Office of the Governor Rick Perry

Gov. Perry Addresses "Putting America Back to Work" Conference

Shares optimism on future for Texas workers

*Note - Gov. Perry frequently departs from prepared remarks.
Thursday, January 15, 2009  •  Austin, Texas  •  Speech

Thank you, Tom [Pauken] and thank you for your visionary leadership of our state's efforts to keep Texans working. I also want to thank Lt. Governor Dewhurst for being here today despite the Legislative Session's demands on your time.

I will say that I am excited that the session has begun. I was thinking back twenty-four years to my first session as a freshly-scrubbed freshman representative from West Texas. I was so ready to get going on that new adventure I could hardly sit still through all the opening day speeches.

I learned a lot in that first session, worked my head off and made some of the best friends of my life. However, I will tell you that I am more excited about this session than any other I've ever been in.

First, we have a great team. Lt. Governor Dewhurst and I have been working together for years now, tackling big issues for Texas. Plus, we have a new speaker, Joe Straus, who is standing on the shoulders of a genuine Republican giant, Tom Craddick.

Tom and Nadine Craddick have left a strong legacy of leadership and vision that we'll all continue to build on as we continue moving Texas forward.

Speaker Straus is well-known for his even-handed approach and willingness to not only listen, but to understand and act wisely.

As we do that, the biggest challenge we face is a crisis not of our making: a global financial crisis that is toppling well-known banks, shaking consumer confidence, and, worst of all, evaporating jobs.

On a national level, America is losing jobs at a pretty steady clip with the most recent figures showing 524,000 jobs lost in the month of December and 2,589,000 in the past year.

Fortunately, Texas has not suffered at the same pace or on the same scale.

You might say that we inoculated our economy with some tough decisions starting in 2003, when we cut spending, reformed our legal system, and started to clean up our regulatory system.

That medicine helped us develop an "immunity" has kept our economy healthier than most states. As a result, roughly 70% of the jobs created in the United States from November '07 to November '08 were in Texas. That represents about 221,200 more Texans working to pay their bills and feed their families.

In November alone, Texas added 7,300 new positions. This was the second increase in three months and the ninth monthly employment gain this year.

Our 2.1 percent annual growth rate would have seemed a little small two or three years ago, but it is much better that the national rate. Measured this past November, the United States annual growth rate was -1.4 percent. That's negative one-point-four.

So our state has done well, but things are starting to tighten up a little as our economy starts to show symptoms of the troubles affecting the rest of the world.

For example, our comptroller has projected the loss of 111,000 jobs between now and September, thanks to the lingering effects of Hurricane Ike, extended benefits, and these national economic challenges.

That said, our unemployment rate is still a full point lower than the national average, and those jobs are expected to rebound in the fourth quarter.

In the months to come, I believe that our economy, our infrastructure, our workforce and our culture will continue to exert their strong magnetic pull on jobs.

For example, in just the past few months, we have seen companies survey their nationwide operations, assess the business climates at their diverse locations, then choose Texas as the best place to move jobs.

Cooper Tire has announced plans to move 250 jobs to Texarkana, and Caterpillar is making big news in Seguin with their plan to relocate 1,400 jobs there.

These employers are attracted to all that Texas has to offer, from our low taxes to our affordable quality of life. I would not be surprised if more companies followed their lead.

Our job is to make sure we're doing everything in our fiscally-responsible power attract them, including efforts to streamline our regulatory environment, and making the key investments that continue our progress.

For example, we are strengthening our state's workforce with our Skills Development Fund. The Fund underwrites public-private partnerships that train Texans in the specialized skills they need to succeed in an increasingly high-tech workplace.

We are also putting our money in deals that create jobs for Texans.

The Texas Enterprise fund has enabled us to seal the deal with multiple employers like Caterpillar, who pledge a certain number of jobs in exchange for our investment.

Since its creation, that fund has been used to directly invest $377 million in job creation, leading to nearly 54,000 jobs, and $14 billion capital investment.

As we go forward into the future, we need to make sure that we handle the challenges of the financial downturn with confidence and discipline.

With a recent revenue estimate that came in below working numbers, we need to make sure that we devote this legislative session to those things that make the biggest difference to Texans.

We can't lose sight of the people our decisions affect, those Texans sitting at the kitchen table with their families, figuring out how to make ends meet, when they run out of paycheck before they run out of month.

That is why state agencies need to continue seeking ways to streamline regulations that are difficult for employers in boom times, but deadly in a downturn.

That is why we need to continue actively recruiting companies consolidating their operations to choose Texas as their home.

That is why we need to keep making those key investments in education to improve our workforce and our children's future.

That is why we need to keep pressing for innovations and intelligent investment in essential energy infrastructure projects so that employers and employees have the power they need to thrive.

We are a right-to-work state, we're are a hardworking state and we are going to maintain our lead.

If you ask me how I feel, I'll keep it simple and say "I'm not scared." Why? Because we're Texas, and we know how to deal with situations like this.

I am grateful that you have come to this conference to discuss this vital challenge to our state's future. I hope that you will dig into the issues, ask tough questions, and allow yourself to dream a little as you wrestle with the key issues.

To help get you started on that process, I would like to introduce our next speaker, a man who dreams bigger than just about anyone I know.

When it comes to job creation, he hasn't just talked about it, he has created jobs for Texans. When it comes to solving energy problems, he doesn't complain, he just devises solutions, makes them work, then buys more quail habitat with the proceeds.

There are people who attain legendary status, but that usually requires them to pass through the pearly gates and check out a set of wings. I am proud to introduce to you a man who has attained legend status in his lifetime.

He is an innovator, a visionary, a leader and a winner. Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to announce to you my friend, T. Boone Pickens.

Gov. Rick Perry speaks at the Texas Workforce Commission Economic Summit: Putting America Back to Work.

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