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Open Government Plan - Flagship Initiatives

V.      Flagship Initiatives

Commerce is presently developing several innovative, public-facing projects that embody the principles of open government and showcase the Department’s ability to serve as a cohesive provider of services for the business community.  Three examples can be found below.

  • National Export Initiative (NEI) – The NEI focuses on three key areas:

    -         A more robust effort needs to be made to expand trade advocacy in all its forms, especially for small- and medium-sized enterprises.  This includes educating U.S. companies about overseas opportunities, creating direct connections between U.S. companies and new customers, and advocating more effectively on behalf of their interests.
    -         Access to credit needs to be improved, focusing on small- and medium-sized businesses with an interest in exporting.
    -         International trade laws need to be rigorously enforced to help remove barriers that prevent U.S. companies from obtaining free and fair access to foreign markets.

    Additionally, NEI involves the creation of an Export Promotion Cabinet that will report to the President and involve top leaders from federal agencies able to contribute to this effort, e.g., the Departments of Commerce, State, Treasury and Agriculture; the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative; the Small Business Administration, and the Export Import Bank.  Each agency in the Export Promotion Cabinet will be responsible for submitting a detailed plan to the President outlining how it will strengthen the nation’s ability to export.  Those plans will be integrated into a cohesive strategy under the NEI.

    The President’s budget for ITA for FY2011 includes a 20 percent increase to help achieve the goals of the NEI.  If appropriated, these new resources will allow ITA to:

    -         Recruit as many as 328 additional trade experts to serve as advocates for U.S. companies;
    -         Assist more than 23,000 clients to begin or increase exporting in FY2011;
    -         Put special focus on increasing by 50 percent the number of small- and medium-sized businesses exporting to more than one market over the next five years;
    -         Increase the presence of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service in emerging high-growth markets such as China, India and Brazil; and  
    -         Develop a comprehensive strategy to identify market opportunities in fast-growing sectors such as environmental goods and services, renewable energy, healthcare and biotechnology.

    Through the NEI, the government will continue its efforts to remove barriers that prevent U.S. companies from obtaining open and fair access to foreign markets, to combat unfair tariff and non-tariff barriers, and to address practices that blatantly harm U.S. companies.  The Administration will pursue trade agreements that are balanced, ambitious and improve market access for U.S. workers, firms, farmers and ranchers.

    Commerce, through the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee (TPCC), leads the Administration’s trade promotion efforts and will help operationalize the NEI.  This interagency group, which is chaired by the Secretary of Commerce, establishes trade promotion priorities to expand trade and create jobs for Americans.  The TPCC provides a platform for Commerce to advance a government-wide agenda for trade promotion and to directly engage the heads of other TPCC agencies. The Export Promotion Cabinet will coordinate with the TPCC to carry out the NEI.

    Commerce will develop a robust online presence to inform the public of progress of this important initiative and solicit citizen input.
  • Sustainable Business Clearinghouse – Commerce’s Sustainable Manufacturing American Regional Tours (SMART) effort involves Assistant Secretary-led, regional manufacturing facility tours across the United States aimed at enhancing awareness of the benefits of sustainable manufacturing practices.  Numerous U.S. companies have voiced concern over the lack of visibility that sustainable manufacturing receives nationwide and the lack of information many U.S. manufacturers – particularly small and medium-sized businesses – possess in this field.  In order to continue spreading awareness of sustainable manufacturing’s benefits to U.S. global competitiveness and the environment, Commerce held its first round of SMART events in:

    -         Atlanta, Georgia on February 22, 2010,
    -         Columbus, Ohio on October 27, 2009,
    -         Seattle, Washington on July 13, 2009,
    -         Rochester, New York on September 23, 2008,
    -         Grand Rapids, Michigan on September 3, 2008, and
    -         St. Louis, Missouri on July 28, 2008.

    Commerce created the Sustainable Business Clearinghouse to provide U.S. companies with a central portal for information on programs and resources which can assist them in enhancing their competitiveness and profitability in environmentally sustainable ways.

    Commerce has started by collecting information on federal programs and resources in this searchable Clearinghouse.  It plans to expand the Clearinghouse to include state-level resources, and state government programs or firms that receive state-sponsored services are encouraged to contact Commerce with information on those programs.

    More information regarding the Sustainable Business Clearinghouse may be found at  http://ita-web.ita.doc.gov/sbc/sbc.nsf/pgSearch?OpenPage. Additionally, a list of key federal programs and resources that support sustainable business practices can be found at http://www.trade.gov/competitiveness/sustainablemanufacturing/USG_PRS_Sustainable_Business.asp.  Comments, questions, or information regarding a federal or state government site that should be included in the Clearinghouse may be submitted via e-mail to Sustainability@trade.gov
  • Virtual CommerceConnect – Businesses and entrepreneurs need federal partners who understand their requirements and can provide them with efficient access to the full spectrum of government resources as they strive to succeed, and to maintain and create jobs.  This is particularly true in times of economic crisis and recovery.  The burden should not be on businesses and entrepreneurs to determine how the government can help them.  Instead, government should reach out to them – understanding their needs and delivering appropriate services and solutions.

    To demonstrate this, Commerce Secretary Locke has established CommerceConnect, an initiative designed to streamline access to government services and solutions in order to aid American businesses.  Commerce is leading this initiative to integrate grant programs, partnership efforts, and other business-related services by undertaking pilot project in Michigan.  The primary goal is to provide a “one-stop shop” for information, counseling, and access to the breadth of services that can help a business transform itself into a viable and competitive enterprise. 

    Currently in the first phase of a multi-phase pilot, a cadre of case managers is developing its knowledge base of all programs and services available through Commerce.  They are interacting with a select group of businesses that are willing to help refine the process of client engagement and develop a method to evaluate results.  Commerce’s on-the-ground experts are responsible for assessing a business’ needs and connecting it with the most relevant services – services that could involve addressing infrastructure needs, improving  operational efficiency, gaining access to capital, adopting innovation, protecting intellectual property, commercializing technology, or engaging in foreign trade. 

    An integral part of the pilot’s first phase is identifying and recruiting resource coordinators, who have broad, expert knowledge of Commerce programs and services.  These coordinators will work in tandem with the case managers as they engage client companies.  Additionally, inter- and intra-agency collaboration will be critical in successfully addressing the immediate needs of the clients and, subsequently, long-term needs as they move from survival mode to strategically position themselves for future growth.   

    The team will monitor progress as it designs mechanisms to evaluate the results of its engagement with clients, to assess the efficacy of federal programs, and to identify gaps between client needs and available services.  Experience gained from this effort will also be used to establish similar integrated approaches for providing services to businesses – “one-stop shops” – in other areas of the United States.  This pilot will also help develop an integrated customer relationship management platform within and across operating units to allow for optimal service delivery.  This initiative will play a critical role in bringing federal resources to businesses in an effective and efficient way – making the Federal Government a true partner in helping to revitalize business communities.

    “Virtual” CommerceConnect will expand the reach of “bricks-and-mortar” CommerceConnect locations in an online setting.  An initial version of the CommerceConnect website has been launched at  www.commerceconnect.gov and the process of evaluating the real-world business process of CommerceConnect is underway.  The functionality of CommerceConnect.gov will be enhanced through an extensive beta testing process and a fully operational 1.0-level product is expected to be deployed by the end of calendar 2010.

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