Harris, Secretary of Commerce Raimondo tout 'equity' at minority-owned small business investment event

Harris touts $4.7B investment in DC minority-owned businesses, expansion of Community Advantage program

Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo spoke Wednesday at Howard University to celebrate a major investment in minority-owned small businesses in the Washington, D.C., region.

Harris announced the $4.7 billion funding package – raised by the Greater Washington Partnership – as a step toward achieving equity and opportunity for underserved entrepreneurs. Raimondo touted the investment as a victory for diversity in the economy. Harris also announced the expansion of the Community Advantage program – a pilot venture of the U.S. Small Business Administration to provide capital, resources and opportunities for small businesses in underserved regions of the country.

"Homogeneity is the enemy of diversity," Raimondo told the audience during her remarks. "It is the enemy of innovation, of entrepreneurship. And if we are really going to unlock the full potential of our economy, then we have to be committed to equity. Yes, it's the right thing to do. It is the necessary thing to do. If the United States of America is going to compete economically on the global stage, we cannot afford to shut out women, minorities, people of color, poor folks, people from certain zip codes because we won't win economically on the global stage."


"According to the Federal Reserve's 2019 survey of consumer finances, the typical White family has eight times the wealth of the typical Black family. That's not equity," Raimondo continued. "The gap in business ownership between Black and Latino households relative to White households accounted for 25% of the overall racial wealth gap between those groups."

According to the Greater Washington Partnership, the nearly $5 billion investment included funds from organizations and corporations, including: Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, Amazon, AstraZeneca, Bank of America, Boston Consulting Group, Capital One, Clark Construction, Comcast, Deloitte, Dominion Energy, Exelon, EY, Gensler, Georgetown University, Howard University, Inova Health Systems, JBG SMITH, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Kaiser Permanente, McKinsey & Company, Northrop Grumman Corporation, SAIC, Thompson Hospitality, Truist, Washington Commanders and Wells Fargo. 

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo speaks at Howard University on March 30, 2022, to announce a $4.7 billion funding package to advance growth in the Capital region. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

"Howard University, of course, is an institution that since its founding has worked, advanced as we are doing all of us today, inclusion, growth and equity in our country," Harris said in her opening remarks. Harris is an alumna of Howard University, graduating in 1986. Howard is a historically black university and considered one of the most prestigious in its group.

Harris was the final speaker of the afternoon, taking the stage to thank Howard for hosting and make announcements on the expanded timeframe and resources of the Community Advantage program.


"Today I'm proud to announce that we are extending the Community Advantage Program until 2024  – and we are expanding it. We will expand the number of lenders in the program and increase the amount of money that they can lend. So this, of course, means that more small businesses will be able to benefit from the program and of course, our work collectively is not going to stop there."

"Small business owners work morning and night to transform an idea into a reality and that energy, of course, drives our entire nation forward. It creates jobs. It drives innovation. It accelerates economic growth. And in America today, too many small businesses and too many entrepreneurs are also being left behind," Harris said. "To start and grow a business, as we all know, entrepreneurs with these incredible ideas, with ambition and aspiration, well, to actually put it into effect, they need capital, capital, to buy inventory, to rent a storefront, to pay their employees. They need financial services to help run the daily operations of their business and to invest in the future. But far too many entrepreneurs are unable to access this essential support."

Vice President Kamala Harris

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at Howard University in Washington on March 30, 2022. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

Harris stated that the local nature of Community Advantage offices allows them to have a better understanding and more powerful emotional investment in their local businesses, seeing first-hand the benefits of their funding.


"The people who run these institutions often live and work in those very communities. They know the people they are lending to. They understand their needs and their challenges and their strengths. And so when they make a loan, they personally feel the positive impact of that loan. They feel it firsthand because they're there. And so community lenders can often see the potential that others might overlook."


Harris stressed that funding for entrepreneurs from racial minority groups was a priority for President Biden's administration. The vice president said both she and the president have held a series of meetings with business leaders on the issue.