Thank you, David, for that introduction. It’s an honor to be here with you all today.

Over the past six months, I’ve had an opportunity to define how the Commerce Department contributes to President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda.

Our strategy is designed to achieve an overarching goal: to improve America’s economic competitiveness so that our workers and our companies succeed in the global economy.

That means prioritizing investments in our people, our infrastructure, our technology, and our supply chains.

It also means the Commerce Department will be playing a more central role to the President’s domestic economic agenda than we have in a very long time.

To help American businesses compete abroad, we must first strengthen our capabilities at home.

Since the President took office, we’ve seen tremendous economic growth and our economy has shown it is incredibly resilient − even in the face of supply chain disruptions and the Delta variant.

As an administration, we are bullish on the American economy − and the American people.

But if we want short-term growth to translate into long-term prosperity, we have to re-double our efforts and ensure we create an economy that works for all Americans.

For me, it’s personal.

My grandfather arrived in America from Italy when he was 14 years old.

My father served in the Navy in WWII, and through the GI Bill, became the first in his family to attend college.

My mom was a homemaker, raising my brother, my sister and me while my dad worked in manufacturing at the Bulova Watch Factory in Providence, Rhode Island.

His job allowed my family to live a comfortable, middle-class life.

But after 28 years, the jobs moved to China and my dad was forced into early retirement.

Watching him in those years, I learned that having a job isn’t just about a paycheck – it’s also about the dignity that comes with it.

What happened to my dad years ago is part of a much bigger story about America’s declining investment in our workers and in our economy.

It’s the reason I said yes when the President asked me to become Secretary of Commerce − so I could help revitalize manufacturing, create good jobs, and expand opportunity for American families.

As we all know, during the 1980s, manufacturers started shifting production overseas in search of cheap labor.

And in the 40 years since then, our manufacturing, workforce, and innovation have suffered from chronic lack of investment.

Every profitable business knows that to succeed, it must invest in its core strengths, systems, and people.

The same is true for our country.

For America to compete globally, we must invest domestically − in our workforce, businesses, and innovation.

Today I’d like to talk about four key areas the Department of Commerce will focus on to do just that.

It starts with diversifying our supply chains and revitalizing American manufacturing.

As we let our manufacturing base shrink and move overseas, we exposed ourselves to major supply chain vulnerabilities.

25% of our small and medium sized manufacturers have disappeared over the past few decades.

Today we’re seeing the impact of that across our supply chains – from bottlenecks of home building materials to supplier shortages of aluminum, electronics, and pharmaceuticals.

As demand continues to surge, these supply issues will become more acute.

This is most pronounced for semiconductors – the essential building blocks of our modern economy.

They power our smartphones, cars, and medical equipment.

America created the semiconductor industry.

20 years ago, we produced nearly 40% of all chips.

Today, we account for only 12% of global production and we produce 0% of the most advanced chips.

This presents both an economic and national security problem.

But we have an opportunity to lead again − if we act now.

And we continue to advocate on the Hill for a robust supply chain resiliency office that resides within the Department of Commerce and address all manufacturing sectors − so we can get ahead of future economic disruptions.

Most critically, I’m pressing Congress to fund the CHIPS Act, which would invest $52 billion in domestic semiconductor production. 

These are critical investments that the President has proposed to strengthen our manufacturing economy and protect Americans from similar supply chain disruptions in the future.

Forecasts indicate that if we strengthen American supply chains and manufacturing, we’ll boost GDP by up to $460 billion dollars and add 1.5 million jobs.

But as we create more jobs, we must ensure that Americans have the skills they need to get those jobs.  

Which is why our second area of focus is America’s workforce.

We must prepare our workers to meet the demands of our modern, tech-driven economy.

The U.S. has under-invested in our workers for decades.

We spend a fraction of what other advanced economies do on workforce programs.

As Governor of Rhode Island, I worked directly with companies and shifted the paradigm from “train and pray” to “train and hire,” resulting in the state’s lowest unemployment rate in a generation.

With the right investments, as part of the Build Back Better Act, we can scale that success across the nation.

Previously, the Commerce, Labor and Education Departments have worked in silos.

But we’re changing that model by creating a new partnership to design training programs that benefit employers and workers.

And for the first time in Department of Commerce history, we launched our own grant program that invests in industry-led workforce training and registered apprenticeships – focusing on women, people of color, and underserved communities.

But to create pathways to real job opportunities for all Americans – we also need your leadership. 

Changing traditional hiring norms requires your leadership within your businesses.

It’s not enough for business to be at the table – we need you at the center of the table, helping us design effective workforce training and committing to hire people from these training programs – even if they don’t check all the boxes. 

If people take the risk of getting trained in a new career, they deserve assurances that it’ll lead to a job.

70% of Americans don’t have a four-year college degree.

We need employers to look beyond diplomas and focus on applicant skills and competencies so everyone can get a job in industries of the future.

Our third objective at Commerce is building an innovation economy.

We have the world’s best universities, research centers, and entrepreneurs − attracting top talent from around the world.

But over the last few decades, we’ve underinvested in the fundamental building blocks of innovation.  

We’re no longer leading the world on important indicators of research, development, and scientific progress. 

China’s growth rate in R&D spending is more than three times ours, and we’ve fallen to 10th place in R&D as a percentage of our GDP.

If we want to remain at the forefront of science and technology, we have to expand R&D investments and move innovations from the lab to the marketplace at 21st century speed.

That’s why the Build Back Better Act invests in the National Science Foundation, upgrades labs across the country and expands our climate science innovation.

Yet today, 30 million Americans lack reliable broadband – that’s especially true for those who are non-white and low-income.

If we want to unleash the full potential of American innovation, we must close the digital divide.

We must also get capital and resources to American entrepreneurs with the best ideas – regardless of their race, gender or location.

That’s why the Commerce Department is preparing to invest $10 billion in regional tech hubs across the country when the House passes its version of the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act.

Through these tech hubs, we’ll unleash the next generation of innovation in critical areas, including AI, robotics, quantum computing, cybersecurity, biotechnology, and more.

Bolstered by private sector investment, we can scale our technological innovation to every corner of the country, including the heartland.

Innovation also means leading the world toward a clean energy future that doesn’t just address the climate risks of today – but also creates millions of jobs for tomorrow.

The only open question is whether those jobs will be in America or somewhere else.

To reach net zero emission by 2050, we’ll need technologies that don’t even exist yet − which means we better get moving.

Underpinning all three priorities I just described, is equity.

Our economy cannot fully recover unless all Americans can fully participate.

That means expanding innovation beyond Silicon Valley, Boston, and New York.

It means creating more economic opportunity for women, people of color, and people in overlooked communities.

And for businesses, it means ensuring that diversity and inclusion efforts are not just an HR function – they’re core to your business strategy.

Studies show that racial and gender diversity improve a company’s bottom line.

Cash flows for diverse companies are more than double that of companies with less diverse workforces. They also have higher rates of innovation and recruitment among young workers.

Companies with women in leadership roles perform better, make wiser decisions, and have been found to increase profit margins by almost 50%.

Yet women are still excluded from executive roles. They earn 82 cents for every dollar men earn − it’s even less for women of color. And when women start a business, they have less access to seed funding.

During the pandemic, more than 2 million women dropped out of the workforce – mostly due to lack of affordable childcare.

If we want to tap into the full productivity of America, we must provide childcare for our children, elderly and disabled loved ones. 

America’s diversity is a competitive advantage for our economy, but only if we give everyone an opportunity to fulfill their potential and fully participate.

That leads to my final point – ensuring America’s businesses can compete globally. 

When American businesses have fair access to global markets and receive fair treatment from foreign governments, our economy is enhanced − not threatened − by competition with foreign businesses.

But what our businesses shouldn’t have to do, is compete against foreign governments.

We all know China undercuts American firms by engaging in anti-competitive and coercive activities − including denying us access to their market and dumping products into our market.

We also know China, Iran, Russia and North Korea misuse American technologies and direct cyber-attacks against our companies.

These actions threaten our economic and national security.

At Commerce, we use a range of tools to level the global playing field and advocate for American businesses.

We enforce export controls, set cybersecurity standards, and protect IP.

We use trade agreements and export promotion to advocate for our businesses.

And we work closely with allies to protect open data flows and create standards for critical and emerging technology – consistent with our democratic values.

For the first time since WWII, the GDP of autocracies has outpaced the GDP of democracies.

That’s why partnerships with countries that share our values are critical to demonstrating that democracies can deliver.

I’ll conclude with this.

We’re at an inflection point as a nation.

If we tap into America’s greatest strengths — our unrivaled innovation, diversity of talent, universities, entrepreneurs, and strong relationships with allies who share our values – we’ll out-compete everyone.

Our work is essential to rebuilding America – American people, American communities, and American industries that have been left behind.

I believe that so many of our problems as a country have been created and exacerbated by inequality.

If we don’t meet the demands of this moment, that inequality will get worse and the divisions we face will deepen.

As we recover from the pandemic, now is the time for business and government to work hand in hand to rebuild the American economy.

Now is the time to prioritize investments in our supply chains, workforce, and innovation ecosystem – while ensuring equity.

If we make these investments, our democracy will be stronger, and our economy will be more competitive.

If we don’t, both will decline at a time when democracy and capitalism are being challenged around the world.

So I ask you, our business community, to partner with us at the Department of Commerce as we make these critical investments in America’s future.

Thank you.

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Author: Editor
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