The Department of Commerce, which was established in 1903, is one of the main government agencies intended to assist businesses—large and small—and represent their interests domestically and abroad. The agency’s broad range of responsibilities include expanding U.S. exports, developing and promoting innovative technologies, gathering and disseminating statistical data and other important economic information, measuring economic growth, granting patents, promoting minority entrepreneurship, and providing stewardship. The department promotes these goals by encouraging job creation and economic growth through exports, free and fair trade, technology and innovation, entrepreneurship, deregulation, and sustainable development.
One of the key offices within the Department of Commerce is the Office of Business Liaison. This office serves as the intermediary between the business community and the agency. Its objectives include:
- To be pro-active in its dealings with the business community and to be responsive and effective in its outreach efforts.
- To keep the current administration aware of problems and issues facing the business community.
- To keep the business community abreast of key administration decisions and policies.
- To regularly meet with members of the business community.
- To help businesses navigate their way through all the federal agencies and regulations through its Business Assistance Program. In addition to producing a wide variety of published materials, the Assistance Program also provides specialists who are available to answer specific questions on government policies, programs, and services.
Another office that is of interest to small business owners is the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Utilization. This office is responsible for ensuring that the department purchases goods and services from small businesses. It helps small businesses identify with which bureaus small businesses should pursue potential buyers, clarifies who the key individuals at that bureau are, and provides small businesses with basic information on the procurement process. The Office of Small and Disadvantaged Utilization also helps businesses develop marketing strategies.
Following is a list of other key offices, departments, and programs at the Department of Commerce that are also of interest to small business owners:
- Bureau of the Census—every 10 years, performs a full census of the U.S. population, collecting a wide variety of information, as well as sorting and analyzing it. The bureau makes this information publicly available, and business owners often use the information for demographic or marketing purposes.
- Bureau of Economic Analysis—promotes a better understanding of the U.S. economy by providing the most timely, relevant, and accurate economic accounts data in an objective and cost-effective manner.
- Economic Development Administration—responsible for creating new jobs, retaining existing jobs, and stimulating industrial and commercial growth in economically challenged areas of the United States.
- International Trade Administration—helps U.S. businesses compete in the global market by assisting exporters, helping businesses gain equal access to foreign markets, and making it easier to compete against unfairly traded imports. Includes separate units for trade development and import administration.
- Minority Business Development Agency—devoted to fostering the creation, growth, and expansion of minority businesses in the United States.
- Office of Consumer Affairs—exists to bridge the gap between businesses and consumers, to help businesses improve the quality of the services they offer consumers, to educate consumers, and to speak for the consumer in regards to each administration’s economic policy development. The Office also works with American businesses to help them become more competitive in the global marketplace.
- Patent and Trademark Office—protects innovation in the marketplace by providing inventors and authors with exclusive rights to their creations.
- National Institute of Standards and Technology—promotes economic growth by working with businesses to develop and apply technology, measurements, and standards. Of growing interest to U.S. businesses because of the growing influence of the International Standards Organization (ISO) and international emphasis on quality standards.
- National Trade Data Bank—provides the public with access, including electronic access, to export and international economic information.
- Trade Compliance Center—monitors foreign compliance with trade agreements and provides businesses with information about their rights and obligations under existing trade agreements with other nations.