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U.S. Commerce Department's CommerceConnect Expands to Support Gulf Coast Businesses

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, April 11, 2011
CONTACT OFFICE OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS
202-482-4883

CommerceConnect providing business assistance resources to Gulf Coast region, cutting red tape in support of economic recovery

As part of a national effort to extend its business assistance resources to communities across the country, the U.S. Commerce Department’s CommerceConnect has launched a Gulf Coast initiative to support economic development in the region following the BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill. At an event today in New Orleans, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke highlighted the program as an added resource for area businesses as they work to grow and boost their global competitiveness.

CommerceConnect began in response to Locke’s concern that it can be too cumbersome and complicated for businesses to navigate all the government programs available to them. CommerceConnect, then, was created to reimagine how the Commerce Department interacts with the private sector. It brings together all of the department’s resources in one place with staff knowledgeable about the full array of government assistance that businesses can access – at the federal, state and local levels.

Trained CommerceConnect specialists can assess clients’ business needs – whether it's access to capital, intellectual property protection, export promotion or guidance on how to make operations more efficient – and refer them to appropriate resources.

“The Gulf Coast region has faced remarkable challenges that have significantly impacted local businesses,” Locke said. “CommerceConnect in the Gulf builds on our successful program model by not only bringing specially trained staff to the region to guide local businesses but also by laying a foundation of knowledge that will foster job creation and business growth in the long term.” 

The CommerceConnect initiative in the Gulf builds on a framework that began in 2009 in Michigan and is rapidly expanding to an additional 16 regions across the United States. The unique project will assist businesses and entrepreneurs in the region in three strategic ways, through: direct business assistance in five Gulf Coast cities; the development of robust partner networks that connect federal, state and local resources from both the public and private sectors; and the integration of government-wide federal resources.

Cross-trained CommerceConnect staff – in collaboration with state and local partners – can assist businesses no matter where they are in their life cycle, whether just getting off the ground or looking to expand into overseas markets. Partners in the Gulf region also have the opportunity to learn from program staff about available resources and services they can refer their business clients to, thereby extending the reach and impact of CommerceConnect.

Initially in Galveston, Texas; New Orleans, La.; Gulfport-Biloxi, Miss.; Mobile, Ala.; and Pensacola, Fla., specialized CommerceConnect employees are developing a highly coordinated and collaborative infrastructure of partnerships that will link the region’s businesses to the full menu of Commerce Department programs and other federal, state, local and nonprofit resources. By teaming up with the Small Business Administration, along with numerous other agencies and organizations, the CommerceConnect Gulf initiative is facilitating an efficient and effective economic recovery that will help area businesses cut through government red tape by providing access to services and resources to spur growth and create jobs.

CommerceConnect has a strong track record of building effective enterprise assistance networks in areas that have traditionally been fragmented and ineffective at advancing larger regional economic goals in a collaborative and cohesive manner. Since October 2010, CommerceConnect has worked with over 300 new firms, referring them to more than 590 targeted business solutions, nine Commerce Department bureaus, and more than 50 federal, state and local partner organizations.

CommerceConnect began as a pilot program in Michigan in 2009. Following its success, Locke announced the opening of a permanent CommerceConnect office in Pontiac, Mich., in September of 2010. The CommerceConnect network has expanded to include not only a Michigan field office and Gulf Coast initiative, but also a growing contingent of cross-trained specialists in Commerce Department field offices in 16 regions across the country, as well as a national call center and web portal. 

Businesses in the Gulf Coast and around the country that are interested in working with CommerceConnect specialists can contact the CommerceConnect Call Center at 1-888-728-4190 or visit www.CommerceConnect.gov.