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Remarks by the Vice President on Historic Investments in Strengthening Entrepreneurship, Increasing Access to Capital, and Supporting Small Businesses in Durham, North Carolina

March 01, 2024

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you, Wally.

Let me first start by thanking the governor, Roy Cooper. Many of you know, he and I served as attorneys general together many years ago. So, I have known the governor's work for a very long time. And you've been an extraordinary partner to the President and me, leading this beautiful state of North Carolina.

And the governor, I think, every time I arrive in North Carolina as Vice President, has met me on the tarmac. And he is keeping track of my visits and has informed me this is my 10th visit to North Carolina as Vice President. And -- and I'm really happy to be back.

And I want to thank the Deputy Secretary, because we have done a lot of work together. And you are always fighting for the people in a very real way, understanding the connection between access to opportunity and growth.

And that is real, because it also understands that not everyone has access to opportunity. But when provided with access, the talent is there, the capacity is there, the drive is there, the ambition is there, and growth and economic growth results.

So, that is the math, in terms of what we are talking about. It is about meeting the capacity of communities with the resources that are necessary to strengthen our economy. And we all benefit from that work. We all benefit from an economy that is strong.

So, I want to take ev- -- I want to thank everybody here, including all of the investors who have really -- I -- I was so happy to share your stories and -- and to know about your passion and your commitment and your drive and -- and your high level of expectation that you are also meeting with the resources that are necessary to grow and incentivize these businesses.

And to be here on historic Black Wall Street -- this district in Durham is really -- it's -- it -- actually, I -- I just stand here thinking of what has happened here over the years, both in terms of the strength of the community and then the challenges and the obstacles that were presented to this community, but how it has rebounded in such an extraordinary way.

And as the governor has said, over the past three years, the President and I have been very intentional about the work that we are doing to invest in communities in many ways, including through small businesses.

Thus far, we have invested more than $3 billion in the entrepreneurs and small businesses here in North Carolina. And that investment has included billions of dollars in small business loans for thousands of small businesses in North Carolina.

And I want to emphasize: When I say small businesses, I am including in that group entrepreneurs, those who have extraordinary ideas, often that involve technology, with an eye towards what we need to do with the climate crisis and things of that nature; startups.

We have, through those $3 billion, also invested hundreds of millions of dollars for North Carolina Community Banks, building on the work, as the Deputy Secretary said, that I did as a senator when we invested over $12 billion nationally in community banks. And the investment in community banks here in Durham includes 8- -- $80 million for M&F Bank just down the street.

The investment of $3 billion also includes millions of dollars from the Economic Opportunity Coalition that I launched in 2022. And this is, again, testament to the leaders who are here who are private-sector investors and are matching and working with us through federal investments to reach a capacity that is extraordinary in terms of pooling together these federal dollars with these private investments.

And I would like to thank them, because it has been a coalition of groups that include nonprofits, banks, and technology companies who have all worked with us and worked with our administration once we created this coalition to, again, maximize the resources that can go to communities like this.

And that brings me, then, to today, where we are announcing a new investment of $92 million primarily for early-stage startups here in North Carolina. (Applause.)

And we're very excited about it because this is just further testament to the capacity is -- that is here that is calling for this kind of attention and these resources. It is testament to the innovation that is occurring right here and the need, then, for us to, from Washington, D.C., understand how the nation benefits when we show the capacity of communities when they receive this kind of support and investment. And we are talking about clean energy companies, we are talking about AI, we are talking about technology companies in general.

And this is in addition to the 32 -- so, the $32 million from the President and -- and my administration -- the President and our administration matched by $60 million from private sector venture capital partners, some of whom, again, are here today.

And separately, many here may know, the President and I, from the beginning of our administration, made a pledge, which we are on track to meet, to increase by 50 percent federal contracts going to minority-owned businesses.

This is consistent -- (applause) -- with everything that is about the work that we are announcing today, in that we understand that, traditionally, minority-owned businesses have received a fraction of federal contracts -- often because the relationships are not there; the access, therefore, is not there; but the talent exists.

And so, our pledge to increase by 50 percent federal contracts going to minority-owned businesses is an acknowledgement of the fact that we must be intentional when we think about: Where are the greatest returns on investment?

And ultimately, yes, this is about the right thing to do. It is a good thing to do. But ultimately, it makes economic and financial sense for us to do this work. Because the bottom line -- and yes, the bottom line, I speak in economic terms -- is that this produces an extraordinary return on investment.

And that is, as much as any other reason, why we are doing this work together with our partners.

So, again, I want to thank everyone for your leadership, for the inspiration, and for the model that Durham is providing for the rest of the country around these kinds of partnerships. Thank you all. (Applause.)

Kamala Harris, Remarks by the Vice President on Historic Investments in Strengthening Entrepreneurship, Increasing Access to Capital, and Supporting Small Businesses in Durham, North Carolina Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/370392

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