Costs unknown for Cooper trip to Japan

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(The Center Square) – Gov. Roy Cooper is heading to Japan with an entourage of economic development officials, a trip with cost to taxpayers unclear.

Multiple messages left by The Center Square with Cooper’s press office by email and phone have not been answered at time of publication.

The governor will lead a North Carolina delegation, leaving today and returning Sunday, for an annual Southeastern United States/Japan Economic Development Conference in Tokyo to recruit industry and connect with business leaders.

Along with Cooper, Secretary of Commerce Machelle Baker Sanders, Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina Executive Director Chris Chung, “and other economic development leaders” are slated for the trip, according to a Cooper statement. It is not known how much security detail, if any, will accompany the group.

“Japan is a highly valued economic partner for our state and it’s important to take this opportunity to strengthen our relationship with Japanese leaders and employers while laying the groundwork for our SEUS/Japan Economic Development Conference in Charlotte next year,” Cooper said in the prepared statement.

“On this trip, I will recruit new businesses with better paying jobs for North Carolina, while having discussions with and personally encouraging industry leaders to attend our conference next year so they can see for themselves what our great state of North Carolina has to offer,” he said.

The total number of people including security who will make the trek funded by taxpayers, and the preliminary cost for the jaunt, are unknown. An agenda for the 45th annual Joint Meeting includes state receptions, meetings and dinners on Thursday, followed by a “spouse/guest program” and remarks from Japanese and state officials, including Cooper, on Friday. The trip will also feature a series of panel sessions on maintaining economic partnerships “during a time of global volatility” and transitioning the workforce to support “technologies and sustainability initiatives.”

U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rham Emanuel will also offer a keynote address on Friday ahead of a closing ceremony and “free time for open networking.” Saturday is reserved for an invitational golf tournament and optional tours.

North Carolina is among seven southeastern states that will participate in the conference with Japan, which is home to 225 companies with ties to North Carolina. Nearly 30,000 North Carolinians work for Japanese-owned companies, according to the governor. Other states involved include Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Toyota is building its first North American electric vehicle battery manufacturing plant at a megasite in Randolph County that’s officials with the project say will create at least 1,750 jobs. Honda Aircraft Company, officials with its project say, will create 280 jobs in Greensboro to produce a new HondaJet 2600.

Those efforts were backed by taxpayer subsidies of $79.1 million and $3.1 million, respectively.

Another $19.7 million incentive is slated for FujiFilm to create 725 jobs at a manufacturing facility in Holly Springs.

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