Springfield Chamber of Commerce
Chez Josef Restaurant, Agawam
February 11, 2011
A special thanks to Congressman Richard Neal who is one of our strongest advocates in the nation's capital and someone who, if memory serves, is about to celebrate a birthday in a few days. I apologize for having to leave before your remarks.
I came across a newspaper column not long ago that compared the so-called Greatest Generation to my generation. The writer described the Greatest Generation as we all know it: the generation that fought and won the Second World War and then rebuilt Europe; that came home and built great public institutions and universities, the federal highway system; that created the social safety net we so worry about today; that moved man to the moon and launched the modern civil rights movement.
Then the writer described my generation as "the Grasshopper Generation" - because we've been feeding off of all that all our lives. The Greatest Generation saw their stake not just in themselves, but in their neighbors; not just in their times but in tomorrow. They bore their generational responsibility - that old-fashioned idea that each of of us in our time must do all we can to leave things better.
And in that spirit of generational responsibility, five years ago we set out on a journey together to change that.
Along the way, together, we ran headlong into the worst global economic collapse in generations. But we didn't cut and run. We didn't hunker down and wait for better times. We didn't lose our temper or our way. Some of the lessons I've used to manage through I learned long before the crisis. Growing up in rough times and rough circumstances, I know how poor people have been struggling for a long time. The difference today is that the middle class is a paycheck or two away from being poor - and they're scared. I know that optimism and effort, hope and hard work, is the only way to climb out of a hole.
So, we made choices. We chose to invest in education, in health care, and in job creation, because we all know that educating our kids, being able to count on good health care, and having a job is the path to a better future.
That's why today your Commonwealth is first in the Nation in student achievement and health care coverage for our residents.
That's why we are creating jobs faster than most other states, why our unemployment rate is well below the national average, why we're coming out of recession faster than the rest of the country, and why CNBC has moved our state up to the fifth best place in America to do business.
Of course there is more to do. We need stronger schools for all our children. We need health care that is as affordable as it is accessible. We need more jobs and opportunity. And kids to stop killing other kids. Our work is far from done, and I am excited for a second term to continue our progress.
But my point is, the progress we are making is not happening by accident. I want you to understand our strategy. And then I want to ask for your help.
We have pursued a three-pronged strategy to grow jobs and opportunity: based on education, innovation, and infrastructure.
Education is first. I've spent most of my professional life in the private sector and done business all over the world. And I can tell you, if you don't know already, that education is our calling card. It's what we are known for.
So we've invested in public schools at the highest level in the history of the Commonwealth, even when the bottom was falling out of so much of our budget. With our Fiscal Year 2012 budget proposal, we again aim to fund public schools at the highest levels in the history of the state. Why? Because if you're a second grader, you don't get to sit out the second grade until the recession is over. Right now is your chance. Right now.
We have passed some new reforms that build on a 17 year history of innovation in education. Thanks to last year's Education Reform legislation, educators and schools have new tools to help reach the kids stuck in the achievement gap. Poor children. Or children with special needs. More often than not children of color. And for all the time that we've been on this path we've had a persistent achievement gap.
This new legislation gives schools new opportunities to drive teacher accountability and innovation in the classroom. We've added in-district charters, what we call innovation schools; these allow for much more opportunity to try new things to reach the kids who have been left behind. We've doubled the charter school cap. We won the Race to the Top competition, a national competition, with the highest score of any state in the country. Education investments work, they matter, and those reforms and innovations help our uniquely well-educated workforce compete in the global market.
So, education is first. Then innovation. Our concentration of brainpower, research institutions and venture capital, our well-educated work force, our entrepreneurial traditions make us uniquely suited to appeal to the innovation industries, like biotech and the life sciences, clean energy and IT. This is not, as some have said, about picking winners and losers. It's about playing to our strengths - the same way that my counterparts in Texas or West Virginia or Iowa cultivate their oil or coal or corn industries. Well intellectual horsepower is our advantage. That means we have a particular attraction, a sweet spot, for industries that depend on brainpower.
That's what the life science initiative is about, a $1 billion, ten-year commitment, to strengthen our position as an international hub for bio tech. We've invested about $190 million of public money so far, which has generated almost a billion dollars in new private investment and thousands of new jobs.
Clean energy is an area where good energy policy is also good jobs policy. We have begun the most ambitious energy efficiency program in the country, which will save existing businesses and homeowners money while it creates jobs installing insulation and energy saving equipment and keeps money in the state that would otherwise go to imports of oil and natural gas. In the solar sector we've had a 20 fold increase in solar generation and thousands of new jobs. Employment in clean energy has grown 60 percent overall, to more than 10,000 jobs, during the worst economy in living memory. I am confident that if we get this right, the whole world will be our customer.
IT is a growth area, too, but it's not your father's Route 128. It's telecommunications, and the High Performance Computing Center going up on Holyoke - and all it will attract.
And because we are making more of the things we invent, precision manufacturing is making a comeback. Biopharmaceuticals and medical devices. Solar panels, wind blades, insulation and smart meters. Robotics have come on strong. Video game development. We're the third-largest video game development center in the country. You know that game "Guitar Hero"? That's a Massachusetts product.
Education and Innovation. And then Infrastructure. This is the unglamorous work of government, but it enables the rest - and it has been neglected for a very, very long time. Road, rail, bridge projects. Broadband expansion. (123 of our 351 cities and towns have no high speed broadband service at all, most of them closer to Springfield than Boston.) Public and affordable housing. Investing in recreational facilities. Building up our college and university campuses again. All of this is creating jobs right now and also building a platform for long term growth. We need 21st century infrastructure to move goods, products, ideas and investment to every corner of the Commonwealth, and between the Commonwealth and the world.
Let me add that controlling health care costs is a part of that infrastructure strategy. Everything from using the DOI authority to cap excessive rate increases, to using the state's buying power differently to new measures to move the market towards incentives to pay for more integrated care. Capping rates, permitting small business to aggregate their buying power, limited network plans - these and other ways are examples of ways to limit costs. More on this in coming days.
In the second term we will invest another $3.6 billion in capital projects, continuing a record level of investment in the kinds of projects that enable economic growth and improve quality of life.
So, that's the strategy: education, innovation and infrastructure. It's our focus all over the Commonwealth, including right here in greater Springfield. And I want to give you some examples because they are very much what we are talking about.
Here's how you can help: collaborate and believe. A few years ago we went on a trade mission to southern California. We were sitting with a group of policymakers and businesspeople in Silicon Valley and we were discussing their collaborative approach to solving the problems they faced - businesses and government working together as partners. And we realized that what we lacked that they had was this "collaborative gene." None of the challenges in our communities will be solved by government alone, business alone or universities alone. Working together is how we have become the international hub for the life sciences and biotech. Working together is how we are becoming the national hub for green tech. We have to practice our ability to look outward, not just inward, to build partnerships with those outside our own expertise, our own economic strata, and our own neighborhood. Everyone in this room should be part of promoting a better Springfield and a better Commonwealth.
And believe: my grandmother never permitted me to say we were poor. She said call yourself broke. Because broke is temporary. You have to hope for the best. Imagine what you want to be and work for it. As sports coaches say, "Winning teams win." Become what you believe. And be confident in our future and ourselves because we have the tools to compete. We have the talent, the tradition of invention, the venture capital, the ideas. We have a proven record of standard setting for the whole nation, with health care just being the most recent example. With your help, we will compete - for every job, in every industry, in every corner of the Commonwealth, and the world.