Governor Pete Ricketts has concluded his second international trade mission of 2017 following a six-day visit to Japan, including stops in Tokyo, Shizuoka, and the Kansai region.  Key members of the Governor’s administration as well as public and private sector leaders joined the Governor on the mission, which focused on efforts to grow Japan’s investments in Nebraska.  Department of Economic Development Director Courtney Dentlinger and Department of Agriculture Assistant Director Mat Habrock helped lead the Governor’s 40-member Nebraska Delegation.

“During my second trade mission to Japan, I saw firsthand how innovative leaders at Kawasaki and Shizuki are leveraging technology which has led to new opportunities for Nebraska’s workforce across our state from Lincoln to Ogallala,” said Governor Ricketts.  “Kawasaki’s new aerospace division in Lincoln will employ an additional 50 people, and new equipment at ASC in Ogallala will streamline their operations, improving production output by more than 20 percent.  Collaborative efforts to grow these companies and others are essential to help our state compete in a global economy.”

Japan is Nebraska’s number one direct foreign investor and has a number of investments within the state.  Kawasaki and the Shizuki Electric Company currently operate facilities in Nebraska and Japan.  In May, the Governor celebrated the opening of Kawasaki’s first aerospace division in the United States at its Lincoln facility.  For the past 30 years, the Shizuki Electric Company has manufactured capacitors at American Shizuki Corporation (ASC) in Ogallala.

This week, the Governor toured Kawaski’s Hyogo Works Heavy Industries plant and the Shizuki Electric Company in Nishinomiya.  In addition, Lt. Gov. Foley visited ACS’s Ogallala facility in early September for a tour of the plant’s ongoing remodeling project.

Kawasaki employs more than 34,000 people worldwide and is Japan’s largest manufacturer of rolling stock.  The company’s Hyogo Works facility is home to six Kawasaki plants that specialize in aluminum, environmental and marine machinery, hydraulic equipment, jet engines, motorcycles, robotics, and ships.  The company has been investing in Nebraska since 1974.

“We appreciate Kawasaki’s long-standing relationship with Nebraska, as well as the company’s confidence and trust in our workforce to produce motorcycles, passenger rail and subway cars, and now, cargo doors for aeronautics,” said DED Director Dentlinger.  “Over the past 16 years, workers in Kawasaki’s Lincoln plant have manufactured more than 2,000 subway and commuter cars for transit authorities in other states.  This is just one example of the company’s direct foreign investment in Nebraska, which continues to grow our reputation as a global competitor in manufacturing.”

On Monday, UNK and Toyo University signed an agreement to implement faculty and student exchanges, research projects and educational programs.  For the past three decades, the University of Nebraska-Kearney (UNK) has had the largest enrollment of Japanese students in Nebraska.  UNK’s efforts to facilitate a relationship with Toyo University in Tokyo were created to build research, education and networking opportunities for students and faculty in both countries.

While meeting with Japanese business and government officials, leaders from the state’s ag and business sectors provided first-hand knowledge about the value of Nebraska’s products and commodities.  On the trip, Governor Ricketts was briefed on Japan’s agricultural markets, discussed trade issues with national government officials, and celebrated a new agreement with Japan’s Sagami Restaurant Chain to purchase Nebraska pork for their 170+ facilities in Japan and around the world.

“Last year, Japan imported almost half of the $398.7 million in Nebraska pork exports,” said Department of Agriculture Assistant Director Habrock.  “The agreement with Sagami Restaurant Chain will keep our state in a strong position as a leading pork exporter.  Throughout this mission, we have shared Nebraska’s agricultural story with government officials and industry leaders.  We have shown our ability to provide Japanese consumers the high-quality products they are seeking.”

Other notable events during the Governor’s Japan visit included a promotional meeting to introduce Japan’s travel and media officials to tourism opportunities in Nebraska.  Nebraska Tourism Commission Executive Director John Ricks led a discussion on educational and recreational tourism destinations unique to our state, such as Nebraska’s annual Sandhill Crane migration

Earlier this week, Governor Ricketts attended the Midwest US-Japan Association’s annual conference in Tokyo.  Nebraska is one of nine U.S. states involved in the association, which was designed to create pathways for investment opportunities between Japan and the central U.S.  In 2018, Omaha will host the association’s 50th anniversary celebration.

This week’s Japan trip was the Governor’s second trade mission of 2017 and concludes less than a month after the Governor’s trade mission to Canada, which marked the state’s first-ever Governor-led trade mission to the country.

Trade missions have been a critical part of the Governor’s Grow Nebraska agenda.  As mentioned earlier, this was the Governor’s second trip to Japan in two years.  Following his 2015 trade mission to Japan, Kawasaki announced the location of their first U.S. aerostructures production in Lincoln.