About 150 Public Policy students, faculty and alumni filed into the Ford School of Public Policy Friday to hear U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo speak on economic growth, innovation and American competitiveness.
The event featured Raimondo in conversation with Betsey Stevenson, professor of Public Policy and economics. Raimondo began by addressing the United Auto Workers Union strike that began Sept. 15. She offered a message of support for striking workers and encouraged both sides to work toward a resolution.
“We hope that they stay at the table on both sides 24/7 until we get a win-win solution here,” Raimondo said. “Because we need it, and the workers deserve what they’re looking for.”
Raimondo, was elected Governor of Rhode Island in 2014, making her the state’s first female governor. She was appointed Secretary of Commerce by President Joe Biden in 2021. Raimondo described the functions of the Secretary of Commerce, noting that her primary goal is to improve the competitiveness of the United States within the global market.
“Everything we’re doing should be focused on enhancing America’s ability to compete in the world,” Raimondo said. “Providing every American with affordable internet, … investing in chips and making semiconductors again in America allows America to compete.”
Business junior Yang Ma told The Michigan Daily they appreciated that Raimondo discussed how the various agencies of the Department of Commerce work together to increase American competitiveness.
“I would say one notable thing that she really elucidated was how it all comes together,” Ma said. “As the professor and the Secretary said, there were so many agencies that are under the auspices of the Secretary of Commerce, and it’s such a complicated thing. I know how important commerce is to the United States, so it’s really amazing to see how it all comes together under one person.”
Secretary Raimondo then spoke about her personal relationship with manufacturing and how her experiences led her to advocate for increased support for current and former industrial workers. She described when her father lost his factory job after his company moved overseas, it was very challenging for her family and her community. Raimondo said while it is important for the government to help workers who have lost their jobs, the U.S. also needs more technical and career education opportunities.
“If there’s going to be dislocation for workers, we have to be there for them, train them, provide pathways into another kind of job.” Raimondo said. “Folks that are looking for a job now by and large don’t have the skills for the jobs that are open, and that’s why I think it’s time for a wholesale and dramatic change in the way we educate and train people in America.”
Raimondo said she supported an increase in the production of semiconductors, which are a kind of material useful in manufacturing computer chips. Raimondo considered increasing the production domestically as a matter of “national security,” given that the United States does not make the most sophisticated types of semiconductors. Raimondo said she believes more people must be trained as scientists in order to increase domestic production of such highly-technical products.
“(If) we want to produce more chips in the United States, the education system has to file in behind that vision to triple and quadruple the number of engineers, scientists and (professionals in STEM) that we produce, because that is what will enable us to achieve the goal,” Raimondo said.
In response to a question from Stevenson on the regulation of artificial intelligence, Raimondo said it is important that the government work with other nations to regulate current technology.
“AI in the hands of bad actors gets pretty scary very fast,” Raimondo said. “We have to, and we will very quickly get with Europe, Japan, India and say what are safety guidelines and rules of the road globally … that we can all agree to.”
Secretary Raimondo concluded the event by calling on attendees to engage in public service.
“I would like to ask each and every one of you students to think about serving the country at some point in your lives,” Raimondo said. “Everything we just talked about … none of it was going to get solved unless the best and the brightest, who had the skills and the right sense of ethics, get into the business of trying to solve these and make the policies and enact the policies that’ll make a difference.”
Daily Staff Reporter Levi Herron can be reached at email@example.com