VP Kamala Harris in Durham to discuss White House plan to invest millions in economy

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Friday, March 1, 2024
VP Kamala Harris visits Durham, talks plan to invest in economy
Vice President Kamala Harris visited Durham on Friday to talk about the White House plan to invest millions in the economy.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Once again, North Carolina has a national spotlight on the political stage.

Vice President Kamala Harris visited Durham on Friday with a focus on the economy.

Harris talked about strengthening entrepreneurship and supporting small businesses, specifically focusing on Durham's historic Black Wall Street to help black entrepreneurs launch and scale their businesses.

At 12:40 p.m., Harris was joined by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper in Durham for public remarks.

Before she spoke, Harris made a stop at Ella West art gallery, arriving around 12:30. Harris viewed an exhibition by Stephen Hayes, a Duke professor and artist.

Cooper and U.S. Department of the Treasury Deputy Secretary Wally Adeyemo, joined Harris, who announced awards of $32 million to 10 minority and women-led venture capital firms in North Carolina through funding by the American Rescue Plan.

"We're very excited about it because this is just further testament to the capacity that is here," Harris said.

The White House said this money is part of a push to get more investments, not just loans, to small business owners.

"This effort by the Biden-Harris administration's American Rescue Plan will strengthen small businesses throughout our state," Cooper said. "Investments in historically underutilized businesses will help transform our communities and provide equal opportunities for everyone to succeed."

Much of the focus on underserved small businesses affects Black or women-owned businesses -- and specifically, those working in the tech industry.

"Not everyone has access to opportunity, but when provided with access, the talent is there, the capacity is there, the drive is there, the ambition is there," Harris said.

She announced that money is coming to North Carolina as the federal government partners with venture capital groups.

Adeyemo added, "Today's announcement will help unlock the potential of entrepreneurs in underserved communities across North Carolina who have not had the support to pursue their ambitions and launch a new business."

Wocstar -- the W-O-C stands for "women of color" -- is one venture capital group that's going to direct some of this money to black-owned businesses.

The group is ready to write substantial checks.

"We like to write checks in the half-a-million to a million (dollar amount) because we know it takes significant capital to grow and scale companies," said Gayle Jennings O'Byrne of Wocstar. "We're going to be that fund for entrepreneurs."

The company received more than $2 million from the federal government and is matching the investment.

"North Carolina is an amazing place to be investing. There's lots of great startups here, great entrepreneurs, a lot of technology innovations happening here . . . from things like Ag tech to climate tech to consumer good companies to AI, everything is happening here in North Carolina," O'Byrne said.

Wocstar is offering a free training course to Black-owned small businesses. The course starts in April and applications are now open.

Raw video: Kamala Harris delivers remarks in Durham

After her remarks on small business, Harris attended another event at the NC Mutual Tower, which includes a shared workspace. Harris delivered brief remarks to guests of NC Invest, a venture capital program for small businesses.

This is Harris' second trip to the state this year. In January, she visited a middle school in Charlotte and announced an additional $285 million in federal funding from the Safer Communities Act.

The visit is a part of the Biden-Harris Administration's Investing in America tour.

Ahead of Super Tuesday

The state is getting visits from other major political players in the presidential race days before Super Tuesday.

On Saturday, former President Donald Trump will be in Greensboro for a "Get Out the Vote" rally. He is speaking at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex.

On that same day, Republican candidate Nikki Haley will be in Raleigh for a rally. She is trailing behind Trump in the polls.

But she is vowing to stay in the race through Super Tuesday next week when North Carolina will host its primary election.

Saturday is the last day for early voting ahead of Tuesday's primary election.