International trade, direct investment, and partnerships are key to growing Nebraska. From providing markets for our quality ag commodities to creating jobs in communities across our state, international partnerships are building great opportunities every day. Over the years, Japan has become a key trading partner for Nebraska. Japan is our largest direct international investor and one of our largest export markets. To build on these successes, I have led two trade missions to Japan aimed at expanding exports, recruiting new investments, and identifying new partnerships.
Trade missions have been key to successfully expanding our exports of agricultural goods to Japan. Japan is Nebraska’s largest export market for beef, pork, and eggs and, overall, it is our third largest ag export market. From 2016 to 2017, Nebraska saw a 26 percent increase in our beef exports to Japan and a 46 percent increase in pork exports. During our trade mission to Japan in 2017, the Sagami Restaurant Chain in Tokyo signed an agreement with Smithfield to use Nebraska pork in their restaurants. Thanks to the efforts of many Nebraskans over the years, deals like these continue to create new opportunities for our farm and ranch families.
Since Kawasaki opened their first manufacturing line in Lincoln in 1974, investments from Japanese companies have been creating great job opportunities in Nebraska. In fact, since 2010, Japanese companies have invested $4.4 billion in our state. About 35 Japanese-owned companies employ 9,400 Nebraskans in communities throughout the state including David City, Lincoln, Norfolk, Omaha, and Ogallala among others. From Yasufuku, which manufactures rubber parts, to Gavilon, a commodities management and trading firm, the companies from Japan investing in Nebraska are very diverse and they continue to invest in our state. In 2017, Kawasaki expanded their commitment to Nebraska and opened their first North American aerospace division in Lincoln. This investment followed a visit to their office during our trade mission to Japan in 2015.
This week, Governor Toshizo Ido of Hyogo Prefecture will be visiting Nebraska. Hyogo Prefecture is home to the city of Kobe, where Kawasaki is headquartered in Japan. A prefecture is a form of government similar to a state in America. Like Nebraska, Hyogo has agriculture and manufacturing as two of its top industries. During Governor Ido’s visit, we plan to host a seminar on investing in Nebraska with the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce and to work on strengthening ties between Nebraska and Hyogo.
In September, Nebraska will have another opportunity to further strengthen our relationship with Japan. Our state has the great honor of hosting the 50th annual Midwest U.S.-Japan Association Conference. Governors, business executives, and hundreds of people from both Japan and the United States will converge on Omaha for a three-day conference focused on growing trade and job opportunities between our two countries. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to highlight Nebraska as a great place to do business and invest for major companies. If you are interested in learning more about the upcoming conference, please visit www.midwest-japan.org for more information.
The Nebraska-Japan relationship is just one example of how important international trade and partnerships are to growing our economy and job opportunities. If you would like to share how trade is helping grow your community, I hope you will take the time to write me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 402-471-2244. We look forward to hearing your stories.