LINCOLN, Neb. — Trade has been a great way to grow Nebraska for many years. With over 95 percent of the world’s population living outside the United States, we have billions of potential customers for the food we grow and the things we make here in Nebraska. Over the past few years, I have led international trade missions to Japan twice, China twice, the European Union, and Canada. International trade representatives from state agencies have led additional missions in recent years including visits to Bulgaria, Germany, Israel, South Korea, and Vietnam among many others. To expand opportunities internationally, my administration has worked to grow exports, attract foreign investment in Nebraska, and expand partnerships.
In 2016, Nebraska exported over $8 billion of goods worldwide out of a total gross domestic product of $117 billion. When it comes to trade, Nebraska’s agricultural products are some of our top exports. For example, we export about $2 billion worth of soybean products, $1.2 billion of beef, and almost $1.2 billion of corn. When it comes to promoting these products, trade missions help market our products to customers. A great example of this is our work in Japan. With two trade missions in the past three years, Nebraska has seen a 26 percent increase in beef exports to Japan and a 46 percent increase in pork exports in the last year.
Trade missions also help attract investment in Nebraska that creates job opportunities. Denmark-based Novozymes manufactures enzymes used in ethanol production in Blair. During a 2015 trade mission to Denmark, our trade delegation visited their headquarters to urge them to expand their commitment to Nebraska, and they subsequently announced a new $50 million investment in their facility. Similarly, Kawasaki located a new $12-million production line in Lincoln with 50 new jobs after a visit to their offices in Tokyo, and Agri-Plastics, a Canadian firm, built a new plant in Sidney with 20 new jobs after a meeting during a trade mission last year.
During trade missions, we have also been working to establish new partnerships and exchanges with universities overseas. Last fall, the University of Nebraska-Kearney (UNK) signed a new agreement with Toyo University in Japan during our trade mission. UNK already is home to over 100 students from Japan. The agreement will help facilitate more student and faculty exchanges. Two years ago, we signed an agreement with Yangling Hi-Tech Agricultural Demonstration Zone in Shaanxi Province in China. This agreement created a model farm that now features center pivots from Nebraska, and is helping create greater awareness of the modern farm equipment available from Nebraska’s farm manufacturers.
We are taking all these efforts to the next level. Last year, I formed the Governor’s Council for International Relations (Council). It is focused on growing exports, attracting new international investment, and identifying new opportunities for partnerships. From the Nebraska Farm Bureau to the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce, the council includes 30 members from state agencies to major groups and associations working to raise Nebraska’s international profile. The Council is helping Nebraska organizations that do work internationally better coordinate resources and leads.
This week, the Council is joining me at the State Capitol to unveil a new international strategy paper that will inform our work in this area for the next five years. This month, I am headed to Mexico to promote Nebraska’s quality agricultural products and look for new opportunities for investment. To grow Nebraska, my team will continue to make international trade a top priority. If you have suggestions on how we can continue to raise Nebraska’s international profile, I hope you will contact me by emailing email@example.com or calling 402-471-2244.
— Governor Pete Ricketts
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