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Santa Fe meeting promises new Japanese opportunities

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LA county> Consulate, trade organization open economic dialogue

By Arin McKenna

SANTA FE — Los Alamos County was a key player in an exchange between the Japanese Consulate General of Japan in Denver, senior officials from the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) and various business and community leaders from New Mexico.
The county’s Economic Development and Public Utilities departments joined the Consulate General in co-hosting a meeting and reception at Santa Fe’s La Fonda Hotel last week with support from the State of New Mexico.
“This is a continuation of the cooperation that led to the Smart Grid and Smart House projects. Even though those are now finished, they opened up a lot of doors for cooperation between the Japanese government, Japanese industry and Japanese business and New Mexico,” said Los Alamos County Council Chair Geoff Rodgers.
Discussion topics included economic overviews of Japan and New Mexico, oil and gas development, renewable energy projects (including the Los Alamos Smart Grid project) and other potential trade sectors.
“The consulate general’s office as well as the JETRO group, were the ones who requested this meeting. They had a number of different issues they wished to discuss,” said County Administrator Harry Burgess. “They invited us due to NEDO’s relationship to us and the whole experience there.”
NEDO (New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization) was the county’s partner in the Smart Grid/Smart House project.
“We’re just trying to build upon the Smart Grid infrastructure, to build relationships with more Japanese partners and continue the research,” Utilities Manager John Arrowsmith said. “We touted the people and the facilities we can bring to the table.”
Ikuhiko Ono, consul general of Japan in Denver, attended the meeting, along with Honorary Consul General of Japan of Albuquerque Davis Begay and Bruce Powley, senior policy advisor−economic affairs/media relations for the Consulate-General of Japan in Denver.
“This is a way for Japan to show it has an interest in doing business in New Mexico and to improve relationships on a one-to-one basis, government-to-government and business-to-business,” Begay said.
The JETRO delegation was headed by Sachiko Yoshimura, director of JETRO offices in Los Angeles. JETRO is a government-related organization that works to promote mutual trade and investment between Japan and the rest of the world.
“We had a great exchange of ideas about companies that would like to do business in Los Alamos, in relationship to the Smart Grid. There is also interest in other areas as well, such as aerospace and even entertainment, the film industry,” Yoshimura said.
“There are many large companies from Japan interested in doing business here, and maybe small companies that don’t know about this area.”
Yoshimura also praised Los Alamos’ participation.
“We were extremely impressed that Los Alamos was not only thinking about Los Alamos but about New Mexico,” Yoshimura said. “They have the ability to explain what is important to us since they have worked with us and know our needs.”
The meeting was attended by delegates from the University of New Mexico and from the uranium and oil and gas industries. Japan is very interested in importing liquid natural gas (LNG), as it seeks new energy sources to replace nuclear reactors shut down since the Fukushima nuclear incident in 2011.
Gov. Susana Martinez’ Chief of Staff, Keith Gardner, also was in attendance. Martinez was originally scheduled to attend but was unable to.
The event was an outgrowth of a meeting last year between Martinez and Ono. During those talks, general agreement was reached to cooperate in expanding the overall relationship between Japan and New Mexico, including cultural and youth exchange as well as economic connections.
Several representatives from Los Alamos were in attendance, as was State Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard (D-District 43).
“I am excited about the partnership between the Japanese and Los Alamos and progress on the Smart House,” Garcia Richard said.
“It’s a great opportunity to move forward with technology and build the capacity of this type of technology. This is the first step in doing that.”
Councilor Pete Sheehey was also excited about the possibilities.
“We’ve demonstrated there is very good potential in Smart Grid technology and this is a chance to be part of real growth in this industry,” Sheehey said. “They clearly see opportunities in New Mexico. We need to move to take advantage of that.”
Economic Vitality Administrator Greg Fisher weighed in on the importance of the event.
“This is the first time JETRO has visited New Mexico, and for us to host this event is a real credit to the Department of Public Utilities,” Fisher said. “This was a good opportunity to meet with partners from the government of Japan and continue the great relationships we started with NEDO. The Smart Grid and Smart House were such a success, it’s important to continue to build relationships.”
Burgess stressed that this meeting was just the first step.
“It was basically an exchange of information. Nothing finalized out of that. It was a first meeting,” Burgess said. “It gave us all some ideas to explore further, and contacts to explore these ideas with. I imagine we’ll be meeting with JETRO folks in the near future, just to expand on that discussion.”