Detroit Regional Chamber > Small Business > Kamala Harris Promotes Small Business Aid in Detroit Visit

Kamala Harris Promotes Small Business Aid in Detroit Visit

May 9, 2024

Photo credit: David Guralnick, The Detroit News


Detroit News
May 6, 2024
Anne Snabes

Detroit — During a stop in Detroit on an economy-focused tour, Vice President Kamala Harris touted how the Biden administration is assisting small businesses, including those owned by minorities, and contrasted its approach with the policies of former President Donald Trump.

“The last administration invested in access to tax cuts for billionaires,” Harris said. “We are investing in access to capital for entrepreneurs.”

Harris said the Biden administration will provide $100 million for small and medium-size auto parts manufacturers to upgrade their facilities and train their workforces. The funding is the latest in a series of recent investments and initiatives meant to spur a transition to electric vehicles being pushed by President Joe Biden.

The transition to EVs has become a key political issue in Michigan, the longtime heart of the U.S. auto industry and a crucial swing state in the 2024 presidential election, an almost certain rematch between Biden and Trump. The Biden administration, knowing that, has made several similar announcements aimed at Michigan recently and is deploying top surrogates alongside Harris.

Trump has repeatedly slammed Biden’s policies promoting electric vehicles. During a campaign rally in Freeland last week, he said the transition to EVs would bring “an economic bloodbath.”

After arriving at Detroit Metro Airport around midday, Harris and her team made a pit stop at Joe Louis Southern Kitchen on Woodward Avenue, where she spoke with supporters and the owners of the restaurant, according to a White House press pool report.

Around 40 pro-Palestinian protesters rallied at the corner of Warren Avenue and Woodward, near the Wright museum Monday afternoon, demanding a cease-fire in Gaza between Israel and Hamas. Harris told reporters later in the day that she was on a call between Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the morning, according to the pool report. Biden reportedly urged the Israeli leader not to launch a military offensive on the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

“We are closely tracking what is happening on the ground,” Harris told reporters. “And my team is keeping me updated and I have nothing further at this time.”

Aid for auto suppliers

Of the new funds announced Monday, the Energy Department’s Automotive Conversion Grant program will receive $50 million to help small and medium-size suppliers convert from manufacturing parts for internal combustion engine vehicles to manufacturing parts for the EV supply chain.

“These grants will allow businesses to upgrade production and production lines to produce parts for electric vehicles,” Harris said.

The Energy Department’s Industrial Assessments Center Implementation Grants Program will get the other $50 million to help auto suppliers “improve their facilities’ energy and material efficiency, cybersecurity, or productivity, or reduce the greenhouse gas emissions,” the White House said in a press release.

The programs are funded by the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, respectively.

“The strength of America’s economy is also based on the strength of America’s supply chains ― we all learned that in the pandemic if we weren’t clear before,” Harris said, adding that the investment will help to keep the auto supply chain in the United States, which strengthens the American economy and keeps “those jobs here in Detroit.”

Other economic initiatives

Harris said that when she and Biden took office, they pledged to increase federal contracts for minority-owned small businesses by 50%, “knowing that traditionally and historically, folks didn’t necessarily have access to the relationships to get those contracts.”

“And we are on track to meet our goal by the end of next year,” she said to applause from the audience.

She also noted that structural inequities have made it less likely for Black Americans to own a home. Biden’s proposed budget includes providing up to $25,000 in down payment assistance to first-generation homebuyers.

Harris also said debt forgiveness is “a central pillar” of the Biden administration’s economic agenda. She said the administration plans to forgive $700 million of debt in Wayne County.

GOP pans EV push

The Republican State Leadership Committee, a national organization of GOP state leaders, criticized the Biden-Harris administration’s policies in a statement Monday, especially the push toward electric vehicles.

“Kamala Harris thinks that the key to winning Michigan voters is to go all in on electric vehicle production, even though Michigan-based companies like Ford just reported a major loss in revenue from their electric car production,” said Mason Di Palma, a committee spokesperson. “The push from Lansing and Washington, D.C., Democrats to force electric vehicles on everybody shows how out of touch they are with reality, and how they have no interest in addressing key issues like improving the economy.”

U.S. Secretary of Energy and former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm and Acting Secretary of Labor Secretary Julie Su spoke were among the speakers who spoke before Harris. When asked about criticism over the speed of the EV transition, Granholm told a group of reporters Wednesday that “we are working on aspects of that.” She said the Biden administration is investing in EV charging stations, and she wants to make sure consumers know that they can get a tax credit when buying some kinds of new or used electric vehicles.

Tim Golding, director of grassroots operations for the conservative group Americans for Prosperity-Michigan, said Biden and Harris’ policies have “put the American Dream further out of reach.”

“For Michiganders, economic opportunity starts by quitting ‘Bidenomics’ and embracing real solutions that empower individuals and businesses to seek out their purpose and thrive on their own terms — not top-down policies that favor the administration’s allied special interests,” Golding said.

Meanwhile, Lael Brainard, director of Biden’s National Economic Council, argues that American consumers “want choices.”

“They want to have plug-in hybrids, they want to have all-electric, they want to have ICE vehicles,” Brainard told The Detroit News in an interview Monday. “None of that is possible unless we have a really robust auto supplier segment and they’re able to invest, update their production lines and upskill their workers — and they’re able to do that in the communities where they are already established.”