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Secretary Pritzker Travels to Charlotte to Discuss Future of U.S. Economy

Secretary Pritzker Travels to Charlotte to Discuss Future of U.S. Economy

On Wednesday, Secretary Penny Pritzker traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina to participate in an armchair discussion with Charlotte Chamber President and CEO Bob Morgan. She highlighted the progress made in America’s economic recovery in 2014, and discussed President Obama’s plans to build on that momentum with the policies discussed in the State of the Union Address. 

The evidence from 2014 is clear: for the past 58 straight months, the private sector added more than 11 million new jobs. Last year alone, 3 million jobs were created – the most since the 1990s. America’s GDP is up, while unemployment rate is down. There is no doubt that 2014 was a milestone year for the American economy.

With the economy improving, the Department of Commerce is focused on continuing the growth that occurred over the past year. During her conversation with Morgan that touched upon many of President Obama’s main priorities, Secretary Pritzker highlighted trade as a top issue on the agenda. By pushing for new trade agreements, the United States can reach new markets and create a fair environment for our companies to compete. If American businesses sell more goods and services to the 95 percent of consumers who live outside U.S. borders, they will grow the 11.3 million good-paying jobs here at home that are supported by exports.

Secretary Pritzker also stressed the need to invest in America’s greatest resource: its people. As business leaders look to build a workforce that meets the needs of the 21st century economy, the Administration has already invested more than $1 billion in competitive grants in 2014 for job-driven training models like apprenticeships and partnerships between community colleges and local employers.

Hosted at the University of North Carolina’s Charlotte Center City campus, the forum was attended by local business leaders as well as students. After the 45-minute discussion, Morgan took questions from the audience, and Secretary Pritzker elaborated on why infrastructure and corporate tax reform are integral to strengthening the economy.

During her trip to Charlotte, Secretary Pritzker also met with representatives from the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, Central Piedmont Community College, SEWW Energy, Charlotte Center City Partners, and UNC Charlotte.

As she does during many of her trips, the Secretary connected with local Commerce staff who work at the U.S. Export Assistance Centers in North Carolina and South Carolina. She thanked them for their work in connecting local companies with international buyers.

The Department’s “Open for Business Agenda” goes hand-in-hand with President Obama’s vision to empower the middle class and boost the economy, and Commerce staff, both at home and abroad, will continue working hard to make that vision a reality.

Data Snapshot: How Much Do Small- and Medium-sized Businesses Contribute to U.S. Exports?

SMEs accounted for approximately 35 percent of total goods export value -- continuing a steady growth trend of the past decade.

Guest blog post by Jane Callen, Economics and Statistics Administration.

In his State of the Union address, President Obama said that “21st century businesses, including small businesses, need to sell more American products overseas.  Today, our businesses export more than ever, and exporters tend to pay their workers higher wages…”

Following on the President’s remarks, we thought it would be valuable to take a quick “data snapshot” of the most recent annual report on exporting companies published by the U.S. Census Bureau. The 2014 report shows that small-and-medium-sized companies continue to contribute a larger share of our exports than in the past. As the below graph shows, in 2013 (the most recent year for which we have data), these companies accounted for approximately 35 percent of total goods export value -- continuing a steady growth trend of the past decade.

Exports of American products overseas are important to the economic health of the U.S., and these data highlight the significant ongoing role of small-and-medium-sized companies. Stay tuned to this space for regular data “snapshots” of what is happening in the world around us, as seen through our statistical lens.

2015 Will Be the Biggest Year Yet for International Opportunities for Regional Economic Development

JoAnn Crary, CEcD, President of Saginaw Future, Inc. and 2015 Chair of the Board of Directors of the International Economic Development Council

Guest blog post by JoAnn Crary, CEcD, President of Saginaw Future, Inc. and 2015 Chair of the Board of Directors of the International Economic Development Council

2015 is off to a great start for International Economic Development Council (IEDC) and I am excited and honored to spend the next 12 months as the Chair of our Board of Directors. In this capacity, I will be traveling the globe and conferring with my fellow economic developers on many of the pressing issues and opportunities our profession is facing. One event I am particularly looking forward to attending is the 2nd SelectUSA Investment Summit. Having attended the first Investment Summit in 2013, I can personally attest to the value of coming to Washington to meet with colleagues from across the U.S., hundreds of international investors – I’m told this year’s summit will feature twice as many investors – and hear from a robust speaking program featuring top administration leaders in foreign direct investment attraction.

Foreign direct investment has proven to be a vital tool in the economic developer’s toolbox in the years following the Great Recession. In my own community, Saginaw, Michigan, it has contributed to the creation or retention of thousands of jobs over the past five years. One company, Nexteer, has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in expanding their operations in Saginaw, which has resulted in thousands of jobs being created or retained. As an economic developer, I cannot overstate the importance of the resources that SelectUSA has provided my organization and countless others within my profession. Simply put: SelectUSA brings clarity, focus and action to the role of the federal government in supporting FDI attraction at the local, regional and state level. They are an essential partner in the work of economic developers to create jobs and improve the quality of life in our communities. They are also a valued partner of IEDC in Washington and have played a key role in raising the profile of our profession over the past few years.

Commerce Efforts Featured Prominently in President Obama’s State of the Union Address

Last night, the American people heard President Obama deliver a strong and clear message in his State of the Union address: that America’s resurgence is real. In his sixth address to Congress, he noted  that the economy is in the best shape since before the Great Recession. Thanks to the hard work of America’s businesses and workers – and the tough decisions made by the Administration the economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999. The unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis, GDP is rising, exports are at a record high and the United States is outpacing its competitors across the globe. That news is to be celebrated, but there is more work to be done. The task now is to build on this foundation of progress; to continue a sustainable, real and lasting recovery for all Americans. 

To ensure that America continues to be the number one economy in the world, the President outlined a strong trade agenda. Pursuing new trade agreements is essential to creating more jobs, strengthening our competitiveness, and spurring our prosperity. 95 percent of the world’s consumers live beyond the U.S.’s borders, an opportunity that no company would or should ignore. With new trade agreements, new markets will be opened to U.S. products, helping U.S. businesses reach more customers. In today’s global economy, the country’s prosperity is directly tied to our ability to reach new markets and consumers beyond our borders.
 
Being able to meet the needs of millions of new customers requires the United States continue to invest in advanced manufacturing. After a decade of decline, the manufacturing sector is adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s and poised for increased growth in the years ahead. President Obama announced he will build on recent bipartisan legislation to strengthen manufacturing by expanding on the eight National Network for Manufacturing Innovation Institutes already created to complete 15 Institutes by the end of his term. That puts the United States on pace for 45 institutes in the next decade. The President also highlighted a new $10 billion public-private American Made Scale-Up Fund for manufacturing start-ups, ensuring that what is invented in America can be made in America.
 

Swiss Foreign Direct Investment Promotes Jobs in the United States

Ambassador LeVine and Swiss Business Leaders at White House Investment Mission

Cross-post by Suzan "Suzi" LeVine, U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein

Jobs, Jobs, and more Jobs. One role that we, as diplomats, play is that of business development. Why? Because of Shared Prosperity. Our economies are deeply intertwined so, a rising tide lifts all boats. Especially with a theme of quality job creation in this year’s State of the Union, we wanted to share the outcomes and opportunities from a meeting that was all about growing investment and jobs in the United States. 

A week ago, on January 13th, I, along with Swiss Vice President Schneider-Ammann led a delegation of executives and CEOs from eight Swiss companies who have or will have a footprint in the United States to the White house to meet with Cabinet and senior members of the Obama administration to talk about doing business in the United States. The goal was to hear from these executives why they’ve chosen to invest in the United States and what additional opportunities and/or challenges they are seeing because of the business climate in the United States. In other words, for the U.S. Government officials, this was an opportunity to gather feedback in order to increase investment and -- ultimately, great jobs -- in the United States. For the executives, it was an opportunity to identify ways to further grow their businesses. 

This was the first time business leaders from a single country have had a meeting of this kind in the White House. And this set of companies represented a diverse cross-section of Swiss Businesses -- diverse in size, industry, and location (both in Switzerland and the United States). They included Alevo Group, Bühler, the Kudelski Group, Nestlé, Novartis, Pilatus Aircraft, Reha Technology, and Zurich Insurance Group. And the right people from the administration were in the meeting to hear and act on their feedback. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, Director of the National Economic Council Jeff Zients, Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, Executive Director of SelectUSA Vinai Thummalapally, Deputy National Security Council and National Economic Council Advisor Caroline Atkinson, and Acting Assistant Secretary of Education Johann Uvin were all there to listen, absorb, and discuss. 

Feedback was shared and discussed regarding tax reform, immigration, IP protection, our shared values, and more. 

The meeting was well-timed because that same day, new job statistics came out sharing a five million job gap in the United States. That means there are five million jobs going unfilled because there are not people with the skills to do those jobs. Today, in his State of the Union, President Obama spoke not just about creating great jobs but also about ensuring we have the workforce in the United States to do those jobs. And -- again -- this was a persistent theme for these companies. In order to further invest in the United States, they need a qualified work force with which to fill those jobs. Jobs of all shapes and sizes: software developers and IT professionals, insurance claims adjusters, metal workers, pharmaceutical lab technicians and on and on. 

Secretary Pritzker and Deputy Secretary Andrews Participate in MLK Day of Service

Secretary Pritzker and Deputy Secretary Andrews Participate in MLK Day of Service

On Monday, Secretary Penny Pritzker participated in the Project Management Day of Service ScopeAthon as part of the Martin Luther King Day of service.

ScopeAthon involved 600 project managers, who provided 6 hours of volunteer effort to nearly 200 charity and nonprofit organizations that focused on healthcare, environment, education, fine arts, and social services. Events like the ScopeAthon allow professionals to share their talent and expertise with nonprofits that may not have the funding or resources to access these services normally. Five DC Metro Area Project Management Institute chapters partnered with the Taproot Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that makes business talent available to organizations working to improve, society, to host the ScopeAthon.

The ScopeAthon focused on business professionals providing pro bono work for non-profits. This first of-its kind event provided project management as a pro bono service that provided over $200,000 worth of consulting to local nonprofits. Secretary Pritzker emphasized the importance of service and the significant role of the private sector has in improving communities through service. Events like the ScopeAthon embody the spirit of the day by allowing professionals to share their talent and expertise with nonprofits that may not have the funding or resources to access these services normally. The Secretary was joined by event director Kendall Lott; Liz Hamburg, President and CEO of the Taproot Foundation; Max Skolnick, Executive Director of Taproot DC; and a representative from Hewlett-Packard.

Additionally, Deputy Secretary Bruce Andrews participated in City Year DC’s service project at Eastern Senior High School. There, Deputy Secretary Andrews helped paint a mural with other volunteers that fittingly read “Your Legacy is in Your Hands.” In addition to painting, several Commerce Department volunteers who joined Deputy Secretary Andrews were involved in light construction, organization, kit-making and other service projects. The projects complimented City Year DC’s primary focus to help turn schools into more engaging, educational, and vibrant places for students to learn and play. 

El Paso MBDA Business Center Kicks Off the New Year with Business Sunday

El Paso MBDA Business Center Kicks Off the New Year with Business Sunday

Guest blog post by Michelle Luevano, Director of the El Paso MBDA Business Center 

The MBDA Business Center-El Paso (Texas), operated by the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, kicked off the New Year with its first Business Sunday Event at Destiny Family Christian Center this past weekend. The event was organized in collaboration with the local El Paso SBA office and the Women’s Business Border Center (a joint project of the U.S. SBA and the Hispanic Chamber). The program was part of a larger effort at the national level to promote local economic growth and job creation by connecting congregations and communities with valuable business development resources offered by the federal government. Business Sunday is a reflection of President Obama's commitment to strengthening the economy by empowering people - business owners, entrepreneurs, community development organizations, faith-based groups and others - to effect positive change at the local level. 

Over 30 entrepreneurs, all at different stages in their entrepreneurial journey, gathered at Destiny Family Christian Center to learn about the resources the MBDA Business Center, SBA, and Women’s Business Border Center have to offer. Participants were given a brief presentation regarding each of the entrepreneurial technical assistance centers and were then encouraged to meet one on one with the local Business Development Specialists in attendance. Terri Reed, Project Director for the El Paso MBDA Business Center, said of the program, “This program is an excellent way of bringing business resources to entrepreneurs. Whether they are interested in starting a business or already have a business, we can provide resources and tools necessary to help them grow and be successful. Destiny Family Christian Center was a wonderful congregation to partner with as we launched this new project.” 

As a result of the success of this first event, the MBDA Business Center-El Paso will be reaching out to other congregations in the area to host similar events and connect more entrepreneurs with the resources necessary to make them successful.

Minority-owned firms seeking to penetrate new markets — domestic & global — and growing in size and scale, can access business experts at a MBDA Business Center. Whether it’s securing capital, competing for a contract, identifying a strategic partner or becoming export-ready, your success is our priority. 

The Centers are located in areas with the largest concentration of minority populations and the largest number of minority businesses. The Centers are staffed by business specialists who have the knowledge and practical experience needed to run successful and profitable businesses. Business referral services are provided free of charge. However, the network generally charges nominal fees for specific management and technical assistance services.

The Importance of Service

Assistant Secretary Jay Williams tours robotics lab with Detroit Public School Students at the Cody Academy of Public Leadership. Detroit was an early adopter of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative.

Guest blog post by Assistant Secretary of Commerce Jay Williams

We all face frustrations and challenges in our daily lives. Most of us are fortunate that our biggest complaint is often a bad day at our office job, the perils of DC traffic, or the fact that our DVR didn’t record the end of the game. It’s become a bit of a joke on social media with the advent of #FirstWorldProblems. Yet, there are many people living in the “First World” whose problems are much bigger than we realize.  

Many young men of color in this country live in poverty. In fact, minority children are 6 to 9 times more likely to be raised in areas of concentrated poverty. For most living below the poverty line, this gap in wealth creates a gap in opportunities that only grows as these children enter adulthood. I was privileged to have been afforded many opportunities growing up in a middle class household, but I know many of the other young black men of Youngstown, my hometown, were not so fortunate. That's why the President's efforts to address this issue are so personal to me. 

Last February, President Obama launched “My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential. 

I was honored to be invited to participate as an Ambassador for the MBK initiative and do my part to help achieve the program’s six main goals:

  • Ensuring that all of our children enter school cognitively, physically, socially and emotionally prepared
  • Ensuring that all of our children read at grade level by third grade
  • Ensuring that all of our young people graduate from high school
  • Ensuring that all of our young people complete post-secondary education or training
  • Ensuring that all youth are employed out of school
  • Ensuring that all of our young people are safe from violent crime 

These goals are the backbone of a larger effort in which cities, towns, and Tribal Nations across America will take up the President’s call to improve outcomes for all young people in their communities, to create a society where nobody is left behind and where all children have opportunities to succeed. EDA’s work in distressed communities and Commerce’s commitment to helping promote and support workforce training supports these goals and helps to make them a reality. 

Broadband: The Electricity of the 21st Century

President Barack Obama with Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker views demonstration of fiber optic spicing at Cedar Falls Utilities in Cedar Falls, Iowa, Jan. 14, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Cross blog post by U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, The White House Blog

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, American business owners, scientists, and entrepreneurs have driven our economy forward and kept the United States leading the way in innovation and global competition. A thread woven through the fabric of our national identity has been having the most productive and highly skilled workforce in the world.

A 21st-century America should be no different.

In order to help revitalize a struggling American economy in the post-Depression 1930s, the Rural Electrification Act called for a push to electrify rural areas. Connecting otherwise hard-to-reach communities through electricity and telephone services gave them the ability to more easily compete on both the national and global economic stage. It was an idea as deeply important to the viability of 20th-century rural America as telecommunications and broadband Internet access is today.

For most Americans, the click of a mouse is all it takes to open the door to a world of up-to-the-minute information and global commerce. In remote communities in particular, broadband brings with it new access to health care, education, and economic opportunities that have not been available in the past. But there are still many for whom this is not yet a reality.

In our travels across the country, time and time again we hear stories of the positive impacts of our work building a strong, secure infrastructure. Investments in broadband access have helped our workforce keep up with the increasingly fast speed of business and ensured that our rural communities remain competitive and attractive to new investors.

Since 2009, USDA has invested in new and improved broadband service to 1.49 million rural residents. That means expanded access to state-of-the-art health care, educational and cultural resources, and the opportunity for local businesses to compete in the global economy. In addition to core investments in broadband infrastructure, USDA has financed technologies that rely on broadband to ensure that rural Americans have access to 21st-century technology for education, health, and day-to-day life. For example, since 2009, our investments have helped more than 2,500 rural health care facilities use telemedicine to improve medical services for people living in remote rural areas, and more than 4,600 rural schools implement distance learning technology to expand their reach and improve access to information for thousands of students.

The Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) invested more than $4 billion in grants through the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program to build network infrastructure, establish public computer centers, and develop digital literacy training to expand broadband adoption. Through those projects, we’ve made significant progress. Commerce grantees have built or upgraded more than 113,000 miles of fiber and connected nearly 25,000 community anchor institutions, such as schools and libraries. Our grantees also have established or upgraded 3,000 public computer centers, trained more than 4 million people, and helped roughly 735,000 households sign up for broadband.

NTIA Announces BroadbandUSA Effort to Assist Communities with Broadband Plans

NTIA Announces BroadbandUSA Effort to Assist Communities with Broadband Plans

Cross blog post by Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling

Over the past five years, we at NTIA have seen first-hand through our broadband grant program the power of broadband to transform lives and impact communities. Broadband has become a cornerstone of economic growth, providing Americans the tools they need to participate in the rapidly growing digital economy.

NTIA invested more than $4 billion in grants through the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program to build network infrastructure, establish public computer centers, and develop digital literacy training to expand broadband adoption. Through those projects, we’ve made significant progress. Our grantees have built or upgraded more than 113,000 miles of fiber and connected nearly 25,000 community anchor institutions, such as schools and libraries. Our grantees also have established or upgraded 3,000 public computer centers, trained more than four million people and helped roughly 735,000 households sign up for broadband. An independent studyreleased by NTIA today shows that these grants are projected to increase economic output by as much as $21 billion annually.

But there’s more work to be done. Investing in broadband is a matter of basic equity. Americans who do not have access to the Internet are increasingly cut off from job opportunities, educational resources, healthcare information and even government services. Communities that do not have high-speed infrastructure are increasingly at a disadvantage in attracting new businesses and new jobs and competing in today’s knowledge-based economy. Since 2009, broadband adoption has increased more than 12 percent in the United States and stands at 72 percent according to our latest reported data. That is a healthy growth rate but it still means that almost a quarter of U.S. households are not online at home.  

President Obama today is announcing a number of additional steps to help more Americans get access to fast, affordable and reliable broadband. And at NTIA, rest assured that we will remain at the forefront of federal efforts to ensure that all Americans share in the promise and potential of the digital economy. We’ve learned about what works and we’ve heard what communities need. And we’re eager to share the knowledge and expertise we’ve accumulated over the last few years. Today I’m happy to unveil our BroadbandUSA initiative aimed at finding new ways to assist communities seeking to ensure their citizens have the broadband capacity they need to advance economic development, education, health care, and public safety.