Heidemann hitting the road to pitch Nebraska in Asia

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Posted: Thursday, August 15, 2013 12:00 am

LINCOLN — A trade mission led by Lt. Gov. Lavon Heidemann will travel to Taiwan and Japan in September to pitch Nebraska products and urge further investment in the Cornhusker State.

The Sept. 2-13 trip is the 12th foreign or reverse trade mission during Gov. Dave Heineman’s 8½ years in office.

State officials said the mission is designed to build relationships with foreign companies.

“It’s just like any other business venture. If you don’t show up or don’t ask for their business, they’ll find someone else who will,” said Greg Ibach, the director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.

One focus will be increasing Nebraska beef exports to Japan, which recently dropped some restrictions on U.S. beef imports.

“The Japanese market is opening,” the governor said. “We’ve been very aggressive in trying to recapture the market share we had.”

One in four steaks processed at Nebraska meatpacking plants is consumed overseas, and Japan is the state’s fourth-largest export market, with $468 million in exports in 2012. Japan is also the biggest foreign investor in Nebraska, sinking more than $4.4 billion into the state since 2010.

For example, a Japanese company recently purchased Omaha commodities trader Gavilon. The new owner has added jobs and pushed forward on a new $44 million office building in downtown Omaha.

Taiwan is the state’s 13th-largest export market, with $94 million in exports in 2012. It ranks as the state’s 10th-largest agricultural export market.

The trade mission will include a visit to the annual Midwest U.S.–Japan Association Conference, a collection of nine Midwestern states and major Japanese businesses.

The delegation will also visit the new Nebraska Center in Japan, the state’s first foreign trade office. Opened in 2006, it recently moved after its original location in downtown Tokyo sustained earthquake damage.

The trade mission is the first for Lt. Gov. Heidemann, a former state senator and farmer who was appointed in March after the resignation of Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy. Heidemann said he will emphasize his background as a producer of exported agricultural products and work to build relationships, as he did in the Legislature.

Taiwan is footing some of the trip’s cost. The state’s share is about $14,700, officials said.

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