Maureen, thank you so much for sharing your story and reminding us all of the courage and conviction it takes to make a small business go, to stick with it, to believe in it.
I'd like to thank the Treasurer for his leadership. The notion of putting Massachusetts deposits to work for Massachusetts businesses, small businesses in particular in creating opportunity is an idea whose time had come, but it took your leadership to make it happen. I so appreciate that.
Good morning and welcome to all of you. Welcome to the State House. This is your house, so I welcome you home. I'm glad to see you here. It's important that you are here and it's important to hear from you because as we know, small businesses make up about 85% of the businesses in the Commonwealth and half of the working population. Whether it's a biotech start-up, an insulation installer, a local caterer, or a "mom and pop" shop on the corner, our collective growth and prosperity depend on your collective growth and prosperity.
Massachusetts has many inherent advantages. Our concentration of brainpower, our well-educated workforce and our tradition of invention and innovation over many centuries now make us an especially attractive place for the innovation industries so critical to today's and tomorrow's economy. We are home to a booming start-up community: last year alone, Massachusetts captured nearly $3 billion of venture capital investment. We are the global hub, today, of the Life Sciences and Biotech, with an edge in research and development and rapid growth in related pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing. The IT sector has rebounded in really interesting and exciting ways, with an emphasis on new media, communications, robotics, and support for financial services and other industries. The clean tech sector has seen solar generation grow 25-fold in the last couple of years; wind generation 13-fold in the last couple of years, and jobs growing at a rate of 6.7 percent last year. That rate is expected to double this year in 2012. And overwhelmingly in each of those sectors, the businesses growing are small- 50 and fewer and on their way to being big.
As a result, Massachusetts leads the nation in job growth and economic recovery month after month. At 6.3% our unemployment rate is well below the national average. None of this is happening by accident. And not all of it is happening because of the Administration. First of all, I want to acknowledge and thank the Representative for doing so, our extraordinary team that makes it happen. If you do nothing else today, get their cards and direct phone numbers and email addresses, before you leave. Let them be your one-stop-shop in the Administration. Let them help you access programs that are available.
But the other thing that has made a huge difference is the working partnership we have with the legislature, consistently investing in things we know that make a difference: in education, in innovation, in infrastructure. A winning strategy here in the Commonwealth. A working strategy here in the Commonwealth.
Another thing that's been enormously important is you individually and through your trade associations, continue to engage with us and teach us what we need to do to help you help yourselves. We are proud of what we have accomplished together, but by no means satisfied. That's why we continue to try to respond to your needs.
We cut business taxes by 16 percent, and repositioned our competitive position relative to other states in overall tax levels, right in the middle of the national pack. We slowed hikes in health insurance premiums down from an average of 16 percent two years ago to less than 1 percent this year. Small businesses are now able to obtain plans in the market for as much as 20 percent less than current rates. And John, you should stand up and take a bow for helping us get there.
We have undertaken the state's first review of regulation. We will review 1,000 old regulations by the end of next year. We are about a third of the way through so far and we have found 150 regulations to cut or to streamline.
We help with your access to capital. We, with the help of the legislature, created the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation in 2010 specifically dedicated to support financing for small businesses. We are working to align our community colleges so they can do more to help us prepare people for the over 130,000 unfilled position in the Commonwealth today, many of them middle skills positions. The House and Senate are moving legislation now to sustain the progress we have made in controlling health care costs for families and for small businesses. And we're continuing to look out, rather than just in, to build relationships with markets all around the world and you need to be a part of that. Because this is a global economy. You have every opportunity and way to participate, but that is something we must also do together.
Each of these and other measures, are in response to you telling us what you need to help you help yourselves. That sounds a little wordy, but that's how it works. You have to engage. It's enormously important that you are here today. You need to show up on other days. You need to talk to your Reps and Senators, you need to talk to members of my Administration and to me. I've visited many, many small businesses, some of you represented here today. And every time I go, I begin to hear those consensus points on things we should be doing or things we should stop doing. Come and be a part of this. We do this, worker by worker, community by community, to lift the whole of the Commonwealth.
Welcome and have a wonderful day.