Updated as of 3:04 p.m. on Jan. 30, 2023 to include information from attendees.
Vice President Kamala Harris took the stage at 1:30 p.m. at the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in downtown Raleigh to participate in a panel discussion with Isabella Casillas Guzman, administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration and Vicky Garcia, senior vice president of the Latino community credit union. Moderating will be Jorge Buzo, Local Univision Affiliates’ news and community coordinator and a former Telemundo anchor in Atlanta.
Prior to Harris taking the stage, Mayor of Raleigh Mary-Ann Baldwin spoke. Baldwin was elected in December 2019, just before the coronavirus pandemic, and spoke about the efforts the Biden-Harris Administration is taking to support small businesses.
Congresswoman Deborah Ross, who also was elected at the onset of the pandemic, took the stage after Baldwin.
“Small businesses are the engine of economic growth,” Ross said.
Following Ross was Representative for the 13th district of North Carolina Wiley Nickel, who spoke about his first three weeks in office and the voting for the Speaker of the House, which took place earlier in the month. Nickel is a lawyer and previously owned a business.
“The secret is out, North Carolina is a great place to open a business,” Nickel said.
Following Nickel, Governor Roy Cooper took the stage.
“My friend, madam vice president, you have come to the best state in the country,” Cooper said.
Harris was in Raleigh to celebrate the Latinx and Hispanic small businesses in North Carolina, Cooper said, as well as recognizing minority and female-owned businesses.
“Our small businesses are the backbone of our growing economy and our amazing diversity,” Cooper said.
Also in attendance at the event at the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in downtown Raleigh is US House Representative for District 4 Valerie Foushee. Foushee did not give a comment to Elon News Network.
Maria Biolonick, president and CEO of the National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders introduced Harris.
Harris started with why she loves small businesses, particularly when she thinks of her childhood growing up in Miami. Her neighbor, Miss Shelton, ran a nursery school, and she took care of not only the kids in Harris’ community, but the adults, too.
“She was a community leader,” Harris said. “She hired locally, she mentored, and that was my first experience, but I never thought of her as a small business owner. She was Miss Shelton, our second mother.”
Harris also discussed the importance of community lenders in the United States, especially when it comes to building intergenerational wealth.
“You own a home, you build up capital,” Harris said. “That’s intergenerational wealth. And we know for communities of color in particular but for all Americans, the greatest source of intergenerational wealth is homeownership.”
Garcia, senior vice president of the Latino community credit union, talked about the impact of community lenders for Lantinx and Hispanic people in North Carolina.
“The Latino credit union was founded for Latinos, by Latinos,” Garcia said. “It is an example of how the grassroots movements in North Carolina have created something that can put the economic opportunity [out] there for Latinos.”
In Alamance County, there are no branches of community banks like the Latino Community Credit Union, according to former District 63 representative Ricky Hurtado, who was also in attendance at the panel discussion.
The presence of these entities are primarily in the Triangle region, or more urban areas, Hurtado explained.
“Individual business owners do have a relationship if they need it, it's not too far away, the closest branch is in Carrboro,” Hurtado said. “But I think it’d be a real benefit if we actually saw greater physical presence in our community, so that’s something I am really interested in pursuing.”
Hurtado said it was great to see the Biden-Harris administration come to North Carolina to highlight their small business agenda.
“It just demonstrates to me that they get it,” Hurtado said. “That small businesses and small business owners are the economic engine of all of our communities.”
In the panel discussion, Harris then called on Guzman, administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, to speak to the work the SBA is doing to support small businesses in the United States.
“With the changes that we’re making to expand our footprint… as well as simplifying our products, so that it’s easier to meet you where you are,” Guzman said.
Another question posed to Harris is what advice she has for people who would like to start their own business. To answer, Harris asked panelist Isabella Casillas Guzman, administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, what advice she would give if Harris had an idea to start a small business.
Guzman and Harris traded questions back and forth, sharing information about the SBA website, including that resources can be made available in 27 different languages.
“It’s basically about building a center that will commit to you, to have funded community navigators here throughout the states to support small businesses,” Guzman said.
In closing, Harris said coming to speak in Raleigh with so many business leaders was about thanking them for all that they do.
“I just want to thank everyone here,” Harris said. “We’ve asked this group of leaders to come together this afternoon because you really are leaders on the ground.”