Under Secretary of Commerce For International Trade Francisco SÁnchez
White House Hispanic Community Action Summit
The University of Tampa
Friday, February 3, 2012
As prepared for delivery
It’s great to be here today with so many friends and partners. And, I appreciate that warm welcome.
Allow me to begin by thanking Dan Gura for that kind introduction.
I’d also like to commend Dr. Ronald Vaughn for his leadership, and for serving as a partner in this Summit.
Finally, I want to recognize all my colleagues in the Obama Administration for their contributions to today’s forum.
I’ve been proud to take part in a number of these Summits in different cities. But, this one is special.
That’s because I’m a Tampa native. My roots are here. My family is here. My memories are here.
And, even though I now live in Washington, DC — Tampa will always be home.
I care deeply about this city. I care deeply about its future.
This is the community that provided a path for me — a kid from Riverside Heights — to reach new heights, and ultimately work for the President of the United States.
And, I want future generations to have that same opportunity to pursue their goals.
But, as we all know, for many, these doors to opportunity have been closed in recent years.
We’ve faced significant challenges:
- in education, which is why the President announced a plan to make college more affordable;
- in housing, which is why the President created a “Homeowners Bill of Rights”, and wants to help responsible borrows refinance; and
- in a number of areas, many of which will be discussed today.
But, I think you’ll all agree that the main challenge we face is the economy.
The financial collapse in 2008 sent our economy into a tailspin.
4 million jobs were lost in the six months before President Obama took office.
Another 4 million were lost during his first six months in office — before his policies were fully enacted.
And, the sad reality is that the economic downturn hit the Hispanic community especially hard.
There is a lot of pain in our community. The pain of poverty. The pain of foreclosure. The pain of joblessness and hopelessness.
In fact, the Pew Hispanic Center found that, from 2005-2009, the median net worth of Latino households fell 66 percent — the most of any group.
These are more than just numbers.
We are talking about savings for retirement, funds to send children to college and the values of homes — all depleted. Just like that.
Even more troubling is that Pew also found that more Latino children are living in poverty than any other group.
This is not the future we want for our children or Tampa or America.
I know that you share this belief. And, so does the President.
That’s why putting people back to work has been his priority since day one. And, the country has made real progress.
Just this morning, we got some good news.
The United States added 243,000 jobs in January; the unemployment rate dropped to 8.3%.
The economy has added private sector jobs for 23 straight months. That translates to roughly 3.7 million jobs over that period
Across the country, people are finding new hope thanks to new jobs.
But, we know that much more needs to be done. We faced an historic economic crisis that was developed over years. Our recovery won’t happen overnight.
And beyond the numbers, we’ve arrived at a significant moment in history. This is a make or break moment for the middle class and poor. And, we have a choice.
Do we allow the country to go back to the old ways of business, where economic growth was built on housing and financial bubbles?
Or do we want to forge a new path — where opportunity reaches all communities thanks to an economy built to last?
The answer is clear: We need an economy built to last.
And, at last week’s State of the Union, the President unveiled his blueprint for an economy built to last.
It’s built on:
- American energy;
- skills for American workers;
- a renewal of American values; and
- American manufacturing.
As an Under Secretary at the Department of Commerce, I’d like to take a minute to focus on American manufacturing.
Historically, manufacturing has created quality jobs and helped build the middle class. It’s also been important to Latinos. In fact, the health of manufacturing greatly impacts the health of our community.
During the recession of 2007-2009, manufacturing was one of the sectors where Hispanic employment declined the most, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But, the good news is that manufacturing is currently making a comeback.
Hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs have been created over the last two years.
Profits are up. Productivity is up.
And, the President is determined to keep the good news coming.
One way is by urging American companies to bring jobs back — to our shores.
He has begun to put forward new tax proposals that reward companies that choose to bring jobs home and invest in America.
He also proposes eliminating tax breaks for companies that move jobs overseas.
An economy built to last ensures that, whenever possible, products are being developed here at home.
But, producing these products is only half the story.
For example, Tampa is home to some of the most innovative entrepreneurs out there. But, their ideas and products alone can’t strengthen this business community.
What they also need is an opportunity to sell these goods and services.
And, that’s where I come in. As the Under Secretary of International Trade, I want to help U.S. businesses sell their stuff overseas.
Consider these numbers:
95 percent of the world’s customers live outside our borders.
And, the IMF estimates that 85 percent of the world’s growth over the next five years will take place overseas.
Yet, despite this reality, only 1 percent of U.S. companies export. Of those that do, only 58 percent export to one market.
In this new environment, U.S. businesses can’t limit themselves to looking inward.
We’ve got to look outward. We’ve got to expand our economic imagination.
And, in so many ways, the Latino community should be at the forefront of the export economy.
Our cultural ties, bilingual skills and familiarity with markets overseas makes for a natural expansion of this community’s businesses.
And, Tampa is a great place to do this work.
It’s got talented entrepreneurs. It’s got a skilled workforce.
It’s got one of Florida’s largest seaports, an International Airport and two major Interstate highways leading into and out of the region.
With all this in mind, Tampa’s Hispanic business community should be an even bigger player on the international marketplace.
Our businesses can use these new markets to bolster bottom lines.
This means more revenue. And, that’s good for jobs.
And, by strengthening the local economy — more tax dollars will be available to put back into our communities to improve the quality of life.
So, I urge all of you to support the President’s vision for an economy built to last.
The President has clearly taken a stand on behalf of all the American people.
He is committed to taking the country into a fairer direction.
By help U.S. businesses succeed, I am taking a stand for my hometown of Tampa, and communities across the nation.
I know all of you are taking a stand. That’s why you are here.
So, let’s all stand together.
Let’s stand up for those timeless values of fairness and opportunity.
Let’s stand up so that investments in our communities are as valued as investments on Wall Street.
Let’s stand up for the middle class. Let’s stand up for the poor. Let’s stand up for the overlooked and forgotten.
All of us in the Administration want to work with you.
You are doing great things every day.
You see the problems up close and are determined to do something about them.
This is work that I’ve always valued.
My mother — Delia — co-founded the first Headstart program in Tampa to give every child the best possible start in life.
I spent many hours at the local Boys and Girls club, and was mentored by a number of selfless individuals.
I grew up surrounded by incredible community leaders determined to push for progress.
That’s why all of us in the Administration look forward to this discussion with you.
Good things happen when community, business and government leaders get together in one room to talk.
And, I look forward to working with all of you in the years ahead to strengthen our community, our city and our country.
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