Commerce.gov is getting a facelift soon. See the new design.
Syndicate content

The Commerce Blog

Collecting Reliable, Timely and Local Census Data

The map shows the percentages under the current, mandatory approach. As a mandatory survey, less than five percent of counties have 80 percent or more of their tracts with unacceptable levels of quality data. This impacts about 15 million people.

Cros-blog post by John H. Thompson, U.S. Census Bureau Direrector

I was pleased to recently participate in the inaugural conference of the American Community Survey Data Users Group. This conference brought together a diverse group of data-loving number crunchers from local governments, nonprofits, economic development agencies, researchers and private sector companies from across the U.S. Their common connection: the reliable, timely and local data about their communities provided by the American Community Survey.

Sessions included case studies on how the American Community Survey statistics are used by cities, rural communities and businesses to measure disaster impacts, create jobs and develop policy for transit, housing and health care. Data users said the ACS is the most authoritative source of data on these topics for communities of every size, and how they rely on the availability of a common source of reliable data.

I was also asked about the challenges to survey data collection, the availability of the data and the impacts to the American Community Survey. They asked me what would happen to the survey if it were not mandated by law. As we have explained in the past, we have looked at this question and our research shows that a voluntary survey would reduce the self-response rates significantly. To make up the shortfall, we would have to increase the number of households surveyed and conduct much more in-person follow-up, at an additional cost of more than $90 million annually. If we weren’t able to increase the number of households surveyed we would collect much less data and accuracy would decrease due to increased sampling variation. This would disproportionately affect the accuracy of the results that we produce for many small areas and small population groups.

The American Community Survey (ACS) is an ongoing survey that provides data every year -- giving communities the current information they need to plan investments and services. Information from the survey generates data that help determine how more than $400 billion in federal and state funds are distributed each year.  Data are used to help decide everything from school lunch programs to new hospitals.

American Firms are Key to Building Trade Relationship between U.S. and Burma

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker celebrated the growing commercial relationship between the United States and Burma on Friday, as part of her week-long commercial diplomacy mission to the ASEAN region.

Since President Obama visited Burma in 2012, the country has undertaken reforms to improve its business climate. Two years ago, the United States began allowing investment in Burma for the first time in 15 years, and shortly thereafter, Burma’s President signed a law to help attract more foreign commercial engagement. As a result U.S. foreign direct investment in Burma has now reached $250 million.

The U.S. government is encouraging American companies to evaluate growing mutually-beneficial opportunities in Burma, because responsible investment by U.S. firms can help facilitate broad-based economic growth and prosperity for the country’s people. American companies and products are among the finest in the world, and when U.S. businesses make investments, they bring with them the highest standards, including a commitment to corporate and social responsibility.

As a way to build on the growing trade and investment relationship between the U.S. and Burma, Secretary Pritzker formally announced that the U.S. Department of Commerce will soon open its first-ever Foreign Commercial Service office in the country, to be headquartered in Rangoon. Foreign Commercial Service offices, which are located in U.S. embassies all over the world, help American companies enter overseas markets so they can expand their operations and find new customers.

During her visit, Secretary Pritzker also highlighted the contributions that U.S. firms are already making in Burma. 

Secretary Pritzker Concludes Commercial Diplomacy Trip to ASEAN Region

Today in Rangoon, Myanmar, U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker concluded a week-long commercial diplomacy trip, after making stops in Hanoi, Vietnam; Manila, Philippines; and Naypyitaw, Myanmar. All three countries are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a region that is the United States’ fourth-largest export market and the fifth-largest overall trading partner. The ten dynamic countries that comprise ASEAN have an economy valued at $2.4 trillion.

The economies of Vietnam, the Philippines, and Burma present enormous opportunity for U.S. businesses, which is why a delegation of U.S. CEOs and the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council joined Secretary Pritzker to further commercial ties as well as strengthen our bilateral relationship in the region.

The Obama Administration has made a deliberate decision to deepen U.S. engagement with Asia, and throughout the week, Secretary Pritzker elaborated on the economic dimension of this commitment, which includes deepening trade and investment ties with existing partners, building the soft and hard infrastructure necessary to support the growth of emerging partners, and taking the steps necessary to level the playing field for commerce across the region.

Secretary Pritzker Affirms U.S. Support for Burmese Political and Economic Reforms

Good discussion on US business investment with Aung San Suu Kyi

As part of her week-long commercial diplomacy mission to Asia this week, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker met today with supporters of Burma’s transition to democracy and the ongoing national peace process. At a roundtable with Burmese civil society leaders, she took the opportunity to learn more about the complexities of political and economic reform and to hear their concerns and views about future challenges for Burma.

In her remarks at the roundtable, Secretary Pritzker affirmed the United States’ commitment to supporting positive political and economic reforms in Burma. She urged the Burmese government to build on that progress by implementing measures that increase inclusive economic development and promote government transparency and accountability. Noting that a strong and vibrant civil society is critical to institutionalizing reforms and ensuring government accountability, Secretary Pritzker applauded the efforts of Burmese civil society leaders to advance citizen interests in pursuit of democracy.

The Commerce Department takes these issues very seriously. Since 2010, training in human rights, rule of law, and corporate social responsibility has been mandatory for Foreign Commercial Service Officers. Attention to these critical social issues not only strengthens the Department’s culture, but enhances its ability to support American companies as they expand overseas.

The Apprentice: A Tale of Life, Love and Much Else

Guest blog post by Stacey Wagner, crossposted from the NIST Manufacturing Innovation Blog.

When I was growing up, I was fascinated by apprenticeships – really!  I was an avid reader of history, ancient and otherwise, and apprenticeships always meant adventure.  One could apprentice with Greek philosophers, British knights, Teutonic alchemists, and farmers, tradespeople and barbers (who were also doctors).  You could apprentice in a household or a business.  And once your apprenticeship was complete, you commanded respect as a trained and educated person with skills to play a useful role in society.

Apprenticeships have always been a stepping stone for both a good job and a great story.  Those tantalizing tales I read as a kid centered, mostly, on a young person’s indenture to some mysterious craftsperson and it always lead to mischief: wild chases, first-time love affairs, and messy screw-ups.  But they also led to the apprentice learning about life, love and labor – specifically the skills to be someone you weren’t before, but better.

The master-storyteller, Walt Disney, even got into the act when he produced the iconic movie, “Fantasia,” with a scene called The Sorcerers’ Apprentice, which to this day still spooks me.  There are also plenty of modern-day books about apprentices: “The Apprentice” (Lewis Libby), “The Apprentice” (Tess Gerritsen), “The Apprentice Series” (James Bryan Smith) and “Rangers Apprentice” (John Flanagan), to name just a few, and a TV show by that name as well (I know I don’t need to tell you who stars in that!). In the modern vernacular, the term sorcerers’ apprentice, was immortalized by “The Sorcerers’ Apprentice,” a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe written in 1797.

Spotlight on Commerce: Phu Huynh, Chief of Staff (Acting), International Trade Administration

Phu Huynh, Chief of Staff (Acting), International Trade Administration

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to the Open for Business Agenda Strategic Plan.

Guest blog post by Phu Huynh, Chief of Staff (Acting), International Trade Administration

I was born in Saigon, five years before the Vietnam War ended. My family made a tough decision, one that benefitted me for a lifetime. My mother, five aunts, one uncle, four sisters and I were airlifted to the U.S. as Saigon fell. When we arrived in Chantilly, Virginia, we had very little.  But, we had each other, the support of a local church and our public school. My mother and aunts taught us about our Vietnamese and Chinese heritages, which fortunately centered around great food. Just as important, they pushed us to learn English and become thoroughly integrated in the American experience. I’ve been given the opportunity in my lifetime to take the best from both worlds—from my Asian heritage and from the rich diversity that is America. The values I extrapolated from both backgrounds are so similar and are shared across the globe—dedication to family, hard work, respect of others and their cultures and faiths.  I’m as likely to watch a Washington Nationals game with either Vietnamese banh mi sandwich or a hot dog.

I graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in history, high hopes and no job.  I’d like to tell you that I’m here because I executed each element of my master plan perfectly or that I had good fortune. But, opportunities don’t just happen without context. I applied hard earned skills and landed an internship at the White House. I worked hard to perfect my technical skills, becoming expert on every administration department and agency.  I became a valued member of the team, in large measure, because no one else wanted to do the huge volume of detailed, non-political, technical work.  But I learned something else even more valuable—that leaders in politics are often in short supply, peace and prosperity don’t just happen and that enlightened leadership was more critical than the technical aspects of my work. I was genuinely willing to learn from those I believed were the best leaders, and they were willing to share their experience and wisdom with me. I got hooked on Washington and this inexplicable political world in which we operate.

Secretary Pritzker First-Ever Commerce Secretary to Visit Burma

As the first-ever U.S. Commerce Secretary to visit Burma, Secretary Penny Pritzker today encouraged Burmese leaders to continue making positive political and economic reforms to bolster U.S. private sector interest in the region.

Secretary Pritzker met Burmese President Thein Sein and discussed the ways our two countries can continue working together to improve the U.S.-Burma commercial relationship. Pritzker also met with Vice President Nyan Tun and various Burmese ministers and outlined ways in which the Commerce Department can help Burma increase trade with U.S. firms.  She reassured the Burmese leadership that U.S. businesses want to be part of the solution as countries across the region look to support a growing middle class, develop world-class infrastructure, unleash sustainable energy, and invest in their futures.

U.S. companies have made significant investments in the ASEAN region, which reached nearly $190 billion in 2012. That is more than U.S. investment in all of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) combined. ASEAN investment into the U.S. exceeds $27 billion and investment has grown over 1,400% and has increased 169% since 2001. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) estimates Burma’s GDP growth accelerated to 7.5 percent in 2013, and expects that growth to continue. As the economy in countries like Burma continues to open, there will be expansive opportunities for U.S. companies to export more goods and services, supporting the modernization and development that will improve the quality of life for citizens.

Secretary Pritzker was joined by a delegation of U.S. CEOs and the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council.  Earlier this week, the delegation visited Vietnam and the Philippines where Secretary Pritzker met with government and business leaders and entrepreneurs to discuss the Commerce Department’s priorities for increasing trade and investment in the region.

Secretary Pritzker’s trip to the Asia-Pacific region demonstrates the importance of the region to the Obama Administration and the U.S. business community, and our shared commitment to increasing U.S. commercial activity with countries in the ASEAN region.

NTIA Releases Interim Progress Report on Administration’s Plan to Free Up More Spectrum

Cross-post by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration

NTIA today released the Fourth Interim Progress Report on the Obama Administration’s initiative to identify and make available 500 megahertz of federal and non-federal spectrum for commercial wireless broadband use by 2020. This report also includes a plan for federal agencies to conduct quantitative assessments of their actual spectrum usage in 960 megahertz of additional spectrum, as directed in President Obama’s June 2013 Memorandum.

America’s future competitiveness and global technology leadership depend on access to radio spectrum – the lifeblood of smartphones, tablets, and other data-hungry wireless devices.  That is why President Obama’s June 2010 Memorandum set a bold goal of nearly doubling the amount of spectrum available for commercial use by the end of this decade. Between October 2010 and September 2013, NTIA formally recommended or otherwise identified for potential reallocation up to 405 megahertz of spectrum.

On June 14, 2013, President Obama issued a second memorandum that builds on the Administration’s commitment to make additional spectrum available for wireless use.  The memorandum established a set of measures that federal agencies, in collaboration with industry and other stakeholders, will take to more aggressively enhance spectrum efficiency and enable access to more spectrum for consumer services and applications. Under the memorandum,  federal agencies  will be making quantitative assessments of their actual spectrum usage in certain bands that could potentially be made available for sharing with, or release to, commercial users, according to the plan set forth in this report.Today’s report outlines the progress made, in collaboration with the Federal Communications Commission(FCC) and other federal agencies, from October 1, 2012 through September 30, 2013. The key accomplishments last fiscal year include the following:

  • NTIA’s Commerce Spectrum Management Advisory Committee concluded its groundbreaking work to explore relocation alternatives and spectrum sharing arrangements between federal agencies and commercial mobile broadband systems in the 1695-1710 MHz and 1755-1850 MHz bands.
  • NTIA released regulations and guidance implementing changes to the Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act (CSEA) that provide eligible federal agencies incentives and financial assistance to facilitate the transition of the reallocated federal bands that the FCC will auction.
  • NTIA published an initial assessment on spectrum-sharing technologies and the risk to federal users if Unlicensed-National Information Infrastructure (U-NII) devices were authorized to operate in the 5350-5470 MHz and 5850-5925 MHz bands (5 GHz).

Secretary Pritzker Meets with Philippine President Aquino, Trade and Industry Secretary Domingo, and Finance Secretary Purisima

Secretary Pritzker meets with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III

As part of a week-long commercial diplomacy trip to the Asia-Pacific region, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker is in the Philippines to demonstrate the Obama administration's ongoing commitment to Asia. Along with members of the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council (USABC) and a delegation of U.S. CEOs, she is visiting the country to strengthen trade and investment and encourage deeper business-to-business ties.

The United States and the Philippines share a $24 billion per year trade relationship, one that was further bolstered by President Obama’s recent trip to the country in April. Today, Secretary Pritzker met with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, and yesterday with Philippine Secretary of Trade and Industry Gregory Domingo and Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, to build on that strong U.S.-Philippine relationship.

Secretary Pritzker congratulated President Aquino for his successful leadership and commended both Secretary Domingo and Secretary Purisima on the Philippines’ recent economic accomplishments and reforms, which have resulted in strong growth. In fact, the country has doubled its GDP growth rate from 3.6 percent in 2011 to 7.2 percent in 2013. In addition, Secretary Pritzker noted that the already strong trade relationship between the Philippines and the United States has continued to grow, with U.S. exports to the Philippines increasing over the past year.

During the meetings, Secretary Pritzker reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to the country and the ASEAN region and discussed opportunities for U.S. companies to support the Philippines’ infrastructure development needs, including the Clark International Airport. She also talked about outstanding U.S.-Philippine trade issues and steps the country could take to become an even more attractive destination for U.S. investment.

Data Expands the Tourism Industry

Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse at Sunset in Acadia National Park.  Photo: Jeremy Stevens (www.sharetheexperience.org)

Every year thousands of visitors flock to the United States to explore the country and experience the culture. The travel and tourism industry has grown exponentially from 55 million international visitors in 2009 to 70 million in 2013.

Understanding the importance of this industry, President Obama recently set a goal to increase the numbers to 100 million visitors annually by the end of 2021. It’s a daunting number that may seem impossible, but state tourism offices all over America are jumping at the opportunity to expand and grow local businesses.

But how can these local businesses and tourism offices figure out the best ways to attract more visitors to their states?

One word: Data

The U.S. Department of Commerce recently released its 2013 report on International Visitation to the United States which outlines international visitor data for the following five categories: