Lieutenant Governor Mike Foley Discusses Overseas Trade Mission
By Aaron Bonderson , Report for America Reporter/Producer Nebraska Public Media
Sept. 20, 2021, midnight ·
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Nebraska’s Lieutenant Governor Mike Foley recently returned from an overseas trade mission. Aaron Bonderson with Nebraska Public Media News spoke with him about his trip.
AARON BONDERSON, NEBRASKA PUBLIC MEDIA: Nebraska's Lieutenant Governor, Mike Foley joins us here on Nebraska Public Media. You just got back from a trade mission to France, and I'm just wondering, were any trade agreements reached during your time overseas?
LT. GOVERNOR MIKE FOLEY: Well, no, this trade mission trip was a little bit different. You know, the governor, and I are usually on a trade mission trip once, maybe twice per year. And typically, we're going to places like Japan, Korea, Canada, Mexico, these are countries that are buying literally hundreds of millions of dollars of our ag products. Obviously, we're an agricultural powerhouse, we produce far more than we could ever consume. So we sell overseas to other countries, and they love buying it. They love the quality of our beef, and particularly pork, buying it literally by the hundreds of millions of dollars at a time. This trip is a little different. This trip was to France. France is a buyer of our ag products, for sure, they bought about $140 million worth, so they’re an important buyer. That's really not what this trip was about. This is a completely different trip. This trip was all about building relationships with bio-science companies. France has an impressive portfolio of bio-science companies. As does Nebraska, and many Nebraskans are not aware of the emerging bio-science industry in our state. We've now [have] 18,000 Nebraskans working in bio-science companies. Many of these companies are foreign in origin, but they're doing business, and setting up facilities in our state, which we certainly welcome those investments into our state. [It] creates a lot of high paying jobs. The average person in a bio-science company is making over $70,000 a year. And it creates a great pipeline for the talent that's coming out of our university system. To feed these young people into these great career paths, right here in Nebraska. And it's growing very, very well. And because of the France companies are very deeply involved in bio-sciences, we thought it's good to start building relationships with these French companies, because we've got a German company, we've got Dutch companies, and so forth investing in Nebraska. But how about some French companies? So to answer your direct question, no. No deal was inked, per se, as a result of this trip, but it's about building, and nurturing those relationships. And some of those companies are looking very, very seriously at Nebraska, as a potential site to build a bio-science company. What it comes down to, bio-science companies often need large quantities of corn, because they extract the fatty acids, amino acids, and so forth in corn, and do all kinds of creative things with it. I can talk more about that. But rather than ship our corn to them, it's easier for them, and less expensive for them, simply to establish a facility right here in Nebraska, which the German companies, and Dutch companies, and others have done successfully. And they're seeing that, and they're intrigued by it, and they want to do it as well. Some of these companies are pretty close to making investment decisions. And we thought it'd be very important to go there, meet with them face to face, obviously, we're talking to them regularly by phone, and zoom, and so forth. But it's always good to have face to face too, just to reinforce how serious we are about attracting them to Nebraska to help grow our bio-science industry. Nebraska has had a lot of success in winning patents in the bio-sciences field. Over a four year period, the scientists within our state have won something like 600 new patent awards. Many of those people, many of those patents, are going to university scientists and others. So we're doing very, very well with this. The University of Nebraska is spending literally hundreds of millions of dollars every year on bio-sciences research. The number of S.T.E.M. graduates coming out of the university system are growing regularly, and increasing all the time. That's encouraging to see, because these companies are needing a talent pool to draw from, and we're getting the best and the brightest out of our state. So it's a win-win situation for Nebraska, and the companies that are overseas. So that was really the purpose of that trip, a great place to go, and September in France. But it wasn't it wasn't a sightseeing trip. It was work. It was talking to business executives, and building relationships, which will redound to the future benefit of our state.
BONDERSON: Do some of these companies want to build a facility in Nebraska while also using Nebraska corn maybe for their plants overseas in France?
FOLEY: Yes, what some of them are talking about is trying to actually co-locate, with an existing ethanol facility. You know, we have about two dozen major ethanol facilities across our state. And we're number two in the country in terms of production of ethanol. And of course, that draws extraordinary quantities of corn to those facilities to process that. But as you process the ethanol, you've got other applications of that corn that scientists are learning more and more about. And they can extract those assets, and so forth from the corn, perhaps develop products here in Nebraska, or perhaps ship those assets back to France, where they can be further developed at their factories in France, or in other countries.
BONDERSON: Lieutenant Governor Mike Foley, thanks for your time.
FOLEY: Thank you, sir. Great to be with you.
Lieutenant Governor Foley said bio-science companies in other European countries have built facilities in Nebraska. Foley said he remains undecided on what he’ll do for the 2022 election cycle.
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