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Michigan is “worthy” of federal infrastructure investments. • Michigan Advance

Michigan is a top contender for federal infrastructure investments, thanks to its manufacturing legacy, public education opportunities and policy leaders, according to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo.

“When I think of places in America worth investing in, Michigan is at the top of that list,” Raimondo said Thursday.

Raimondo spoke with Awenate Cobbina, president of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. Executive Committee on the third day of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual Mackinac Policy Conference.

While Raimondo is a former governor of Rhode Island, Cobbina granted her “Michigander by marriage” status at the end of their conversation.

The U.S. Commerce Department has a variety of responsibilities, including running weather services, the Census Bureau, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and the International Trade Agency.

Awenate Cobbina, Chairman of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation Executive Committee and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo at the 2024 Mackinac Policy Conference | Kyle Davidson

Raimondo summarized these roles as helping companies by providing them with resources, information and infrastructure.

“Our mission, and the common thread through it all, is to help American companies become more competitive,” Raimondo said. “Sometimes that means leveling the playing field by protecting our technology. Sometimes that means investing in companies. Often this means helping American companies export.”

Raimondo drew attention to the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act, which could help governments invest in infrastructure such as bridges, roads and broadband. Not having access to the internet is a major barrier for small businesses, and the U.S. government has poured money into states to expand broadband.

The federal government has also invested in solar energy and semiconductors, which power technology such as artificial intelligence systems and electric vehicles. The CHIPS and Science Act, which passed in 2022, will pour money into domestic semiconductor manufacturing, and Raimondo said Michigan will get a share of the advanced chip investment. She said this could create more jobs in Michigan and make the supply chain more resilient.

“This is where businesses want to be, and that’s why we’re making these major investments in your state,” Raimondo said.

Raimondo also emphasized the importance of a level playing field with other countries. Although countries like China produce cheaper electric vehicles than the U.S., labor costs can be low, and Raimondo said they receive more subsidies. The Biden administration posted a rate of 100% on all electric vehicles from China, a move Raimondo described as helping domestic manufacturers and “creating a level playing field.”

“I want American companies to be able to beat the world,” Raimondo said. “No one is better than American entrepreneurs. American entrepreneurs. American small businesses. If we have a level playing field, we will beat the competition every time.”

They also discussed artificial intelligence. The commerce department is working on a testing mechanism for large AI models so that they can be deployed safely, Raimondo said. She also said it could make manufacturing sectors more efficient.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo at the Mackinac Policy Conference 2024. | Kyle Davidson

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