Gina M. Raimondo’s Call with Vietnamese Minister of Industry and Trade

WASHINGTON D.C., Sept 1 – Today, Secretary Raimondo had an introductory meeting with Vietnamese Minister of Industry and Trade, Nguyen Hong Dien.

During their phone call, the Secretary and Minister Dien discussed the significance of the U.S.-Vietnam commercial relationship and potential areas for further growth. Secretary Raimondo highlighted the importance of energy sector cooperation, such as in renewable energy and smart grid solutions, to combat climate change.

They also discussed supply chain resilience and other priority commercial issues.

Readout of Secretary Raimondo’s Call With Indian Ambassador Taranjit Sandhu

August 23, Secretary Raimondo spoke with the Indian Ambassador to the United States Taranjit Singh Sandhu to discuss the U.S.-India commercial relationship. During their meeting, Secretary Raimondo and Ambassador Sandhu underscored the importance of this commercial relationship and their commitment to growing business ties in support of the broader strategic relationship. They discussed scheduling the U.S.-India CEO Forum and U.S.-India Commercial Dialogue and the rescheduling of the U.S.-India High Technology Cooperation Group meeting. They also discussed U.S.-India technology collaboration and improving digital economy policies to strengthen that collaboration.

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE INVESTS $915,120 IN CARES ACT RECOVERY ASSISTANCE TO SUPPORT TRAVEL AND TOURISM SECTORS IN LAS VEGAS, NEVADA

WASHINGTON – August 19, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is awarding a $915,120 CARES Act Recovery Assistance grant to the Nevada System of Higher Education, Las Vegas, Nevada, to support the post-pandemic revitalization of Nevada’s travel and tourism sectors. This EDA grant, to be matched with $228,780 in local investment, is expected to create 13 jobs and retain 120 jobs.

“The Economic Development Administration is committed to helping communities across the nation implement strategies to mitigate economic hardships brought on by the coronavirus pandemic,” said Maiea Sellers, Acting Director of EDA’s Seattle Regional Office. “This EDA investment will support the University of Nevada at Las Vegas’s Hospitality and Entertainment COVID-19 Labs in providing business resilience consultation to small and medium-sized enterprises in the region.”

“I’m so glad to see the University of Nevada, Las Vegas get these EDA funds to support programs to revitalize our hard-hit tourism and travel industry,” said Senator Catherine Cortez Masto. “This is exactly why I worked so hard to advocate for these resources to aid Nevada, so that states like ours that depend on these industries would have the support they need to recover from the pandemic.”

“Travel and tourism play a critical role in the success of Nevada’s economy,” said Senator Jacky Rosen. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, these key industries were hit hard, resulting in business closures, job losses, and economic hardship for Nevada’s communities. In the Senate, in my role as Chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Tourism, Trade, and Export Promotion, I have been committed to reviving travel and tourism in Nevada. I am glad to see that this Economic Development Administration grant – funded through the CARES Act, which I proudly supported – will help restore our state’s travel, tourism, and hospitality sectors to their pre-pandemic vitality. I will continue working to ensure that Nevada and its industries have the resources they need to fully recover from the challenges of this pandemic.”

“As the Chair of the Subcommittee on Economic Development, I am proud of my work to secure these dollars in support of Southern Nevada’s economic recovery,” said Congresswoman Dina Titus (NV-01). “UNLV has one of the nation’s premiere hospitality programs, and these grant dollars will further support our travel and hospitality small businesses as they navigate the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.”

This project is funded under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (Public Law 116-136 PDF), which provided EDA with $1.5 billion for economic assistance programs to help communities prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus. EDA CARES Act Recovery Assistance, which is being administered under the authority of the bureau’s flexible Economic Adjustment Assistance(EAA) (PDF) program, provides a wide-range of financial assistance to eligible communities and regions as they respond to and recover from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Department of Commerce’s NTIA to Begin Accepting Applicationsfor $268 Million Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program

WASHINGTON – The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) today released a Notice of Funding Opportunity for the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program, which will direct $268 million for expanding broadband access and connectivity to eligible Historically Black Colleges or Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges or Universities (TCUs), minority-serving institutions (MSIs), and consortia led by an HBCU, TCU, or MSI that also include a minority business enterprise or tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization.

“Communities of color have faced systemic barriers to affordable broadband access since the beginning of the digital age,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo. “The investments we make as part of the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program will help communities that are struggling with access, adoption and connectivity, and will inform our path forward as we seek to finally close the digital divide across the country.”

The Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program was established by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021. Grants will be distributed to help HBCUs, TCUs and MSIs purchase broadband service or equipment, hire IT personnel, operate a minority business enterprise or a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, and facilitate educational instruction, including remote instruction.

“NTIA knows how crucial colleges, universities and other community institutions can be when it comes to reaching vulnerable citizens and making a lasting impact,” said Acting NTIA Administrator Evelyn Remaley. “We look forward to working with historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges or Universities, and minority-serving institutions to advance our shared goal of a fully connected nation.”

The Notice of Funding Opportunity published today on grants.gov outlines the requirements for grant applications and other information about the program. Completed applications must be received by grants.gov no later than 11:59 p.m. EST on Dec. 1, 2021. In June, NTIA published the Final Rule for the program, which included programmatic scope, general guidelines, and described the agency’s method to determine applicant eligibility and identify which eligible recipients have the greatest unmet financial needs.

NTIA is holding a series of webinars to further inform the public. The next Connecting Minority Communities webinars will be held on August 18and 19.

Gina Raimondo Announces $3 Billion Investment in America’s Communities

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo announced that the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) will implement a series of programs, collectively called Investing in America’s Communities, to equitably invest the $3 billion it received from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act to help communities across the country build back better. The EDA investment is the largest economic development initiative from the Department of Commerce in decades.

Later today, Secretary Raimondo will address the White House Briefing Room to further lay out the Biden Administration’s vision for how this historic investment will help every community not only rebuild their local economy but also reimagine it for the future.

“President Biden’s American Rescue Plan delivered direct relief to the American people and was the first step to energizing the American economy following the devastating impacts of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Secretary Raimondo. “Now, its medium-term investments will allow communities around the country not only rebuild but reimagine their economy for the future.”

“With an emphasis on equity, EDA’s investments made possible by the American Rescue Plan will directly benefit communities that have been denied full access to economic prosperity and who have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic,” Secretary Raimondo continued. “We will work with local communities across the country on innovative new approaches to ensure that we can increase American competitiveness by strengthening our workforce, businesses, and communities and build back better in regions across the country.”

Investing in America’s Communities, was launched today with six Notices of Funding Opportunity:

  • Build Back Better Regional Challenge ($1 billion)
  • Good Jobs Challenge ($500 million)
  • Economic Adjustment Assistance Challenge ($500 million)
  • Indigenous Communities Challenge ($100 million)
  • Travel, Tourism, and Outdoor Recreation Grants ($750 million)
  • Statewide Planning, Research, and Networks Grants ($90 million)

As part of the six programs, the Department of Commerce and EDA, working with President Biden’s Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities, is making a Coal Communities Commitment, which allocates $300 million in American Rescue Plan funds to coal communities. This investment will ensure that they have the resources to recover from the pandemic and will help create new jobs and opportunities, including through the development or expansion of a new industry sector.

The American Rescue Plan funding empowers EDA to build upon its greatest strength—flexible funding to support community-led economic development—and provide larger, more transformational investments across the nation. Under the American Rescue Plan, EDA will make grants to state and local governmental entities, institutions of higher education, not-for-profit entities, unions, and Tribes. EDA is not authorized to provide grants to individuals or for-profit entities.

America’s Strong Marine Economy Vital to Building Back Better

America’s marine economy contributed about $397 billion to the nation’s gross domestic product in 2019 and grew faster than the nation’s economy as a whole, according to the most current results of the first official Marine Economy Satellite Account released today by two Department of Commerce agencies.

“America’s strong marine economy is absolutely vital for building back better,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo. “President Biden sees the immense value and potential of strengthening America’s blue economy, and this administration will continue to take actions to combat the climate crisis, conserve our oceans, and protect our coastal communities.”

“These statistics show how powerful America’s blue economy is as a driver of jobs, innovation and economic growth,” said Ben Friedman, acting NOAA administrator. “This information will assist our nation’s economic recovery by helping policymakers, industry advocates, and organizations track and accelerate investments in target markets.”

For these statistics, experts from NOAA and the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) described 10 sectors representing businesses dependent on the nation’s oceans, coasts and Great Lakes between the years 2014 and 2019. Marine-related gross domestic product grew 4.2% from 2018 to 2019, faster than the 2.2% growth of the total U.S. gross domestic product as measured in inflation-adjusted dollars. Businesses included in the report also generated a total of $665.7 billion in sales and supported 2.4 million jobs in 2019.

The 10 sectors ranked by their sales are:

  • Tourism and recreation, including recreational fishing ($235 billion)
  • National defense and public administration ($180 billion)
  • Offshore minerals ($93 billion)
  • Transportation and warehousing ($64 billion)
  • Commercial Ship and boat building ($31 billion)
  • Living resources, including commercial fishing and aquaculture ($27 billion)
  • Utilities ($12 billion)
  • Research and education ($10.4 billion)
  • Construction ($7.0 billion)
  • Professional and technical services ($6.3 billion)

“These statistics are further proof that our waters are vital for America’s economy,” said Nicole LeBoeuf, acting director of NOAA’s National Ocean Service. “It is nearly impossible to go a single day without eating, wearing, or using items that come from or through our ports and coastal communities.”

Last year, NOAA and BEA released the Ocean Economy Prototype statistics which covered 2014-2018 and were the most comprehensive measurement of the marine economy at the time. This year’s statistics offer improved national estimates for ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes-related economic activity by major sector, accounting for inflation. 

NOAA Predicts Another Active Atlantic Hurricane Season

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is predicting another above-normal Atlantic hurricane season. Forecasters predict a 60% chance of an above-normal season, a 30% chance of a near-normal season, and a 10% chance of a below-normal season. However, experts do not anticipate the historic level of storm activity seen in 2020. 

For 2021, a likely range of 13 to 20 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 6 to 10 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 3 to 5 major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher) is expected. NOAA provides these ranges with a 70% confidence. The Atlantic hurricane season extends from June 1 through November 30. 

“Now is the time for communities along the coastline as well as inland to get prepared for the dangers that hurricanes can bring,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. “The experts at NOAA are poised to deliver life-saving early warnings and forecasts to communities, which will also help minimize the economic impacts of storms.”

Last month, NOAA updated the statistics used to determine when hurricane seasons are above-, near-, or below-average relative to the latest climate record. Based on this update an average hurricane season produces 14 named storms, of which 7 become hurricanes, including 3 major hurricanes.

El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) conditions are currently in the neutral phase, with the possibility of the return of La Nina later in the hurricane season. “ENSO-neutral and La Nina support the conditions associated with the ongoing high-activity era,” said Matthew Rosencrans, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “Predicted warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, weaker tropical Atlantic trade winds, and an enhanced west African monsoon will likely be factors in this year’s overall activity.” Scientists at NOAA also continue to study how climate change is impacting the strength and frequency of tropical cyclones.  

“Although NOAA scientists don’t expect this season to be as busy as last year, it only takes one storm to devastate a community,” said Ben Friedman, acting NOAA administrator. “The forecasters at the National Hurricane Center are well-prepared with significant upgrades to our computer models, emerging observation techniques, and the expertise to deliver the life-saving forecasts that we all depend on during this, and every, hurricane season.”

In an effort to continuously enhance hurricane forecasting, NOAA made several updates to products and services that will improve hurricane forecasting during the 2021 season.

  • In March, NOAA upgraded the flagship Global Forecast System (GFS) to improve hurricane genesis forecasting and coupled GFS with a wave model extending ocean wave forecasts from 10 days out to 16 days. Additionally, Global Positioning Satellite Radio Occultation (GPS-RO) data are now included in the GFS model, providing an additional source of observations to strengthen overall model performance.
  • Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center are now using an upgraded probabilistic storm surge model — known as P-Surge — which includes improved tropical cyclone wind structure and storm size information that offers better predictability and accuracy. This upgrade extends the lead time of P-Surge forecast guidance from 48 to 60 hours in situations where there is high confidence. 
  • NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory will deploy its largest array of air and water uncrewed systems to gather data designed to help improve hurricane intensity forecasts and forecast models. New drones will be launched from NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft that will fly into the lower part of hurricanes, and in the ocean, saildrones, hurricane gliders, global drifters, and air-deployable technology — called ALAMO floats — will track various parts of the life cycle of tropical storms.

Last year’s record-breaking season serves as a reminder to all residents in coastal regions or areas prone to inland flooding from rainfall to be prepared for the 2021 hurricane season. 

NOAA also issued seasonal hurricane outlooks for the Eastern and Central Pacific basins, and will provide an update to the Atlantic outlook in early August, just prior to the peak of the season.

Message from the 40th Secretary of Commerce, Gina Raimondo

On March 3, Gina M. Raimondo was sworn in as the 40th U.S. Secretary of Commerce. Secretary Raimondo was sworn in by Vice President Kamala Harris after a bipartisan vote of 84-15 in the United States Senate. In her role as Secretary of Commerce, Raimondo will lead a key agency focused on promoting economic growth, which includes the International Trade Administration, the Bureau of Industry and Security, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Economic Development Administration, Minority Business Development Agency, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Bureau of Economic Analysis, and National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Message from Secretary Raimondo

COVID-19 has impacted every community in our country.

As the Governor of Rhode Island, I saw firsthand how our families, our children, and our communities have been impacted by this virus. Millions of Americans are out of work, and over 400,000 small businesses have been forced to shut their doors. Minority-owned and women-run businesses have been the hardest hit.

Now, I also know firsthand the pain that losing a job causes a family. I still remember when my dad lost his job after 28 years of work in manufacturing. It was a tough time for us and too many families all across our country today are having to make the same sacrifices we had to make back then.

And it’s not just the pandemic. We are facing an urgent economic crisis, a climate emergency, longstanding racial inequities, and the need to restore America’s leadership on the world’s stage.

But there is hope ahead. Because when we come together as a country, there is nothing that can stop us. We innovate. We grow. And we will meet these unprecedented challenges by building back better and ensuring that every American is part of our success.

As the Secretary of Commerce, I am committed to helping working Americans and businesses – small and large – combat this pandemic head-on, creating millions of good-paying jobs, and powering a more just, sustainable economy. An economy where workers are treated with dignity and respect, businesses have the tools they need to innovate, and America can out-compete any country in the world. We’re going to revitalize domestic manufacturing, strengthen critical supply chains here in the United States, and set the stage for economic growth for decades to come.

I’m proud to be leading the Commerce Department. Our hard-working, talented workforce has the tools, data, and expertise we need to help communities address the challenges we face as a nation.

We want the Commerce Department to be about opportunity and competitiveness. The opportunity to start or grow a business. The opportunity to get a good, stable job. The opportunity to pursue the American Dream, regardless of where you live or where you come from.

Let’s create a future that is made in America. That invests in our communities and for future generations. It’s time to Build Back Better, to build back smarter, build back stronger, and to build back equitably.

I am Gina Raimondo, and I am proud to serve as the 40th Secretary for the Department of Commerce.

This is our opportunity to tackle our most pressing challenges and create a more equitable economy for all Americans.

PBGC Announces New Inspector General Appointment

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) announced the appointment of Nicholas J. Novak as the agency’s Inspector General. In his 35-year career, Novak spent nearly 20 years holding various positions within PBGC’s Office of Negotiations and Restructuring (ONR) and the agency’s Office of the Inspector General. Novak’s ONR portfolio included supervising aspects of the Multiemployer Pension Insurance Program. He most recently served as PBGC’s Acting Inspector General since April 2020.

“I know that Nick shares my commitment to ensuring PBGC and everyone at the agency operate ethically and effectively,” PBGC Director Gordon Hartogensis said. “I look forward to continuing our work together as he takes on the role of Inspector General.”

As Inspector General, Novak will continue to oversee independent audits and investigations, provide guidance to improve the agency’s business practices, and execute procedures to prevent and detect fraud. Novak reports directly to PBGC’s Board of Directors and Congress to help improve and maintain the integrity of PBGC’s programs and operations.

A proven public servant, he previously worked at the U.S. Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Internal Revenue Service, the Government Publishing Office, and in the private sector.

He is a certified public accountant and holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting from the University of Maryland.

About PBGC
PBGC protects the retirement security of over 35 million American workers, retirees, and beneficiaries in both single-employer and multiemployer private-sector pension plans. The agency’s two insurance programs are legally separate and operationally and financially independent. PBGC is currently responsible for the benefits of about 1.5 million people in failed pension plans and receives no taxpayer dollars. The Single-Employer Insurance Program is financed by insurance premiums, investment income, and assets and recoveries from failed single-employer plans. The Multiemployer Insurance Program is financed by insurance premiums and investment income. For more information, visit PBGC.gov.

U.S. Signs MOU Establishing U.S. Trade Zone in Kingdom of Bahrain

Jan 12th, U.S. Department of Commerce and the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism of the Kingdom of Bahrain signed of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to Enhance U.S.-Bahrain Trade through the Establishment of a U.S. Trade Zone (USTZ) in the Kingdom of Bahrain. The MoU was signed by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and the Minister of Industry, Commerce, and Tourism in the Kingdom of Bahrain H.E. Zayed R. Alzayani.

“The Kingdom of Bahrain has been, and continues to be, an important strategic and trade partner of the United States, maintaining stability and ensuring the free flow of commerce in the Gulf. The Department of Commerce remains committed to our deep partnership with the Kingdom,” said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. “This MoU is but one such example of our mutual commitment and close relationship, and the International Trade Administration is committed to working with the Kingdom of Bahrain toward the realization of this unique free trade zone.”

The Establishment of a USTZ in the Kingdom of Bahrain will foster enhanced economic connectivity, trade, and industrial cooperation and will help boost bilateral trade between the two countries. The United States and the Kingdom of Bahrain will promote the USTZ as a regional trade, manufacturing, logistics, and distribution hub for U.S. companies in Bahrain, markets in the Gulf Cooperation Council, and beyond.

The USTZ will allow U.S. businesses multimodal access to an area ideal for crossdocking activities, end-to-end specialized customs solutions, and fast track operation for the purpose of exporting via Khalifa bin Salman Port, Bahrain International Airport, King Fahad Causeway or any future customs posts created by the Kingdom of Bahrain.

The United States and the Kingdom of Bahrain are longstanding partners with a strong record of economic and security cooperation. The United States established diplomatic relations with the Kingdom of Bahrain in 1971 and designated Bahrain a Major Non-NATO Ally in 2002. The U.S-Bahrain Free Trade Agreement (FTA) entered into force in 2006, generating additional commercial opportunities for both countries. In 2019, bilateral merchandise trade reached $2.45 billion, with an additional $1.5 billion of trade in services (2019 figures).