Thank you, Lieutenant Governor Kinder, Speaker Jones, President Pro Tem Dempsey, judges of the Missouri Supreme Court, state officials, members of the legislature, members of my cabinet, and my fellow Missourians.
With us tonight are Missouri's exceptional First Lady, Georganne, and our son, Will.
Tonight, we are honored to be joined by Missourians who put their lives on the line to protect the lives of others. Whether they fight our enemies abroad or protect our communities at home, these ordinary men and women do extraordinary things. They are real heroes.
On August 6, in the dark of night, deadly flash floods struck several Missouri communities without warning. In Pulaski County, creeks became raging rivers, rising by as much as 23 feet - inundating homes, washing out roads and, ultimately, claiming lives.
There were many acts of bravery that night, as state and local emergency personnel fanned out to look for folks who needed help.
Two local firefighters had been attempting to rescue a man and a young child, when their boat capsized in the rushing water, leaving all four of them clinging to a single guidewire.
Another local first responder had been holding two women above water for thirty minutes, never giving up on the rescue attempt, but tiring.
Fortunately, Corporal Lance DeClue and Lieutenant Justin McCullough of our Missouri State Highway Patrol were on duty that night.
Overcoming darkness and debris, pouring rain and treacherous floodwaters, and even a stalled rescue boat, troopers DeClue and McCullough got all seven of these individuals to safety.
Three years ago, when we worked together to merge the State Highway and Water Patrols, we knew this change would improve efficiency and reduce overhead. It has. But in the rushing waters that night, it was clear that the benefits of this reform went way beyond balance sheets. It saved lives.
I'd like us all to recognize Corporal DeClue and Lieutenant McCullough, who are with us tonight. Please join me in thanking them for their service and heroism.
These brave Missourians remind us that the true strength of our state cannot be measured in bricks or bushels, but in the talents and tenacity of our citizens.
Here in Missouri, folks don't shy away from challenges - they work together to tackle them. Getting up early. working hard. staying late. and looking out for one another.
And thanks to the people of Missouri, the state of our state is strong, and growing stronger with each passing day.
In every corner of our state, wages are up, personal income is up, and unemployment continues to fall.
In fact, since I took office in January 2009, Missouri's unemployment rate has dropped from 8.6 percent to 6.1 percent, and it's been below the national average for 51 straight months.
Since this time last year, Missouri has added nearly 44,000 jobs. And when you look at the pace of private sector job growth, Missouri was top 10 in the nation - better than every single one of our neighboring states.
Agriculture exports from Missouri have increased by more than a billion dollars over the past five years - 71 percent - thanks to Missouri farmers and ranchers.
Behind these impressive numbers are significant investments by companies that are hiring and growing all across our state - high-tech global brands like Monsanto, Expedia, Express Scripts and Cerner, to name just a few, along with small businesses and startups like CoFactor Genomics in St. Louis and Brewer Science in Rolla.
We all know that if you want to win, you've got to compete. That's why I want to thank this General Assembly for helping us make Missouri a finalist for the Boeing 777X. We didn't win the biggest prize - but we competed at the highest level.
It's important to remember, it was just three and a half years ago, that we came together in another special session that also had very high stakes.
Auto plants had closed. Jobs had gone overseas. And folks thought it wouldn't be long before the last Missouri-made vehicle rolled off the line.
But instead of giving up, we took action.
Together, we passed the Missouri Manufacturing Jobs Act, we upped our investments in workforce training, and we saved Missouri's auto industry.
Today, Missouri's automotive comeback continues to make headlines. Just look at last week: