Kamala Harris in Raleigh NC on Small Business, Latino Owners


Vice President Kamala Harris is at the AJ Fletcher Opera Theater in downtown Raleigh on Monday, where she participates in a panel discussion on small business, including the role of Hispanic-owned businesses.

Harris arrived at the airport just before noon and drove downtown, intending to fly out at 3:55 p.m.

Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin opened the event at the theater, which is part of the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts complex. Baldwin was followed by U.S. Representatives Deborah Ross and Wiley Nickel of Wake County and then Governor Roy Cooper, all Democrats.

Marla Bilonick, president and CEO of the National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders, introduced the vice president and other roundtable participants: Isabella Casillas Guzman, administrator of the US Small Business Administration, Vicky Garcia, vice -senior president of the Latin American community Credit Union, and moderator, Jorge Buzo of Univision.

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during a community development and small business discussion at the Fletcher Theater at the Duke Energy Performing Arts Center on Monday, January 30, 2023 in Raleigh, North Carolina Robert Willett [email protected]

Access to capital was the central theme of the group’s conversation, Casillas Guzman said, touting the federal government’s record under President Joe Biden.

“In the president’s first year, $450 billion was disbursed across the country,” Guzman said. “And we put it in the hands of those who have been left behind before, in the hands of the smallest of small businesses.”

Harris asked Guzman what steps future business owners can take if they don’t know where to start. Through SBA.gov, the Small Business Administration’s website, these people can connect with business advisors to help them “learn the skills you need to fill that toolkit with all the resources you need to manage your business every day,” Guzman said. “They are expert mentors who have done business themselves.”

SBA mentors are available to speak with people in 27 different languages, Guzman added.

Harris said small businesses employ half of the national workforce.

“They contribute profoundly to the economic health of our country,” she said.

Bilonick called small businesses and the Hispanic and Latino population “the engine of the American economy.”

“Hispanic immigrants are much more likely to be entrepreneurs than the general American population,” Bilonick added.

After the roundtable, Harris visited a local Hispanic-owned business: Panadería Artesanal, a Mexican bakery on Capital Boulevard in Raleigh. Before expanding into its current space, the store began as a food truck with funds from the Latino Community Credit Union.

Vice President Kamala Harris is greeted by North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper and Durham Mayor Elaine O’Neal upon arrival Monday, Jan. 30, 2023 at RDU International Airport in Morrisville, North Carolina Robert Willett [email protected]

Cooper welcomes Harris to RDU

Harris had planned to visit the Triangle last week, but changed her plans to Monterey Park, Calif., where she paid tribute to the victims of the mass shooting at a Lunar New Year celebration.

On Monday, Cooper and Durham Mayor Elaine O’Neal greeted Harris at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, where she arrived with Casillas Guzman, Ross and Nickel as well as Rep. Valerie Foushee and Lt. Col. Brittany Carter, commander of the U.S. Air Force Communications Squadron 89.

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks with North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper and Mayor of Durham Elaine O’Neal upon arrival Monday, Jan. 30, 2023 at RDU International Airport in Morrisville, North Carolina Robert Willett [email protected]

At the theater, Cooper said Harris and other panelists will highlight the role Hispanic businesses play in strengthening local communities and the country’s post-COVID economy.

“We’re here to celebrate them,” Cooper said of all minority and women-owned businesses. “And that’s why I’ve been so excited to join the Biden-Harris administration to see them grow.”

However, several challenges stand in the way.

“We are still faced with cynicism, hatred, racism,” Cooper said. “But I believe that in the end fairness and justice will prevail. I believe in the power of the kindness of people.

Ross highlighted his interest in helping small businesses survive despite the continuing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In the face of the greatest economic challenges our economy has faced in decades, small business leaders have persevered,” Ross said. “Small businesses are the engine of economic growth.”

Buzo asked if now is the time for people to start small businesses, given the widespread economic challenges.

“Yeah, now is the right time,” Harris said. “…The work we have done over the past two years has been to maximize the ability of this additional funding to increase access to capital.”

One way to increase access to capital is to connect business owners with community banks, Harris said, “which are in the community run by community members; they understand community capacity; they understand that the culture of the community, the mores of the community, what the community wants for itself.

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This story was originally published January 30, 2023 12:04 p.m.

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Lars Dolder is editor of The News & Observer’s Insider, a state government news service. He oversees exclusive product content and works with The N&O Policy Office on investigative projects. He previously worked in The N&O’s business office covering retail, technology and innovation.




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