PLEASANT PRAIRIE — Vice President Kamala Harris visited southeast Wisconsin on Thursday to tout the Biden administration’s broadband expansion and domestic job creation efforts.
Harris visited Sanmina Corp.’s electronics manufacturing plant in Pleasant Prairie, alongside U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., all of whom highlighted the Biden administration’s plans to ensure all Americans have access to affordable and reliable high-speed internet.
“High-speed internet is not a luxury, it is a basic necessity,” Harris said. “And yet, when President Biden and I took office, 800,000 people in Wisconsin and 30 million people across our country did not have access to high-speed internet.”
The U.S. Department of Commerce announced over $42 billion in funding for high-speed internet infrastructure deployment in June, of which Wisconsin will receive around $1 billion toward broadband expansion. The money comes from the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program created in the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
“No student should have to drive to the nearest library to get service to do homework and no farmer should be driven out of business because of slow or non-existent Internet," Raimondo said in a June 26 press release. “Thanks to President [Joe] Biden and Governor [Tony] Evers' leadership, this historic investment will create jobs, help Wisconsinites compete in the 21st-century economy and give people across the state access to telehealth, virtual education and so much more.”
Rep. Melissa Ratcliff, D-Cottage Grove, is a member of the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband Access and the Dane County Broadband Task Force. Ratcliff expressed her excitement for Wisconsin to receive around $1 billion and noted how it will impact the Dane County area.
“What the Dane County Broadband Task Force has been working on is fixing our maps so we can be in a position now to apply for these federal funds through the Public Service Commission (PSC) to help expand broadband throughout our county,” Ratcliff told The Daily Cardinal after Thursday’s event.
She also highlighted the impact broadband expansion will have on a statewide level, specifically individuals living in rural areas.
“Without access to the internet in our rural areas, we’re leaving our small farmers behind,” Ratcliff said.
Harris also highlighted the creation of domestic manufacturing jobs during her remarks Thursday.
Funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will also support manufacturing jobs by ensuring all materials used for broadband expansion are made in America, according to the White House.
“President Biden and I required that the materials and products used in these projects, from steel to electronics to fiber optic cable, must be made in America, by workers in America,” Harris said. “And we are determined to create jobs in America and keep jobs in America.”
Nokia, a Finnish telecommunications company, plans to partner with Sanmina Corp. to manufacture first-in-the-nation electronic broadband products at its Pleasant Prairie facility beginning in 2024. The initiative will create up to 200 new domestic jobs.
Jure Sola, Sanmina chairman and CEO, contrasted the partnership between Sanmina and Nokia with a past deal Republican former Gov. Scott Walker brokered in 2017 with Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn. The proposed $10 billion electronics manufacturing project later fell through and failed to fulfill promises of creating thousands of jobs.
“We believe we will continue to be able to grow,” Sola said Thursday. “We don’t like to promise anything, we don’t like to bring a bunch of shovels and dig in the ground and then run away.”
Baldwin also boasted about Wisconsin manufacturing and advocated for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which she said will build safer roads, expand access to high-speed internet, provide safe drinking water for Wisconsinites and create opportunities to grow the made-in-America manufacturing economy.
“To me, this has always been just so simple,” Baldwin said. “When we are investing American taxpayer dollars, we should be supporting American workers, American businesses and the American economy.”
Harris stressed how the Biden-Harris Administration aimed to prioritize the “working people of America” through Bidenomics, the self-titled name for the Biden-Harris Administration’s economic policy. She boasted about the success she and President Joe Biden have seen and provided during their time in office.
“Today, unemployment remains near record lows. Inflation has fallen 12 months in a row. Wages are up. And small businesses are thriving,” Harris said. “In fact, in just two years, more entrepreneurs have applied to start new small businesses than in any other two-year period in history.”
However, Wisconsin GOP Chairman Brian Schimming disputed that claim in a statement Thursday, calling Harris’ visit "nothing more than a failed attempt at damage control.”
"Wisconsin households know that 'Bidenomics' is more than they can afford," Schimming said. "The sales pitch won't land for Wisconsin families who are worried about decreasing real wages, the humanitarian crisis at the border, rampant crime and disarray overseas.”
Her visit comes just days after the historic indictment of former President Donald Trump. Harris did not mention the matter during her visit.
Ellie Bourdo is the features editor for The Daily Cardinal. Ellie previously served as associate news editor, where she specialized in breaking news and University of Wisconsin-System news reporting. She also works at WisPolitics. Follow Ellie on Twitter at @elliebourdo.