Making the (easy) case for Jersey-Japan economic cooperation

Murphy, on 1st full meeting day of mission trip, affirms sister-state relationship with Fukui Prefecture, which was first signed in 1990

TOKYO — Japan’s foreign direct investment in the U.S. totals nearly $750 billion and creates approximately 1 million jobs.

New Jersey has the ninth-highest total of Japanese-born U.S. citizens among states — and more than 250 Japanese companies with a presence in the state, led by notables Brother, Daiichi Sankyo, Konica Minolta, Panasonic, Sony and Subaru.

This data provides a little more context to the importance of the symbolic reaffirmation of a sister-state agreement that Gov. Phil Murphy signed with Fukui Prefecture Lt. Gov. Yasuhiro Nakamura on Monday morning in Tokyo, the first full day of economic meetings during New Jersey’s 2023 East Asia Economic Mission trip.

(Prefectures are the equivalent of states in the U.S. Japan has 47.)

Our reports from East Asia

Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration is on a multinational economic mission to East Asia. ROI-NJ is there. Read all of our coverage here.

Murphy, who began the trip by saying the state needed to “reintroduce” itself to Japan and its economic interests, said the signing was the perfect way to show New Jersey is ready to increase its engagement in Japan.

“This Memorandum of Understanding speaks to the fact that there has never been a better moment to invest in the future of New Jersey’s relationship with Japan,” he said.

As we face a new century of challenges and opportunities, we have a historic opportunity to take our partnership to new heights. And I believe there is no better partner for Japan than New Jersey.”

Tim Sullivan, the CEO of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, said agreements such as this — and mission trips such as this — are another step in the process of making the case for New Jersey.

“These trips that Gov. Murphy has led, whether to Israel or India or Ireland, now Japan and Korea, are an extraordinary opportunity to make the case for why people should be doing business in New Jersey,” he said.

“In the case of Japan and South Korea in particular, we have a longstanding tradition of big companies in both countries that have planted the flag in New Jersey. We think that’s a good start. And, particularly with the startup activity that’s happening in both of those countries, there’s a huge opportunity to attract the next generation of Japanese-New Jersey and Korean-New Jersey success stories.”

A lot of factors will help determine whether a company decides to relocate its headquarters or just establish a U.S. presence in New Jersey, Sullivan said.

“If they’re really small, that probably doesn’t make sense to relocate, but they’re going to need a U.S. presence at some point,” he said.

“So, if it’s a two-person startup and they are working out of a garage, they’re probably not quite ready. But companies that have 20 to 25 employees, and are on their way to 250, are at the point where we want to try to catch them.”

The partnership between New Jersey and Fukui Prefecture spans more than three decades, having been established as a friendship agreement in 1990. Administration officials said the MOU is an expansion that promotes economic exchange, including trade, business matching and corporate advancement. It also establishes opportunities for cultural and academic exchanges and the promotion of tourism to each region.

Fukui Prefecture Gov. Sugimoto Tatsuji said he was thrilled to build the relationship.

“We are very pleased to confirm with Gov. Murphy our mutual intention to strengthen the bonds of friendship,” he said.

The initial agreement signed in 1990 was based on the friendship between Kusakabe Taro and William Elliot Griffis at Rutgers College more than 100 years prior.

Taro was the first Japanese student to enroll at Rutgers in the 1860s, and Griffis, his friend and tutor, helped work to advance the relationship between the U.S. and Japan. In addition to the statewide partnership with Fukui Prefecture, Fukui City has a sister-city relationship with the city of New Brunswick.

Wes Mathews, the CEO of Choose New Jersey — which is sponsoring and funding the trip — said agreements such as this one can have great impact, providing a roadmap for future growth.

“Leaders across New Jersey understand the value of international exchange programs and efforts to stimulate economic growth across borders,” he said. “This foundational agreement is important for our continued partnership with Fukui Prefecture.”