BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – Business leaders and top government officials from Japan and seven Southeastern states will begin arriving in Birmingham this weekend for a major conference that aims to strengthen cultural ties and expand commercial opportunities.
The annual joint forum of the Southeast U.S.-Japan and Japan-Southeast U.S. associations begins Saturday, Nov. 14, with an invitation-only gala dinner and wraps up Tuesday, Nov. 17, with a special closing ceremony. The event is called SEUS Japan 38 because it represents the 38th installment of the gathering.
Highlights of the conference include:
- Dr. Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. Secretary of State and a Birmingham native, will deliver the Keynote Address at 9:30 a.m. Monday, Nov. 16, at the Alabama Theatre, following an opening ceremony.
- His Excellency Kenichiro Sasae, Japan’s ambassador to the U.S., will speak at a luncheon beginning at 12:15 p.m. Monday, Nov. 16, at Birmingham’s Sheraton Hotel.
- Martin Luther King III, human rights activist and eldest son of Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., will deliver the Capstone Address at a breakfast beginning at 8 a.m., Tuesday, Nov. 17, at the Sheraton.
In addition, delegates will have an opportunity to see Birmingham area landmarks on a Sunday, Nov. 15, tour that will take them to Vulcan Park & Museum, the Alabama Theatre and Sloss Furnaces. An alternative tour features an introduction to prominent Birmingham BBQ restaurants and the city’s craft beers.
Monday’s SEUS Japan 38 agenda features high-level panel discussions on topics such as innovation and the environment, capped by dinner/networking event at the Barber Vintage Sports Museum, which boasts one of the finest private collections of motorcycles in the world.
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley will head the state delegation at SEUS Japan 38. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam is scheduled to attend, along with high-ranking officials from Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina. Mayor William Bell and other Birmingham officials will also be at the event.
Regions Financial Corp. CEO Grayson Hall and Toshiba Corp. Chairman Tadashi Okamura are serving as co-chairs of SEUS Japan 38, which is being organized by the Alabama Department of Commerce and the City of Birmingham.
The theme of the forum is “Initiative For a Sustainable Future — Through Continuous Innovation.”
“This conference will allow leaders across the Southeast to forge stronger relationships with their Japanese counterparts, which will foster a deeper cultural understanding and expand business ties,” Alabama Governor Robert Bentley said. “It’s an important event because working together produces greater economic prosperity for us all.”
The SEUS Japan Association was founded in 1975 and is closely linked to its Japanese counterpart, the Japan-U.S. Southeast Association, which is made up of top Japanese business leaders and government officials. Joining Alabama in SEUS Japan are Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Two-way trade between Japan and the Southeastern states topped $30 billion last year, and Japanese companies have been active investors in the region, particularly in automobile assembly and auto parts manufacturing. Japanese companies in fields ranging from chemicals to advanced materials also have established manufacturing facilities in the Southeast.