Issue 544: 7 / 29 / 2014

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker Advances President's “Made in Rural America” Initiative at Memphis Regional Forum

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny ...

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker speaks to the assembly during the "Made In Rural America Regional Forum."
(Photo by Brenda Rayner)

Reprinted from PressReleasePoint
July 17, 2014
Department of Commerce

U.S. Department of Commerce and Delta Regional Authority partner with the White House Rural Council agencies to increase rural access to global opportunities and export resources

On July 17, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker highlighted progress on efforts to help rural small businesses and communities expand exports at the second “Made in Rural America” regional export forum with business owners and local leaders from the Mississippi Delta region.  The Delta Regional Authority hosted the one-day event at Southwest Tennessee Community College to bring together local, state, and federal resources to help rural businesses grow and support jobs through exports. In a keynote discussion with Delta Regional Authority Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill, Secretary Pritzker spoke about how the Department of Commerce and federal agencies are working together to enhance opportunities for businesses in the Delta’s rural communities, focusing on increasing exports from the Delta’s many manufacturers, value-added producers, and service providers.

… “The Delta region, with its entrepreneurial history, affordable energy, available land, and accessible waterways and transportation network, is primed to reap the benefits of a national focus on rural America,” said Chairman Chris Masingill. “While the region and its people are excited about hosting this forum, we’re more excited about reaping the job and investment benefits that will come from today’s conversation on rural exporting.”

… At the forum, Secretary Pritzker and other Administration officials detailed how the “Made in Rural America” initiative is making a difference for rural exporters, including: allows U.S. businesses to search aggregated business-related information and resources from 24 federal agencies, from starting a business to financing to expanding through exporting.

Secretary Pritzker recently reaffirmed the Obama Administration’s commitment to U.S. exporters by unveiling a revitalized government-wide strategy to increase U.S. exports: NEI NEXT. NEI/NEXT is a data-based, customer-driven initiative, focused on helping more American businesses of all sizes – including rural businesses – capitalize on new and existing opportunities to sell Made-in-America goods and services abroad. ...

To read the article in its entirety visit

Local Perspectives on the “Made in Rural America Regional Forum” Held at Southwest

Members of the welcoming delegation ...

Members of the welcoming delegation for the forum were (from left to right):  Dion Brown, executive director, B.B. King Museum; Karen Nippert; Phil Trenary; Chris Masingill, federal co-chairman, Delta Regional Authority; and  Mike Marshall (at the podium), alternate federal co-chair, Delta Regional Authority.

 Pictured are (left to right ...

 Pictured are (left to right) Dexter Muller and Director of Career Services for Southwest Brenda Williams.

Andrew Matthews (wearing the white ...

Andrew Matthews (wearing the white hat)

Through the diligent efforts of Southwest’s Executive Assistant to the President for Governmental Relations Sherman Greer, several hundred people convened at Southwest’s Macon Cove Campus on July 17 for the White House Rural Council’s “Made in Rural America Regional Forum.” Business owners and representatives from local, regional and national agencies were greeted by Southwest’s Vice President for Institutional Advancement Karen Nippert, who apprised them of the college’s mission and educational and training opportunities.

This historical event, promoting opportunities to invest in rural america, placed Southwest in the national spotlight. “Thanks to Southwest for putting this on. This [Southwest] is one of our crown jewels of technical education," said President and CEO of the Greater Memphis Chamber Phil Trenary. He stressed that Memphis is the world leader for infrastructural logistics.

Regarding the significance of the conference locally, Trenary stated, “In the last couple of years, we've had eight manufacturing companies to either start from scratch or expand here. So we need this.”

The keynote speaker for the event was U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, “It is a real honor for Southwest to have the Secretary of Commerce come to Memphis,” said Senior Vice President of Community Development for the Greater Memphis Chamber Dexter Muller. “To my knowledge, this is the first time that she would have been here. We work really closely with the Department of Commerce on exporting in Memphis. Unlike what most people would think, we’re about 28th in the country out of 360 metro areas.”

Looking ahead to the future impact of this conference, Muller continued, “I think there'll be a lot of additional exports. We've been growing by about $1 billion a year in exports over the last five years, even during the recession. Think of what we can do when the economy turns around.”

Before the event began, Executive Director of the Tennessee Small Business Development Center (TSBDC) at Southwest Rory Thomas projected, “We are looking for anyone that's interested in exporting.” Thomas indicated a major goal of the TSBDC was to bring together people to talk about financing for their exports. “Actually there are SBA loan guarantee programs that guarantee up to 90 percent of an export loan. There are so many community agencies out there, as well, that provide a lot of exporting support, including our Small Business Development Center, the Minority Business Development Agency, and the Greater Memphis Chamber – all are involved,” said Thomas.

Director of the Memphis U.S.. Export Assistance Center for the U.S. Commercial Service (U.S. Department of Commerce) David Spann spoke of the agency’s role in promoting manufactured goods for U.S. companies. Spann specified the agency works primarily with small and medium-size companies providing market research and business strategies. “One of the best things we do,” said Spann, “is to help you find good qualified reputable proprietors in other countries to partner with and do business with. Because for all practical purposes, if you're not doing business with the right people; reputable, competent and financially stable people, you're at great risk, and there is no recourse.’

 Local farmer Andrew Matthews came to the forum with hopes of identifying and connecting with sources to help his family export their produce. "I'm a farmer and I’ve been interested in exporting for several years, along with my mother Dr. Martie Daniels. She spent several years trying to develop a network with the farmers to expand our market internationally,” said Matthews, whose family, he says, owns about 20 acres of prime property outfitted with a rail line. “I'm looking forward to talking to some of the agencies, especially the U.S. Department of Commerce, and making those connections as far as the technical side,” Matthews explained.


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Southwest Launches KELI Camp

KELI Camp students program robots ...

KELI Camp students program robots (shown in the background) to pick up blocks.

Southwest’s Continuing Education Division collaborated with several Memphis area entities who share a common passion for educating and enriching the lives of children and their parents to develop the Kids Exploratory Learning Institute (KELI) Camp. “The purpose of the Kids Institute is two-fold,” said Ayana Alshams-Brooks, a Continuing Education training specialist at Southwest, who came up with the idea for the pilot program. “We want to educate Shelby County students and parents on potential career options, giving them knowledge, skills and guidance to make the best choices for their future. We also want to give the children and their parents a voice in determining the program’s content, by encouraging their input at the design stage,” Alshams-Brooks explained.

Fourteen sixth, seventh, and eighth-graders attended KELI and explored career possibilities through programming robots, creating their own computer games, making 3-D designs, and art projects. The camp kicked off with a tour of Unilever, the makers of Breyers® Ice Cream, in Covington, TN, where the campers discovered how frozen treats are made. “They absolutely loved the field trip to Unilever! Observing how ice cream is made and then being able to eat as much as they wanted, I think was the highlight. Five students were actually selected to be “official” taste testers for a new product Unilever will be rolling out in the fall,” Alsham-Brooks reported.

Though the week-long event was jammed pack with exciting activities and workshops, it was the robotics that kept them on the edges of their seats. “I would have to say that learning about robotics and working with the robots garnered the most enthusiasm. The workshop on computer coding (Scratch ) was a close second,"remarked Alsham-Brooks.

Pre and post-tests were conducted to measure the pilot’s effectiveness. The measured outcome was to generate an interest in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) careers. This was done two ways:

  1. The first measurement was the percentage of students who were excited about the topics covered and wanted more information on how to pursue those areas.
  2. The second measurement (to be assessed as the program goes forward) will be to track the students on what topics they’re taking in high school and whether these topics will assist them in pursuing STEAM-related careers.

One hundred percent of the students were surveyed and all met a positive criterion for the first measurement. “Although we can’t measure the second one at this time, all of the students said they were very interested in returning next year, and we left them wanting more," said Alshams-Brooks.

The pilot program received high marks from the parents too. “The parents were thrilled because the program was all that their children talked about when they came home! Some of the parents reported that their children went on the Internet to research more about the topics. Many of the parents asked if their children could come back next year,” Alshams-Brooks reported.

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Scammers Don’t Take a Summer Vacation

Reprinted from The Jackson Sun
By Randy Hutchinson
President of the Memphis BBB

While we’re on our summer vacation, crooks are working hard to steal our vacation money.

In an alert titled “The hazards of hoteling” the FTC describes several hotel scams. You’re sound asleep when you get a phone call from the front desk telling you there’s a problem with your credit card and they need to verify the number. Only half-awake and not thinking clearly, you give it to the caller, who is really a scammer.

Have you ever ordered pizza to be delivered to your hotel room? Be wary of a pizza delivery flyer that’s slipped under the door. It may be a fake and the crook now has the credit card information you used to pay for the order.

A more sophisticated scam involves fake Wi-Fi networks. You find one with the hotel’s name, but it’s a sound-alike that has nothing to do with the hotel. Using it provides the crooks access to your information. Check with the hotel to be sure you’re using the authorized network.

You need to be equally careful using Wi-Fi networks at airports, coffee shops and other public places. They may be convenient, but not secure. You should only send financial and other confidential information if the network or website you’re visiting is encrypted.

The FTC says most Wi-Fi hotspots don’t encrypt the information sent over the Internet and are not secure. The agency says that if a Wi-Fi hotspot:

The FTC and BBB also recommend the following when using public Wi-Fi networks:

The FTC says many mobile apps don’t encrypt information properly, so it’s a bad idea to use certain types of mobile apps on unsecured Wi-Fi. If you plan to use a mobile app to conduct sensitive transactions, like shopping with a credit card or accessing your bank account, use a secure wireless network or your phone’s data network. 

If you must use an unsecured wireless network for transactions, use the company’s mobile website, where you can check for the https at the start of the web address. Unlike websites, mobile apps don’t have a visible indicator like https.

Finally, be wary of vacation rentals that are too good to be true. Scammers create phony rental offers or even hijack real listings. These are signs of a scam:

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