Gina Raimondo, Commerce Secretary, only wears Bulova watches — a company which laid off her scientist father and closed its Rhode Island factory in 1983. It then moved production to China.
Raimondo, who was a Rhode Island governor in the past, feels a sense of purpose as President Joe Biden’s tech minister. This responsibility is focused on creating new, cutting-edge factory jobs.
Raimondo stated that her watch selections were a tribute to her father in an interview. “It’s also a reminder to myself that we must do more to create good manufacturing jobs in America.”
Biden gave Raimondo the task of ensuring that the United States is the global leader in computer chips. Her performance could determine America’s position as an economic and militarily powerful country.
Computer chips have become an essential component of autos, medical devices and phones. However, a global shortage of computer chips is slowing growth and driving inflation. The United States may be outnumbered by China and other countries that support their semiconductor industries if it doesn’t have computer chips.
Raimondo (50) must restore production of both chips and solar panels and batteries to end the shortage. This is based on the belief that these sectors are vital for prosperity. It means that Raimondo consults semiconductor executives nearly daily and follows data about plant shut downs in Asia. She also needs additional government support to make her department more than just a generic envoy for business.
Raimondo stated that if we do our jobs right and I believe we will, you’ll see a fundamentally stronger, larger, and more revitalized manufacturing sector in 10 years. It is a national security issue that America doesn’t produce enough semiconductors, solar panels, or critical batteries. This makes us vulnerable economically as well.
Commerce’s tenure has been high-profile, for a department that many presidents have not paid much attention to.
Although the previous secretary was a great negotiator and was well-known, Wilbur Ross is best known for his inability to fall asleep at events for Donald Trump and for trying to explain tariffs on television by holding up a soup container. Only one acting secretary was available for the Obama administration.
Raimondo was close to Biden, who frequently quotes his parents when promoting his policies. After she was interviewed as Biden’s potential running mate, political allies noticed her ambitions. The Commerce Department could be a stepping stone for a Democratic Party that is increasingly being shaped by college-educated females.
Ron Klain, White House chief of staff, stated that she is “someone, like the president”, who understands the pain caused by job loss. She also knows where her roots are and what real economic and trade policy impact they have on real people.
Rhode Island is home to grand Newport mansions, once belonging to America’s richest families. These mansions were also used as factories for immigrants from Italy such as Raimondo’s grandparents. Its politics are intimate because of this unique mix of size and social class.
Joseph Raimondo, his chemist position at Bulova’s Bulova plant was lost when his sixth-grader was. Some admirers, as well as some critics, of his daughter believe that this formative event made them competitive and meticulously detail-oriented.
Her emailing of policy ideas to staff has been documented as late as midnight, and as early as 6 AM. Tech CEOs have said that she is direct, focused, and full of questions.
When Raimondo went to college in 1989, Rhode Island was still considered a manufacturing state. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 20% of Rhode Island’s jobs were in manufacturing at the time. Now only 8% of them are.
Raimondo’s tale is a microcosmof the American economy that emerged from World War II with all its manufacturing capabilities intact. However, lower wages abroad sucked off factory jobs so the economy was reengineered to accommodate college graduates and a digital age.
Raimondo was able to award degrees at the top universities to the smartest and luckiest children of ex-steelworkers and autoworkers.
Raimondo, like many others of her generation, saw America’s decline in industrial production through their family experiences. She worked to be part the meritocracy. While working as a clerk for a federal judge, she became a venture capitalist and married Andy Moffit, a similarly well-educated husband. According to federal ethics disclosures, her wealth is estimated at $10 million.
Raimondo has always been fascinated by the details that make people and systems tick. Raimondo was once a banker and Bob Walsh is now the executive director of Rhode Island’s most prestigious teachers union.
Raimondo asked Raimondo why he did what he did. “You could make a lot more doing something else.”
Raimondo was elected governor for the first time in 2014. She took controversial actions as treasurer of the state to help stabilize Rhode Island’s public pension fund. To raise the retirement age and to suspend cost-of-living adjustments, Raimondo resisted the teachers union. In the primary, she was opposed by many unions. Walsh supported her in the general election personally and gave her an organizational endorsement for her 2018 run.
Raimondo, an overwhelmingly Democratic Rhode Island senator, learned how to govern by creating coalitions within a diverse caucus. One of Raimondo’s most prominent Democratic opponents, State Senator Sam Bell, claimed that Raimondo was “brilliant” and “effective”, but in ways that he feels have ruined Medicaid and other services for poor people.
Raimondo’s ability of interpreting numbers to justify policy is now in play on several fronts. She pushes Biden’s infrastructure deal, addresses clogged supplies lines, and promotes the $52 Billion CHIPS Act to increase research and computer chip manufacturing.
Walsh stated that Walsh is “powerful in presenting data.” Walsh said that her ability to present strong data and comprehend the multitude of issues can again be an advantage.
Efficiency was the key to economic growth for her entire life. Payrolls were kept under control and inventories were kept to a minimum to reduce profit margins.
The pandemic interrupted chip production just as demand was growing, and people who work from home became more dependent upon their electronics. Extreme weather and other factors also affected the fragile supply chain.
Revathi Advaithi, CEO of Flex, one the largest electronic manufacturer services companies in the world, stated that if ships stop running, all efficient supply chains will collapse very quickly. “The pandemic is only one aspect of it. This has been happening for a while, our view.
To avoid shutting downs and minimize damage from natural disasters, the United States needs to have a wider range of manufacturers. It requires fail-safes to make it easier for factories that have been shut down to be restarted. This also means that it requires more high-tech manufacturing jobs.
Raimondo predicts that the shortage of computer chips will continue well into next year. This could be a problem. In a September report, the White House stated that the shortage could reduce economic growth by a full percentage point.
Raimondo stated that “we all probably underestimated the disruptive effect COVID has on our supply chains.” “We have just abruptly closed down our economy. The automakers have stopped ordering semiconductors.”
40% of global chip-making was done in the United States, but it is now only 12%. The US has a 30% higher cost per chip than South Korea and Taiwan. The prototype must be produced by a chipmaker before any revenue can be realized. This is a major barrier to start-ups.
Raimondo has the trappings and privileges of a technocrat but is choosing to live life on her terms. Biden knew about her father when he interviewed her for Commerce. Raimondo was concerned about her teenage children Cecilia, Thompson, and the possibility of them moving to Washington.
Advice from her brother: Get the job. Their father.