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Secretary Penny Pritzker Delivers Keynote Remarks at the U.S.-Saudi Business Opportunities Forum

 Secretary Penny Pritzker Delivers Keynote Remarks at the U.S.-Saudi Business Opportunities Forum

Today Secretary Penny Pritzker delivered keynote remarks at the U.S.-Saudi Business Opportunities Forum currently underway in Los Angeles, an event being hosted by the Saudi Committee for International Trade, the U.S.-Saudi Business Council, and the Saudi-U.S. Trade Group. The event brought together approximately 1,200 American and Saudi businesses, government officials, academics and opinion leaders to highlight the U.S.-Saudi commercial and trade relationship and inform participants about business opportunities in Saudi Arabia.

During her remarks, Secretary Pritzker noted that the United States and Saudi Arabia have a strong trade and investment relationship, and last year, trade between our two countries hit all-time record highs. Our bilateral trade is now triple what it was just a decade ago.

Secretary Pritzker also noted that the Commerce Department, over the past four years, has helped more than 450 U.S. companies export to Saudi Arabia for the first time. More such partnerships are expected as Saudi Arabia’s plans for infrastructure growth allow U.S. companies opportunities to team up to build strong and vibrant Saudi communities, she said.

Secretary Pritzker also met with staff from the Los Angeles U.S. Export Assistance Center, which is part of the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA). Her visit with USEAC employees was an opportunity to thank them for their work and part of her ongoing efforts to meet with Department of Commerce employees all over the country.

USPTO Marks Second Anniversary of Milestone Patent Law—The America Invents Act

Deputy Director Teresa Stanek Rea of the United States Patent and Trademark Office provides opening remarks at a public forum marking the 2nd anniversary of the America Invents Act, the biggest overhaul of the nation’s patent laws since the 19th century.

When President Obama took office, he made overhaul of the patent system one of his top priorities. New innovations and ideas play a crucial role in creating American jobs, stimulating our economy, and remaining globally competitive.

And it was two years ago today that the president signed the America Invents Act (AIA) into law, setting in motion the most significant changes to the U.S. patent system since 1836. In just two years, the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) implementation of AIA has contributed to a more internationally harmonized, more predictable, and more flexible patent system for the United States, and one that is much more responsive to 21st century realities.

USPTO Deputy Director Teresa Stanek Rea marked the anniversary during a public forum at USPTO’s headquarters in Alexandria, Va., today. The meeting served as an opportunity to bring stakeholders together with USPTO experts to address and answers questions on AIA provisions.

New Center for Advanced Science, Innovation and Commerce Comes Online at Auburn

Auburn University officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday for the new Mike Hubbard Center for Advanced Science, Innovation and Commerce

The Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) hosted a ceremony Friday, September 13 to dedicate the Mike Hubbard Center for Advanced Science, Innovation and Commerce at Auburn University in Alabama.

The Center is a $28.8 million research facility designed to support multidisciplinary research in bioenergy, water quality, food safety and engineering, genomics, information science and ecosystem health. The new lab includes 20 high-tech laboratories with specialized equipment, a super computer, seminar rooms and outside features such as two 5-ton cranes for biofuels work.

The lab was partially financed by a cost-share award of $14.4 million from NIST’s Construction Grants Program as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The grants program has helped to fund either new construction or expansions at 24 research facilities across the country in fields as diverse as marine ecology, quantum physics, earthquake simulation and nanoscale measurement. The grants were designed to foster cutting-edge research in science and technology to advance economic growth and international competitiveness.

A Joint Imperative to Strengthen Skills

A Joint Imperative to Strengthen Skills

Guest blog post by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez

As two of the newest members of President Obama’s cabinet, we’ve both spent the past few months lending a fresh set of eyes and ears to the opportunities and challenges facing middle-class workers and American businesses. One concern facing both communities that requires our full attention and our joint efforts is making sure that every American has the skills needed to succeed in the workforce.

This week we visited Anne Arundel Community College (AACC) in Maryland, where we were joined by U.S. Congressman Steny Hoyer, to hear from local business, education, labor, and government leaders about the importance of skills training as both a workforce development and an economic development imperative.

In 2011 Anne Arundel Community College received a $19.7 million grant from the Labor Department to lead the National STEM Consortium, which is made up of 10 community colleges in nine states. Together, they’re working with employers, labor unions, and industry groups to develop certificate programs designed to train workers for mid-skill technical careers that have a high volume of openings in a particular region. Over the next decade, more than half of the new jobs created will be middle skills jobs meaning they require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year college degree.

For Army veteran and current AACC student Gary Pollard, the National STEM Consortium has meant a second shot at serving his country, this time as a trained cyber security analyst ready to take on one of the 15,000 related job openings in Maryland alone. The National STEM Consortium is just one example of the type of partnership that can be replicated around the country as we work to find ways to ensure American workers have the skills employers are looking for when they want to hire.

Improving the Economic Measurement Toolkit: Partnerships between Businesses and Federal Statistical Agencies

Director Steve Landefeld

Businesses and federal statistical agencies have a long history of working together to produce something that is vitally important to both groups: the nation’s economic measurement toolkit.

Steve Landefeld, director of the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, charted the history of this collaboration and underscored the importance of continuing that partnership during a panel session Tuesday at the National Association for Business Economics’ (NABE) annual meeting in San Francisco.

This public-private partnership has produced concrete results over the years. For example, BEA partnered with IBM to develop a new type of price index that captured the effect of changes in technology. And BEA worked with Chrysler to develop a new price index for motor vehicles.  The Chamber of Commerce has also hosted conferences that led to important changes in the way the U.S. and other countries measure their economies. NABE has served as an important forum to spur additional ideas on the measurement front.

Arts and “First Friday” Contribute to Overall Economic Activity in Missoula, Montana

Guest blog by Rob Rubinovitz, Deputy Chief Economist, Economics and Statistics Administration

Secretary Penny Pritzker’s visit to Missoula, Montana last week coincided with one of the community’s “First Friday Gallery Night” events.  “First Friday’s” are part of a larger effort of the Cultural Council in Missoula to support the arts to benefit the community as a whole.  These events include various art galleries, museums, and retail locations, and may feature musical performances, poetry readings, dance and lectures. The effort seem to be paying off, as one study found that Missoula’s nonprofit arts organizations are responsible for close to $40 million annually in local economic activity, from both the direct spending on arts activities as well as spending on related activities such as restaurant meals, and support more than 1,400 full-time jobs. Missoula is not alone in this; over the last three years, the U.S. economy has added 140,000 jobs in the arts and entertainment sector, as many communities recognize the benefits of a thriving artistic community.

It used to be that communities invested in the arts solely as a local amenity that produces value in and of itself.  In times of tight budgets, this justification has not always been enough to continue support for the arts; however, research has found there are many ways in which the arts economically benefit communities.  A framework for thinking about these benefits can be found in what is known as “new growth theory,” which is based on the idea that individuals, firms and governments make a conscious choice to invest in skills, knowledge acquisition and in innovative activities.  With investment in skills and innovation comes the development of technology that enhances growth, and technological changes have been found to be responsible for most of the long-run growth in income per capita.  Further, there are spillovers of knowledge between firms and individuals that are near each other, leading to clusters of knowledge-based industries. 

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.