Governor Bill Haslam returned to Tennessee Saturday after taking his first trip to Japan as governor.
Haslam went to Japan as a part of the Southeast U.S./Japan Association. The group, which includes governors and local officials from other southeastern states like Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina, meets with Japanese business leaders to discuss potential partnerships and opportunity.
The meetings have taken place for 35 years, each one swapping between locations in Tokyo, Japan and Mississippi.
Before going on the trip, Haslam said it was important that the state of Tennessee continue to foster its relationship with Japan.
"We've had a successful and growing relationship with Japanese companies for nearly three decades," he said.
According to Haslam, 133 Japanese businesses are in Tennessee that employ around 33,000 residents. He said that is almost a $14 billion investment.
McMinn County's largest foreign employer, according to county mayor John Gentry, is Japanese auto parts maker Denso. He said it employs 1,000 workers full- and part-time.
"They [Denso] have improved the quality of life in this county," he said.
Gentry traveled with Haslam on the Japan trip. He said he is even hopeful a new business partnership couldn't result from it, although he couldn't give specifics.
Gentry said on the trip he noticed the Japanese operate similarly to people in the Southeast. He said he thinks it may be part of the reason companies from that country are interested in doing business here.
"I think they come here and find the same type of employee that they have back home, that's very dedicated and very loyal," he said.
Officials from Tennessee aren't the only ones traveling overseas. Governor Steve Beshear of the Commonwealth of Kentucky is still in India on an economic development trip. It is his third visit there.
"We've already established strong ties with several Indian companies and are very optimistic about our ability to position the Commonwealth as a prime location for Indian business owners looking to enter the U.S. marketplace," Beshear said in a press release.