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Commerce Department Recognizes Outstanding Employees at 65th Annual Honor Awards

Secretary Pritzker congratulates the NOAA team that collected and disseminated critical information that saved lives when Sandy hit

Today U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and Dr. Pat Gallagher, in his duties as Deputy Secretary, recognized 351 Commerce employees for receiving Honor Awards, the most prestigious award the Department gives out each year.

Since 1949, the Department of Commerce has recognized outstanding employees with Gold or Silver Medals at the Honor Awards.  The employees’ contributions must focus on qualitative and quantitative performance measures reflected in the Department’s Strategic Plan in one of seven categories:  Leadership, Personal and Professional Excellence, Scientific/Engineering Achievement, Organizational Development, Customer Service, Administrative/Technical Support, and Heroism.

This year teams and individuals from across the department made tremendous achievements in everything from assisting companies exporting, making more Commerce data available to businesses and consumers, and creating new tools and resources for American manufacturers.

Commerce will build on the progress made by today’s awardees and will continue to support American businesses with the tools they need to grow and hire, and support President Obama’s efforts to ensure lasting economic security for the United States.

Commerce Promotes Digital Economy at State of the Net

Lawrence E. Strickling, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and Administrator

Guest blog post by Lawrence E. Strickling, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and Administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration

Over the past 20 years, the Internet has radically transformed the way Americans work and play. And it continues to be a key driver of innovation, job creation and overall economic expansion.

At the Commerce Department, we understand the importance of the Internet to America’s digital economy and the continued growth of the global economy. That’s why preserving a vibrant, open and free-flowing Internet is a core mission of our agency.

Today, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker addressed the 10th annual State of the Net conference, where she shared the Department’s commitment to promoting policies that support America’s digital economy. And she pledged to act as the champion of good Internet policy that supports entrepreneurs, businesses, and their workers.

At the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), we’re working to fulfill that pledge by continuing to work –  both domestically and internationally – to champion the multistakeholder model for developing Internet policies. As I outlined in remarks at State of the Net today, the Internet is a diverse, multi-layered system that thrives only through the cooperation of many different parties. Solving policy issues in this space requires engaging these different parties – businesses, policymakers, civil society leaders, and others. They are all partners in the process, each with the ability to participate and have a voice in the outcome.

Senator Mikulski Tours Auto Lightweighting Center at NIST

U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski and NIST Director Patrick Gallagher hear a presentation from NIST researcher Mark Iadicola as part of tour of the NIST Center for Automotive Lightweighting.

Guest blog post by Patrick Gallagher, Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director

Doubling automobile fuel economy by 2025. Reducing the weight of automobiles by up to half a ton each while maintaining or improving safety. Saving millions of dollars annually in redesign and re-tooling costs. These are some of the ambitious auto industry goals supported by the Center for Automotive Lightweighting at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Yesterday we were honored to host a visit by U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) to the lightweighting center. As chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Mikulski came to the NIST campus in Gaithersburg, Md., as part of her continuing “Jobs Tour” in the state.

She also gave a talk to NIST staff about the recently enacted Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014. The act provides $850 million in appropriations for NIST work through October 2014. Included is a $30 million increase in funding for advanced manufacturing research. Such research provides manufacturers with the data and measurement tools and technologies they need to continually improve their products and compete in the global marketplace.

Established in 2006, the lightweighting center helps the auto industry stay competitive by developing new measurement methods and collecting critical data on the properties of lighter weight automotive alloys and composites. During the tour, Senator Mikulski was shown samples of new high-strength steels and aluminum and magnesium alloys that weigh up to 65 percent less and yet are stronger than the traditional mild steels that have been used in vehicles for the past 100 years.

NIST-developed research instruments installed at the center twist, press, stretch and squeeze the new lightweight materials to better understand how they will perform when shaped into automotive parts, including predicting safety during crash tests. The resulting data and analysis of the materials behavior help companies reduce expensive trial and error testing. By sharing fundamental materials properties data like this, the NIST center allows individual manufacturers to use more of their own scarce research dollars to leapfrog to better company-specific solutions and improved products.

More than 30 companies and research universities, including five automakers, have expressed interest in a new NIST Automotive Lightweighting Consortium now being formed.

Secretary Pritzker Takes “Open For Business Agenda” to World Economic Forum

Secretary Pritzker on the CNBC Squawk Box set at the World Economic Forum

This week Secretary Pritzker was in Davos, Switzerland at the World Economic Forum (WEF). Her participation in WEF highlighted the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship as part of the Commerce Department’s “Open for Business Agenda.” The Department of Commerce is responsible for promoting the ideas and policies that support innovation and entrepreneurship, which help America maintain its competitive edge, spur wage and job growth, and strengthen the U.S. economy.

Secretary Pritzker participated in a plenary session on the US Economic Outlook with Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and US Trade Representative Michael Froman. During the panel Secretary Pritzker said she was optimistic and bullish about America’s future because the economy and American competitiveness have regained traction. The economy has created 8 million jobs in past 4 years, including more than 2.2 million private sector jobs last year, and nearly 600,000 new jobs in manufacturing. With 10 straight quarters of GDP growth, the recovery is starting to take hold and economists expect continued strong growth in the year ahead.

Secretary Pritzker also reiterated the need for increased trade and investment. Since 95% of consumers live outside of our borders, it is important that we continue to pursue free trade agreements since they have proved to be one of the best ways to open up foreign markets to U.S. exporters. That is why the Obama Administration is pursuing additional trade agreements that will cover 60% of the global GDP and open up new markets to American businesses. The Secretary also promoted SelectUSA, the Administration’s aggressive effort to seek potential investors. 

Secretary Pritzker pushed for a sustained recovery built upon real wage growth. She called for aggressively addressing income inequality by lifting incomes and helping long-term unemployed through increasing the minimum wage and extending unemployment insurance. Pritzker noted that business and government leaders have a moral responsibility to support their workers and thereby strengthen their middle class – in an increasingly interconnected, competitive global economy.

It’s About Time – But Also Much More

JILA’s experimental atomic clock based on strontium atoms held in a lattice of laser light is the world's most precise and stable atomic clock. The image is a composite of many photos taken with long exposure times and other techniques to make the lasers more visible. Credit: Ye group and Baxley/JILA

DOC Guest Blog by JILA and University of Colorado Student Ben Bloom with JILA/NIST Fellow Jun Ye.  JILA is a joint institute of NIST and the University of Colorado Boulder.

40° 0.435', -105° 16.116' -- that’s where I work.  I know this because my smart phone says so. The same phone that woke me up in the morning, reminded me to give my dog his heartworm medication, and that I routinely use as a flashlight. But how does this small, everyday piece of technology know where I am? Sixty years ago when somebody set out to build atomic clocks, surely they had different goals in mind, something big and of a national scale you would think. Nobody could have imagined a handheld box for every citizen good for watching cat videos and also for advanced communications of all sorts.

My phone (and yours!) knows exactly where on Earth it is and how to drive to the nearest gas station because of atomic clocks. The Global Positioning System (or GPS) is an intricate dance of many atomic clocks floating in the space above our heads, declaring to the world what time they read. By listening to a few of these clocks, your phone can pinpoint your exact location. But the most amazing part of all of this is the fact that those atomic clocks whizzing by, orbiting our planet, are already dinosaurs in the context of today’s technology.

Research results published today showcase a new type of atomic clock built by a team of NIST and JILA researchers in Boulder, Colorado. I am privileged to be part of that team, led by Jun Ye. The new type of atomic clock is 10,000 times more precise and stable than the clocks used in space today. By creating a clock based on a few thousand strontium atoms, a metallic element, trapped by laser light, we have been able to demonstrate a radically different alternative to standard atomic clocks that define the international unit of time, the second. These new experimental clocks will allow for a new set of applications that could excite technology enthusiasts and serve the nation. Applications we can only dream of today.

Imagine being able to understand the composition of the ground underneath you by flying an atomic clock over a landmass, “teleporting” huge amounts of information across a quantum network supported by these clocks, or maybe even listening to the subtle gravitational waves emitted by a binary star as the wave sweeps by an array of these clocks. A network of these clocks will be the ultimate probe of the still mysterious space-time of our universe, and will help explore the frontiers of the bizarre quantum world. I don’t know if or when our clocks will re-define the second, be used in a new GPS that could pinpoint my location to an inch, or be some integral piece to a quantum computer, but one thing is for sure: I can’t wait to find out.

Secretary Pritzker Highlights Strong Economic Partnership Between USA and Canada

International Trade Between U.S. and Canada

Today, Secretary Penny Pritzker and Canada’s International Trade Minister Edward Fast spoke about the future of the U.S.-Canadian economic relationship at a luncheon hosted by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs. The United States and Canada share a long-standing partnership based on history, geography, and the world’s largest bilateral trading relationship. It is the biggest bilateral trade relationship in the world with more than $1 million in trade crossing our border every minute.  

In 2011, President Obama and Prime Minister Harper announced the U.S.-Canada Beyond the Border Action Plan and the U.S.-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council, with initiatives aimed at enhancing economic competitiveness. Canada is the United States’ largest trading partner – and vice versa. With more than $700 billion in two-way trade of goods and services annually and more than $600 billion in direct investment on both sides of the border, millions of jobs in each country depend on shared economic competitiveness. Canada is the number one export market for 36 of our 50 states and is among one of the top five export markets for another ten states.

Those stats reflect the threefold growth of trade in goods since 1990. The total value of goods traded between Canada and the United States in 1990 was $174 billion. By 2012, that had grown to more than $600 billion. Top exports to Canada include transportation equipment, machinery, chemicals, computers and electronics products and food products. The Department of Commerce has been working hard to ensure that number continues to climb.

What’s clear is that the two countries don’t just trade with each other, they build things together.  In addition to aerospace, the auto supply chains are intertwined. Automotive components often cross the border many times before a final product is ready to be sold. In addition, investors pour hundreds of billions of dollars into both economies to build new facilities and to create new jobs. Literally millions of people in both countries rely on the trade and investment relationship for their livelihoods.

America is Open for Investment

SelectUSA logo

Guest post by Vinai Thummalapally, Executive Director, SelectUSA, International Trade Administration

In 2011, President Obama launched SelectUSA, the first-ever U.S. government-wide initiative to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) in the United States, with the hopes that the Department of Commerce would help facilitate both foreign and domestic business relationships and make FDI a diplomatic and foreign policy priority.

We took an enormous step forward three months ago, when the Commerce Department hosted the first-ever SelectUSA Investment Summit in Washington, DC. The summit was such a success that it sold out, and more than 1,300 business and government leaders from nearly 60 countries and economic development organizations from 48 states, the District of Columbia and three territories gathered to learn about the advantages of doing business in the United States and to explore investment opportunities. Perhaps most importantly, the Summit helped match potential investors with economic development organizations to help revitalize American communities and create new job opportunities.

Thankfully, we can continue to build upon the success of the Summit, now that the budget deal has been approved.  The agreement will allow up to $7 million to expand and enhance the program, and we at the Commerce Department are pleased to have this extra support to bring more companies to our shores.

In fact, the U.S. has welcomed investment to our shores for centuries. Our market has provided long-term stability and unmatched returns for investors. Today, the United States is the largest recipient of FDI in the world, and in 2012 alone, more than $160 billion dollars of FDI flowed here. Total foreign stock and assets are measured not in billions, but in the trillions of dollars. Clearly, FDI is an important contributor to our economy.

Secretary Pritzker Visits Detroit Auto Show and Sees Resilience at its Finest

Secretary Pritzker Visits Detroit Auto Show and Sees Resilience at its Finest

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker visited the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week, where she addressed area business leaders at a luncheon hosted by the Detroit Economic Club.

During a full day in the Motor City, Secretary Pritzker saw firsthand how the auto industry in Detroit demonstrates the resilience of American businesses. She toured the auto show, visiting the exhibits of Honda, GM, Ford, Toyota, VW and Chrysler. She had the opportunity to see new car models and technologies on display, which truly demonstrate America's innovative spirit. The auto industry in Detroit also exemplifies how American businesses adapt, experiment, innovate, and come back even stronger when faced with a crisis.

The auto industry remains critically important to American jobs and the economy, and in her speech, Secretary Pritzker discussed how the Obama Administration and the Department of Commerce can work with the automotive sector and all U.S. businesses to create the conditions that lead to additional growth.

One way is by supporting innovation, which is one of the major priorities of the “Open for Business Agenda” at the Department of Commerce.

U.S. Census Bureau Releases First-Ever Report on Measuring Alternative Educational Credentials

One-Quarter of Adults Hold Educational Credentials Other Than an Academic Degree, Census Bureau Reports

The U.S. Census Bureau today released the first-ever report examining the prevalence of non-degree certifications and licenses among American adults and their importance to the employment market. The report found that alternative credentials provide a path to higher earnings, underscoring that traditional educational attainment is just one way for workers to attain the skills needed in today’s global economy.  
 
A skilled workforce is an essential part of a modern, innovative economy. However, many U.S. employers today are struggling to find workers with the skills to fill some of the 3.9 million open jobs. That is why, for the first time, the Commerce Department is focusing on skills training as part of its Open for Business Agenda.
 
The report, Measuring Alternative Educational Credentials, found that in fall 2012, 50 million U.S. adults, or one in four, had obtained a professional certification, license or educational certificate apart from a postsecondary degree awarded by colleges and universities. The report shows that, in general, these alternative credentials provide a path to higher earnings. Among full-time workers, the median monthly earnings for someone with a professional certification or license only was $4,167, compared with $3,433 for one with an educational certificate only; $3,920 for those with both types of credentials; and $3,110 for people without any alternative credential.

This report makes it clear that Americans who pursue non-traditional education have the opportunity to obtain get good-paying jobs in emerging fields.  Among the adults included in the report, 12 million had both a professional certification or license and an educational certificate; 34 million had only a professional certification or license; and 7 million had only an educational certificate.

The Commerce Department will continue to work with the Departments of Education and Labor to ensure that workforce training investments are aligned with employer's current and future hiring needs, leading to high-quality jobs for workers and a productive workforce for employers. This collaboration across federal agencies will refine our understanding of non-degree credentials, adding to the critical data that the Census Bureau and others provide to support smart business decisions and sound public policy in workforce training.  Release

A New Partner in Implementing Our Innovation Agenda

A New Partner in Implementing Our Innovation Agenda

Guest blog post from Dr. Patrick Gallagher, NIST Director performing the duties of the Deputy Secretary of Commerce 

Yesterday, I had the honor of swearing in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's (USPTO) new deputy director, Michelle Lee. 

Lee most recently served as the first director of the USPTO’s satellite office in the Silicon Valley, which has one of the nation’s highest concentrations of startups and companies in the high tech industry. While serving as director, Lee and her team actively engaged in patent and trademark education and outreach efforts to the vibrant entrepreneur community in Silicon Valley. 

Beyond the Silicon Valley office, Lee has played a broader role in helping shape key policy matters impacting the nation’s intellectual property system, focusing closely on efforts to continually strengthen patent quality, as well as curbing abusive patent litigation. Prior to becoming Director of the Silicon Valley USPTO, Lee served two terms on the USPTO’s Patent Public Advisory Committee, whose members are appointed by the U.S. Commerce Secretary and serve to advise the USPTO on its policies, goals, performance, budget and user fees.

 The USPTO has four satellite offices nationwide, which enable the agency to provide more resources to more area entrepreneurs, tailor programs to local startups and industries, and more effectively create good-paying, high-skilled jobs. 

The satellite offices are just one part of the USPTO’s work to protect the cutting-edge ideas that keep America globally competitive, help entrepreneurs get their products to market more quickly, and help empower innovators with more resources to protect and scale their products. The agency’s work also puts them in the critical role of supporting the growth of regional innovation ecosystems.