary Pritzker’s 12th stop on her nationwide listening tour. She has been meeting with businesses, thought leaders, entrepreneurs, academics and Department of Commerce employees. In these discussions, Secretary Pritzker has heard about their priorities, concerns and ideas on how the public and private sectors can work together to strengthen the economy and create American jobs.

Secretary Pritzker Tours NOAA’s Western Regional Center in Seattle

Secretary Pritzker is joined by Commerce employees at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Western Regional Center in Seattle, Washington

As part of her nationwide listening tour, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker yesterday visited the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Western Regional Center in Seattle, Washington, the largest NOAA facility outside of Washington, D.C. She thanked NOAA employees for their hard work, which she said was critical to Commerce’s mission. The Secretary also toured parts of NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration and NOAA Fisheries Service. 

On the tour of the Western Regional Center, Secretary Pritzker learned specifically about two different kinds of tsunami detection buoys that NOAA has developed and has now been commercialized by private industry. The buoys are now built commercially and sold to many different countries, thus providing a standardized tsunami detection and warning system for the world as well as creating U.S. jobs and increasing U.S. exports.  A partnership between the National Weather Service and Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory has made tsunami forecasting and warning more accurate than ever before, while helping to promote the development of tsunami forecasting capabilities in other countries.

Secretary Pritzker also visited the Office of Response and Restoration where Secretary Pritzker learned about the tools they build and maintain that emergency responders depend on nationwide. These tools provide the best available science data to federal, state, and local responders when they need it most, predicting chemical reactions, oil spill and marine debris trajectories, and oil weathering during emergencies.  From preparedness and response through recovery, the NOAA Office of Response and Restoration protects the United States’ coastal and marine environment from threats including marine debris, releases from hazardous waste sites, and oil and chemical spills.

Secretary Pritzker Tours Year Up Skills Center in Seattle, Washington

Secretary Pritzker visiting the IT Apps class where students use office productivity applications to build their own business plan, which they present to the class as a final project.

Today, as part of her nationwide listening tour, Secretary Pritzker visited Year Up in Seattle, WA. Year Up is a national non-profit organization operating in 12 cities that provides urban young adults with the skills, experience, and support that will empower them to pursue professional careers and higher education.

She toured the facilities with Lisa Chin, Executive Director of Year Up Puget Sound Seattle, and John Stanton, Year Up Board Chair. On the tour she saw a Business Communications class where students learn the fundamentals of effective communication in a professional setting.  Some of the skills taught include public speaking, email etiquette, and giving presentations in a business setting. She also visited the IT Apps class where students use office productivity applications to build their own business plan, which they present to the class as a final project.

Students at Year Up focus on learning skills and obtaining needed credentials during their first six months in the program. In the second six months, students apply those skills through corporate sponsorships. Students can earn up to 23 college credits during their year of study. Year Up is an excellent of example of how employers, community colleges and non-profits can come together to teach young adults the skills valued by employers.

Today’s Investments in Infrastructure and Workforce Are Ensuring Our Future Economic Growth

Deputy Assistant Secretary Matt Erskine Presents EDA Investment Grants to Tennessee and Kentucky (Photo courtesy of Jeremy Nash, News-Herald and The Connection)

Guest blog post by Matt Erskine, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Devleopment, U.S. Economic and Development Administration

Making investments in our workforce and building out critical business infrastructure are key elements of any strategy to ensure our nations’ future economic growth. And when these investments are matched locally and amplify existing local and regional technological assets and expertise, they are doubly effective. 

I saw evidence of this today and yesterday when I travelled to Kentucky and Tennessee to announce three new EDA investments in these states. I was accompanied by Earl Gohl, federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission, which is doing impressive work that is critical to the competitiveness of this region. 

In Barbourville, Kentucky this morning, I was honored to participate in Union College’s opening convocation where I announce a $1.5 million EDA disaster assistance grant that will help Knox County and the surrounding region rebound and diversify in the wake of 2011 flooding and tornadoes.  Specifically, the grant will support the region’s workers and its growing health-care sector by helping to renovate the former Knox County hospital building on the college’s campus to serve as the new Department of Nursing and Health Sciences. 

As U.S. House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers said, “When our rural communities face natural disasters, they need financial support to rebuild, which secures the hope of a full recovery…I commend the EDA for supporting these efforts in Southern and Eastern Kentucky.” 

This EDA grants will ensure a full recovery for the region by helping them prepare for a greater healthcare workforce. The grant adds to the more than $42 million in EDA investments that have gone to projects in Kentucky since 2009, supporting the creation of 6,000 new jobs in the state. 

Secretary Pritzker Tells Employees in the Northwest their Efforts are Key to American Innovation

Secretary Pritzker today in Seattle kicked-off her first visit to the Northwest as Commerce Secretary by visiting with EDA employees and employees from U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC), part of the International Trade Administration (ITA), U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) and Office of Inspector General (OIG). The secretary's visit is part of her latest stop on a nationwide listening tour and was an opportunity to thank the employees for their work for the Department of Commerce. 

At the meeting, the Secretary told employees gathered at the EDA regional office that the common thread in the bureaus throughout the department is working together to protect, promote, anticipate and inform what America needs to be competitive and innovative in the 21st century. This is the mission of the Commerce Department.

Secretary Pritzker praised the agencies in attendance for the great work they are doing in the region.

  • U.S. PTO patent examiners were spotlighted for helping Americans turn ideas into businesses quickly, even as PTO has had several straight years of 5 to 7 percent increases in patent applications.
  • The Seattle U.S. Export Assistance Center was praised by the Secretary for their work in industries like aerospace and defense which has proven to be crucial in growing exports and reaching record breaking numbers in the first half of this year. Recent Commerce data show that exports support nearly 40% of all manufacturing workers in Washington.
  • EDA’s regional office was acknowledged for their efforts in serving 8 states and a number of territories. EDA funds helped build a Pipeline Training Center in Alaska, expand a fiber optic network in California and launched several of new Jobs Accelerators. 
  • And, the Inspector General’s office was recognized for the crucial role they play. From reviewing NOAA’s fisheries enforcement efforts, climate monitoring systems, and other NOAA programs, their work ensures the Department is doing the best possible job.

Secretary Pritzker concluded her visit by encouraging the employees to continue their great work. She believes America is more competitive than ever before. Over the past 41 months, 7.3 million jobs were created. She said the Commerce Department’s goal is to accelerate that momentum through the great work of Commerce employees in the Northwest region, throughout the country, and across the world.

Commerce Department Encourages Businesses to Prepare Now for Future Emergencies and Disasters

National Preparedness Month Graphic

September is National Preparedness Month. It is crucial that businesses, in addition to government officials and the public, take steps now to prepare for future emergencies or natural disasters. The Commerce Department is encouraging business owners to be good corporate citizens by establishing a plan to help lessen the economic impact of disasters within their communities. Here are three things business owners can do today to prepare for future emergencies and disasters:

  1. Have a business continuity plan. This plan can help protect businesses, employees, and infrastructure, and increase chances of recovery after a disaster.
  2. Know your risks. Gather information about local hazards by contacting your local emergency management office, American Red Cross chapter and NOAA's National Weather Service forecast office.
  3. Become a StormReady community. Being StormReady means your business has multiple ways to receive forecasts and warnings from the National Weather Service, monitors local weather conditions, communicates effectively with employees, promotes public readiness through community seminars, and has a formal hazardous weather plan. 

According to a report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center, Americans coped with 11 weather and climate disaster events in 2012, including seven severe weather and tornado events, two tropical cyclone events, a year-long drought and wildfires. The impacts of this weather have a significant effect on the U.S. economy. In addition to killing over 300 people, the events in 2012 caused more than $110 billion in damages, having particularly devastating economic effects on the impacted areas. That makes last year’s disaster costs second only to 2005, which incurred $160 billion in damages. 

These effects can be felt by businesses that don't reopen after a storm, which also negatively impacts communities and the local economy. The American Red Cross reports that as many as 40 percent of businesses fail following a disaster. But businesses that are weather-ready don't have to be part of this statistic. 

The time is now. Businesses can’t afford to be unprepared, particularly with the peak of hurricane season now in full swing. Implementing the suggested recommendations can help businesses and communities survive natural disasters and sustain their local economies. 

For more information on how businesses can prepare for an emergency, visit www.ready.gov/business.

NIST Releases Study on Reducing Damage and Loss from Wildfires

A wooded area aflame during the 2007 Witch Creek/Guejito wildfire in Southern California. A new report from NIST looks at the fire's impact on structures in one community based on their pre-fire exposure risk to direct fire contact and embers (both seen in the photo). Credit: With permission from Dan Tentler, lightbending.net

recent study of one of California's most devastating wildland fires by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) strongly suggests that measures for reducing structural damage and property loss from wildland urban interface (WUI)* fires are most effective when they are based on accurate assessments of exposure risks both for individual structures and the community as a whole.

The report also describes how the NIST-USFS WUI Hazard Scale provides a state-of-the-art tool for making such assessments and how that data could be linked to improved building codes, standards and practices that will help communities better resist the threat of wildfires.

The Witch Creek/Guejito WUI fire (commonly known as the Witch Fire) was the largest of a series of wildfires that began burning across Southern California on Oct. 20, 2007. It affected areas north and northeast of San Diego, starting in Witch Creek Canyon near Santa Ysabel and quickly spreading westward toward the coast because of strong Santa Ana winds. The Witch Fire burned some 80,000 hectares (nearly 200,000 acres), destroyed more than 1,600 structures, caused an estimated $1.8 billion in property damages and cost $18 million to fight. It also was responsible for two civilian deaths and 39 firefighter injuries.  Full release

Back to School: 2013-2014

Image of students boarding a yellow school bus

By August, summertime is winding down and vacations will be coming to an end, signaling that back-to-school time is near. It's a time that many children eagerly anticipate—catching up with old friends and making new ones, and settling into a new daily routine. Parents and children alike scan the newspapers and websites looking for sales to shop for a multitude of school supplies and the latest clothing fads and essentials. This edition of Facts for Features highlights the many statistics associated with the return to classrooms by our nation's students and teachers. Here are a few:

  • $8.5 billion: The amount of money spent at family clothing stores in August 2012. Sales at bookstores in August 2012 totaled $2.0 billion.
  • 79 million: The number of children and adults enrolled in school throughout the country in October 2011—from nursery school to college. They comprised 26.9 percent of the entire population age 3 and older.
  • 42%: Percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled in college in 2011. 

School Enrollments in the United States (report)

More Facts for Features

Labor Day 2013: September 2

Categories:
Labor Day greeting

The first observance of Labor Day was likely on Sept. 5, 1882, when some 10,000 workers assembled in New York City for a parade. That celebration inspired similar events across the country, and by 1894 more than half the states were observing a "workingmen's holiday" on one day or another. Later that year, with Congress passing legislation and President Grover Cleveland signing the bill on June 29, the first Monday in September was designated "Labor Day." This national holiday is a creation of the labor movement in the late 19th century—and pays tribute to the social and economic achievements of American workers.

  • 155.7 million: Number of people 16 and over in the nation's labor foce in May 2013
  • 84.7%: Percentage of full-time workers 18 to 64 covered by health insurance during all or part of 2011. 
  • 4.3%: Percentage of workers 16 and over who worked from home in 2011.
  • 76.4%: Percentage of workers 16 and over who drove alone to work in 2011.
  • 25.5 minutes: The average time it took workers in the U.S. to commute to work in 2011. 

See more stats in the Census Bureau's Facts for Features

Secretary Pritzker Labor Day statement.

Confirming the Partnership Between the United States and Asia

Industry representatives from nations within the Asia-Pacific region attend a business ethics workshop with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Academy in August 2013.

The Department of Commerce has taken advantage of several opportunities to support its commitment to Asia, an important region with some of the world’s fastest growing economies.

Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Francisco Sánchez visited Brunei this month for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Business and Investment Summit. His message to the Summit was that ASEAN remains an important partner to the United States and a key player in the global marketplace.

As ASEAN looks to form an integrated economic community, the United States wants to make sure every nation in the region understands America’s commitment to ASEAN and the broader Asia-Pacific region. The United States and ASEAN are working within the Expanded Economic Engagement framework, designed to expand trade and investment ties and create new business opportunities and jobs in all eleven countries.

The United States and the Commerce Department support the important initiatives ASEAN is taking on to support the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). All governments in the region are actively working to put greater emphasis on protecting intellectual property and enforcing intellectual property rights. This encourages innovation, as it ensures that SMEs will be able to profit from their ideas without worry of them being compromised.