Below are the prepared remarks given by Gov. Jay Nixon to business and civic leaders, hosted by Progress 64 West, today in St. Louis County:
As Governor, it always makes me proud to see Missourians come together to strengthen and improve their communities. And that's what Progress 64 West is all about.
From the start, the highest priority of my administration has been to create good jobs for Missouri families and grow our economy.
Now, some of you might remember that in 2009 and 2010, that wasn't the easiest of tasks.
When I took office, the global financial crisis had hit every state hard, and Missouri was no exception. Businesses were closing their doors, too many Missourians were losing their jobs and our once-proud auto industry was on the ropes.
But like Missourians always do, we didn't give up. We didn't panic or point fingers. Instead, we rolled up our sleeves, put together a plan and got to work.
First, we knew we had to build on a rock solid foundation of fiscal discipline. At a time when many other states, not to mention Washington D.C., were undertaking risky fiscal experiments or going into debt, here in Missouri we took a different approach.
Since taking office, I've cut $1.8 billion in spending and eliminated 4,500 government positions. The state workforce is now the smallest it's been in two decades.
By making government smarter and more efficient we were able to balance the budget each year without raising taxes. In fact, we've cut taxes in targeted, strategic ways designed to spur growth and create jobs.
Today, Missouri has the 5th lowest taxes per capita in the nation and our perfect Triple-A credit rating has been reaffirmed by all three major ratings agencies.
Second, with thousands of jobs on the line, knew we had to stop the bleeding from our auto manufacturing sector and start building the vehicles of the future in the Show-Me State.
That's why, on my very first day in office, I established an Automotive Jobs Task Force.
We upped our state's investment in worker training, I travelled to Detroit to meet with the leaders of America's leading auto manufacturers, and in the summer of 2010 I called the General Assembly into a special session, where Republicans and Democrats worked together to pass a package of targeted incentives to bring our auto industry back to life.
And it worked.
Today, Missouri's auto industry is making a comeback.
In 2011, Ford and General Motors announced plans to invest a combined $1.5 billion and create more than three thousand jobs to build all-new vehicles at their facilities in the Show-Me State. This year, they're putting even more Missourians to work, with an additional stamping press in Wentzville and a third shift of F-150 production in Claycomo.
Global auto suppliers in every corner of our state, including Toyota Bodine up in Troy, Henniges Automotive in New Haven and TG Missouri down in Perryville, have followed suit.
All this growth led CNN Money to report last year: "Move over, Detroit, the big guns of manufacturing have turned sweet on Missouri."
Finally, we needed a long-term plan for competing and wining in the global economy.
Our Strategic Initiative for Economic Growth solicited input from more than 600 leaders in business, labor, education and economic development.
The result was a blueprint to build an economy ready to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and fostering a highly skilled workforce was its number one recommendation.
Nothing will have a greater impact on the future of our economy than the commitment we make now to education.
That's why we're taking a comprehensive approach.
By expanding access to early childhood education, we're making sure more children are ready to learn in school and succeed in life.
We've increased funding and raised our standards for our K-12 schools. With strong support and high expectations, we've seen reading scores go up, math scores go up and Missouri's high school graduation rate is now in the top 10 in the nation.
With strategic investments in higher education and worker training, we've prepared thousands of additional students for careers in growing fields like health care and advanced manufacturing. In fact, when it comes to minimizing tuition increases at our four-year institutions, Missouri is number one in the nation over the past 5 years.
Finally, just this past week I announced our plan to make sure our Bright Flight scholarship program lives up to its original mission by giving it a long overdue tune up. Under my budget proposal, these high-achieving students will have the option of taking an additional $5,000 per year, tripling the current scholarship amount.
The only condition is that they have to stay and work here in Missouri after they graduate. Otherwise, they'll have to pay it back.
Investing in our human capital is quite simply the best economic development tool there is.
Another one of the Strategic Initiative's recommendations was to update our alphabet soup of economic development and worker training programs to make them more efficient, effective and responsive to the needs of high-growth industries. And that is exactly what we did. It's called 'Missouri Works' and it took effect this year.
Missouri Works consolidates and modernizes Missouri's incentives into a single, business-friendly program with a single set of definitions and a streamlined application process, making these programs easier to use and easier to understand.
I want to thank Progress 64 West for your support of this plan to sharpen our economic development tools, as well as Acting Director Mike Downing and his team at the Missouri Department of Economic Development for helping to implement it.
Now, none of these proven, fiscally responsible policies work on their own, but together they have a big impact on our state and this region.
Missouri has been ranked as one of the Top 10 states for business for the fourth year in a row.
Last year, we outpaced states like California and New York with the third-fastest rate of tech job growth in the nation.
And just last week, the monthly jobs report showed that Missouri's unemployment rate had dropped to 6.5 percent, a five year low.
But don't take it from me, or the number-crunchers, or the consultant. Take it from the autoworkers building next-generation vehicles in Wentzville and Claycomo, the new plant scientists being hired by the hundreds at Monsanto, or the construction workers building Reinsurance Group of America's brand new four hundred thousand square-foot global headquarters here in Chesterfield.
By putting politics aside and focusing on the values we share, we're giving real families, real jobs and real financial security. And we're not done yet.
Right now, we're at another important crossroads for this region and for our state.
The aerospace industry has long been part of the fabric of this region's identity and economy. Our long tradition of excellence in aerospace spans from Charles Lindbergh and the Spirit of St. Louis, to McDonnell-Douglas and Boeing Defense.
For generations, workers here in Missouri have built the aircraft and weapons that have kept our world safe and our economy strong.
As a kid, I remember our family gathering around the television down in DeSoto to watch the launch of the Mercury space capsules. It was exhilarating to see astronauts exploring earth's orbit in a capsule built by workers right up the road from us in St. Louis.
Today, their livelihoods, and the livelihoods of thousands of suppliers across our state, depend on a defense industry that is rapidly changing.
Just like the experts used to speculate that it wouldn't be long before the last Missouri-made vehicle rolled off the line in Wentzville and Claycomo, deep cuts to defense budgets in Washington and recent setbacks with international orders have raised questions about whether there will be enough military production to sustain aerospace manufacturing in St. Louis.
It's a new reality in which we must compete. And to win, we must work to diversify our aerospace industry to make sure what's built in St. Louis not only flies over hostile territory overseas, but also in friendlier skies here in America and around the world.
Today, we have a historic opportunity to do just that. I'm talking about the Boeing 777X.
The Boeing 777X. will be the largest and most efficient twin-engine jet in the world, and demand for this state-of-the-art aircraft is already unprecedented.
At its recent debut at the Dubai Air Show, Boeing took orders for this plane exceeding 100 billion dollars. To put that in context, its competitors at Airbus took in less than half that amount.
And since Boeing's proposal was rejected by workers in Seattle, the company is moving very quickly to select a new location for production of this next-generation aircraft,and it's no surprise that Missouri is high on their list.
On our rails, on our roads, and on our runways, Missouri makes what moves the world. And when it comes to game-changing manufacturing projects, it doesn't get much bigger than this.
Winning production of the 777X would put Missouri in the commercial aircraft manufacturing business in a big way. It would create thousands of career-supporting jobs for Missouri workers, open new opportunities for suppliers in every corner of our state, and build a bridge over the uncertain waters we see ahead, to a brighter more secure future for Missouri's entire aerospace industry, commercial and defense.
In short, this is a huge, transformative project and we're going to compete for all of it.
Last week, I had an extremely productive meeting with high-level Boeing executives from around the country.
The very next day we received an RFP, and since then our team has been working around the clock to put forward an aggressive response in a very short time frame.
It's clear that the Show-Me State comes to the table with significant advantages. And when we compete in Missouri, we compete to win.
We have an outstanding workforce, including thousands of skilled machinists here in the St. Louis region.
We have well-developed worker training programs and a strong system of community colleges, something we know is vital in an industry with no room for error.
We have a stable business climate and a AAA rating from all three major rating agencies, providing just the kind of predictability companies like Boeing need in order to make massive, long-term investments.
We have a proven record of working together across party lines to bring next-generation production lines to our state.
And finally, we have a longstanding relationship with Boeing that's stronger than ever. In fact, this past June, I met with Boeing's President and CEO James McNerney at the Paris Air Show and announced that the company would bring a new IT center and hundreds of new jobs to St. Louis.
As Governor, I am committed to capitalizing on these strengths and seizing this historic opportunity to open a new chapter for Missouri's aerospace industry and our state, while honoring our proud past of aviation excellence by building a future that's even brighter.
Regardless of the outcome of this project, it's clear that Missouri is on the right track, and it's no accident. It's the result of the stable business climate we have fostered, the outstanding workforce in which we've invested and the tireless efforts of people like those gathered in this room today.
Moving forward we will continue to work to find common ground for the common good, and tackle the big challenges together.
Providing good jobs for Missourians. Quality schools for our kids. And a competitive and predictable climate for your businesses to grow and invest.
I thank you for your continued leadership on behalf of the people of this region, and our entire state and I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you today.