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VP Kamala Harris touts announcement from Nokia to bring 200 jobs to Wisconsin

Nokia announced plans Thursday to manufacture broadband network electronics products in Pleasant Prairie

Vice President Kamala Harris points as she speaks in front of a banner that says "Investing in America."
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during an event Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023, at Sanmina in Pleasant Prairie, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

During a visit to Wisconsin Thursday, Vice President Kamala Harris praised plans from Nokia to manufacture broadband network electronics in Kenosha County, a move that could bring up to 200 jobs to the area.

The Finnish company will manufacture those products through a partnership with Sanmina Corporation at Sanmina’s manufacturing facility in Pleasant Prairie. According to the company, the products will be the first manufactured in the United States for use in a federal program aimed at bringing high speed internet to underserved areas.

“In America, in the 21st century, high-speed internet is not a luxury, it is a basic necessity,” Harris said after touring the factory Thursday.

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“President Biden and I are delivering on our promise to strengthen our economy by investing in working people, expanding domestic manufacturing, empowering small business owners, and rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure — today’s announcement is a direct result of this work,” Harris also said. “Our investments in broadband infrastructure are creating jobs in Wisconsin and across the nation, and increasing access to reliable, high-speed internet so everyone in America has the tools they need to thrive in the 21st century.”

Sen. Tammy Baldwin speaks to people.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin mingles before speaking ahead of Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023, at Sanmina in Pleasant Prairie, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Nokia will manufacture fiber-optic broadband electronics for the federal Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment, or BEAD, program. The announcement and visit from Harris come a month after news Wisconsin would receive more than $1 billion in federal funds to expand high-speed internet access throughout the state through BEAD. According to the White House, just over 250,000 homes and small businesses in Wisconsin lack access to a high-speed internet connection.

“I’m so excited to be here, because right now, there’s thousands of people in Wisconsin who don’t have the internet, and that’s not fair, that’s not right,” U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said during the visit.

Most electronics products used in the high-speed internet industry are not currently manufactured in the U.S. The BEAD program, along with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, are hoping to change that.

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, who joined Harris during the visit, said she was excited about the announcement from Nokia.

“Today’s announcement shows that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is an investment in more than our roads, bridges and broadband, but also, it’s an investment in our people, in our economy and in our future,” Baldwin said.

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at a podium.
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023, at Sanmina in Pleasant Prairie, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Nokia is the top supplier of fiber-optic broadband technology for service providers in the nation, according to a statement from the company. Fiber optic networks use stands of glass to transmit data with light and have become the “backbone of today’s digital economy and are used to connect everything to fast, reliable gigabit data services,” the statement said.

“By manufacturing fiber-optic technology in the U.S., Nokia will be able to supply its products and services to critical projects like BEAD that are focused on narrowing the digital divide, helping to further contribute to the nation’s economic growth and job creation,” the statement continued.

Nokia CEO and President Pekka Lundmark said 7 in 10 fiber connections in North America use Nokia equipment.

In a statement, Jure Sola, chair and CEO of Sanmina Corporation, said the partnership will support American jobs.

“By continuing to invest in domestic manufacturing, Nokia and Sanmina will be able to help create a sustainable future for the industry, one that drives job growth and ensures the fiber products produced embody the quality and excellence associated with American manufacturing,” Sola said.

The vice president’s visit to Wisconsin was her fourth to the state since taking office and her latest since she came to Milwaukee last fall to speak at the policy conference for the national Democratic Attorneys General Association.

Sec. Of Commerce Gina Raimondo stands as reporters hold microphones to hear her speak.
Sec. Of Commerce Gina Raimondo speaks to reporters following an event featuring Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023, at Sanmina in Pleasant Prairie, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Harris also made campaign stops in Milwaukee following her visit to Kenosha. The visit comes weeks before the first Republican presidential primary debate, which will take place in Milwaukee. Wisconsin has been a crucial swing state in recent national races as Republicans to try and take back Wisconsin after Democratic President Joe Biden defeated Republican Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election.

In a statement, Brian Schimming, chair of the Wisconsin GOP, called the visit from Harris a “failed attempt at damage control.”