Governor addresses business leaders

Region – Gov. Deval Patrick spoke to area business leaders June 15 about the need for government to think about its long-term interests.

Patrick told the members of the 495/ MetroWest Corridor Partnership at their fourth annual conference in Framingham that the government should be about more than just photo ops and should focus on lasting change.

"It may not help my own political benefit, but it will help your business in the fu- ture," Patrick said.

The governor said he ran for office "on a vision of economic development," and reiterated that his main objective is to strengthen the economy. One way to do that, Patrick said, would be to ensure young people remain in the state. Patrick said Massachusetts is the only state that has lost population in recent years, and the majority of those who have left are well-educated young people. He pointed to high housing costs and the difficulty of breaking into any given business market as reasons for the exodus.

The governor pointed that speed to market is another key economic area the state should focus on because it needs to keep up with its industrial competitors.

"Speed to market is huge," Patrick said, and the competition isn't just neighboring communities anymore. "Now we're competing with Buenos Aires, Shanghai … Labor goes there not because it's cheaper, but because they're better prepared, better educated."

Patrick said about 125,000 people currently are looking for work in the state, but employers can't find people with the right skills for available jobs. He said it's the government's responsibility to correct that problem.

"Our job is to connect training facilities with the skills needed," Patrick said.

Learning the skills employers need should begin in the schools, and Patrick said the way to address this is to make longer school days, and put the emphasis on learning skills needed in the work force. But schooling needs to be about more than just extended classroom time. Patrick said the role of schools has expanded, and the content of the extended school day needs to reflect that.

Patrick criticized the current academic calendar, saying the agrarian-based schedule is outdated.

"Will this agrarian calendar really help us tomorrow when China and India are graduating engineers?" Patrick said. "Yesterday's greatness will not ensure tomorrow's."

Patrick also emphasized the need for public investment into communities' infrastructure.

"Public investment in infrastructure is considered wise, but we have been starving our own," Patrick said.

He used the westerly wastewater treatment plant in Marlborough as an example of starving infrastructure.

"Marlborough has been its own economic magnet, but the city can't grow on the west side" because of the plant, Patrick said.

The governor said he has earmarked $1.5 billion in capital bonds for infrastructure repair.

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