Thank you, Dr. McAlinden. It's an honor to be here representing the Show-Me State before all of you today.
First, I want to congratulate the Center for Automotive Research for 10 years of providing in-depth and timely information about the importance of this industry to our economy and our future. You've made a vital contribution to this industry's continued resurgence, and I appreciate the opportunity to share this important milestone with you today.
Before taking your questions, I wanted to take a moment to tell you about how far the automotive industry in Missouri has come and where we plan to go.
Four and a half years ago, on my first day as Governor, I pledged that the vehicles of the future would be built by the people of the Show-Me State.
Missourians had been building automobiles for generations. It's who we are. It's in our blood.
In fact, the first Missouri-made gas engines were built all the way back in 1897 by the St. Louis Gasoline Engine Company.
For generations, a job at a local auto plant was more than just a job - it was a lifelong career. An opportunity to put food on the table, buy a home and achieve the American dream.
But when I first took office, that dream was in danger of becoming a story told by older generations. A tale of 'how it used to be'.
A lot of those American auto jobs, and the plants that employed them, had moved overseas.
In 2006, Ford's plant in Hazelwood had closed. In 2008, Chrysler announced plans to shutter its plant in south St. Louis. And less than a year later, Chrysler decided to turn out the lights at its north St. Louis Assembly plant.
The assumption was that Ford's plant in Claycomo would be next and that it was only a matter of time before the last Missouri-made vehicle rolled off the line, and our once-proud auto industry simply faded away.
But the hard-working folks of the Show-Me State had other ideas.
We knew that the vehicles of the future had to be built somewhere. It was up to us to make sure they were built in Missouri.
And as Governor, I was ready to lead that fight.
That is why, on my very first full day in office back in 2009, I established the Missouri Automotive Jobs Task Force to develop strategies to bring next-generation vehicle production to our state.
It was the first executive order I signed.
The task force found that Missouri was uniquely positioned to be an automotive leader now, and for generations to come, with low taxes, a central location, outstanding transportation assets and an exceptionally skilled workforce. The final report of this task force identified clear opportunities: our job was to seize them.
Because as you know - the competition for the jobs of the future is no longer local, regional or even national - it's global. And we had to be ready to meet that challenge.
First, building on an already strong foundation, we increased our investment in job training by more than 50 percent.
Putting additional resources behind our Customized Training Program gave thousands of Missouri workers the opportunity to learn new skills, custom-tailored to the needs of manufacturers and other growing industries.
Second, we put in place a strategic plan to transform our economy for the 21st century. With input from more than 600 leaders in business, labor and education, our Strategic Initiative for Economic Growth laid out a clear blueprint for how to compete - and win - in the global marketplace.
Third, we maintained strict fiscal discipline. At a time when other states raised taxes and went into debt - and even Washington was downgraded - in Missouri, we did things differently.
Instead of reaching into the pockets of taxpayers, we made government smaller, smarter and more efficient. Like many of your companies did over the past few years, we cut overhead, renegotiated contracts, sold surplus property and made greater use of technology.
That commitment to fiscal discipline allowed us to balance the budget every year, without a single tax increase. In fact, we cut taxes -- phasing out the corporate franchise tax, and reducing the tax burden on small businesses.
As a result, our perfect Triple-A credit rating is intact and Missouri now has the fifth lowest taxes per capita in the nation.
But with the future of Missouri's auto industry hanging in the balance, more bold action was needed.
My economic development team and I travelled to Detroit to tell industry leaders - face-to-face - that Missouri had what it took the build the vehicles of the future.
And in the summer of 2010, I called the legislature into a special session to pass the Missouri Manufacturing Jobs Act.
Folks from across our state - urban and rural, business and labor, Democrats and Republicans - came together to pass this landmark bill that offers strategic incentives to manufacturers that bring next-generation production lines to our state.
And the results of all of this? Well, they speak for themselves.
Not only did Ford decide to stay in Missouri, the company is expanding their footprint dramatically with a historic investment that is creating more than 2,000 jobs.
In January of 2011, Ford committed to keeping and upgrading its Kansas City Assembly Plant.
In October of that year, Ford confirmed plans to invest $1.1 billion to construct a new integrated stamping plant, add a second shift of F-150 production, and build the first ever American-made Transit van.
And just this week, Ford brought on a third shift of 900 workers to meet surging demand for the F-150 pickup.
A significant expansion is also underway on the other side of the state, at General Motors' plant outside St. Louis.
In 2011, GM announced plans to invest $380 million to upgrade its Wentzville plant for production of the newly-redesigned Chevy Colorado.
In 2012, we broke ground on the expansion, which is creating more than sixteen-hundred manufacturing jobs.
And earlier this year, GM announced an additional $133 million investment to build a third stamping press at the facility.
In the new global economy, these companies could have taken those jobs anywhere. But they chose to deepen their roots in the heartland. These historic investments have meant a lot to our workers and their families, and they continue to spur growth by auto suppliers across the state.
A great example of how one vehicle can help spark an economic development boom is the Hunt Midwest complex outside Kansas City. One key advantage of the Ford Transit van is its flexibility. Depending on their needs, businesses customize it with features like racks, bins, screens and storage drawers. And that's where upfitters come in.
With the largest underground business complex in the world just two miles from Claycomo, a five-million square foot "Subtropolis" offers unique advantages for upfitters and other suppliers to the Ford transit. The site recently attracted Adrian Steel, which will build a $4.7 million facility and hire 49 workers to install custom interiors for the Transit.
And we're not just talking about suppliers for Ford and GM plants in Missouri. Yanfeng USA Automotive Trim Systems supplies parts to the GM plant in Fairfax, Kansas, but when it came time for them to build a new facility in the region, they chose to locate their $45 million manufacturing plant on the Missouri side of the border in Riverside. The new facility will employ more than 260 Missourians building interior trim components, including door panels and floor consoles.
All this activity prompted CNN to report - no offense to our gracious hosts here in Michigan - "Move over Detroit. The big guns of manufacturing have turned sweet on Missouri."
Missouri's unemployment rate has been below the national average for 46 straight months... and employers have added no less than 45,000 jobs over the past year.
And we're not done yet.
Our approach of pursuing proven strategies for growth and making smart, strategic investments in the future works, so we're going to keep at it.
For example, we are continuing to make Missouri an even more attractive place to do business by cutting taxes and red tape.
A bill I signed last month gives companies a new option for calculating their taxable income - eliminating the current penalty on out-of-state sales and giving Missouri-based manufacturers a significant leg-up on their competition.
Our "Missouri Works" initiative will consolidate our economic development incentives into a single, business-friendly program with a consistent set of definitions and a streamlined application process.
We're also simplifying our environmental permitting process. A bill I signed this year will allow our Department of Natural Resources to develop a "one-stop-shop" for permitting, replacing the various commissions businesses currently have to deal with in order to get a permit.
We want businesses in Missouri to focus on creating jobs, not filling out unnecessary paperwork.
But quite frankly, the economic development tool that will yield the greatest returns for our economy is education.
Without a strong education system, our workers won't have the skills your businesses need...and our economy will fall behind.
That's why, by expanding access to early childhood education, we're making sure more children are ready to learn in school - and succeed in life.
That's why we've increased funding and raised our standards for our K-12 schools.
And that's why we've made strategic investments in programs to strengthen the ties between what students learn in the classroom, and the skills they'll need in the workforce.
In that regard we are especially proud of our Innovation Campus initiative, which President Obama recognized during a recent visit to Warrensburg, Missouri.
Innovation Campuses bring area businesses together with high schools and colleges to offer accelerated degrees in high-demand fields. This gives students more marketable skills in less time and at less cost.
This commitment to hard work and fiscal discipline, combined with a willingness to embrace bold ideas and innovative partnerships, makes Missouri a great place to do business.
Just last month, Pollina Corporate again ranked Missouri as one of the Top 10 states for business for the fourth year in a row.
We have stable predictable business climate, low taxes and a quality of life that is second to none.
In fact, Missouri was recently named the Best Trails State in the nation for our outstanding system of hiking, biking and walking trails. To celebrate and promote this distinction, the First Lady and I have challenged Missourians to hike, bike, run, paddle, or roll 100 miles in the great outdoors this summer. So far, more than 6,600 Missourians have logged more than 366,000 miles as part of this initiative.
In Missouri, our comeback tale is just beginning.
Because at the end of the day, the formula is pretty simple. We make the best vehicles in the world because we've got the best workers in the world. Folks who show up early, stay late and get the job done.
Together, we've faced the challenges of adapting to a rapidly changing economy. I'm proud to report that we've risen to those challenges, weathered some rough waters, and set a sustainable course toward long-term growth and prosperity.
Today, I am more optimistic than ever about our ability to lead the next chapter in the rebirth of the American auto industry.
Thank you again for the opportunity to speak with you today and I look forward to taking your questions.