Illinois REALTORS®, Intersect Illinois, Gov. Bruce Rauner and other Illinois business leaders used a combination of networking, information sharing and diplomacy to strengthen relationships during the 50th Midwest U.S. – Japan Association Conference in Omaha, NE this week.
“I think the biggest takeaway from the conference was how much of the state’s economy is a direct result of business with Japan,” said Illinois REALTORS® President Matt Difanis. “In Illinois alone, more than 630 Japanese companies employ more than 45,000 workers. The economic impact is huge.”
“While our state is a huge exporter of agricultural goods, Illinois businesses provide so much more than that,” Difanis said. “The governor noted that O’Hare International Airport has more than half a dozen flights a day to Japan and that’s a great indicator the financial and human ties between Illinois and Japan. We want people, when they think of economic development and foreign direct investment, , we want them to think of Illinois, and we want them to be aware that REALTORS® are a critical part of that success equation.”
Illinois REALTORS® delegation to the three-day conference consisted of of Difanis, CEO Gary Clayton, Director of Housing and Global Business & Diversity Sharon Gorrell and REALTOR® Ayumi DeLoney, who is the Illinois REALTORS® Consulate General Liaison to Japan.
Difanis said the conference was the third event in the last six months that Illinois REALTORS® had attended with the cooperation of Intersect Illinois.
At the conference’s closing ceremonies Tuesday morning, Rauner talked about the value of continued commerce in Illinois for Japanese business leaders. As he spoke about the many benefits of the state, he said: “I’ve fought to make Illinois the best state for education which makes for the greatest workforce in the country.”
Rauner, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Nebraska Gov. Peter Ricketts shared the podium during closing ceremonies with numerous Japanese dignitaries. They represented just a few of the 10 states that are members of the association: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin. Membership in the association is supported by state governments and usually represented by their departments of commerce or economic development.
The association is also represented by about 100 corporate partners, including presidents and chief executive officers of companies such as Dow and Toyota.
James R. Thompson, former four-term governor of Illinois and senior chairman of the international law firm of Winston & Strawn, chairs the Midwest U.S.-Japan Association. The directors of the association are drawn from the public and private sector of member states and are nominated by their respective governors. In Tokyo, the association is chaired by Yuzaburo Mogi, honorary CEO and chairman of the board for Kikkoman Corporation, one of Japan’s oldest corporations and best-known brand names.