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Doyle builds bridges and hopes for deals in Japan

A biotechnology trade mission to Japan is building interest in possible Wisconsin deals, Governor Jim Doyle said while sharing his experiences abroad in a conference call Monday morning.

In Japan as part of a fact-finding mission with several Wisconsin representatives, Doyle has been speaking at biotechnology meetings and networking with Japanese business representatives.

“I’ve spent much of today telling people about the value of Wisconsin and what a good place it is to do business. ... People have been very interested in what we’re doing.” Doyle said of speeches given at the US Midwest-Japan Association meeting and the Japan External Trade Organization’s Biolink Forum.

Doyle said that in his time in Japan, he has spoken to representatives from at least three biotechnology companies about the possibility of collaboration, as well as other major Japanese companies such as Toshiba, Honda and Toyota. Doyle said that in a best-case scenario he would like to make a deal to have one of these large firms establish a plant in Wisconsin, but more realistically is looking for investments in biotech ventures.

Doyle emphasized that this trip is not only about creating new connections, but strengthening the old ones. Japan and Wisconsin have long ties as trading partners in areas such as agricultural technology.
“Japan already is, after Canada, our largest trading partner — we have long and well-established relationships with a number of Japanese companies, and we have very good friends here,” Doyle said. “It’s natural that we would be working with them ... we have a history in this area, giving us something we can build on.”

As biotechnology remains key in Wisconsin's economy, Doyle said he wants to build further bridges between the research centers in Wisconsin and Japan. This goal is made easier by the raised interest about Wisconsin present in Japan, and the developments being made in Madison’s University Research Park and medical colleges.

Later on in the trip, the governor’s mission will be visiting the Chiba Prefecture, a prominent DNA research center in Japan that Doyle said is considered a sister state to Wisconsin.

“We have a number of initiatives that we are talking about in economic development, and much of that is around biosciences,” Doyle said. “We would like to expand that considerably…and one of the areas they’re talking about [in Japan] is bioscience.”

Doyle said one of the advantages he has had in promoting Wisconsin is being accompanied by a dedicated team of Midwest representatives during his mission. At the JETRO forum, Doyle was backed by speeches from CEOs Joe Hogan of GE Healthcare and John Barth of Johnson Controls. Doyle is also joined by Yuzaburo Mogi, chairman and CEO of Kikkoman Corporation, the first and largest Japanese company to set up in Wisconsin.

Mogi said that he hopes the mission will build stronger international relations between the Midwest and Japan, and Doyle’s efforts have helped move things along. “It is quite important for the governor to promote friendship between Japan and Wisconsin ... I think the Japanese have been impressed by Governor Doyle," he saiad.

Doyle emphasized that this trip is not only about creating new connections, but strengthening the old ones. Japan and Wisconsin have long ties as trading partners in agricultural technology, so much so that Doyle compares dealing with them to working with “best friends and neighbors”. Additionally, there are several hundred graduates of the University of Wisconsin already in Tokyo, who have seen first-hand the innovations provided by the research centers.

“We know the Japanese economy has had trouble over the last ten years, but there are signs now that it’s really coming back, and they’re beginning to increasingly look for investment around the world,” he said.

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