Governor Deval L. Patrick
David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies Advisory Committee Event
Tsai Auditorium, Harvard University, Cambridge
Saturday, May 10, 2014

Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen, and thank you for having me. 

Thank you, Merilee, for the warm introduction and for your outstanding leadership of the David Rockefeller Center. Your tenure at the Center has been extraordinary and you will be missed. I want to offer my congratulations to your successor Brian Farrell, and wish you and the Center continued success. 

I have met many Advisory Committee members during my official travels to Latin America, a few of whom are here today: Jose Antonio Alonso, Pepe Avalos and Mauricio Lopez. My friend Andronico Luksic had a last minute change of plans and could not be here after all. But to you, Jose, Pepe and Mauricio, and through you to your fellow Advisory Committee members, thank you for being so generous with your time and support, to me and to the Center.

I am sure you have had a full series of lectures, discussions and anniversary celebrations this weekend, so I don't want to prolong it unduly. I thought I would offer just a few brief remarks about our own growth strategy in Massachusetts and why I think Latin America has played and will play an important role in it. Then we can open it up to your questions, comments or advice.

Shortly after I took office in 2007, the global economy collapsed. For that reason, and for the broader reason that I believe we must have economic growth to expand opportunity, we have pursued a disciplined strategy for economic growth. It comes down to investing in education, innovation and infrastructure:

Education, because with some 300 universities, research institutions and teaching hospitals within 45 minutes of where you're sitting, brainpower is our most important resource.

Innovation because there are certain industries that depend on that kind of concentration of brainpower -- industries like the life sciences and biotech, clean tech, advanced manufacturing, the whole range of digital technologies, and even financial services (which is more and more an IT business).

And finally infrastructure, the unglamorous work of governing but critical because it supports everything else.

Investing time, ideas and money in education, innovation and infrastructure has not only raised Massachusetts out of recession faster than every other state, but made us stronger than we were before.

We are today first in America in student achievement, health care coverage, economic competitiveness, entrepreneurial activity, venture funding, energy efficiency, and much more. In 2013, we had the biggest single year job gains in nearly 15 years, the fourth straight year of exceptional job growth. Our GDP in the most recent quarter grew 69 percent faster than the national growth rate. And we have done it responsibly, balancing our budgets, rebuilding our rainy day fund to one of the largest in the country, and achieving the highest bond rating in Commonwealth history.

Central to our approach has been to look out, not just in. With leaders from our business, academic, financial services and cultural communities, I have traveled to 13 countries (China, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Israel, United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Mexico, Panama, Colombia, Chile, Brazil) in the last 8 years and I've received delegations at the State House from many more. The two common threads have been (1) to visit places with a compatible growth strategy, and (2) to offer ways not just to sell more to each other but to build things together. This is why we tend to refer to our visits as "innovation partnership missions" rather than the more conventional term "trade mission."

Of those dozen overseas visits, five have been to Latin America -- specifically, Chile, Brazil, Colombia, Panama and Mexico. On each, our delegation met with leading business executives and entrepreneurs, economic development and other government officials, and university leaders. We signed memoranda of agreement with President Pinera in Chile and with President Santos in Colombia. We announced clean tech joint ventures in Mexico. We are working on infrastructure intiatives with leadership of the Panama Canal and with the port authority in Cartagena, Colombia. We have agreements to bring thousands of students to Massachusetts universities from Brazil and to collaborate on several agricultural research projects with Brazil. And in every country we have visited, we connected representatives of our startup community with incubators and business accelerators in the places we visited.

We and our new Latin American partners have walked through these and many other doors together and are creating lasting economic, innovation, educational and cultural opportunities both here and abroad.

I should mention that to supplement new nonstop air service between Boston and Panama City, we are in very promising conversations about a nonstop flight to Mexico City, and we are actively pursuing other direct routes to the region as well. 

This is all in the spirit of building relationships for long-term, sustained growth. In this spirit, I filed legislation last month to, among other things, create a global entrepreneur-in-residence program. We have found a way within existing immigration laws to encourage and permit international students who have finished their schooling in Massachusetts to stay here to start a business, or to grow a business that they started while in school.

Our relationship with Latin America is important to us. It's a huge and close-by treasure trove of talent, creativity, culture and markets. We have a lot to offer, a lot to gain, and a lot to learn. And recognizing that success is all in the follow up after these missions, we continue to urge inventors, investors and innovators here in Massachusetts as well as ourselves in government to cultivate those relationships, and make the most of them.

As I wrap up, I want to thank the team here at the David Rockefeller Center for the many ways you have helped us in building these relationships.

  • Jason Dyett and his team, in the Center’s São Paulo Office;
  • Ned Strong and his team, in the Center’s Regional Office;
  • Patty Villarreal and Gracia Angulo, in the Center’s Mexico and Central America Office;
  • And Vero Martini, who has been an extraordinary resource for my Administration both in Cambridge and throughout Latin America.

Thanks again for having me today and I look forward to our conversation.