The Department of Commerce is one of the 15 executive departments of the federal government. This mission of this department is to help make American businesses more innovative at home and more competitive abroad so they can create jobs.
The Department of Commerce is made up of 12 different agencies that assist businesses, from those just launching to companies ready to expand into overseas markets. The key agencies of this department are as follows: the Bureau of Industry and Security, the Economics & Statistics Administration, the Bureau of Census, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the Economic Development Administration, the International Trade Administration, the Minority Business Development Agency, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, the National Technical Information Service, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Patent and Trademark Office.
The goal of the Bureau of Industry and Security is to promote national security, foreign policy and economic objectives by ensuring an effective export control and treaty compliance system. The bureau works in partnership with the private sector to meet its objectives as well as with the international community. The bureau does its best to avoid actions that compromise the international competitiveness of US Industry while maintaining national security.
The Economics & Statistics Administration plays three key roles in the department. They distribute economic indicators and they oversee both the Bureau of the Census and the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Have you ever wondered where those numbers for New Residential Home Sales and Gross Domestic Product come from? Well, the expert economists in this agency produce those numbers as well as reports, fact sheets and briefings on policy issues and current economic events.
The mission of the Economic Development Administration is to provide grants and loans to non-profits, businesses and state or local governments in economically distressed communities in an effort to create new jobs, retain existing jobs and stimulate growth. The EDA website has a wealth of information including information on their funding opportunities, investment programs, and their Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
The International Trade Administration works to improve the global business environment and assists US businesses compete here at home and abroad. This agency is organized into four business units:
U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service - Promotes US exports by small and mid-sized businesses
Manufacturing and Service - Helps shape industry specific trade policy to strengthen US competitiveness abroad
Market Access and Compliance - Creates trade opportunities via the removal of market access barriers
Import Administration - Enforces US trade laws and agreements to safeguard against unfairly imported products.
The Minority Business Development Agency is an entrepreneurially focused agency of the department that is committed to wealth creation in minority communities. The mission is to actively promote the growth and competitiveness of Small, Mid-sized and Large MBE’s in the US. This site has a great registration portal called Phoenix that allows you to enter your NAICS codes, and business description so that when contracting opportunities that match your capabilities come through the system, you are notified via email.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is the oldest physical science laboratory in the nation. The agency was created to improve measurement infrastructure in an effort to increase US industrial competitiveness globally. Today NIST measurements support technologies as small as Nano scale devices and a large as earthquake resistant skyscrapers. Funding opportunities with NIST are usually grants related to scientific research.
The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) touches your life every day with daily weather forecasts, severe weather alerts and warnings and climate monitoring. While the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) is the largest central resource for government funded information, whether scientific, technical, engineering or business related. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s programs focus primarily on expanding broadband internet adoption in the US, promoting digital literacy and developing policy on issues relating the internet economy.
The Patent and Trademark Office grants patents and registers trademarks. The agency also advises other US government agencies on intellectual property (IP) policy, protection and enforcement; and promoted more effective IP protection abroad. Though contracting opportunities are not generally found in this department, they do procure goods and offer a link on their site with 2012-2015 forecast of the Small business opportunities.
The US Department of Commerce may not be the most well-known of the departments of the executive branch but in my opinion, it is one of the more valuable departments. Because the goal of the department is to make sure that you, the small business owner, have the tools you need to be more competitive and innovative; the resources can prove usefule as you look to grow and expand your business.