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NIST Awards $2.5 Million in Grants to MEP Centers for Pilot Business-to-Business Networks

 NIST Awards $2.5 Million in Grants to MEP Centers for Pilot Business-to-Business Networks

The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has awarded $2.5 million in grants to 10 Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) centers to pilot online regional business-to-business network projects. The networks will help match buyers and sellers of technologies or products and services in support of small and midsize manufacturers.

“The Commerce Department is committed to keeping our small and medium-size manufacturers globally competitive,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. “The Manufacturing Extension Partnership grants announced today are an example of our efforts to invest in cutting-edge technologies through public-private collaboration.”

Each awardee will receive a total of $250,000 for a two-year project. The pilots are designed to be scalable and interoperable to help determine if they might be expanded into a national network or a series of regional ones. The networks are expected to include technologies available at federal laboratories and universities and, therefore, enhance the framework for collaboration between the private and public sectors through the nationwide network of MEP centers.

“One of NIST-MEP’s goals is to improve the productivity of our domestic supply chains,” said Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and Acting NIST Director Willie May. “These projects will demonstrate a variety of innovative approaches to doing that by connecting small firms with larger corporations.”

The awardees and their projects are:

Oregon MEP (Portland, Ore.)
The Northwest Connectory Business-to-Business Network (NWB2B) will bring together Oregon MEP, Impact Washington (State of Washington MEP), the Pacific Northwest Defense Coalitionand partnering trade associations, manufacturers, suppliers and other public-sector organizations in a regional consortium that will develop and maintain the pilot network. The business-to-business exchange tool they create will help manufacturers scout for local customers and suppliers, solicit bids, promote and seek emerging technologies and other related activities. The NWB2B project will build upon the existing NW Connectory, an online buyer-supplier network for Pacific Northwest manufacturing and technology companies that already contains vetted, full-text searchable profiles of more than 4,700 companies located in the Northwest.

Catalyst Connection (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
The Pennsylvania Network for Open Innovation will use an open innovation business model that instills a culture of innovation in small and medium-size manufacturing enterprises, increases their speed to market with more promising innovations, and thus, accelerates their business growth. It will leverage existing strong relationships and resources during the initiative, and the model will provide a basis for nationwide replication.

Strengthening Tribal Economies – Jobs, Energy, Housing, and Infrastructure

Strengthening Tribal Economies – Jobs, Energy, Housing, and Infrastructure

Guess blog post by Jay Williams, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development

Shortly after being sworn-in as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development in May, I traveled to Anchorage, Alaska on my first official trip. There, I participated in the National Congress of the American Indians’ (NCAI) mid-year conference entitled, “Claiming our Rights and Strengthening our Governance” where I had the opportunity to meet with tribal leaders from across the country and to participate in a focused discussion on the importance of developing modern trust management systems and creating the conditions for economic growth on tribal trust lands. 

Building on this engagement, I was honored to be asked to moderate the “Strengthening Tribal Economies – Jobs, Energy, Housing, and Infrastructure” breakout session, a vital component of the White House Tribal Nations Conference that is taking place in Washington this week. 

Joined by colleagues representing a plethora of Federal agencies with involvement in the White House Council on Native American Affairs - an interagency working group brought together to tackle the issues that affect Indian Country - we discussed the critical roles that each agency plays in helping build economic and job opportunity in Indian Country. We also heard from tribal leaders on the challenges and opportunities they face and broadened the dialogue about how the Federal government can continue to support their local economic development strategies. 

The fact that my first official engagement as EDA Assistant Secretary was with Tribal nations and that I was asked to moderate this critical White House session is not coincidental.  

Economic development creates the conditions for economic growth and improved quality of life by expanding the capacity of individuals, firms, and communities to maximize their talents and skills to support innovation, lower transaction costs, and responsibly produce and trade valuable goods and services.  

For nearly 50 years, the U.S. Economic Development Administration has partnered with Tribal communities from coast to coast to promote economic development in Indian Country. 

During the past five years, EDA has awarded nearly $54 million in assistance to Indian tribes to create businesses, build roads and other infrastructure, and develop their own economic development strategies. 

While EDA grants and other Federal investments are removing economic barriers and attracting capital to Indian country, we know there is more work to be done and look forward to a strong continued partnership with our nation’s tribal communities to strengthen tribal economies. 

By bringing so many government representatives and Tribal leaders together at the White House Tribal Nation’s Conference, we aim to be more accessible to Indian Country.

Secretary Pritzker Visits Chicago to Discuss Tools Needed for Continued Economic Growth and Commercial Diplomacy

Secretary Pritzker Visits Chicago to Discuss Tools Needed for Continued Economic Growth and Commercial Diplomacy

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker traveled to Chicago, IL yesterday to meet with students from the Institute of Politics (IOP) to talk about the Administration’s work to spur the economy and tools needed for further growth. Secretary Pritzker joined David Axelrod, Director of the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago, for an armchair discussion and Q&A session with IOP students, where she discussed her career background, what the Administration is doing to promote economic growth, her role as Commerce Secretary, and advice to young people starting their careers.

During the discussion, Secretary Pritzker stated that the most important part of any organization is the people, and making sure they have the tools and support needed to succeed. She highlighted the Department’s role in helping set the conditions for growth and giving businesses key tools to help them expand through unleashing data, environmental intelligence, support for digital infrastructure, assistance for trade and investment through the Department’s U.S. Export Assistance Center and the Foreign Commercial Service Officers. More broadly, Secretary Pritzker discussed the need for investments in infrastructure, passing comprehensive immigration reform, support for trade agreements, spurring more innovation and preparing American workers with the skills training to compete in the global economy.

Secretary Pritzker later joined top leadership from UI labs, local elected officials, and corporate and university leaders for a roundtable discussion about the future of manufacturing innovation and Chicago’s new Digital Manufacturing Design Innovation Institute (DMDI). The DMDI is one of the new National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) institutes announced by President Obama in February. Secretary Pritzker highlighted the importance of these institutes and how the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation (RAMI) Act will keep America on the cutting edge of innovation and competitiveness by meeting the real and growing demand for the development of more advanced manufacturing technologies. This legislation will also encourage partnership and regional collaboration between communities, community colleges and universities, the private sector, NGOs, and needed supply chains in order to bring ideas from the lab to market.

New Commerce Wireless Contract to Save Taxpayers Nearly $25M

The Commerce Department’s wireless demands, which span domestic and international markets, are critical to achieving the Department’s missions and goals. In order to continue providing reliable service while ensuring the most competitive pricing to date, Commerce recently signed blanket purchase agreements (BPA) with three major carriers (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile) to provide wireless services. The BPA leverages the volume of wireless services that Commerce purchases each year to drive competition, while providing the Department with a faster and more effective way to order wireless services.

The hard work of the Commerce team, comprised of technical and acquisition experts from bureaus throughout the Department, has paid off with better than ever terms for users. The team leveraged the Department’s formidable buying power to achieve cost savings without compromising quality.

Wireless BPA Benefits:

The DOC Wireless BPAs are estimated to save the Department nearly $25 million in taxpayer dollars over the duration of the 7-year BPA while providing the latest technologies to keep up to date with today’s ever changing mobile landscape. Through the new contract, Commerce will be able to:

  • Access service plans with Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile at up to 50% off GSA prices
  • Participate in DOC-wide pooling for voice and data that will significantly reduce the likelihood of overage charges
  • Streamline account and line management and access real time data through a DOC-only online portal with each carrier
  • Receive bi-annual rate optimization analysis from carriers to identify opportunities that further reduce costs

The Public Computer Center at the College of Menominee Nations, Wisconsin

The Public Computer Center at the College of Menominee Nations, Wisconsin

While Native American Heritage Month is celebrated just once a year in November, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has been serving America’s Tribal Nations effectively for many years through its grant programs. 

One such grant of $3.4 million was made in 2010 to the College of Menominee Nations (the College) through the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). This Public Computer Center (PCC) project included the construction of a new 10,000 square foot campus Technology Center and upgrades of broadband capacity to serve the more than 5,000 members of the Menominee Tribe, who live in one of Wisconsin’s more rural and economically disadvantaged areas. According to Ron Jurgens, Institutional Research Director for the college, the new facility continues to draw people from the reservation and neighboring counties to use the technology, pursue their educational goals, and take advantage of 100 megabit Internet service.  In fact, the center is so popular that the county board voted to relocate the public library on the college campus.  

The project included certificate and technical diploma training, skills-building activities ranging from GED assistance to math and reading coaching, career exploration and placement, and special workshops for economically vulnerable populations including people with disabilities, at-risk youth, and the unemployed.  In an unusual development, the local Workforce Board recently decided to house the area’s Job Center at the Community Technology Center, where two full-time employment specialists now work to help people with job search, resume building, and skill development. 

The College also partnered with the University of Wisconsin-Extension, another BTOP grantee, to offer tribal members classes in computer skills and digital literacy. Today, the partnership continues, with an Extension staff member working daily at the CTC.  

Many members of the Menominee Nation are active duty military deployed around the world. Learning computer skills, including how to use Skype software, has enabled family members to keep in touch with loved ones serving around the country and overseas. Additionally, PCC staff worked with the local transit authority to place signage promoting the computer center on buses and negotiated a new bus stop in front of the center and library to make it easier for community members to get there. 

Census Bureau Releases Key Statistics in Honor of Thanksgiving and the Holiday Season

Census Bureau Releases Key Statistics in Honor of Thanksgiving and the Holiday Season

In the fall of 1621, the Pilgrims — early settlers of Plymouth Colony, held a three-day feast to celebrate a bountiful harvest. This event is regarded by many as the nation’s first Thanksgiving. The Wampanoag Indians in attendance played a key role. Historians have recorded ceremonies of thanks among other groups of European settlers in North America. These include the British colonists in Virginia as early as 1619.

The legacy of thanks and the feast have survived the centuries, as the event became a national holiday 151 years ago (Oct. 3, 1863) when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November as a national day of thanksgiving. Later, President Franklin Roosevelt clarified that Thanksgiving should always be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of the month to encourage earlier holiday shopping, never on the occasional fifth Thursday.

The U.S. Census Bureau today released key statistics in honor of Thanksgiving and the holiday season. 

  • There were 242 million turkeys forecasted to be raised in the United States in 2014.
  • Minnesota was the leading state in the number of turkeys raised with 45 million in 2014 followed by North Carolina (35 million), Arkansas (29 million), Indiana (17 million), Missouri (17 million), and Virginia (16 million).
  • 856 million pounds of cranberries were produced in the U.S. in 2014. Wisconsin was estimated to lead all states in the production of cranberries, with 538 million pounds, followed by Massachusetts (estimated at 210 million). New Jersey, Oregon and Washington were also estimated to have substantial production, ranging from 16 to 55 million pounds.
  • 2.4 billion pounds of sweet potatoes — another popular Thanksgiving side dish — were produced in the U.S. in 2014.

For more information and other key statistics on Thanksgiving, please go to the latest issue of the Census Bureau's Facts for Features.

Businesses Commit to Alleviate Their Suppliers’ Capital Costs

Businesses Commit to Alleviate Their Suppliers’ Capital Costs

A recently released Department of Commerce report, “The Economic Benefits of Reducing Supplier Working Capital Costs,” highlighted how much the viability of our nation’s supply chain depends on large firms paying on time.  Our small manufacturing firms—which account for more than 1/3 of manufacturing shipments and close to half of employment—face elevated capital costs, relative to large firms, because of lack of access to loans and higher interest rates.  Large firms exacerbated these constraints through the Great Recession when they delayed payment for the good they ordered.  The economic recovery has not seen these times drop; indeed, one study found that corporate payables increased from an average of 35 days in March 2009 to 46 days in July 2014.

Cutting these times is not just good corporate citizenship.  It makes good economic sense, as the new report outlines.  With less working capital, suppliers’ ability to innovate or invest in their workers is inhibited, leading to lower quality goods and services. They may recoup the shortfall by raising prices, but this is not necessarily an option if they are competing with other suppliers. In the worst case scenario, they may exit the market, leaving a hole in the supply chain. Thus, an increase in suppliers’ working capital costs may ultimately accrue to the large buyer, in the form of lower quality goods and services, less stable suppliers that create risk for the buyer, and/or higher prices because of less productive suppliers.

Just last week, leaders from corporate America met at the White House to collaborate and help their suppliers succeed under the umbrella of the Administration’s SupplierPay. This initiative encourages large businesses to pay their suppliers more quickly to promote small business quality, growth, and innovation. Corporations can help suppliers avoid expensive, difficult to obtain bank loans, or other even more costly financing options. Since the SupplierPay Initiative began earlier this year, 47 companies have taken the pledge to pay their suppliers faster. These companies joined together at this week’s event to network, swap ideas, and exchange lessons learned as they take steps to help increase their suppliers’ access to working capital.

 “When buyers pay their suppliers faster, they both benefit,” said Commerce Department Chief Economist Sue Helper.  “This in turn allows suppliers’ working capital to be put to work for the benefit of the larger economy—their large customers included. Buyers also receive bottom-line benefits and fulfill their corporate social responsibility to their suppliers.”

Census Bureau Releases Key Statistics in Recognition of American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month

Census Bureau Releases Key Facts in Recognition of American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month

In recognition of American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month, the U.S. Census Bureau today released key statistics for American Indians and Alaska Natives, as this is one of the six major Office of Management and Budget race categories. 

  • The first American Indian Day was celebrated in May 1916 in New York.
  • Red Fox James, a Blackfeet Indian, rode horseback from state to state, getting endorsements from 24 state governments, to have a day to honor American Indians.
  • In 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed a joint congressional resolution designating November 1990 as “National American Indian Heritage Month.” Similar proclamations have been issued every year since 1994. 
  • The nation’s population of American Indians and Alaska Natives today is 5.2 million, including those of more than one race. They made up about 2 percent of the total population in 2013. Of this total, about 49 percent were American Indian and Alaska Native only, and about 51 percent were American Indian and Alaska Native in combination with one or more other races.
  • The number of states with more than 100,000 American Indian and Alaska Native residents, alone or in combination, in 2013 include California, Oklahoma, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, Washington, New York, North Carolina, Florida, Alaska, Michigan, Oregon, Colorado and Minnesota.
  • In regards to education, 82.2% of American Indians and Alaska Natives 25 and older who had at least a high school diploma, GED certificate or alternative credential. In addition, 17.6 percent obtained a bachelor’s degree or higher. In comparison, 86.3 percent of the overall population had a high school diploma or higher and 29.1 percent had a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • Median age for those who were American Indian and Alaska Native, alone or in combination, in 2013 was 30.8 years old. This compares with a median age of 37.5 for the U.S. population as a whole.

For more information and other key statistics on the American Indian and Alaska Native population, please go to the latest issue of the Census Bureau's Facts for Features.

#DineSmall on Small Business Saturday Night

#DineSmall on Small Business Saturday Night

Cross-post by Maria Contreras-Sweet, Administrator, Small Business Administration

November 29th is Small Business Saturday – a day circled on the calendar of savvy entrepreneurs across America.

Small businesses are the engine of our economy and create two out of three new jobs. Seven in 10 Americans are now aware that the day after Black Friday is a time to shop small and support local economic growth. This year, the SBA is helping to expand this important day into the evening to support entrepreneurs in the food and beverage industry.

This year, America’s bars and restaurants are extending the hours on the daylong festivities by promoting Small Business Saturday Night. The SBA is partnering with the National Restaurant Association to encourage families who shop small to #DineSmall at local restaurants and watering holes in the evening. We’re also encouraging small business merchants to extend their hours so they can take advantage of increased nighttime foot traffic.

Nine out of 10 restaurants have less than 50 employees, and 80 percent of restaurant owners start their careers in entry-level positions. So the #DineSmall movement is this year’s important new way to support the proprietors who give Main Street its unique flavor.

Now in its fifth year, Small Business Saturday has become a time for small businesses to harness the power of social media to attract new customers into their shops and restaurants. Last year, two out of every three holiday shoppers purchased a gift they found on social media. Half of all holiday sales now are influenced by digital interactions. Purchases may still be happening predominately in person, but the influencing is happening online. Social marketing is virtualizing what has always happened on the soccer field and over the backyard fence.

To grow momentum this year, I’m inviting restaurants to promote #DineSmall by sharing their special menus for Small Business Saturday Night. Owners and chefs are invited to share their menus on social media using the #ShowUsYourMenu tag. It’s a great way to promote what your restaurant is doing to cater to America’s small shoppers. 

We all have a stake in seeing foot traffic increase on Main Street; local spending means local jobs and local growth. Holiday shoppers shouldn’t let Nov. 29 pass without investing in your local economy, and entrepreneurs should have a multi-pronged strategy to use this day to drive food and beverage sales and showcase your local business.

Join the conversation today on Twitter (#SmallBizSat#DineSmall and #ShowUsYourMenu) and spread the word about Nov. 29 and what a big difference shopping and dining small can make.

Is Your Company Ready to Export?

Is Your Company Ready to Export?

Don Aberle has one piece of advice for companies looking to export: Commit to it.

It may take time, but the marketing manager from Titan Machinery Outlet says that commitment can pay off, and “good things will happen.”

That’s the theme of a new video from the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration (ITA), which provides tips from successful exporters about how a company can become a global player.

Young companies should also be paying attention to and taking advantage of global opportunities. Startups actually can have an important advantage when it comes to pursuing exports, in that engaging in foreign markets early can make global business a continuing part of your company’s culture.

And that can set your company up for continued success in the global economy.

Here are a few tips that can help your young business find success in exporting:

  • Do Your Research: Find the right markets for your company and have a well-defined strategy for approaching them.
  • Differentiate Yourself: Everyone says their company makes the best products and provides the best customer service. Your company needs to explain – from a consumer’s perspective – why someone would want to buy your products.
  • Be Patient: Jon Engelstad of Superior Manufacturing says there are companies he’s worked with for up to three years in order to make them customers of his company. That means a lot of work for an exporter, but it also creates a strong relationship between you and your consumer.
  • Work with ITA’s Commercial Service: Our team can help you find the right research, plan your strategy, and find the most qualified partners to work with.

Just because your company is young doesn’t mean exporting is out of reach for you. If you’re ready to get started, contact your nearest Export Assistance Center.

See video
Download the video: 
Read the transcript: 
Is Your Company Ready to Export?