Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you for being here.
From time to time at these conferences I've talked about our strategy for economic growth. For me, it's all about opportunity. And opportunity requires growth.
So, for the past 7 years, we have pursued a growth strategy predicated on investment in education, innovation and infrastructure.
We invest in education because it's our calling card to the world. With over 300 colleges, universities and research institutions within a 90-minute drive from where you're sitting, education is our most significant resource -- as important to Massachusetts as oil is to Texas and corn is to Iowa. So, we funded the public schools at the highest level in our history, even when the bottom was falling out of the budget, and we work to make both early education and college more accessible and affordable.
We invest in innovation because there are a handful of high growth industries that depend on the kind of concentration of brainpower we have. That's what our life sciences initiative is about, or the efforts to develop markets for clean and alternative energy. Tech industries like digital gaming, communications, cyber security and "big data" are all in this category, too.
And we invest in infrastructure -- the unglamorous work of government -- because it supports everything else. Roads, rails, bridges, broadband, public and affordable housing, lab and library facilities, even health care -- all of these create jobs right now but also serve as a platform for private investment and personal ambition.
Education, innovation and infrastructure. That's our growth strategy. What has that produced?
Massachusetts has climbed out of recession faster than most other states and is growing twice as fast as the national growth rate. Earlier this year we re-gained all the jobs lost in the Great Recession, one of the first states in America to achieve that milestone, and we've continued to add jobs since.
We are first in the nation in student achievement, at or near the top in the world in math and science. We are also first in the nation in economic competitiveness, entrepreneurial activity, health care coverage, veterans' services and energy efficiency.
Massachusetts has emerged as the top international supercluster in the life sciences and biotech, and as a national leader in clean and alternative energy, with double-digit job growth in the latter sector in each of the last few years.
And we've done it responsibly. Our budgets are balanced and on-time, our bond rating is the highest in our history, and we have one of the largest rainy day funds in America.
That's what our growth strategy has meant for the Commonwealth as a whole. And with that growth has come a strengthening of the tourism industry.
Last year, the Commonwealth hosted 22.8 million domestic and international travelers. They spent a combined $17.7 billion, supported 126,500 jobs and $3.7 billion in payroll, and generated $1.1 billion in state and local taxes. I know you know all that. But I recite it because I want you to know that I know it, too -- and that I appreciate it and you.
Fortunately for all of us, as the saying goes, "it's all here."
We are home to some of America's icons: the nation's first baseball franchise, the nation's first university, some of the most storied music, dance and museum assets in the world, and a list of must-see sights where American freedom itself was born. We have beaches and mountains, sophisticated cities and charming towns, and the unparalleled countryside of Berkshire County combining the beauty of farmland with an unusual depth and range of world-class performing and visual arts -- and fabulous local food, too.
Our work together has to be about letting the rest of the world know about us.
Logan saw 4 million international arrivals last year. With larger investments, and collaborations with Massport, the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority and Brand USA, we continue to build on that opportunity.
We are among the first states to launch campaigns in emerging markets such as China, India, and Brazil, where Massport is also focusing their efforts -- which means that our tourism marketing is well aligned with other state investments of money, ideas and time. For example, when we traveled to Canada two weeks ago with representatives of our life sciences, clean tech and IT sectors, we met with travel and leisure press to promote the state as a tourist destination as well, and to make sure they knew how much we appreciate the positive impact Canadian travelers have on Massachusetts.
We've opened up Massachusetts to new regions of the world through direct flights into Logan from Tokyo on JAL, from Panama City on Copa Airlines, from Istanbul on Turkish Air, and from Dubai on Emirates Air. As you know, direct flights contribute significantly to increases in both tourism and business travel. Expect additional announcements on this front in the coming months.
So let me thank you for all you do to extend a warm welcome to and leave a memorable impression on visitors to our Commonwealth. It matters. And we look forward to working with you to continue to build on our shared successes.
Have a great conference.