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).

Asian Film Festival Announces Winners of 2020 Golden Diamond Awards

Nov 21st – Beverly Hills, CA -– The 2 nd Annual Asian Film Festival Los Angeles (AFF ) 2020 announced the winners of the festival’s 2020 film competitions today at the Maybourne Beverly Hills Los Angeles. With the festival following COVID-19 pandemic, the festival did not host a live Golden Diamond Awards ceremony this year, with a virtual awards ceremony. The 2nd Golden Diamond Awards of AFF Los Angeles featured twenty competitive categories: Feature, Foreign Language Film, Documentary, Animation, Short Film, Documentary Short, Student Short Film, Director, Director Short Film, First Director, Director Student, Script, Cinematography, Editing, Production Design, Music, Actor, Actress, Child Actor and Child Actress.

The Asian Film Festival Los Angeles Chairman Holmes Stoner Said, “This year’s program featured so many wonderful films, and we are grateful to our jurors for selecting our award-winning films, We thank and congratulate all of the filmmakers who shared their films with the festival this year and look forward to great things from each and every one of them.”

“While we are not yet able to celebrate these incredible films at their premieres, we are so proud to celebrate them in partnership with our generous team through our 2020 Golden Diamond Awards virtual ceremony” said Festival Executive Chairman Jason Quin. “ AFF Los Angeles chose to recognize a daring, innovative, entertaining, diverse group of films and filmmakers, and the Festival is pleased to honor all of them with our first ever virtual awards ceremony at this particular moment in 2020.” “”We are also grateful for the involvement and support of filmmakers from dozens of countries and regionesas to join with AFF work together to meet the novel COVID-19 pandemic challenge.”

The 2nd annual Golden DIamond Awards were unlike in our ceremony history in this age of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hundreds of filmmakers incuding directors, actors and crew from different countries and regions congratulated AFF via video. The Asian Film Festival Los Angeles 2020 was originally set to take place on Nov 1st -14th, however it will be rescheduled due to the pandemic.

For more information on all of the 2020 Asian Film Festival Los Angels competition winners, visit AFF offical website and check out the full list of winners below:

The list of confirmed winners is as follows:

Best Feature: “Stowaways”, USA
Best Foreign Language Film: “A Touch of Spring”, Canada,
Best Documentary: “Heart of Gold”, Thailand
Best Animation: “ Let’s Eat”, USA
Best Short Film: “Song of the Crickets”, Swtizerland
Best Documentary Short: “Paerntal Guiidance Suggested”, USA
Best Student Short Film: “What We’re Owed”,Australia
Best Director: “Fire on the Ridge”, USA
Best Director Short Film: “À La Carte”, Vietnam
Best First Director: “Magic Kingdom”, Hong Kong China
Best Director Student: Eris Zhao, “Landing”, USA
Best Script: “Whispers In The Wind”, Indonesia
Best Cinematography: “Rendezvous”, Japan
Best Editing: “Navras”, Germany
Best Production Design: “Between”, Czech
Best Music: “Depth of Pyaar”, India
Best Actor: “Father And Son”, China
Best Actress: “Homa And Sisters”, Iran
Best Child Actor: “Catharsis”, Sri Lanka
Best Child Actress: “Bringing Schools To Where There Are None!”, Italy

AFF Los Angeles 2020: The 2nd Annual Golden Diamond Awards Nominees

Nov 7th- Beverly Hill, The 2nd Annual Asian Film Festival Los Angeles Golden Diamond Awards, hosted by AFF Committee announced nominees list ‪on Saturday Nov. 7th 2020, ‬in Maybourne Beverly Hill Los Angeles. The virtual festival ceremony will on official website and multimedia Channel.

AFF Hosts Virtual Asian Film Festival during COVID-19 Pandemic release with the continuing spread of the coronavirus, Asian Film Festival Committee reached out to the trade community virtually to keep industry engaged when it hosted its virtual Asian Film Festival Los Angeles 2020 between November 1st -14th 2020.

“In the midst of this global pandemic and the vast challenges we’re all navigating, I really believe coming together in this way shows our collective commitment to continue our persistent, ongoing dialogue and candid discussions about the most pressing issues facing AFF and you, the film community,” said AFF Commissioner Chairman Holmes Stoner in his welcoming address on Nov 7th 2020.

Due to the challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2nd Annual Golden Diamond Awards will not have a live audience or a red carpet. The Golden Diamond Awards and its production teams will adhere to safety guidelines.

Here is the list of the 2nd Annual Golden Diamond Awards of Asian Film Festival Los Angeles 2020 nominees:

Best Feature:
“Stowaways”, USA
“Irumbu”, India,
“In My Dream”, Turkey
“Depth of Pyaar”, Canada
“Present Still Perfect”, Thailand

Best Foreign Language Film:
“A Touch of Spring”, Canada,
“Like Father And Son”, China
“Execution Day”, Azerbaijan
“Present Still Perfect”, Thailand
“MEKONG 2030”, Lao

Best Documentary:
“Twinkle Dammit!” USA
”More Than Miyagi” USA
”Dream In Silence”, China
“Two Flage”, India
“Heart of Gold”, Thhailand
‘The Six’, China

Best Animation:
“ Let’s Eat”, USA
“The Tale of Cuoi 2020”, Vietnam
“ Sliced Fruit”, USA
“ Take A Breach”, China
“My Tagalong”, Canada

Best Short Film:
“Song of the Crickets”, Swtizerland
“Dr. Daddy”, USA
“Hello From Taiwan”, USA
“I Want To Be”, Thailand
“The Kestrels”, Hungary

Best Documentary Short:
“Rising Silenceleesa Gazi”, Bangladesh
“Wuqiao Circus”, China
”The Khe Sanh Peace Garden”, Vietnam
“Paerntal Guiidance Suggested”, USA
“Lockdown Are We Safe”, Bangladesh

Best Director:
Nancy Hamilton , “ Fire on the Ridge”, USA
Samuel Kiehoon Lee, Gyopo”, Canada
Xiao Dan He, “A Touch of Spring”, Canada
Like Father and Son”, China
Kevin Derek, “More Than Miyagi”, USA

Best Director Short Film:
Weisheng Yu, “Lust Day”, China
Tom Hand, “ The Shadow Boxer”, UK
Haruna Tanaka, “Lifelike”, Japan
Jay DO, “A La Carte”, Vietnam
Mackey Lai Loke Yee,” The Cloud is Still There”, Malaysia

Best First Director:
“Cacti And Weed”, Canada
Rayner Wang, “Circus Sam”, Japan
Leesa Gazi, “Rising Silence”, Bangladesh
Avdjin Kutakis , “Case 0013”, Russia
Dax Phelan, “Jasmine”, USA

Best Director Student:
Eris Zhao, “ Landing”, USA
Kelvin Zhu, “ Datura”, Canada
Beibei Xu, “Lotus”, USA
Wenqi NI, “ Daemon”, USA
Jiawei Cheng, “ Under The Flag”, USA

Best Script
“ Chusei (Allegiance) “, USA
“Sleep No More”, India
“ Whispers In The Wind”, Indonesia
“ Klaus; Witch Killer”, USA
“ Starpeople 2007”, USA

Best Cinematography:
“Apart”, China Hong Kong
“Sholler’s Archive”, Azerbaijan
“The Six”, China
“JASMINE”, USA
“MORE THAN MIYAGI”, USA

Best Student Short Film:
“The Speech”, USA
“The Shadow Boxer”, UK
“ Bathhouse Drummer”, China
“ In”, South Korea
“What We’re Owed”,Australia

Best Editing:
“Invisible Man In The Mist”, China
Knock And Rock ( Thatrom Thookrom )”, India
“Sky Bloossom Feature”, USA
“Alan”, Spain
“Sonata”, USA

Best Production Design,
”Torinaoshi”, Japan
“In My Dream”, Turkey
Barbora KučerÍKovÁ”, Czech
“ Apart”, China Hong Kong
“In”, South Korea

Best Music:
“Depth of Pyaar”, India
“Blind Mind”, India
“Feel India”, Moldova
“ Apait”, China Hong Kong

Best Actor:
Keigo Oka, “”Lifelike”, Japan
Ramesh Varma, “ The 137 Auditions Of Avrahaam”, India
Zhao Xuan, “A Touch of Spring”, Canada
Hui WangJun, “ Father And Son”, China
Jason Tobin, “JASMINE ”, USA

Best Actress:
Zicheng Li, “ A Sunburnt Summer”, USA
Nhi Do, “ Hope And Grace”, Canada
Sofiee NG, “ Apart”, China Hong Kong
Jessica Park, “Trust Me”, France
Sahra Asadollahe , “Homa And Sisters”, Iran

Best Child Actor:
Bai Zeze, “ Like Father And Son”, China
Sean Lee,”Like How I Remember”, Australia
Mukesh Asopa, “ Depth Of Pyaar”, Canada
June CÁCeres, “Serfs”, Venezuela
Ariful Islam , “Bringing Schools To Where There Are None!”, Italy

Best Child Actress:
Ireland Richards, “Landing”, USA
Hae-Sup Sin, “ Comrade Anna”, Switzerland
Olivia Tang, “ Sometimes Never”, USA
Moditha Dabare, “Catharsis”, Sri Lanka
Tiffany Frances, “Hello From Taiwan”, USA

STATEMENT BY U.S. SECRETARY OF LABOR SCALIA ON THE SEPTEMBER JOBS REPORT

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia issued the following statement on the September 2020 Employment Situation Report:

“Today’s report shows 877,000 private-sector jobs added back in September, and an additional 145,000 jobs from July and August. However, the report reflects a seasonally-adjusted loss of 350,000 jobs in public and private education. Large gains were made in lower-wage jobs in retail and leisure and hospitality, and manufacturing added 66,000 jobs, its largest increase since June. ”

“More than half the jobs lost from the pandemic have now been restored, and the third quarter ended with a 7.9 percent unemployment rate, half the15.8 percent third quarter unemployment rate projected by the Congressional Budget Office in May.”

Joint Press Statement from U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders

The U.S. Department of Commerce and the European Commission have initiated discussions to evaluate the potential for an enhanced EU-U.S. Privacy Shield framework to comply with the July 16 judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union in the Schrems II case. This judgment declared that this framework is no longer a valid mechanism to transfer personal data from the European Union to the United States.

The European Union and the United States recognize the vital importance of data protection and the significance of cross-border data transfers to our citizens and economies. We share a commitment to privacy and the rule of law, and to further deepening our economic relationship, and have collaborated on these matters for several decades.

As we face new challenges together, including the recovery of the global economy after the COVID-19 pandemic, our partnership will strengthen data protection and promote greater prosperity for our nearly 800 million citizens on both sides of the Atlantic.

Remarks by Wilbur L. Ross at the Manufacturer & Business Association Roundtable in Erie, Pennsylvania

Thank you, Mark, for that kind introduction, and for hosting us here at the MBA Conference Center. And congratulations on 115 years of your company providing goods and services to the many generations of industrial firms that have benefited from your longevity. It says a lot about your company culture for it to have weathered countless downturns, big changes in technology, and the rise of global competitors. That’s quite an achievement.

Thank you also, John, for hosting us, and a special thanks to your members. Your organization is essential in helping companies connect with each other and to national networks to solve mutual problems. I know this is especially important in these challenging times.

We need more organizations like yours promoting the benefits of manufacturing and industry to the U.S. economy. Since fostering economic growth is job number-one for all of us, today is significant for American producers.

July 1 is the first day that the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement enters into force – and this ground-breaking trade agreement couldn’t come at a better time. It fortifies the world’s largest trading block, and it provides American companies with a level playing field on our own continent for the first time since 1994. USMCA is the result of President Trump’s unwavering commitment to rebalance U.S. trade in favor of American producers and American workers. The agreement should be of particular help to Pennsylvania, the country’s tenth largest exporting state, and the backbone of our manufacturing economy.

Last year, Pennsylvania’s exports to Canada and Mexico topped $15 billion, representing 36 percent of the state’s total global exports. USMCA’s new rules of origin will help rebuild U.S. production that was outsourced to Asia, and it will go a long way to re-establishing domestic supply chains in many industrial sectors. USCMA increases North American content of vehicles to 75 percent, and it requires that up to 45 percent of the value of passenger cars be made by workers earning an average base-wage of at least $16 an hour.

Now, we finally have an agreement that levels the playing field for American workers. With the economic lockdowns required by the coronavirus pandemic, the last three-and-a-half months have not been easy for anyone.

More than 15,000 workers have been furloughed in Erie, 10 percent of whom were employed in manufacturing. Thankfully, most manufacturers have been proactive ─ and creative ─ in re-engineering production lines to protect their employees. Many have switched to producing life-saving PPE, and we are grateful for your doing so. As a result, there have been far fewer layoffs in manufacturing than in many service sectors.

We also hope the worst of the downturn is behind us. May’s job numbers were encouraging, as nearly 200,000 Pennsylvanians returned to work, with more than 25,000 of them headed back into manufacturing plants. Moreover, Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate remained below the national average.

One hopeful sign for a speedy recovery is reflected in the U.S. savings rate that has increased to 23.1 percent. Total bank deposits have jumped by $2.1 trillion during the past four months. It means that our financial institutions are sound, as compared to 2008. And as the economy opens with pent-up demand, these consumer savings will be spent in local businesses with more workers being rehired. Already, we are seeing healthy and record increases in retail sales.

Your region’s commitment to manufacturing should bode well for a strong recovery. As the one-time “Boiler and Engine Capital of the World,” Erie now supports more than 18,000 manufacturing jobs. At 17 percent of the local labor force, this is double the national average of 8.5 percent.

In the global competition for jobs and industries, Erie has many advantages, including:

• Your central location between major metropolitan areas;

• Your eight Opportunity Zones that will generate new investment in the downtown area.

• Your skilled workforce and excellent education and training institutions such as Penn State Erie, the Erie Business Center, and many others;

• The fact that you have such a diverse group of industries within your midst;

• An attractive cost of living and the availability of affordable housing;

• And an incredible setting overlooking one the world’s largest and most pristine fresh-water lakes.

• We hear there is a healthy stock of more than 100 million two-year-old walleye in Lake Erie right now ready to be caught by anglers.

You also have some great employers. Wabtec generated $2.7 billion in economic activity in Erie County alone, and the plastics industry has emerged as an economic force, with 10 percent of the nation’s plastics either manufactured or finished in Erie. I look forward to touring one of your area’s outstanding manufacturers later this morning, when we visit 91-year-old Howard Industries.

Now, I am eager to hear your ideas on how we can work together to accelerate our economic recovery, re-shore our industries, and generate thousands of great jobs for the workers of Erie and Northwestern Pennsylvania.

Thank you.