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Good morning. This is Governor John Baldacci.

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to recognize 12 Maine businesses that were named among the fastest-growing, privately held companies in America.

The ranking by Inc. Magazine helps to show that Maine companies can thrive, grow and compete anywhere in the world.

Despite a long and difficult recession, these determined entrepreneurs are finding success here at home and around the world.

They are using State programs – like Pine Tree economic development zones – their own initiative and the quality of Maine workers to build that success.

Making Inc. Magazine’s list is a celebration of innovation, leadership and effectiveness.

There are a lot of ideas about how to best create an environment where businesses can grow.

And my administration has worked hard to reduce the cost of doing business in Maine, holding the line on broad-based tax increases, using incentives to boost job creation.

Pine Tree Zones, which allow businesses to essentially avoid income and sales tax for the first 10 years if they create good paying jobs with benefits here in our State, has been called one of the most aggressive business attraction programs in the country.

309 companies have located in Maine and expanded their business here in the State because of Pine Tree Zones.

Those companies have invested more than $800 million in capital, have created more than 8,000 jobs with a total payroll of about $340 million.

These are good jobs with benefits that create a positive ripple throughout the economy.

With the Legislature, we also eliminated the tax on business equipment and machinery.

And we have consistently worked to lower the cost of energy and transportation, by supporting the development of alternative energy resources and by investing in our highways, bridges and rail system.

Successes that have been years in the making are beginning to show results as Maine starts to climb out of this global recession.

Earlier this month, Maine revenues were projected upward, based largely on strong growth in corporate profits here in Maine and businesses doing business around the world.

Companies that do business here in our State are proud to be able to work here and have the best people to work with.

While too many people are still unemployed, Maine’s unemployment rate continues to be lower than the national average.

Things are beginning to improve – slowly, incrementally, but improving.

And like every state, Maine’s economic fortunes are tied to the national and global economy.

But by working together in a bipartisan way, Maine has managed to avoid many of the traps that could hamper growth moving forward.

Unlike many states, Maine weathered the recession without raising broad-based taxes, and our overall tax burden has started to decline.

That’s good news for working families and businesses.

And our State has maintained a tight balance book, rebuilding our reserves to roughly $50 million, eliminating short-term debt and borrowing, and reducing spending every year since 2008.

The State General Fund for 2011 is at about the same level as it was in 2001.

I know that Maine sometimes gets a bad rap on our business climate.

Frankly there are always areas in which we can improve.

Despite massive reforms that reduced the State government workforce by about 1,000 people, reduced the number of school administrative districts and consolidated county and State correctional systems, there’s still more work to be done.

But I also know that the Department of Environmental Protection has permitted more projects in the past eight years than any comparable period in Maine’s history.

The Department has reduced the average time it takes to get a permit to just 44 days.

And it continues to strike the right balance between approving new development and protecting the environment.

And I know when I was in Washington, the orthodoxy was that you had to choose between business and clean air and water.

It’s a false choice. Our businesses succeed because people want to live and work in Maine.

And we can’t have a healthy economy without healthy people.

Through the years of effort, Maine has reduced the number of people who lack health insurance.

We’re the 6th best State in the country in that category.

And just this week I saw that Maine was ranked as the 8th healthiest State.

These two benchmarks didn’t happen by accident. We have improved because we made a public decision - as a State and as a people - to make sure as many people as possible have access to quality, affordable health care.

There will always be naysayers and doubters.

But I am proud of Maine and the work that we’ve done.

Maine is a great place to live, work, start a business and raise a family.

And there are great success stories all around us.

Those stories can help us to grow and prosper.

Thank you and have a great weekend.

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