Thank you, Louis Caldera, for the introduction. And welcome to our distinguished guests:
My good friend, John Podesta, the president and CEO of the Center for American Progress; and Robert Borosage, president of the Institute for America's Future.
Thank you for choosing New Mexico as the site for one of your Task Force meetings. New Mexico is a state that is on the move – especially when it comes to improving our schools and creating opportunities for New Mexico's workforce.
Shortly, you're going to hear from the experts in education and workforce development in our state. So I'll leave it to them to highlight the nuts and bolts on what we're trying to do in New Mexico.
I want to kick off the discussion by pointing out two recent studies of our economy and our workforce.
First, the University of New Mexico's Bureau of Business and Economic Research reported that the state's economy is strong, and getting stronger – and not just in oil and gas.
New Mexico is experiencing strong retail hiring, continued strong construction employment and a brighter manufacturing outlook.
The Bureau reported that we're experiencing "phenomenal growth" in retail sales – which were up 9.3 percent statewide, and 8.9 percent in Albuquerque.
For these and other reasons, New Mexico ranked 8th in the nation during the past year in job growth. Amazingly, we ranked 3rd in the nation during the recent recession. At a time when the nation lost 1.7 million jobs, New Mexico created more than 33,000 new jobs.
A second study presented a more sobering picture of the state's workforce – based on historical trends.
The study commissioned by the state Workforce Development Board, pointed to low graduation rates, low pay in many industries and the historical decline in personal income.
While I agree that the state still has to overcome many of these challenges, I would argue that we're well on our way to improving our public schools, overhauling our community colleges and universities, and creating high-wage jobs.
We have taken steps to create better opportunities for New Mexicans by putting more money directly into our classrooms and attracting businesses and good jobs to our state.
As a result, personal income is actually increasing in New Mexico at a rate that is higher than the national average. And our unemployment rate remains lower than the national average.
Nevertheless, I'm the first to recognize that we need to do more to educate and train the state's workforce so that it is ready to fill the high-wage jobs I'm recruiting to New Mexico.
Let me give you one glaring example of the need to coordinate new jobs with workforce training.
Our exploding film industry has provided a much-needed economic shot in the arm in many New Mexico communities. We are producing an average of one film per month. Our film-related revenue grew 1,000 percent last year, and it's growing even faster this year.
But we recognized early on that the only way to sustain that growth was to invest in programs to train New Mexicans to work on these films.
We have a very successful Job Training Incentive Program to train and certify film crews statewide.
We already pumped $1 million – just this month – into a comprehensive workforce-training program to prepare New Mexicans for careers in the film industry.
This will start at the Santa Fe Community College, and we will develop a curriculum that every other community college in the state can utilize.
The community colleges are crucial to matching workforce to employers – and with this one program, we will train people for film industry careers.
We will designate another $1 million for the second part of the training program – the Advanced Worker Program that targets existing film-crew members who need to upgrade or enhance their skills.
We've received a lot of national attention for our bold plans to invest money directly in public-school classrooms, and tying higher teacher salaries to higher standards.
We will invest more than $600 million in new funding over 12 years into our classrooms.
We're not stopping there. This year we're investing in the future of our youngest children. I want to increase access to high-quality pre-kindergarten for four-year-olds.
We're also ready to propose dramatic changes to our colleges and universities. Higher education should be front and center as we look for innovative approaches to increase access to health care; and perhaps most importantly, higher education must be the focal point in our efforts to create high-wage jobs and economic opportunity.
I created a Task Force on Higher Education. Here's what we're pursuing:
One, expand opportunities by increasing our lottery scholarship program so more people have a chance at a good education.
Two, create a more responsive system – one that addresses the true needs of industry and economic development demands.
Three, a plan to centralize and strengthen accountability – at the state level – over higher education.
Four, increase performance and incentive funding. The idea is to tie money directly to results. We want to keep students in school until they graduate, and prepare them for careers.
I'm working with legislators, with business leaders, with educators and with labor leaders. We're all working together on a forward-looking agenda that builds on the amazing successes we've seeing during the past two years.
We need to work together, to be bold and try new ideas, because we're getting less and less help from the federal government.
The federal government is shifting responsibility to states in just about every area of government that directly affects hard-working residents.
And the burden is coming to us without the needed resources to tackle tough issues like closing the achievement gap in our schools, and increasing access to quality health care.
That's why it's important for organizations like the Center for American Progress and the Institute for America's Future to travel to states like New Mexico. I'm confident that you'll get good ideas and constructive criticism while you're here.