It's a great time to be in Texas, isn't it?
Especially if you own a hotel or restaurant or small business here in town.
It's great to see Mayor [Lee] Leffingwell, Red McCombs, Bobby Epstein and, of course, Ron Howard.
Ron and I, actually, have a great deal in common.
Ron is well known for making films as notable as "Beautiful Mind", "Cinderella Man" and, of course, "Apollo 13."
Meanwhile, I appeared in the Tommy Lee Jones cheerleader comedy "Man of the House."
So we're both accomplished Hollywood types.
I have a beautiful head of hair and, well, did I mention we're both accomplished Hollywood types?
I'm excited to be here and I can't wait for race day in a couple weeks.
I had the opportunity to visit Italy in September, and part of that trip included a trip to see my first Grand Prix at Monza.
Bobby remembers that.
The energy level was truly off the charts, so I can see how people get addicted to this sport.
We actually know a thing or two about sports fanaticism here in Texas, if you don't believe me, I'll take you to Kyle Field sometime, but from what I saw in Italy, these F1 fans might put some of our guys to the test.
And that's to the benefit of everyone here in Texas over the next couple weeks.
The U.S. Grand Prix is going to bring 1.2 million visitors to Central Texas, with an estimated financial impact of half a billion dollars.
More than just a cash infusion, however, this is an opportunity to demonstrate to people from around the world everything we have to offer in the Lone Star State, as a tourist destination and as a place to live and work.
Travel is big business in Texas, and it's been getting bigger, even before this month's race.
The latest estimates show travel in Texas in 2011 topped the previous year by about 5 percent, with more than 208 million visitors to Texas destinations from within the United States alone, and total travel spending coming in at an estimated $63.2 billion.
That's the highest amount of travel spending we've ever recorded.
And Texas continues to enjoy growth in international travel.
Visitors from overseas increased by 25 percent in 2011, with roughly 7.5 million international travelers visiting Texas, and spending $4.8 billion.
So you can see why we like to keep our state as warm and welcoming as we can, to visitors from all around the globe.
For that, we are all indebted to the hard-working men and women who make travel in Texas the rich and rewarding experience it is, as well as those who work in my office's Economic Development and Tourism division for helping spread the word.
Texas recoups $7 in tax revenue from out-of-state visitors for every dollar we spend on advertising.
Of course, advertising only gets us so far, without the hotels, cruise ships, museums and attractions that make a visit to Texas comfortable and worthwhile, we'd be left with a lot of pretty scenery and nobody to share it with.
Many of the people who visit Texas decide to make it a more permanent visit, and our Texas' population is growing by about 1,000 people a day.
They're coming here because they know we've made the Lone Star State the best place for job creation in the country.
We've made a place where employers know they're safe to invest in their business and watch it grow.
We've made a place where they won't be hindered by exorbitant taxes, wrapped up in bureaucratic red tape, or find themselves at the mercy of predatory attorneys, seeking to make steady money off extensive, drawn-out court cases.
We've made a place with a world-class workforce that's capable of fulfilling whatever needs an employer has, whether they're producing a life-saving vaccine, working an assembly line, or building a world-class, one-of-a-kind race track.
We've created an economic environment that has consistently drawn major employers to our state, and convinced many others to expand their presence here.
One company you might have heard of, Apple, is more than doubling its presence in Central Texas, adding 3,600 new jobs at its Austin campus.
Other cutting-edge companies like eBay, Facebook and Electronic Arts have also taken root here in Texas, and clearly like what they see.
The U.S. Grand Prix is adding to our profile worldwide, and represents a valuable opportunity to tell the Texas Story to a whole new group of race fans and decision makers from all around the world.
In fact, corporations spend more money to participate in Formula 1 than any other sport in the world, and the race is expected to serve as one of the largest gathering points of global corporate leaders in the U.S.
I've traveled far and wide to tell the story of our success, and I can tell you, it's a lot easier to have them come to me.
To everyone from out of town, welcome to Texas.
I hope the U.S. Grand Prix proves to be as entertaining and awe-inspiring as it promises to be.
May God bless you and, through you, may He continue to bless the great state of Texas.