WASHINGTON – Today, at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing to confirm the Honorable Gina Raimondo as U.S. Secretary of Commerce, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) discussed how she will partner with Raimondo and the Biden administration to support American businesses and workers. As co-chair of the Senate Travel and Tourism Caucus, Klobuchar shared her enthusiasm to work with Raimondo, focusing on Raimondo’s plans to revive the travel and tourism economy and invest in skills development and job creation across the country. During the hearing, Raimondo affirmed her support for the New Business Preservation Act, which would create a program to partner with states to make equity investments in promising new businesses alongside private investors. Klobuchar introduced this legislation with Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Angus King (I-ME) in March of 2020.
Sen. Klobuchar: Thank you very much Mr. Chairman. Welcome Governor. Thank you for being here. And I have to say that those two introductions by your Senators, we hear a lot of introductions, but they were incredibly heartfelt and attributed to you. I would also add that my own governor, Tim Walz, is a big fan of yours and that goes a long way. So your experience with economic development, your private sector and public sector experience, I think is going to be an amazing combination for this job so thank you very much for being willing to serve.
I had a question, you and I talked about this when we met, on travel and tourism. And I noted that Senator Blunt and I, along with several other senators including Schatz, Cortez Masto, have worked on tourism. And the Brand USA bill where Senator Blunt and I have led for years now is a public private partnership that promotes international tourism throughout the U.S., supporting more than 51,000 jobs a year. I’d just like your commitment that you can support that and do all that you can to continue to support the tourism industry.
Gov. Raimondo: Yes, thank you Senator, and thank you for your time yesterday. And thank you for your leadership on tourism, I know you’ve been a leader on this issue for a long time. I hail from a state where tourism is a significant part of our economy and I have seen firsthand over these past ten months just how crippling the COVID pandemic has been to these businesses, tourism-dependent businesses, so yes, I look forward to working with you and your colleagues, really leaning into Brand USA and being as bold and creative as we can to encourage people to come to our country, to fly, to stay in hotels. Obviously, I think President Biden’s leadership on COVID is vital, and once folks are vaccinated and feel more comfortable, absolutely. We will work together on this issue. It’s a lot of American jobs.
Sen. Klobuchar: Thank you. And one thing we didn’t talk about as much, and I wish I had, and I can talk with you about it later, and given your experience with venture capital investment and the like, I think you could be such a big advocate for this, is that a bill I have called the New Business Preservation Act, focuses -- we worked with Steve Case and other people on this -- focuses on incubating and developing Silicon Valley-type areas all over the country. That it shouldn’t just be one area that gets all of this investment, as good as that is. And that we need to spread it around and create other hubs of investment. And what the bill does is it authorizes states to make equity investments in new business alongside venture capital companies, they wouldn’t actually be making the decisions or funding it directly. But I hope you’ll be willing to look at that, and look at that as well as skills investment. I think your experience in Rhode Island and the work you’ve done with getting more people jobs would be really helpful. I think it was Tyler Perry who once said “your beginning shouldn’t dictate your destiny.” And certainly after this pandemic, and through this pandemic, we’re going to have a lot of work that must be done. I know Senator Cantwell has been such a leader on this, and skills reinvestment, as well as looking at our economy more globally about where we can invest in areas of the country to encourage more hubs of innovation.
Gov. Raimondo: Thank you Senator. Yes, of course I would look forward to working with you and all of your colleagues. I would say I am deeply committed to making sure all Americans in every community have an opportunity to get the skills they need to have a good job. And it is true that most venture capital is highly concentrated in five or six communities around America, but those communities don’t corner the market on great ideas or entrepreneurs, so I will very much look forward to working with you to provide opportunity to all Americans.
Sen. Klobuchar: Thank you. Last question -- with 95 percent of the world’s potential customers living outside of our borders, it’s important more than ever that we ensure that our businesses and our farmers -- a reference to Senator Thune, we share a border -- are able to capitalize on opportunities in these markets. I’m a strong supporter of the U.S. Commercial Service, which as you know is the export division of the Department’s International Trade Administration, which handles trade promotion. It has trade professionals in over 100 U.S. cities, including my own, and has a presence in more than 70 countries. And during the Obama administration, there was a lot of focus on this, and I think we need to do even more as we move forward on exports. What’s your plan to improve the U.S. Commercial Service program, particularly for businesses based in rural areas?
Gov. Raimondo: So first, I agree with you. Secondly, I know this is an important area for you and I appreciate your leadership. Exports equal growth, equal more jobs. So I intend to be very aggressive, should I be confirmed, to make sure the Department of Commerce is accessible to all businesses, particularly small, medium-sized businesses, farmers, rurally-located businesses. They ought to have access to the tools in the Department of Commerce to help them improve their exports. So I will be very focused on that.
Sen. Klobuchar: Very good. And I’ll put on the record, Mr. Chairman, questions about broadband as well as steel dumping, something I discussed with the Governor yesterday.
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