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Secretary Pritzker Works to Promote More Business in Africa

Secretary Pritzker Works to Promote More Business in Africa

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker traveled to Atlanta, Georgia this week to emphasize the importance of helping U.S. companies launch and increase their business in Africa at the “Discover Global Markets: Sub-Saharan Africa” Conference. The event brought together U.S. government officials, visiting U.S. commercial diplomats posted at embassies throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, international business leaders, trade finance experts, and others to help companies identify and develop trade and investment opportunities on the continent.

Secretary Pritzker reiterated America’s commitment to solving the Ebola crisis, while emphasizing that fears about the virus should not get in the way of the facts on the ground in Africa. Ebola is confined to just three countries with a total population of roughly 21 million, while the entire African continent is home to 1.1 billion. The world public health apparatus is actively engaged, and doctors, nurses, and medical workers are using the proper protocols to treat patients and to slow the number of new cases. Efforts to eliminate the virus are starting to turn the corner, and growth of the disease is slowing in Liberia.

Despite the challenges presented by Ebola, Africa presents tremendous long-term growth opportunities, and both the U.S. government and the U.S. private sector are committed to deepening our economic and commercial engagement on the continent. Africa is home to six of the ten fastest-growing economies in the world – including Chad, Congo, the Ivory Coast, Mozambique, Ethiopia, and Sierra Leone. Real income has increased more than 30 percent, reversing two decades of decline, and GDP is expected to rise 6 percent each year over the next decade. By 2040, Africa will boast a larger workforce than either India or China.

The Discover Global Markets Forum served to increase economic and commercial engagement in Africa by helping companies launch or increase their business on the continent. The event also built on the success of the first-ever U.S.-Africa Business Forum, which the Department of Commerce co-hosted in August. This Forum brought together hundreds of American and African chief executives officers with nearly every African head of state to spur more trade and investment between the United States and Africa. At this Forum, U.S. firms announced more than $14 billion worth of investments throughout the continent.

MBDA Business Centers Provide Technical Expertise Helping Minority Business Entrepreneurs Reach Success

MBDA Business Centers Provide Technical Expertise Helping Minority Business Entrepreneurs Reach Success

For more than four decades, the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) has led Federal Government efforts to provide focused support to minority businesses enterprises (MBEs), which are increasingly critical contributors to the U.S. economy. 

With an eco-system of 44 MBDA Business Centers located across the U.S. and in Puerto Rico, the Agency’s national programs and initiatives provide increased access to contracts, capital and markets. Although the centers are strategically located in areas with the largest number of MBEs, there are no geographical boundaries for service delivery, which allows MBDA clients, regardless of their location, to seek services from any MBDA Business Center. 

Nine of the business centers are “specialty centers” that deliver expert industry and market consulting and services in the areas of U.S. exports and business linkages in emerging economies, advanced manufacturing initiatives, and technology transfer and innovation. 

“At MBDA our goal is to expand the Agency’s reach, expertise, and resources to serve as many minority business enterprises through our national network of MBDA Business Centers,” said Alejandra Y. Castillo, MBDA National Director. “We want to ensure that we provide greater assistance to minority-owned businesses to support job creation and the continued growth of the U.S. economy.” 

Besides all the technical assistance, it’s the face-to-face time with minority entrepreneurs that is the core strength of the MBDA Business Centers. 

“MBDA has functioned like a partner to my company, providing me with consulting services that led to joint ventures, capital financing, and contracting opportunities,” said Clarence McAllister, Owner of Fortis Networks and client of the Phoenix MBDA Business Center. 

For complete listing of all MBDA Business Centers, their unique capabilities and contact information, please visit www.mbda.gov.

Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership Launches Second Round of Competition

Guest blog post by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and Director of the National Economic Council Jeff Zients: Cross-posted from Whitehouse.gov

At the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership Summit in Washington, D.C. last week, the Department of Commerce and 11 federal agencies with over $1.3 billion in economic development funding brought together more than 300 people from across the country to share best practices in building local competitiveness and to launch the second round of the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership competition.

The Obama administration launched the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership initiative in 2013 to build on the momentum in manufacturing we have seen over the last several years. Since February 2010, the manufacturing sector has created over 700,000 jobs and has grown nearly twice as fast as the overall economy. And with weekly hours in manufacturing at their highest since World War II, the sector appears poised for more jobs and growth, helping make the United States more competitive today than it has been in decades.

The Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership is an initiative that aims to spur communities to develop integrated, long-term economic development strategies that sharpen their competitive edge in attracting global manufacturers and their supply chains to our local communities -- increasing investment and creating jobs. Specifically, the program brings together the resources of multiple federal departments and agencies to support strong local economic development plans.

At the first-ever Summit, the 12 communities designated "manufacturing communities" under the first Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership national competition shared best practices and an update on the hard work underway in their communities to strengthen manufacturing with other communities looking to grow their own manufacturing sectors. 

Building on the strength of their local economic development strategies in manufacturing, the 12 communities are attracting new public and private investments in their communities, including over $100 million in new federal economic development investments. For instance, Southern California's designation as a manufacturing community helped Chaffey College secure a $15 million grant from the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education to create an advanced manufacturing training center, which will train workers for the highly technical, highly skilled jobs needed to grow the industry and the economy of the region. The Greater Portland, ME Region, organized by the Puget Sound Regional Council, was awarded a $4.3 million grant from the Department of Defense to transition Washington state's defense-sector advanced manufacturing capabilities over to new applications.

PAGE Entrepreneurs in Their Own Words – Alexa von Tobel

Alexa von Tobel

When she was graduating from college, Alexa von Tobel realized she had received no guidance on personal finance. Her personal experience inspired her to start a company when she was just 25, with the hopes that she could make personal investing and budgeting approachable. The online financial planning company LearnVest has now brought financial planning to thousands of Americans, making it more accessible and affordable than ever before.

Forbes calls her a “personal finance guru,” Fortune has named her as a “Most Powerful Women Entrepreneur,” and Marie Claire Magazine chose her as one of 18 Women Changing the World.

As an inaugural member of the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE) initiative, von Tobel believes that “if you can teach people that they can believe in themselves and take their little seed of an idea and feed it properly, that not only can we change the economy, the country, but maybe even the globe.”

Cosmopolitan says that “When you talk to her, it’s a bit like talking to a Roman candle, just fully on fire, and all sorts of interesting colors are coming out of her.”

With a palpable enthusiasm for encouraging others to follow their passions, von Tobel shared her experiences and expertise at the inaugural Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Summit. Launched in 2014, YALI is a signature effort that connects young African leaders to leadership training opportunities at some of America’s top universities to help expand their skills and knowledge so they can foster entrepreneurial change in their communities and countries.

Five Steps for Protecting Your Invention

Five Steps for Protecting Your Invention

Every day, all across America, good ideas are converted into tangible inventions and products that solve problems large and small and lift our quality of life. Do you have a good idea yourself? Maybe you’ve even developed it into a proof of concept or prototype. The next step you should consider is how you can protect what you’ve created. 

Patents are issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). They give their owners the right to exclude others from making, selling, offering for sale, or importing an invention protected by the patent. While getting a patent is a complex undertaking, here are five steps and resources to get you started on the road to protecting your invention. 

  1. Pre-filing – Before submitting a patent application, you need to do some homework. The basic premise of a patent is that it protects something that has never existed before. Try determining, to the best of your ability, if your idea already exists by performing a basic patent search
  2. File a Provisional Application – The Provisional Application for Patent is one of the most popular ways for entrepreneurs to get their foot in the patent door. The provisional application is not a patent, and it does not provide actual legal protection. What it does is guarantee you a filing date with the USPTO and the ability to use the term “patent pending” as a warning to would-be infringers. The provisional application will give you a year (you can get another year through the missing parts pilot)— to test the marketplace, gather investors, and figure out your next move. After that, you’ll need to file a corresponding nonprovisional application. It also costs just $65 for micro entity filers. What’s “micro entity”? Keep reading! 
  3. Micro Entity Status – following passage of the America Invents Act (AIA) in 2011, the USPTO created a special filing status for inventors who qualify as a micro entity. This provides a 75 percent reduction in most patent-filing fees. There’s also a small entity status that reduces the fees by 50 percent.

Secretary Penny Pritzker Emphasizes Importance of North American Platform with Canada’s Minister of International Trade Ed Fast and Mexico’s Secretary of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal

During her trip to Canada, U.S Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker attended the fourth North American Competitiveness and Innovation Conference (NACIC) in Toronto. The conference provided a chance for the Secretary to meet with her Canadian and Mexican counterparts to discuss ways to strengthen the North American platform, which will create jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity for workers, families, and businesses in all three countries. 

In meetings throughout the day, Secretary Pritzker, Canadian Minister of International Trade Ed Fast, and Mexican Secretary of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal talked about areas of potential collaboration that will help make North America the most competitive place in the world to do business. 

This is the second time Secretary Pritzker has attended NACIC. Last year, the three countries agreed to work on a constructive agenda to strengthen their trade and economic relationship and pledged to continue helping businesses grow and American workers succeed through enhanced regulatory cooperation, and coordinated efforts to facilitate increased trade through many initiatives, including the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. 

Since last year, the U.S., Canada, and Mexico have achieved progress in several tangible areas by promoting the advantages of investing in North America, continuing to foster an ecosystem of entrepreneurship and innovation; and improving the efficiencies of cross-border trade and travel. 

This year, Secretary Pritzker, Minister Fast and Secretary Guajardo talked about additional areas of cooperation that will help them add to the success that has already been achieved, and build upon the continent’s many competitive advantages. Joint investment promotion – or promoting investment into North America from countries outside the continent – will continue to be a focus. Since 2003, nearly 14,000 projects have been announced in North America by outside parties, representing $724.8 billion in capital investment. 

Additionally, by the end of 2014, Canada, Mexico and the United States will each have hosted business and government leaders from the other countries to share knowledge and best practices about innovation incubators, technology accelerators, and how public-private partnerships can revitalize economic regions. With many business and regions still recovering from the global economic slowdown, these innovative exchanges are important to ensuring that new business creation can lead to future growth.  

Secretary Pritzker and Canadian Partners Discuss Increasing Investments on Both Sides of the Border

Secretary Pritzker laying a wreath at the Canadian War Memorial, extending her deepest sympathy for the loss of Canada's heroes.

During a two day trip to Ottawa and Toronto, Canada, Secretary Penny Pritzker met with Canadian Minister of Industry James Moore and Minister of International Trade Ed Fast to discuss U.S. – Canada trade relations and ways our countries can enhance commercial and economic competitiveness.  

During her stop in Ottawa, Secretary Pritzker also delivered the keynote address at an event hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Canada, where she emphasized expanding bilateral and North American growth and competitiveness through increased trade, investment, and innovation. She also reaffirmed North America’s commitment to completing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a high-standard trade agreement that opens new markets across the Asia-Pacific to goods and services made in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Secretary Pritzker also took a moment during her trip to acknowledge the gruesome attack last week in Canada, and offered condolences to the families of Corporal Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent as well as the people of Canada.

PAGE Entrepreneurs in Their Own Words – Steve Case

Steve Case, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Revolution Enterpreneurial and Ambassador, Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship

His first job out of college was at Procter & Gamble, and a few years later he became a marketer for Pizza Hut. You may now know him as the co-founder of AOL who ultimately brought generations of Americans online and made “You’ve got mail” a household phrase. You may also recognize him as an independent with friends in both political parties, who helped broker some of the finer points of the JOBS Act, the legislative package of bills that ease regulations on startups and potential Initial Public Offerings (IPOs).

Today, Steve Case is the founder and partner of Revolution, a Washington, D.C.-based investment firm that believes great companies and ideas can be found throughout the country, not just in Silicon Valley.

Bloomberg Businessweek says he’s an “in-demand cheerleader for entrepreneurism,” and Entrepreneur Magazine calls him the “Disrupter-in-Chief” and an “online pioneer [who] is bringing big ideas to life – through drive, leadership and a personal touch.” 

Steve Case was appointed by President Barack Obama to be chairman of the Startup America Partnership, a nonprofit that fosters private-sector investment into job creation. He also joined the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, where he helped lead a subcommittee looking at job creation and entrepreneurship.

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PAGE Ambassador Steve Case Transcript

NIST Celebrates World Internet Day: NIST Identifies Programs that help Private Industry and Academia Work toward better Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity (keyboard with a key silhouette on it)

On Oct. 29, 1969, the first electronic message was sent on ARPANET, the precursor to today’s Internet. Despite crashing the system, that message is the reason today is designated International Internet Day. To mark the day, and the approaching end of Cybersecurity Awareness Month, Charles Romine, Director of the Information Technology Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, has summarized NIST’s work on improving the security of the Internet and IT systems.

NIST has been conducting cybersecurity research for as long as there has been a cyberspace to secure.  NIST issues the Federal Information Processing Standards that help to protect the federal government’s information systems and help agencies comply with the Federal Information Security Management Act. These standards and guidelines are often used by the private sector and state and local governments, and therefore have a broad impact on IT systems across the country and around the world.

Through the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE), which was established in collaboration with the State of Maryland and Montgomery County, Md., we have been working directly with the private sector since 2012. The center’s goal is to accelerate the adoption of secure technologies through public-private collaborations that identify and address today’s most pressing cybersecurity challenges. We recently awarded a contract to establish the first Federally Funded Research and Development Center devoted to cybersecurity to support the NCCoE, providing needed flexibility in staffing and bringing in partners from industry and academia.

Two Years after Sandy Landfall, Commerce Continues to Help Affected Communities

Satellite view of Superstorm Sandy, 10-29-12

In the two years since Hurricane Sandy made landfall on October 29, 2012, the Department of Commerce, through its National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Economic Development Administration (EDA), Census Bureau, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), has been working to help communities recover and enhance resiliency in the face of future storms.

Hours after the storm hit, NOAA’s National Geodetic Survey began aerial survey missions to assess storm damage. In total, 1649 miles of coastline were documented. The photos taken on these missions provided emergency and coastal managers with the information they needed to develop recovery strategies, facilitate search-and-rescue efforts, identify hazards to navigation and HAZMAT spills, locate errant vessels, and provide documentation home and business owners needed to assess damages to property. To date, FEMA has used the NOAA-supplied photos, as well as those from the Civil Air Patrol, to determine damage to 35,000 homes.

Following a major disaster like Sandy, one of EDA’s key roles is to lead the Economic Recovery Support Function on behalf of the Department of Commerce. After the hurricane struck, EDA joined with several other federal agencies to deploy staff to help hard-hit communities throughout the region. EDA team members worked with officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Small Business Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture, economic development partners, and the affected communities to identify long-term strategies that aim to help the communities restore their local economies, expedite recovery, and minimize economic losses.