Japan Trade Mission

By: Mindy Ruffalo
Director – International Development, Greater Omaha Chamber

After several days of meeting in Tokyo, we headed south along the coast an hour on the bullet train to our sister city, Shizuoka…

Just writing that line reminds me how privileged I am to hold the position I hold. Just last January, I traveled to Japan for my latest trade-focused recruitment trip. I had the fortune of being accompanied by two peers from the State of Nebraska based out of Tokyo, Koji Nagasaki and Hisami Imagawa.

To give a little background on the importance of these trips: Japan is the 2nd largest investor into Nebraska and our state’s 3rd largest trading partner, ahead of China, after Canada and Mexico. Japan’s investments range from food and commodities, industrial machinery, renewable energy to software/IT. We chose to focus on the food industry for this trip and visit with targeted large conglomerates in Japan that either have a presence here already or have an interest in growing into the North American market.

These visits are always a bit of a whirlwind. Here’s a brief rundown of our itinerary:

After several days of meeting in Tokyo, we headed south along the coast an hour on the bullet train to our sister city, Shizuoka. We were greeted by the local Shizuoka Chamber of Commerce, Shizuoka sister city representative and Prefectural Government. The day was filled with visiting more food processing companies around the city of over 700,000 people. With their access to the ocean, many canning companies had originated here and had grown to offer a variety of food options – from canned fruit to fresh vegetables. Throughout our meetings with these businesses and those in Tokyo, it was evident that they considered the United States a stable market for investment that they could rely on (even during economic downturns) and continue to focus growing in.

Our day in Shizuoka also included a pleasant visit with Mayor Tanabe who feels strongly about continuing to build not only cultural ties with Omaha but also commercial ties. This was a great vote of confidence to continue pursuing opportunities with companies in Shizuoka, and I expect our relationship will continue to grow due to Mayor Tanabe’s support and the business community’s interest in North America.

This trip proved to be fruitful and resulted in great follow-ups. Several potential projects are currently being vetted. Economic development across borders takes time. This trip confirmed that our time spent in Tokyo and Shizuoka was worthwhile and will continue to deepen a relationship between Japan and Greater Omaha.

Plus, I got to ride the bullet train, which is always cool…

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