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Commerce Deputy Secretary Don Graves Visits Wisconsin and Stresses Importance of Building an Economy that Works for Everyone

Last week, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves traveled to Wisconsin, highlighting the Biden-Harris Administration’s historic place-based programs addressing systemic inequalities. Graves also facilitated discussions with community leaders about the Biden Administration and the Commerce Department’s investments in climate resilience, internet access, and trade. The trip underscored the work of the Biden Administration and Commerce Department in building equitable economic growth, creating good-paying jobs, and enhancing U.S. global competitiveness.

Graves first visited Milwaukee and spoke at the Women's Club of Wisconsin on Commerce Department initiatives that are preparing regions across the U.S. for growth and success. Earlier this year, Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) announced the first phase of the Tech Hubs program, which designated 31 Tech Hubs in regions across the country, including Wisconsin. The Tech Hubs program is an economic development initiative that will invest directly in burgeoning, high-potential U.S. regions and transform them into globally competitive innovation centers.

In addition to the Tech Hubs program, Commerce’s Minority Businesses Development Agency (MBDA) is investing $125 million to launch 43 business incubators and accelerators through the Capital Readiness Program. This program is the largest investment to support underserved entrepreneurs and businesses in the Commerce Department’s history. Recommended awardees were announced in September, including the University of Wisconsin.

“The Tech Hubs program and Capital Readiness Program are not just symbolic of our commitment to providing pathways to prosperity for all Americans, but are tangible, comprehensive, thoughtful efforts that will secure that prosperity for years to come,” said Deputy Secretary Graves.  

Later that day, Graves participated in a tour of the Port of Milwaukee and met with local exporters and small businesses to get their input on ways to strengthen our Nation’s supply chains. Export businesses, on average, earn higher revenues, create more jobs, and pay better wages, which in turn creates significant economic opportunities for U.S. businesses and workers.

“The Biden-Harris Administration understands how important our supply chains are to our global economic leadership and remains committed to helping improve our supply chains from ship to store,” said Graves.

Because Milwaukee is home to a fast-growing Latino population, Graves later met with Puerto Rican community leaders from Wisconsin, including Jose Perez, Milwaukee’s first Latino City Council President. During their discussion, Graves underscored the Biden Administration’s efforts to support the Latino community, including those in Puerto Rico. Graves serves as President Biden’s Puerto Rico Economic Growth Coordinator and has helped advance economic prosperity, strengthen climate resiliency, and deliver results for Puerto Rican communities.

“Our mission in Puerto Rico is centered around equity,” said Graves. “We are on a mission to give Puerto Ricans the tools, resources, and guidance they need to compete, succeed, and lead lives of dignity.”  

While in Milwaukee, Deputy Secretary Graves visited America’s Black Holocaust Museum, where he, Mayor Cavalier Johnson, and County Executive David Crowley heard from Milwaukee County’s Men of Color about the barriers they face including access to capital. Graves outlined the Department’s work to create economic opportunity for all underserved and minority communities. In May of this year, Graves joined Vice President Harris at the White House, where they led a discussion with men of color from Milwaukee County on equity and diversity and how the Administration is creating tailor-made programs that will elevate the Black community.

Deputy Secretary Graves later met with students at the University of Wisconsin Madison and discussed the Commerce Department’s work tackling the climate crisis. Thanks to the historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, $370 billion was allocated to clean energy and climate change—the biggest climate investment in U.S. history. Graves praised the students present for being emerging climate scientists and young advocates in fighting climate change.

“As the Deputy Secretary of Commerce, it is my job to create good-paying jobs, empower entrepreneurs to innovate and grow, and help American workers and businesses compete,” said Graves. “I know that our work at Commerce, to build an economy that works for everyone, can’t succeed if we don’t fight the climate crisis and build climate resilience.”

To conclude his day, Graves traveled to La Crosse, where he joined White House Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President Tom Perez at the Dairyland Power Cooperative. They heard from local people living in rural areas who struggle to access reliable, high-speed Internet service. Thanks to the Administration’s Internet for All initiative, Dairyland Power Cooperative received a $15 million grant, which is now connecting local rural communities across Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa. Over $1 billion has been allocated to communities across Wisconsin—including Tribal communities—for high-speed Internet to support telehealth, distance learning, affordability, and digital inclusion initiatives.

“In an area like this, where industries such as agriculture, tourism, and small business write the destiny of a community’s economic prosperity, quality internet connectivity is paramount for their success,” said the Deputy Secretary. “Without it, the simple truth is that these industries can’t compete. But now, they can, and they will.”

The Biden Administration and the Commerce Department are committed to developing and implementing policies and programs to empower underserved communities, businesses, and individuals and create an economy that works for all Americans.