Vice President Kamala Harris visited Greenville on Friday to tout President Joe Biden’s plan for investing in America’s small businesses and communities.
Greenville, a city of 27,000 in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, has suffered from a shrinking economy for decades and has worked to build back its downtown and other areas over the past 15 years.
Residents turned out in droves as people lined the streets and highways with signs and balloons to cheer for the vice president as her motorcade traveled from Mid-Delta Regional Airport into town.
Harris made one stop to meet with Joycee Johnson, owner of Joycee’s Fabric and Sewing Center, and Johnson told her she was busy making dresses for the prom season.
“Some of these girls I made dresses for when they were born and then when they were toddlers,” Johnson said. “Now, I am making their prom dresses. So, yes, I have been here for a while. ”
Johnson told Harris that the Paycheck Protection Program loans helped her survive during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I thought I was going to have to close, but it all worked because of the PPP,” Johnson said.
Harris told Johnson that business leaders who can overcome such struggles are a strength of the nation.
“These businesses are reservoirs of ambition just waiting to be tapped,” Harris said. “That’s why we invest in small businesses. That’s why we invest in an economy that includes everyone, and that’s why we will keep working to ensure that every person in our nation, no matter where they live, has an opportunity not only to succeed but to thrive. Because when we do, we lift up communities like Greenville, and we lift up our small business, and we lift up America. ”
US Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., Dist. 2, and Greenville Mayor Errick D. Simmons greeted the vice president and gave her a tour through town.
“Greenville, Mississippi, is unique in that you have only the African-American President to visit, and now it has the only African-American Vice President to visit,” Thompson said in remarks, introducing Harris. “Greenville now has bragging rights because they could have chosen to go to any town in the United States. They both chose to come to Greenville, Mississippi. ”
Obama, who visited Greenville while campaigning for president in 2008, was not the only president to visit Greenville. George HW Bush visited the Greenville Mid-Delta Airport in 1992 as a sitting president, and Bill Clinton visited the Mississippi Delta in Clarksdale in 1999 as the sitting president.
While in Greenville, Harris met with Bill Bynum, CEO of Hope Credit Union, and the Rev. James Henley.
“We want to make sure to work with people like those in the Delta and make sure they are not limited by their race or their gender or where they happen to live,” said Bynum, who started his business more than 25 years ago in a small space in the EE Bass building where he was speaking on Friday. “We opened our first office to help small businesses create jobs and give a lift to people who need it.”
Harris conducted a one-on-one interview with Joy Reid of MSNBC before speaking to a crowd of nearly 120 people at the EE Bass Cultural Center in Downtown Greenville.
Harris pointed out the need for banking support for local businesses. She said Johnson would not have made it through the pandemic without the help of the Hope Federal Credit Union.
“Johnson has gone to more traditional banks with no help. But Hope Federal was willing to land Johnson $ 10,000 to get back on her feet, ”Harris said. “Today, Johnson is making prom dresses for girls during the prom season.
“Community lenders often see the potential that others often overlook,” Harris said. “Potential like Hope Credit Union saw in Joycee.”
Republican and Democratic business and community leaders from Greenville and throughout the Mississippi Delta turned out to hear Harris speak.
“We are so proud that Mrs. Harris chose to come to Greenville to visit us and recognize us as a city, ”said former Greenville City Council Member and city leader Kenny Gines. “We have a lot to offer, and she is shining the light on us. We are grateful. ”
Thompson praised Biden and Harris for their effort in less than two years in the office.
“In order to understand the heart of America, you have to come to a place like Greenville, Mississippi,” Thompson said. “They get it. They understand, and that makes you feel hope for the future. ”
MEDICAL MARIJUANA:Launch of medical marijuana in Mississippi could bring ‘cultural change in the southeast’
JACKSON WATER:This new bill would create a state fund for Jackson water and sewer projects. Here’s how
Harris ended her visit to the Delta with a stop at South Street Groceries, where she visited with owner Lee Clark, who told Harris she had been in business for 30 years and that she was happy the vice president had come to town.
“We need more good publicity for Greenville,” Clark said. “You are making things happen.”
Harris went through, met with and spoke individually to the entire staff.
Clark then presented Harris with a to-go dinner, which included Greenville’s world-famous Koolickle, a pickle soaked in Kool-Aid.
Harris finished her trip much the way she started it with her motorcade riding through Greenville with fans lining the streets and cheering as the vans and SUVs passed more than five hours after their arrival.