Josh Harder, Gina Raimondo on improving Central Valley economy

Bringing jobs to California’s Central Valley and improving the economy are issues that are top of mind for Modesto Congressman Josh Harder and US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. The two Democrats are working together to improve agricultural and manufacturing economies, such as the Central Valley.KCRA 3’s Brittany Johnson spoke with both the congressman and secretary about the work they’re doing to help improve the economy.Q: What values do the both of you share that led you two to team up?Harder: I think the intent of today’s visit is to really do two things: One is to highlight one of the regional challenges we’re dealing with, which is that every morning, 100,000 people in our community wake up, and they drive over the Altamont Pass to the Bay Area for work. They do that not because they love to have five-hour commutes and wake up at 5:00 a.m. and get get home after their kids go to bed. They do that because that’s where the jobs are. And the Secretary of Commerce has really prioritized local manufacturing local processing jobs and districts like ours, and we have to do a lot more, but we’ve already started on a couple of really important projects. Thanks to the leadership of the Secretary and the Department of Commerce, we got a really critical grant to break open the Tracy International Park of Commerce, which is already bringing 2,000 jobs to our area — not just minimum wage jobs, but high-paying, processing, manufacturing, factoring and management jobs. And that’s the key. I think one of the things that we’re really going to be talking about a lot today is how do we make sure that that’s just the beginning of what we need to be doing a lot more of across the valley.Raimondo: Prior to this job, I was the governor of Rhode Island, and I spent a lot of time doing this place-based economic development. People want to work near where they live. They shouldn’t have to move. Wherever you’re from, that’s home; that’s your home. You shouldn’t have to move across the country or do a three-hour commute to have a decent job. And so, we have to develop every community so people can work in their community or near their community. And as the congressman said, he and I work very well together.He’s an incredible advocate for Central California, letting us know the needs of the community. He mentioned revitalizing manufacturing. That’s true. Another thing we work on very closely together is job training. Making sure people have skills to get the jobs of today, apprenticeships, he’s been a leader around apprenticeships, as have I’ve been. It’s just making sure we have the conditions for job creation everywhere: infrastructure, business, parks, job training, because as I said, you know, people ought to be able to work wherever they are in America.Q: Is that where this $8.35 million grant Tracy got from the Department of Commerce for the International Park of Commerce comes into play?Raimondo: Absolutely. It’s over $8 million that we were able to bring to the city of Tracy because of the congressman’s leadership. And it’s for investments, investments in highway infrastructure in a new bridge in a business park. It’s what we need to have sustained job creation in the city of Tracy for years to come.Harder: It’s already been going out. It’s already gone out the door. The bridge is already built, which is terrific. It has already catalyzed the development of 2,000 jobs. You know, we think about companies like Ghiradelli Chocolate, which now moved all of their food processing into Tracy. The sign is still in San Francisco. That’s terrific. They still have Ghiradelli Square, but all those jobs are now right here in our community. I think that’s a template of what needs to be coming into the future. We have the talent; we have the people that have the skills. The reason we know that is because they’re driving to where the jobs are today.Q: Access to the internet goes hand-in-hand when it comes to building up the economy. What challenges and barriers are you seeing when it comes to access? Raimondo: There are there are far too many Americans, far too many people in the Central Valley in California, who don’t have internet. It’s hard to believe but it’s true. Particularly people who live in rural America. There are tens of millions of Americans that don’t have internet or others who have access to the internet, but it’s much too expensive. You know, maybe it’s in your neighborhood, but it’s $100 a month. So, what good is that if you can’t afford it? What we are working on and what the congressman said in the infrastructure package, which he was critical on getting passed; there’s a $65 billion investment on the internet for all. In the Commerce Department, my team is implementing that the state of California will receive a minimum $100 million, most likely, pretty much more than that. We’re working with our local partners on the ground to make sure that when we’re done, every single person, small business school child in the state of California has internet. That’s why we’re calling it Internet for All, and that it is affordable. Because you know, Brittany, we all know right now, the internet is not a luxury. We just talked about being able to work from where you’re from (this interview was conducted remotely). Well, you need the internet to do that. If you want to do a telehealth visit with your doctor, you need the internet to do that. If you live in a rural community and the closest hospital is 100 miles away, you can visit the doctor in telehealth if you have a reliable, affordable internet connection. If you want to start a small business or maintain a small business or if you have a small family farm, it all depends on the internet, and too many people don’t have it, so we are deeply committed to closing the digital divide by providing basic infrastructure of the internet for all at an affordable rate.Harder: The secretary is exactly right. This is not something that’s nice to have. This is an absolute necessity. And it’s outrageous that in the 21st century, a few miles from Silicon Valley — the birthplace of the internet — there are still kids that don’t have broadband at home. In the midst of the pandemic, I have met with a lot of parents who told me that they drove their kids to the local McDonald’s so they can get free WiFi so their kids could do their homework in the parking lot. That shouldn’t be taking place. We have veterans across our community who couldn’t actually go and get a virtual visit to see their doctor because they don’t have the internet at home. This affects so many folks especially, and a lot of the underserved and more rural parts of our community. We have to make sure that we fix it. We have to make sure that every person no matter where they live, can access affordable broadband. And this is something that I’m actually very optimistic about, because for the first time ever, we have both the resources and the leadership to make this happen. I think one of the things we’ll be talking about later today is how we’re going to actually implement that. It’s a complicated puzzle, but at the end of the day, this has got to be a project where at the end of the day, every single person gets internet, across our community, especially the folks that are really struggling with this today.

Bringing jobs to California’s Central Valley and improving the economy are issues that are top of mind for Modesto Congressman Josh Harder and US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo.

The two Democrats are working together to improve agricultural and manufacturing economies, such as the Central Valley.

KCRA 3’s Brittany Johnson spoke with both the congressman and secretary about the work they’re doing to help improve the economy.

Q: What values do the both of you share that led you two to team up?

Harder: I think the intent of today’s visit is to really do two things: One is to highlight one of the regional challenges we’re dealing with, which is that every morning, 100,000 people in our community wake up, and they drive over the Altamont Pass to the Bay Area for work. They do that not because they love to have five-hour commutes and wake up at 5:00 a.m. and get get home after their kids go to bed. They do that because that’s where the jobs are. And the Secretary of Commerce has really prioritized local manufacturing local processing jobs and districts like ours, and we have to do a lot more, but we’ve already started on a couple of really important projects.

Thanks to the leadership of the Secretary and the Department of Commerce, we got a really critical grant to break open the Tracy International Park of Commerce, which is already bringing 2,000 jobs to our area — not just minimum wage jobs, but high-paying, processing, manufacturing, factoring and management jobs. And that’s the key. I think one of the things that we’re really going to be talking about a lot today is how do we make sure that that’s just the beginning of what we need to be doing a lot more of across the valley.

Raimondo: Prior to this job, I was the governor of Rhode Island, and I spent a lot of time doing this place-based economic development. People want to work near where they live. They shouldn’t have to move. Wherever you’re from, that’s home; that’s your home. You shouldn’t have to move across the country or do a three-hour commute to have a decent job. And so, we have to develop every community so people can work in their community or near their community. And as the congressman said, he and I work very well together.

He’s an incredible advocate for Central California, letting us know the needs of the community. He mentioned revitalizing manufacturing. That’s true. Another thing we work on very closely together is job training. Making sure people have skills to get the jobs of today, apprenticeships, he’s been a leader around apprenticeships, as have I’ve been. It’s just making sure we have the conditions for job creation everywhere: infrastructure, business, parks, job training, because as I said, you know, people ought to be able to work wherever they are in America.

Q: Is that where this $8.35 million grant Tracy got from the Department of Commerce for the International Park of Commerce comes into play?

Raimondo: Absolutely. It’s over $8 million that we were able to bring to the city of Tracy because of the congressman’s leadership. And it’s for investments, investments in highway infrastructure in a new bridge in a business park. It’s what we need to have sustained job creation in the city of Tracy for years to come.

Harder: It’s [grant money] already been going out. It’s already gone out the door. The bridge is already built, which is terrific. It has already catalyzed the development of 2,000 jobs. You know, we think about companies like Ghiradelli Chocolate, which now moved all of their food processing into Tracy. The sign is still in San Francisco. That’s terrific. They still have Ghiradelli Square, but all those jobs are now right here in our community. I think that’s a template of what needs to be coming into the future. We have the talent; we have the people that have the skills. The reason we know that is because they’re driving to where the jobs are today.

Q: Access to the internet goes hand-in-hand when it comes to building up the economy. What challenges and barriers are you seeing when it comes to access?

Raimondo: There are there are far too many Americans, far too many people in the Central Valley in California, who don’t have internet. It’s hard to believe but it’s true. Particularly people who live in rural America. There are tens of millions of Americans that don’t have internet or others who have access to the internet, but it’s much too expensive.

You know, maybe it’s in your neighborhood, but it’s $100 a month. So, what good is that if you can’t afford it? What we are working on and what the congressman said in the infrastructure package, which he was critical on getting passed; there’s a $65 billion investment on the internet for all. In the Commerce Department, my team is implementing that the state of California will receive a minimum $100 million, most likely, pretty much more than that.

We’re working with our local partners on the ground to make sure that when we’re done, every single person, small business school child in the state of California has internet. That’s why we’re calling it Internet for All, and that it is affordable. Because you know, Brittany, we all know right now, the internet is not a luxury. We just talked about being able to work from where you’re from (this interview was conducted remotely). Well, you need the internet to do that.

If you want to do a telehealth visit with your doctor, you need the internet to do that. If you live in a rural community and the closest hospital is 100 miles away, you can visit the doctor in telehealth if you have a reliable, affordable internet connection. If you want to start a small business or maintain a small business or if you have a small family farm, it all depends on the internet, and too many people don’t have it, so we are deeply committed to closing the digital divide by providing basic infrastructure of the internet for all at an affordable rate.

Harder: The secretary is exactly right. This is not something that’s nice to have. This is an absolute necessity. And it’s outrageous that in the 21st century, a few miles from Silicon Valley — the birthplace of the internet — there are still kids that don’t have broadband at home. In the midst of the pandemic, I have met with a lot of parents who told me that they drove their kids to the local McDonald’s so they can get free WiFi so their kids could do their homework in the parking lot. That shouldn’t be taking place. We have veterans across our community who couldn’t actually go and get a virtual visit to see their doctor because they don’t have the internet at home.

This affects so many folks especially, and a lot of the underserved and more rural parts of our community. We have to make sure that we fix it. We have to make sure that every person no matter where they live, can access affordable broadband. And this is something that I’m actually very optimistic about, because for the first time ever, we have both the resources and the leadership to make this happen. I think one of the things we’ll be talking about later today is how we’re going to actually implement that.

It’s a complicated puzzle, but at the end of the day, this has got to be a project where at the end of the day, every single person gets internet, across our community, especially the folks that are really struggling with this today.

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