Photo: Delegation Visits Kewpie Plant in Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan

A collaboration between the Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED) and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) is helping to strengthen the state’s ties to a major international trading partner.

In early February, delegates from DED and UNL embarked on a five-day visit to Tokyo and parts of Japan’s Hyōgo Prefecture, including the city of Kobe, to meet with government officials, industry representatives, and academia for the purpose of promoting business and trade relationships.

The delegates included Daniel Jackson, DED international business manager; UNL’s Michael Boehm, vice chancellor for the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources (IANR); Steve Goddard, UNL’s interim vice chancellor for research and economic development; Curt Weller, head of UNL’s Department of Food Science and Technology and director of the Food Processing Center; and Jon Kerrigan, global exchange and Asia Pacific region coordinator, IANR.

The trip featured a visit with Hyōgo Vice-Governor Kazuo Kanazawa, in addition to meetings with companies such as Kewpie and S Foods, who operate in-state subsidiaries Henningsen Foods and Fremont Beef, respectively.

Supporting UNL’s mission of expanding its research and academic ties in the Asia-Pacific region, the visit also included introductions to leaders and faculty members from the University of Hyōgo and Kobe University.

“The relationships we are building are key as we grow as a global university,” said UNL’s Boehm. “The partnerships evolving between Kewpie, the state of Nebraska, and the University are exciting and impactful for all.”

DED Director Dave Rippe remarked, “From DED’s perspective, this trip was successful not only because of the trade and investment opportunities that it promoted between Japan and Nebraska, but because it saw DED and the University come together to pursue their mutual goals of growing the Nebraska economy and expanding our international presence.”

The visit also provided the delegates with an opportunity to promote the upcoming 50th annual conference of the Midwest U.S. Japan Association, which brings together political and business leaders to foster international business relations. Over 400 executives and senior government officials are anticipated to attend the event this year, which is being held this September in Omaha.

The delegates’ visit was punctuated by a dinner at Prime 42 by Nebraska Farms—a Tokyo steakhouse rebranded, following a September trade mission by Governor Pete Ricketts, to feature Nebraska beef and products. This displayed firsthand the impact that trade missions have on growing the state’s foreign relations and investment.

“It’s so powerful to be able to tour the factories, talk with the representatives, ask questions, and listen to what they have to say about their experience doing business in and with Nebraska,” said DED’s Jackson. “Japan is one of the state’s most important trading partners, and a big part of that is the work that continues to be done by the Governor, as well as entities like DED and UNL, to forge and strengthen those relationships.”