PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — After spending a few hours touring Rhode Island and chatting with small business owners, Vice President Kamala Harris departed from T.F. Green Airport Wednesday evening.
In her first official trip to the Ocean State as vice president, Harris met with business owners as she touted how the Biden administration’s multitrillion-dollar American Jobs Plan will help Rhode Islanders.
She and U.S. Commerce Secretary and former Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo took part in a women-led small business roundtable discussion Wednesday afternoon.
“You each are running very successful, innovative businesses, with a variety of talent, skill sets and backgrounds in terms of the work and the perspectives that you have brought to your businesses,” Harris told participants.
Minnie Luong, founder of Pawtucket-based Chi Kitchen, was among that group.
“One of my takeaways from what Vice President Harris said was, ‘you are inspiring many people you may never meet,’ and I hadn’t thought about that until she had mentioned that but its true, and my impetus for starting my business was to do that,” Luong said.
Video Now: Small business roundtable (story continues below)
Prior to that event, Harris, Raimondo and all four members of the state’s congressional delegation spoke with business owners about what is and isn’t working as they work to bounce back from the pandemic.
Video Now: Small business event (story continues below)
Portions of downtown Providence were blocked off and police from all around the state are involved in Harris’ security detail as small crowds gathered for an opportunity to see the vice president in person.
Prior to her scheduled meetings, Harris, Raimondo and current Gov. Dan McKee made an surprise stop at Books on the Square on the East Side of Providence, where they made some purchases.
The store’s manager, Jennifer Kandarian, told 12 News she was given about a half-hour heads up.
“Very busy morning,” she said. “She’s the vice president. You don’t think she is going to walk into a small businesses.”
Harris disembarked at T.F. Green Airport shortly after 11 a.m. and was met by Raimondo, McKee, Congressmen David Cicilline and Jim Langevin and Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse.
On Thursday, Raimondo toured the General Dynamics Electric Boat facility in Groton, Conn., along with U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh. She said job training and apprenticeships will be critical in restoring the country’s economy, noting how Biden’s jobs package includes a $48 billion investment in workforce development.
This isn’t the first time a vice president has made a stop in Rhode Island, whether they were still on the campaign trail or had already taken office.
Then-Vice President Joe Biden visited the Ocean State in spring 2016 to support Raimondo’s Rhode Works Bill, stopping to examine the East Shore Expressway up close.
Other past vice presidents who made visits to Rhode Island include Mike Pence, Al Gore, Dick Cheney, Dan Quayle, George Bush, and Walter Mondale.