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New Chairman Ray Nippes, right, presents a model of the Benjamin Hale, which was built in Newburyport, to Gov. Deval Patrick during the luncheon and annual meeting yesterday of the Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

BOSTON — Gov. Deval Patrick, speaking to North of Boston political and business leaders yesterday, promised a record number of Massachusetts residents would be working by the end of his first term.

The governor, in the first of three stops across eastern Massachusetts to discuss economic issues, also defended his controversial plan to eliminate so-called corporate tax loopholes, which business groups and some Beacon Hill powerbrokers have vowed to defeat.

Patrick, in an afternoon speech at the Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting, pledged that under his leadership the state would top its record of 3.372 million jobs, reached in January 2001.

“By the end of my first term, we will employ more people in Massachusetts than ever before,” Patrick told a crowded ballroom at The Georgetown Club, “and we have a plan to deliver on that.”

The plan includes a Business Resource Team that actively targets and attracts new employers to Massachusetts and finds ways to keep current employers here.

That team already has targeted 364 businesses here and outside of Massachusetts and is working with them to create jobs in the state.

The governor said the fruits of those efforts have been borne in Newburyport. He pointed to Rochester Electronics and Mark Richey Woodworking and Design, a company bringing “more than 100 new jobs and adding millions of dollars the Newburyport economy.”

By year’s end, the Business Resource Team will have 40 separate investment opportunities in motion that will result in 2,900 jobs and more than $330 million in new private investment, Patrick said.

While criticized for his handling of various controversies, such as his decision to upgrade his official car to a Cadillac, Patrick stressed that during his first 82 days his administration has raced to improve the economy.

“I’m not satisfied inching our way to prosperity,” Patrick said. “I, like so many others, want real action and change.”

During an approximately 20-minute address, Patrick outlined a series of other initiatives his administration is undertaking to boost the economy and improve the business climate. They included:

r A plan to get building developments approved more quickly, from two-to-three years to an average six months.

r A $1.5 billion bond bill, initiated by Patrick and passed in one week by the Legislature, to fix “roads, bridges and the crumbling infrastructure.”

r Patrick argues that public education investment is critical to attracting and retaining businesses, which value educated workers. He’s proposed in his fiscal 2008 budget to increase public education aid by $200 million, to more than $3.7 billion, the largest total ever spent.

r He also pointed to a municipal relief package, one of the first bills he filed, that would allow cities and towns to levy meals and hotel taxes to lessen their reliance on the property tax for revenue. High property taxes are one reason people leave the state, straining the ability of companies to hire new workers and expand, Patrick contends.

Toward the end of his address, Patrick touched on a part of his plan that businesses and some Beacon Hill leaders have bristled at: His plan to raise more than $295 million by closing corporate tax loopholes. Patrick says it is about businesses paying their fair share of taxes.

“There is a question about shared responsibility, and we should talk about this,” Patrick said.

He’s already heard from House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, who said he opposes the loophole closing plan.

And while North of Boston business leaders in the audience didn’t grill Patrick on his tax plan, David Tibbetts, general counsel at the Merrimack Valley Economic Development Council and a former state economic development official, said he didn’t think the audience was sold.

Patrick said the loopholes are the result of taxes being treated in a way the Legislature didn’t intend. But Tibbetts pointed to a less-hotly debated loophole Patrick wants to close, which would require Verizon to pay a tax on its poles. The Legislature did intend phone companies not to be taxed in that case, and Tibbetts predicted consumers would pay.

“One way or another, we’re going to end up paying,” Tibbetts said.

Rep. Harriett L. Stanley, D-West Newbury, said the focus shouldn’t be on tax loopholes but instead on restoring the economy’s strength. She was impressed with the governor’s plan to have a record number of employed by the end of his first term.

“That’s a lofty goal,” Stanley said.

Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, said the goal is attainable. The state lost 200,000 jobs in the downturn and has already added 85,000. To make up the rest, the state would have add jobs at a clip of about 2,500 a month, which is less than the 4,200 jobs added in February.

But getting those jobs could bring $750 million a year in tax revenue, Widmer said, and without it Patrick will continue to face tight budgets.

“There’s a lot at stake in creating those jobs,” Widmer said.

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