Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Day 2: Continued Participation in the U.S. Midwest Japan Association Conference

Today the delegation continued our participation in the U.S. Midwest Japan Conference. The conference featured a special program called, "Invest in Indiana Agriculture." The three hour presentation addressed the state's agriculture initiatives and featured remarks by Governor Daniels and Nate Feltman, of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. Mike Beard, a pork farmer, and Kip Tom, of Tom Farms, also offered their personal perspectives.

During the event, I participated on a luncheon panel with Jeff Knight, General Counsel of Old National, and Kyle Hupfer, General Counsel of ProLiance Energy. We spoke about the funding opportunities available in Indiana and emphasized that Indiana is pro-investment, pro-trade and pro-business. I was able to offer information about our Firm's work in the agriculture industry and the legal services involved in agriculture including: intellectual property, financing strategies, employee relations and employment and labor law.

The panel also discussed why agriculture is a key driver in global trade and politics. Food and agriculture are seen as necessary goods and many countries spend a large percentage of their disposable income on food. In the United States, agriculture contributes $1.3 trillion to the GDP and employs 17 percent of the US workforce. Other trends in the agriculture industry include a move to consolidation and improved efficiency. In the US, for example, seven percent of farmers produce 60 percent of output.

Indiana is seen as a leading agriculture state in many ways, so our participation in today's event and the perspective from the panelists, was particularly valuable. Indiana is home to approximately 59,000 farms and ranks #4 in soybean production, #1 in duck production and #5 in corn, pork and chicken production.

Indiana has also emerged as a national leader in alternative energy. We now have 12 ethanol plants under construction and we have gained national and international acclaim with BioTown, USA. Indiana is also strategically located with a strong infrastructure. You can travel to 2/3rds of the US population in less than 24 hours. Finally, Indiana is home to Purdue University, one the world's leading agriculture institutions. All of these combined are seen as competitive advantages for our state and part of our "sales pitch" to Japanese companies.

A small group of the delegates, including the Governor, Nate Feltman and I, met with Nobuyuki Idei, Chairman of the Sony advisory board. Sony has been number one in their industry in the last 7 years, which is an incredible accomplishment. It was a fascinating meeting which featured a great deal of discussion about technology, specifically blue chip, and the state's film and entertainment industry. We encouraged Mr. Idei to consider Indiana for film production and emphasized our state's abundant labor force. He was very gracious and friendly and interested in learning more about our state.

In the evening, we participated in a gala dinner and "Friends of Indiana" reception with about 500-600 in attendance. It was a very formal dinner in a beautiful ballroom with fine china. A group of 70-80 year old men and women were dressed in authentic Japanese dragon costumes and were followed by a drumming and acrobatic corps.

I continue to be impressed with Japan, and Tokyo in particular. The city is beautiful at night with skyscrapers that light up the sky. Surprisingly, there is a lot of green space, and parks, that are interspersed throughout the city. It's quite hot and humid which contributes to a very lush landscape.