Detroit Regional Chamber > Mackinac Policy Conference > A Conversation With Gina Raimondo

A Conversation With Gina Raimondo

May 30, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • The commitment to building up infrastructure includes federal money for roads and bridges in the state and a $1.5 billion investment in broadband Internet access for Michiganders.
  • Place-based federal investments will help Michigan attract and grow businesses, especially in the EV, battery, and solar industries.
  • Federal investment in manufacturing, including semiconductor chips, can help stabilize the supply chain and bring jobs to Michigan. 


The U.S. Secretary of Commerce talked infrastructure, manufacturing, and leveling the playing field to help U.S. companies “out-compete” the world during a moderated conversation with Awenate Cobbina of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation during the 2024 Mackinac Policy Conference.

Helping American businesses be competitive requires leveling the playing field with competitors like China and bringing back manufacturing, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo told the Mackinac Policy Conference on Thursday, May 30.

“You can’t be a great country unless you make things,” she said, saying the Biden administration is dedicated to growing manufacturing and investing in places like Michigan to be more competitive with other countries. “I want American companies to out-compete the world. If we have a level playing field, we will out-compete every time.”

Raimondo, who previously served as governor of Rhode Island, touted President Biden’s policies of investing in infrastructure, semiconductor businesses, and EV and clean energy technologies, all of which she said will shore up Michigan’s economic strength.

On the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s Effect in Michigan

Raimondo called the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in 2023 “the biggest piece of infrastructure investment in the country’s history” and said it will create not only jobs but the roads and bridges “that bring people to work and let’s businesses be successful.”

Under the law, Michigan was expected to receive approximately $7.9 billion over five years in federal funding for highways and bridges. In addition, the law included $1.5 billion in federal grants to expand high-speed internet to homes in unserved and underserved areas in the state.

“We are working closely with the governor and her team to make sure at the end of this every Michigander, and I mean everyone, has access to the internet,” Raimondo said, adding that when Michiganders don’t have broadband access – it doesn’t exist or it’s too expensive — it impedes economic growth and education opportunities. “You cannot compete if you don’t have access.”

On Incentivizing Investment in Michigan

When asked about how Michigan and the federal government can incentivize investment in the state, Raimondo said that the administration believes that “you shouldn’t have to leave where you are from to get a decent job. … Or your kids. So that means we are doing place-based investments.”

For example, she said, “About a year ago, I was so proud to stand with the governor (Gretchen Whitmer) and Mayor Duggan — my department made a $60M investment in and around Detroit to help stimulate the autonomous vehicle industry. The Department of Energy is making a huge investment in loans and grants in Detroit in the battery industry. It’s a brand-new industry, and you need a hand, so we are making big investments in and with companies in Michigan to develop the battery space, the solar space, and the EV space.”

Michigan is uniquely poised for growth in these areas, she said. “When I think about places in America that are worthy of investment, Michigan is on the top of the list. … The history of manufacturing, the fact that we are moving toward as a nation, what you are good at — manufacturing, advanced manufacturing, EVs, AVs. The fact that you have great management at the state level, the municipal level. The fact that you are fixing the damn roads, I’ve heard. The fact that you have great educational institutions. You know, this is where businesses want to be, and this is why we are making big investments in your state.”

On Making Michigan and U.S. Companies More Competitive

Raimondo said the president recently announced a 100% tariff on EVs from China, an example of how American companies can get a more competitive edge globally. “It’s not just investments in place; it’s leveling the playing field,” she said. “America will outcompete and out-innovate even China if everyone plays by the same rules.”

Raimondo also acknowledged Michigan lawmakers, including Rep. Debbie Dingell and Sen. Debbie Stabenow, for their support of the CHIPS and Science Act.

“This is huge. This is like the space race. This will be known as one of America’s greatest investments in industry,” Raimondo said.

“We used to make 20% of the world’s leading-edge chips. Today, we make none. We buy 93% from Taiwan,” she said. “At the end of this work, we’ll have 20% by 2030. It’s going to happen. And the best thing about this is the whole supply chain comes back.”

Raimondo said this will “easily create over a million jobs in the Unites States of America” — including many in the Midwest and many in Michigan. And it will lessen supply chain disruptions that happen when semiconductor chips are not available.

“Our investments will enable you to do your job in a more resilient and competitive way,” she said. 

This session was sponsored by Business Leaders for Michigan.