Posted at 8:30 PM
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker returned to Chicago yesterday, making her first visit to her hometown in her official capacity as head of the Department.
Speaking at an event hosted by Google and World Business Chicago, a public-private partnership that seeks to foster private sector growth and jobs through the advancement of a business-friendly environment, Secretary Pritzker delivered remarks and participated in a “fireside chat” with Chicago Tribune reporter Melissa Harris.
She focused on the Obama administration’s efforts to grow the economy and create jobs, as well as some of her top priorities going forward: the need to invest in infrastructure, help workers develop skills for 21st century jobs, reform the immigration system and support R&D and innovation.
As Secretary Pritzker noted, infrastructure is critical to the economy. Unfortunately, the United States has deferred trillions of dollars in infrastructure investment over the years. Under President Obama’s leadership, however, the United States has improved 350,000 miles of roads, 6,000 miles of rail, and 20,000 bridges. The Commerce Department has deployed more than 100,000 miles of broadband since 2009.
The United States also needs more workers with the right skills to do the jobs that are being created, many of which are in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. To help workers get the skills they need and help employers get the most out of their workforce, Secretary Pritzker encouraged businesses and local training partners to work together to develop meaningful curricula and broadly-recognized credentials.
She also highlighted that immigration reform is key to ensuring that the United States has the best workforce in the world. The immigration bill that passed the Senate would expand temporary and high-skilled immigration programs and provide a green card to masters and Ph.D. students who graduate with STEM degrees.
Lastly, Secretary Pritzker noted that we must prioritize more federal support for R&D, which has eroded significantly over the past several decades. These investments are crucial to ensure that more game-changing ideas can move from the lab to the marketplace.
The Commerce Department is working every day to send a strong message that America is Open for Business.