Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Gov. Greg Abbott: The oil crash won't mess with Texas economy

Texas is the best state to do business in. For 12 years in a row, that's been the finding of Chief Executive magazine's annual survey of the nation's top CEOs.

The Lone Star State is also the top-performing state for capital investments and home to the second-most Fortune 500 companies. Despite volatility in oil prices, the Texas economy, the 10th-largest in the world, is continuing to expand.The Dallas Fed's Texas Leading Index shows broad-based gains, and economists predict continuing positive job growth — a testament to the diversity of our state's economy.

But as governor, I will not be complacent.

Texas will be the undisputed center for innovation and intellectual capital in this decade and beyond because of strategic investments we are making today in our greatest natural resource: the people of Texas.

The No. 1 reason companies expand in Texas

Businesses succeed in Texas because we offer the advantages of lower taxes with no personal or corporate income tax, lower operating costs and a more predictable regulatory environment. CEOs also point to our abundant high-quality workforce as the No. 1 reason they expand here.

Today, Texas offers the second-largest job-ready workforce in the nation, at 13 million strong. With one of the youngest median ages, employees here are also among the most engaged. And much of our high-performing employee base is drawn from our top-ranked colleges and universities.

Texas is among the top states for patents granted and for bioscience and biomedical research. Texas ranks second for the number of engineering and electrical engineering doctorates awarded. And technology, financial services, health care and life sciences are among the state's most active industry sectors.

With annual R&D expenditures exceeding $4.5 billion and funding from the National Institutes of Health reaching $1 billion last year, Texas universities are vital centers for developing groundbreaking innovations that drive our state's economy.

To fuel a new era of economic development, we are making a strategic investment of $450 million to elevate the national research standings of our public colleges and universities.This includes matching funds from the new Governor's University Research Initiative to help our universities recruit even more Nobel Laureates and National Academy members who will partner with the private sector to develop ideas that transform the next generation.

The big Texas education promise

To create a steady pipeline of new workers with the technical skills and education businesses require, we are also opening the doors to higher education for more Texans with our 60x30TX Plan.

The program's ambitious goals to be reached by 2030 include 60 percent of Texans ages 25 to 34 having earned a certificate or degree. All graduates from public higher-education institutions — including community colleges and technical schools — will have completed programs with identified marketable skills. And undergraduate loan debt will not exceed 60 percent of first-year wages.

Understanding the needs of job creators today is paramount to ensuring that Texas remains the top state for business expansion tomorrow.

That's why I've launched a statewide Workforce Initiative to assess employers' needs at the local level and identify innovative approaches to match certificate programs and degree plans to regional industry demands. We are directly coordinating with employers and focusing on career and technical training and STEM-related degrees. Our goal is to make college more affordable and help students enter the workforce more quickly with marketable skills. Creating a seamless and accelerated transition back into the Texas workforce for our already highly skilled veterans is also a priority.

As governor, I will work every single day to ensure Texas remains wide open for business.

— By Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

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Editor's note: This commentary was featured in CNBC.com before the release of their Top States 2016 data.