Mission notebook, Day 4: ‘The most welcoming state in America’

TOKYO and SEOUL, South Korea — Gov. Phil Murphy didn’t flinch when the vice chairman of Toyota asked him: What type of state would you want New Jersey to be years from now?

“I think the state that we want to build in the future is the state that we’re building now,” he said.

Murphy, speaking at a Prosper New Jersey event in an enormous hall big enough to play a basketball game in, sold the state’s talent, its diversity and its values.

He pointed out that New Jersey not only is the most diverse state in the country, it has one of the highest percentages of foreign workers. He feels New Jersey’s progressive values are the reason why the state has become the most welcoming state in America — and one of the most welcoming places on Earth.

“If you’re a woman, if you’re foreign-born, if you care about gun safety and safety overall, voting rights, protection of minority communities, if you care about the environment, than we would be the No. 1 most welcoming and highest-values state,” he said. “And we’re seeing that increasingly as a consideration.”

Where is the governor and what day/time is it?

If you’re reading this in New Jersey at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, it’s 3:30 a.m. in Seoul, where the delegation arrived the night before.

What happened on Day 4 (Tuesday in Japan)?

  • Toyota held an advanced manufacturing and food/beverage event in what figures to be the largest conference/basketball room of the trip. The governor had an existing relationship with some of the Toyota officials — and it showed.
  • Rowan University signed Memoranda of Understanding with Sekisui Chemical and Shibaura Institute of Technology. Rowan has been working with Sekisui for years, an example of industry and academia working together.
  • Higher ed is a big part of this trip: Kean University signed an MOU for research with Osaka University of Economics and Princeton University affirmed an MOU it signed with Tokyo University earlier this year;
  • Tammy Murphy was involved in two events regarding women in society — a private meeting with top female executives and a public speech at the prestigious Japan Women’s University;
  • The delegation flew to South Korea, arriving late at night.

What’s next: Key events for Day 5 (Wednesday in South Korea)

  • Public Service Enterprise Group will sign an MOU with new suppliers: Taihan, Hoban Group and Cheryong Electric;
  • An MOU signing by National Police Agency of the Republic of Korea and the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission on driver’s license reciprocity (guess is that one piece of documentation will be rejected for no apparent reason, LOL);
  • Two more big higher ed MOUs: Rutgers University and South Korea National University; New Jersey Institute of Technology and the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute;
  • Seoul City Startup Hub Event, including MOUs with Korea Accelerator Association and Korea Early Stage Investors Association.

Why are you here? Insights from the delegates

Al Komjathy
Managing partner; Chairman
Komjathy & Kean; Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission

“We not only have a diverse section of clients from Asia, one of my most important clients, Toyota, obviously has a very big presence in this country. So, it’s a natural connection.

“I’m also chairman of the DRJTBC. To see their infrastructure — and see if there are things we can take back to New Jersey — is huge.

“Personally, the facetime with all the delegates and decision-makers here, people I deal with on a regular basis, is great. You don’t get to socialize as much with these folks. We see each other in Trenton, but it’s another thing to socialize and see them on a personal level.”

Quotes of the day

“Economic momentum is good, but raising your families and the community is even better. And we’re here to tell you that other states might have some pieces of that puzzle, we really feel that New Jersey has all those pieces.” — Choose New Jersey CEO Wes Mathews at the Prosper New Jersey event.

It’s an honor to be here. This is also certainly the largest screen I’ve ever used to make a presentation, so this is memorable in so many ways.” — New Jersey Economic Development Authority CEO Tim Sullivan at the start of a presentation before an enormous screen.

Quick economic stat on South Korea-New Jersey

Twelve South Korean-based companies employ nearly 1,000 New Jersey residents, led by Samsung Electronics (437 employees in Ridgefield Park and Teaneck), LG Electronics (224 employees in Englewood Cliffs and Morristown) and Sk Life Science (105 employees in Paramus).

Quick economic stat on South Korea-U.S.

In recent years, South Korea has become the country’s seventh-largest trading partner. In turn, the U.S. stands as South Korea’s second-largest trading partner (16% of total exports), below China (26%) and above Vietnam (9.2%). However, trade with the U.S. has prospered since 2021, while Korean exports to China have consistently shown double-digit year-on-year declines. If this trend continues, the U.S. is set to displace China as South Korea’s most important trading partner in the middle of the 21st century.

Good eats

Sawamura Shinjuku is a famous bakery restaurant from Karuizawa, Japan, that uses over 20 types of wheat flour from Japan and abroad to make bread, attracting many bread lovers (read, those who don’t eat sushi). If that’s you, we recommend the salmon on a focaccia bread when you’re in town. It was as good as any you’d get in Jersey.

And then there’s …

Jersey attitude meets South Korea attitude. While still prim, proper and professional, there’s a noticeable bit of an edge in Korea compared with Japan. More energy, like Jersey. They actually honk horns here, like Jersey.