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The U.S. is open for business

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker
Alex Wong | Getty Images
U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker

On my first day as Commerce Secretary, I hung a sign on my office door that says, "Open for Business." That simple phrase captures the essence of our agency's singular focus — to partner with America's private sector as it leads our nation to full economic recovery.

While we have more work to do to create more jobs and lift incomes, the fact is we have momentum.

Our GDP has grown for 10 straight quarters. Exports are up. The deficit has been cut in half. The housing market is coming back. And over the past 44 months, businesses have created 7.8 million jobs.


I wanted to know the best ways we could build on that momentum. Therefore, over the past four months, I listened to hundreds of CEOs and business leaders.

Informed by those conversations, last week we unveiled three key areas of how the Commerce Department will help set the conditions for growth. We call it our "Open for Business" Agenda: trade and investment; innovation; and data.

(Read more: Why downturns spark start-up booms)

First: Trade and investment must become a bigger part of our economy's DNA.

Under the President's National Export Initiative (NEI), we reached a record $2.2 trillion in exports last year, supporting nearly 10 million jobs here. However, we are still a nation that underexports, and we must remember that more of the 95 percent of global consumers reside outside our borders.

Thus, we will launch a new effort to spur even more exports. "NEI 2.0" will expand the base of our goods and services exports by focusing on small exporters and sectors with potential for growth, and by fostering export-oriented communities nationwide.

At the same time, we must take advantage of the fact that more foreign companies are looking to invest in the United States.

The president recently announced that we will strengthen SelectUSA, our first-ever national program aimed at attracting foreign direct investment. Congress should fully fund SelectUSA to help build on the 5.6 million American jobs supported by foreign direct investment.

Second: With as much as half of U.S. economic growth stemming from advances in science, technology, and business processes, we must prioritize innovation.

Manufacturing CEOs and university presidents developed a smart idea for fostering the growth of innovation hubs — the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI).

The NNMI institutes bring companies, colleges, and other stakeholders together to support emerging technologies that improve what we make and how we make it. Already, a pilot NNMI institute in 3-D printing is underway in Ohio, and three more pilots will be announced soon.

(Read more: 3-D printing could be about to get even cooler)

Leaders around the country are clamoring for the opportunity to compete for these institutes because they know that this collaborative model works. Furthermore, NNMI enjoys bipartisan support in Congress. We will push to meet the president's goal of establishing up to 45 institutes.

To further drive these innovations, we must equip workers with the skills businesses need.

Today, many jobs are going unfilled at a time when millions of Americans are still looking for work. Numerous business leaders have told me they cannot grow their business due to a skills mismatch. That's why the Commerce Department, for the first time ever, will join with our federal partners to help lead a new, administration-wide skills initiative that will focus on aligning training programs to meet industry demand.

Of course, innovation is also driven by our digital economy. The Commerce Department will continue to fight to protect intellectual property online, champion a free and open Internet, and fortify cybersecurity for infrastructure, businesses, and consumers.

Third: We must continue to provide data and information that businesses need to make the decisions about how to grow and create jobs.

Already, we know that data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) fuels a billion-dollar industry that includes the Weather Channel, weather-related smartphone apps, and more. Through a new public-private initiative, we will unlock even more data, creating fertile ground for startups. Notably, this data can also help protect the environment, another key Commerce Department priority.

More broadly, we plan to work across the federal government to make more data accessible, standardized, and relevant to the private sector.

(Read more: US jobless drop hints at labor-market revival)

Clearly, these priorities represent a key plank in President Obama's broader platform to grow the economy.

In addition, as Commerce Secretary, I will continue to push for all of the tools that America's businesses need to compete: Business tax reform, infrastructure investments, immigration reform, reducing unnecessary regulatory burdens, and more.

My commitment is that my department will be customer-focused and outcomes driven, just like businesses are. I look forward to partnering with our most important stakeholder, American businesses and their workers, to help set the conditions for continued economic growth.

Together, we can spur job creation in a competitive global economy. Yes, America is open for business. Every business.

— By Penny Pritzker

Penny Pritzker is the U.S. Commerce Secretary. Follow her on Twitter @commercesec.

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