The Minority Business Development Agency is Permanently Authorized in Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal

Washington, DC. Nov 15 – Today, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo is pleased to announce that the U.S. Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) is made permanent and will be expanded and elevated with the passage of this historic legislation. This action allows the agency to increase their programs and outreach to the Nation’s more than 9 million minority-owned businesses.

“President Biden has made clear his commitment to not just rebuilding to how things were before COVID-19, but to building back better and more equitably,” said U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Gina M. Raimondo. “The Minority Business Development Agency is ready to step into this historic moment and build on its success – because we recognize that America’s road to recovery runs through our minority business community. Making MBDA a statutory Agency provides MBDA with the authorities, workforce and resources needed to help level the playing field on behalf of minority businesses and minority entrepreneurs.”

“The Department of Commerce and MBDA play a pivotal role in promoting the growth and competitiveness of minority-owned businesses,” said U.S. Department of Commerce Deputy Secretary Don Graves. “This legislation is transformative and signifies a new era in minority business development and progress toward addressing the long-standing racial disparities in access to capital, contracts, and business ecosystems.”

“Created by Executive Order in 1969, the Minority Business Development Agency is the only federal agency solely dedicated to the growth and global competitiveness of minority business enterprises,” said Miguel Estién, Acting National Director of the Minority Business Development Agency. “The Minority Business Development Act of 2021 is one of the most significant pieces of legislation impacting the minority business community in the last 50 years. I look forward to helping lead the Agency’s transformation at this critical juncture in our nation’s history.” 

The bill expands the geographic reach of the MBDA by authorizing the creation of regional MBDA offices, rural business centers, and increasing the number and scope of existing programs. 

The Act also:

  • Creates a presidentially appointed and Senate-confirmed Under Secretary of Commerce for Minority Business Development to lead the agency.
  • Increases the MBDA’s grant-making capacity to partner with community and national nonprofits engaged in private and public sector development as well as research.
  • Mandates the creation of the Parren J. Mitchel Entrepreneurship Education Grants Program to cultivate the next generation of minority entrepreneurs on the campuses HBCUs and MSIs across the Nation.
  • Creates a council to advise the Under Secretary on supporting MBEs; and
  • Authorizes the Under Secretary to coordinate federal MBE programs.

Gina Raimondo Meeting with Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hagiuda Koichi

Today, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hagiuda Koichi held an introductory meeting via teleconference.

The Secretary congratulated the Minister on his recent reappointment by the Prime Minister. The Secretary and Minister discussed opportunities to grow the U.S.-Japan commercial relationship. They also discussed collaborative efforts to improve supply chain resilience and cooperation on digital technology. The Secretary also thanked the Minister for his efforts to encourage continued Japanese investment in the United States and for the strong participation from Japanese investors at the SelectUSA Investment Summit.

USTDA Announces New Commitments at 2021 Indo-Pacific Business Forum

Arlington, VA – Today, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency announced a series of new commitments and initiatives at the Indo-Pacific Business Forum (IPBF) that will deepen economic ties between the United States and the Indo-Pacific region.

“For nearly 30 years, USTDA has been the partner of choice for the Indo-Pacific region’s infrastructure development, especially in the areas that are the focus of this year’s Indo-Pacific Business Forum, including climate resilience, energy, digital economy and healthcare infrastructure,” said Ambassador Vinai Thummalapally (ret.), USTDA’s Acting Director. “Hosting the Forum highlights our commitment to building lasting partnerships with this vital part of the world.”

During the IPBF, USTDA announced new funding commitments, including a feasibility study to develop four utility-scale solar generation plants with the Philippines’ Rural Electrification Finance Corporation and technical assistance to help Vietnam’s Ecotek Corporation transform its Ecopark Township into a cutting-edge smart and sustainable city.

In addition to these commitments, USTDA announced a call for aviation proposals to support new aviation infrastructure in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. Interested U.S. firms as well as Southeast Asian and Pacific Island aviation stakeholders are encouraged to submit initial proposals for feasibility studies, technical assistance and pilot projects to develop airport, airspace, airline and other aviation infrastructure to USTDA by January 10, 2022.

The USTDA-sponsored IPBF is co-hosted by the U.S. and Indian governments, in collaboration with the Confederation of Indian Industry, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, U.S. India Business Council, U.S. India Strategic Partnership Forum, AMCHAM India, and the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council.

Readout of Ambassador Tai’s Meeting with European Steel Association

BRUSSELS – United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai today met with EUROFER (European Steel Association) Director General Axel Eggert and Director for International Affairs and External Relations Karl Tachelet. 

Ambassador Tai and EUROFER representatives agreed on the importance of the steel sector to the American and European economies.

Ambassador Tai noted the productive ongoing discussions with the European Union on ways to address global steel excess capacity and consequent market distortions that pose a serious threat to EU and U.S. workers and producers. Ambassador Tai stressed the need to make rapid progress to reach a consensus to preserve our critical industries and meet the economic and environmental goals shared by the United States and European Union.

Ambassador Tai offered her belief that EUROFER can play an important role in helping the United States and European Union reach an agreement that helps steel workers and producers on both sides of the Atlantic. She also reiterated that the United States’ proposal would ensure the long-term viability of the American and European steel and aluminum industries and strengthen the transatlantic relationship between the U.S. and EU.

Ambassador Tai and EUROFER representatives pledged to remain in contact as these discussions continue in order to resolve this pressing global issue.

The United States Certifies Mexico’s Shrimp Imports

The Department of State notified Congress on October 21, 2021 of the certification of Mexico under Section 609 of United States Public Law 101-162 (“Section 609”). Section 609 prohibits the import of shrimp and shrimp products harvested in ways that may adversely affect sea turtle species. This certification, allowing again for importation of wild-caught shrimp into the United States from Mexico pursuant to Section 609, is based on a determination that Mexico’s turtle excluder devices (TEDs) program is again comparable in effectiveness to the U.S. program.

The United States and Mexico have been working in close cooperation on sea turtle conservation as well as a range of bilateral fisheries and marine conservation issues.  The Government of Mexico implemented a plan of action in the past several months to strengthen sea turtle conservation in its shrimp trawl fisheries, resulting in significantly improved use of TEDs by its fishing industry, as verified by a team of representatives from the State Department and National Marine Fisheries Service.

The U.S. government is currently providing technology and capacity-building assistance to other nations to contribute to the recovery of sea turtle species and help them receive certification under Section 609. When properly designed, built, installed, used, and maintained, TEDs allow 97 percent of sea turtles to escape the shrimp net without appreciable loss of shrimp. The U.S. government also encourages legislation in other countries to prevent the importation of shrimp harvested in a manner harmful to protected sea turtles.

Gina Raimondo Meeting with with Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade of Finland Ville Skinnari

Today, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo met with Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade of Finland Ville Skinnari to discuss how best to utilize the goals and objectives set during the 1stU.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council ministerial to reinforce and strengthen bilateral and multilateral efforts. The Secretary also expressed appreciation on behalf of the Department of Commerce for Finland’s cooperation on efforts pertaining to important technologies, including 5G. The Secretary and Minister also discussed other topics important to the U.S.-Finland commercial relationship, including technology supply chains.

Manufacturing Continues to be Among Top Five Largest Employment Sectors

It’s no secret the manufacturing sector has a major impact on the U.S. economy, and every year Manufacturing Week offers an opportunity to recognize this sector’s significant impact on the nation. Manufacturing Week is designed to coincide with Manufacturing Day, which has been held the first Friday in October since 2011.

U.S. Census Bureau’s 10th-anniversary celebration of Manufacturing Week.

Manufacturing Week expands upon the traditional Manufacturing Day launched by the Manufacturing Institute in 2011. The Census Bureau is celebrating the 10th anniversary by providing a worth of rich content & statistics that inform businesses and policymakers.

New Data Strategy to Enhance Equitable Economic Growth, Spur Good-Paying Jobs for All Americans

The strategic leverage of data will also provide increased competitive advantage to U.S. businesses and research institution. 

Today, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo announced a series of tools and initiatives to execute the Department of Commerce’s Data Strategy for fiscal years 2021-2024. With representation from every bureau, Commerce’s Data Governance Board (CDGB) developed this innovative Data Strategy to address some of our most pressing equity challenges around job growth, distribution of resources, and other measures of economic well-being.

“The 2020 Census, which was carried out accurately and dutifully in the face of unprecedented circumstances by the civil servants here in Washington and their partners across the country, showed that people of color now represent more than two-fifths of Americans and over half of the nation’s youth,” said Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves. “Here at Commerce, and across the federal government, we have an obligation to create economic conditions that recognize the power of diversity and favor the inclusion of all Americans, while using data to brighten the future of our nation’s children.”

“With women, particularly women of color, earning pennies on the dollar in wages compared to white men, and the number of working minority business owners suffering due to this pandemic, Commerce data is needed now more than ever to enhance equitable economic growth and help our communities build back better,” said Secretary Raimondo.” “By leveraging Commerce data, we will spur good-paying jobs, empower entrepreneurs to innovate and grow, and help all American workers and businesses to compete here at home and abroad.”

Several tools and initiatives are currently underway at the Department, relying on the exponential amount of data on the nation’s economy, population, and environment that the Department generates, collects, stores, and analyzes. Here are just a few of the exciting initiatives that will be enhanced by the new Commerce Data Strategy:

  • Making the Data Available and Accessible: Through the implementation of this strategy, the data tools within the Commerce Data Hub will enable insights to the nation’s economy and population, including demography, housing, socioeconomics, and businesses. These publicly available datasets and tools assist federal agencies and other entities in the equitable distribution of resources and identifying underserved communities to empower all Americans. The Commerce Data Hub will provide a Commerce-wide data inventory and search portal that will ultimately aggregate and promote all its data assets in one location showcasing each bureau’s specific data search capabilities
  • Driving Technological Innovation: The Opportunity Project (TOP) drives innovation by helping companies, non-profits, and universities utilize federal data to develop new technologies and innovative solutions which advance equitable economic growth. Currently, TOP has focused its efforts on challenges such as improving minority businesses’ access to capital (MBDA), tackling the climate crisis through climate-smart communities (NOAA), increasing content accessibility for multilingual communities (NYC Mayor’s Office), and others.
  • Democratizing Data: Commerce wants to empower communities to leverage data that will inform their decisions and drive lasting change. By producing a series of Data for Everyone Summits, we seek to partner with community organizations, advocacy groups, and government partners to understand the barriers to accessibility of government data and improve usability in underserved communities. Ensuring that individuals have the tools they need to effectively use government data. The Big Data Project (BDP) enables innovation in environmental services using NOAA data accessed through Cloud Service Providers (CSPs). Through public-private partnerships with CSPs, Commerce aims to democratize access to NOAA data by reducing and removing obstacles to the public use of NOAA data. With increased access to key data, communities have an enhanced capacity to implement a resilience plan that allows them to withstand and recover from the impacts of a changing climate. Using a data-driven approach for climate resilience is more crucial than ever.
  • Promoting Appropriate Date Use: The Department recognize the importance of protecting privacy, respecting intellectual property, addressing cybersecurity concerns, and fostering an ethical data lifecycle that minimizes algorithmic risk of unintended bias. The Census Bureau will soon be launching The Combating Bias Toolkit, which aims to curate a collection of tools that help mitigate and correct sources of bias in federal data.

National Small Business Week Virtual Summit Highlights Resiliency and Recovery

Prominent small business investors, entrepreneurs, and mentors address nearly 50,000 attendees

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced today that this year’s National Small Business Week (NSBW) Virtual Summit drew more than 47,000 participants for the three-day virtual summit. Attendees heard from celebrity business owners, investors, entrepreneurs, and lead advisors from across the small business community, and connected with fellow small business owners from across the country. The event featured a focus on resilience and recovery, offering 22 educational sessions to help participants leverage SBA services and funding as they work to recover and build back better than ever.

“Our 2021 National Small Business Week Virtual Summit put a spotlight on the more than 32 million small businesses and innovative startups that are the beating heart of our nation’s economy,” said SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman. “I’m proud that our dedicated SBA team was able to facilitate so many timely, thought-provoking conversations. And, I am thankful to the renowned business leaders and corporate partners who helped us deliver innovative programming to our incredible network of resource partners and customers. Throughout NSBW 2021, we have celebrated the resilience, creativity, and determination of our nation’s small businesses while connecting them with resources and tools to recover and help build our nation’s economy back better.”

DCRA Contractor Rating System Partners with BBB, Giving District Consumers More Decision-Making Tools

Washington, DC., – The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) announces a partnership with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) that makes the innovative DCRA Contractor Rating Systemeven more valuable to District consumers looking to hire licensed building professionals on Sept 15.

Earlier this spring, DCRA launched the Contractor Rating System, which provides free access to an inventory of licensed contractors, architects or other building professionals assigned a rating of one to five stars based on objective data. Under this new partnership, if a building professional is accredited by BBB, the accreditation will be clearly shown in the Contractor Rating System.

“In partnering with the Better Business Bureau, we’re equipping District consumers with even more tools to make informed decisions about who they hire to work on their homes or businesses,” said DCRA Director Ernest Chrappah. “We invite our customers to inquire before they hire.”

“The BBB Accredited Business Seal stands for trust and is a guiding light that fosters an ethical marketplace for all,” said BBB serving Metro Washington DC’s President and CEO Edward Johnson. “We are pleased to partner with DCRA and the important role that they play in helping consumers.”

The Contractor Rating System is comprised of licensed building professionals who have worked on a project within the last 3 years in the District of Columbia. The rating system includes general contractors, architects, electricians, plumbers, expediters and more. Generally, a building professional’s rating represents their performance on projects over the past 3 years during building permit intake, permit plan review, and construction.

The BBB is a nonprofit organization focused on advancing marketplace trust. A BBB-accredited business has met accreditation standards that include a commitment to make a good faith effort to resolve any consumer complaints. The BBB assigns ratings from A+ (highest) to F (lowest) that represent the BBB’s opinion of how the business is likely to interact with its customers. The BBB rating is based on information the BBB is able to obtain about the business, including complaints received from the public. The BBB seeks and uses information directly from businesses and from public data sources.

The DCRA Contractor Rating System is the only known customer-facing contracting rating system in the country operated by a local government, and another example how DCRA is using technology to enhance the customer experience.