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State’s Emphasis on Worldwide Economic Development Encourages Two-way Trade 9/25/14  09/25/14 9:04:57 AM Printer Friendly VersionPrinter Friendly Version

Joe Chapuran and Catherine Lang, then Nebraska’s Director of Economic Development and Commissioner of Labor, were assisted by Chinese officials at the opening of Nebraska’s China office in Shanghai in 2013.   
State’s Emphasis on Worldwide Economic
Development Encourages Two-way Trade

By Julien R. Fielding
The Daily Record

Nebraska businesses looking to expand to foreign markets have a great resource at the Nebraska Department of Economic Development’s International Division.
“Our department set up our agency to build those international ties,” said Joe Chapuran, international development manager. “We have two top priorities: One is to help our Nebraska companies be more successful in the global markets; to get their goods into foreign markets. The other is to attract foreign direct investment; to help them set up their headquarters or manufacturing plants here. We want to encourage them to come to Nebraska and then hire their employees locally.”
Chapuran said his agency can assist a local business in many ways. If a company wants to export goods, the International Division can help it prepare for all aspects of international shipping, from how to fill out the requisite forms to how to navigate customs. If a company is already exporting goods, the International Division can suggest additional markets.

“We can help with the questions that even an experienced exporter might have – the tough questions,” he said. “For our exporters, we can consult with them on what markets might be good, business customs and practices in many of the countries they will do business in, how to find a distributor, scams to look out for, customs duties, contracts to approach in foreign markets, etc.”

When more expert advice is required, the International Division personnel can introduce clients to professional service providers.
“We get to know most everyone offering services, and then we can let the companies here know about them,” he said.
As far as international companies wanting to work with Nebraska companies is concerned, the International Division showcases why Nebraska is a good place for them to set up their operations.  
“We have a good workforce, low operating costs, good tax incentives, etc.,” he said. “Then we do consult with them generally on how things are different for business in the U.S. vs. the country they are from. We also help find a location in Nebraska, both as far as a city and a building, etc.  Our department does come up with incentive packages for them.”
Each person in the Nebraska Department of Economic Development’s International Division brings his and her own area of expertise.
Chapuran said that in addition to running the program, he is very involved with attracting investment to the state. As he is fluent in Japanese, his focus is on that East Asian country.
Two staff members deal specifically with China; and one person is involved with marketing. “I speak Japanese, one person speaks Russian and Chinese, one person speaks business Spanish and Chinese,” he said. “One person in our office has been focusing on exports for around 25 years. She’s really quite an expert.
“We also have two overseas trade offices. In 2006, we opened one in Tokyo; last year, we opened one in Shanghai. We have a couple of people at those locations who can help on the ground level. China and Japan have always been our largest overseas markets, but in the last few years, trade with China has been skyrocketing. Last year, we had $590 million in products. For the first time, we traded more with China than with Japan.”
Nebraska trades a variety of products with East Asia, including food and agricultural products, machinery, chemicals, transportation equipment and medical components.
“Outside of commodities – corn and beef – agricultural machinery is our top export,” he said.
Because markets change, Chapuran has to keep his eye on them.
For years, Russia and Brazil were touted as good markets for overseas business, but because of the situation with the Ukraine, Russia has since fallen out of favor.
And as for Brazil, Chapuran has discovered that it isn’t very import friendly.
“We had, at one time, even thought about opening an overseas office there,” he said. “Second tier” markets include South Korea, India and Turkey, which he said is trying to promote itself as a springboard to the Middle East.
Even though Chapuran has helmed the International Division for nearly 16 years, he said that too few people know of its existence.
“It’s tough to get the word out,” he said. “We go out and meet community leaders – talk to Chambers of Commerce and Rotary Clubs – and our staff gets around the state a bit. We also go over [to China and Japan] on trade missions. Most foreign companies don’t know about Nebraska, but then most don’t know much about the U.S.”
One way to introduce Nebraska to foreign markets, he said, is through the students who come to study in Nebraska. For instance, Omaha is the sister city of Shizuoka, Japan, and every year, high school and university students come from Shizuoka to study English in Omaha, and vice versa.
Chapuran himself took advantage of our sister city relationship, and after graduating from the University of Nebraska at Omaha with a bachelor’s degree in international business, he attended Shizuoka University to earn a two-year specialized degree in Japanese language and economics. “One of my recent meetings was about our sister city relationship,” he said. “Every year, thousands of international students, who have had a good impression of Omaha, go home and plant the seeds for our future.”
Making a good impression is paramount for business, Chapuran said. “We recently helped a Korean company set up their headquarters here. They did production development at UNL, and they loved it here. They went back, and because of their positive experience, mentioned Nebraska in media interviews. You just never know how that will work.”
Chapuran had nothing but good things to say about Nebraska officials and their efforts in solidifying our state’s relationship with our trade partners. Building and maintaining relationships is very important to the Japanese, so it makes a huge impression on them when our officials attend the Midwest U.S.-Japan Association Conference, he said. And every year since Chapuran has been in his position, he has seen either our governor or our lieutenant governor do just that.
“They do trade missions to Japan and China,” he said. “They go to five or six cities, and during a 15-hour day, they may have 10 meetings. It’s not fun at all, but they go and they make an impression. Some states don’t have that kind of support.
“The Japanese place a high value on government officials, and China will have a police motorcade and red carpet waiting for us.”
For more than four decades, business leaders from the Midwest region have come together with business leaders from Japan to discuss growth and progress of economic relations at the Midwest U.S.-Japan Association Conference. Approximately 150 business leaders, including CEOs, and government officials participate, he added. This year the conference took place September 7-9 in Des Moines. In 2018, Nebraska will be the host state. “We still have to decide on a city,” he said.
For more information about the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, which is located at 6708 Pine St. in the NBDC Suite, Room 205, call Joe Chapuran at 402-0658-1138 or send an email to joe.chapuran@nebraska.gov.

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