Thank you, John for that introduction.
It's a pleasure to be with you today, along with David Jones and so many others who have been instrumental in building the success story of Texas.
A new chapter of that story was written just this morning, as ESPN announced Austin will be the home for the X Games for the next four years.
ESPN recognizes that Central Texas is a dynamic community, growing in economic power and cultural importance, and the X Games will fit with Austin's growing global presence, which has been enhanced with festivals like SXSW and sporting events like Formula One's U.S. Grand Prix.
This only adds to the reputation of our state as a place where people can make big things happen.
That's reflected in the amount of jobs created by Texas businesses.
Over the last ten years, Texas has been responsible for 30 percent of the net new jobs created nationwide, a total of 1.6 million since I've been governor.
That's amazing when you think about it, one little state - okay, maybe we're not so little - but, still, one state on its own, responsible for nearly one out of every three jobs created in the United States.
It's something we can all take pride in and something that the rest of the country should aspire to.
And Central Texas has been a vital component of our economic health.
The question before us now is: Can we keep it up?
The short answer is: yes.
The answer is "yes" because none of this happened by accident.
The answer is "yes" because we've worked hard to create the best economic climate possible, an economic climate that has earned us the title "Best State to do Business" nine years running by Chief Executive Magazine.
We've maintained that climate through times of national economic strength, and staggering national economic crisis.
We've maintained it, in part, because we've remained dedicated to keeping taxes low, even if it meant making hard choices that weren't particularly popular.
We made the hard choices because, in the midst of America's worst recession in 70 years, we knew we shouldn't add to the woes of our state's employers by taking more money from them.
It sounds simple enough, but most states went a different path.
We've also maintained our economic climate by passing the most sweeping lawsuit reforms in the nation, limiting the ability of predatory lawyers to wage endless, and often frivolous, lawsuits.
That means employers can spend more time and money building their business, hiring employees and buying equipment, and less time in courts.
We've maintained it because our regulations are fair, predictable and effective.
As we've heard from businesses that have expanded, or relocated from places like California, they can get permits in place to begin construction on a new project in Texas sometimes in weeks, not months, like in some other states.
And we've maintained our climate because we've invested in building a workforce that can fill the needs of any employer, from the assembly line to the laboratory.
That's what I share with business owners and industry decision makers when I travel to California, Illinois and New York.
They're receptive, because they're dealing with states that aren't always willing to go the extra mile - or even the first mile - to make it easier for them to generate jobs and opportunity for the people who live there.
All that said, many states are beginning to wise up, and are putting their own policies in place to try to compete more capably with Texas.
In Texas, our challenge has been how do we build on that success? How do we continue to stay ahead of the pack, especially once the pack figures out we're doing things right?
Well, the 83rd Legislative Session began to answer that question, as we made a collection of changes that will keep us on the right track moving forward.
First and foremost, we've taken a historic step forward in dealing with our growing water needs.
This session, we created new funds that will support local and regional projects and lower the cost of issuing bonds for much-needed water projects.
With voter approval this fall, this $2 billion investment will fund up to $30 billion in projects over the next 50 years, more than the $23 billion we've estimated we need to fulfill the 2012 State Water Plan.
It should help secure our water supplies for generations through ongoing population and economic growth.
The legislature is working to pass important measures to deal with our transportation challenges during the ongoing special session.
Those two steps alone address the majority of concerns I hear from businesses considering a move or expansion in Texas, but we didn't stop there.
We refashioned our franchise tax so businesses can deduct the first $1 million in revenue they earn.
Not only did this effectively make our stopgap small business exemption permanent for over 140,000 businesses, it also provided much-needed relief for more than 800,000 businesses who brought in just a little bit over the million-dollar threshold that would've earned them full exemption under previous law.
That's nearly $630 million in tax relief, re-invested in companies that employ hard-working Texans.
We've also made important investments in our workforce, making it easier for students in high school and beyond to earn their technical certificates or associate degrees more quickly and efficiently.
We're putting in programs that use competency-based learning to give students credit for subjects and skills they've already mastered, so instead of being stuck in a classroom rehashing a subject, they're ready to go to work for you.
We're providing cost-certainty for students heading to college by giving them the option to freeze tuition for four years at the rates they pay as incoming freshmen.
And we've created a whole new, top-notch university in South Texas, complete with access to the Permanent University Fund, so children born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley can stay there to earn their advanced degrees and remain there to build their own businesses, or contribute their skills to someone else's.
We're in the midst of a special session, too, as you know, that should help us improve our roads and other transportation infrastructure for the foreseeable future, as well.
What this all adds up to is a Texas economy that's healthy and strong and will remain that way for many years to come.
Our detractors like to say our success is purely a product of our oil and gas industry, and we are, indeed, proud of that sector of our economy and it has contributed greatly to the Texas economy for generations.
But we've worked hard over the last decade to diversify our economy.
Through tools like the Emerging Technology Fund, we've invested heavily in research and nascent tech companies that are making huge changes to the world even today.
Today, you'll see Texas companies at the forefront of biotech, communications, commerce and even privatized efforts to serve the needs of the next generation of space explorers.
I am especially proud that our investments attracted major federal research funding to develop vaccines at Texas A&M University to respond to major outbreaks of new strains of the flu, or acts of bio-terrorism.
Texas is evolving into the new frontier for opportunity and innovation in America, with thriving communities, a deep cultural base and a tremendous quality of life.
Not only have we excelled in the first decade of this century, we're better positioned to take advantage of the opportunities ahead of us than any other state.
Texas has indeed been blessed with many natural resources, but no resource has proven more valuable than the vision, the determination and the hard work of the people who call Texas home.
Boom times will come and go, businesses will thrive and fade, governors will come and go, but the irrepressible Texan spirit isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
Thank you, God bless you and, through you, may He continue to bless the great State of Texas.