Granholm Discusses Water Quality, Global Economy with Shiga Prefecture Governor

Contact: Liz Boyd

Governor Granholm in Japan
July 26, 2005
Governors Meet on "Michigan" Boat in Japan

Governor Jennifer M. Granholm and Governor Yoshitsu Kunimatsu
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LANSING - Governor Jennifer M. Granholm today met with Governor Yoshitsu Kunimatsu of Shiga Prefecture, Japan to discuss the importance of freshwater preservation and to share their mutual concerns about invasive species that contaminate freshwater lakes.
The meeting took place aboard a boat named the "Michigan" on Shiga's Lake Biwa on the second day of Granholm's five-day investment mission to Japan.  Shiga is a sister state to the state of Michigan.
"Our two states, though half a world apart, stand together as partners to protect our valuable natural resources," Granholm said.  "Invasive species not only endanger the purity and beauty of our lakes and streams but also the economies that rely on these abundant natural gifts."
To commemorate the meeting, Granholm joined Governor Kunimatsu in a ceremonial release of native Crucian Carp into the lake.
In 1968, Michigan and the Shiga Prefecture became sister states based on their common interest in protecting water resources.  Lake Biwa, Japan's oldest and largest freshwater lake, has experienced a recent influx of invasive species that threaten native fish and fauna populations.  The prefecture government employs 43 workers netting invasive species every day, and commercial fishermen are paid by the kilogram for invasive catches they turn in.
Since the 1800s, approximately 160 aquatic invasive species have been introduced from around the world into the Great Lakes Basin that includes Michigan.  The proliferation of invasive species has caused significant environmental and economic damage to Michigan's Great Lakes and many of the state's 11,000 inland lakes and thousands of miles of streams.   
A friendly crowd joined Governor Granholm on the "Michigan" sternwheeler.  Students from Lansing Community College's Japan Adventure work-study program serve as crewmembers on the cruise ship while studying and living in Japan.
In her remarks, Granholm praised Kunimatsu and the Shiga Prefecture for understanding the importance of forging strong relationships in a global economy and, in turn, Kunimatsu said he is thankful for the long history between Michigan and the Shiga Prefecture.  He cited three programs with which he is especially pleased:  the Michigan boat, the Japan Center for Michigan Universities, and the goodwill missions between the two states.
Kunimatsu announced that the duties of Shiga's visiting official in Michigan will be expanded beyond the historical cultural focus, to include an economic development focus as well. 
"Having a strong relationship with Shiga Prefecture will help foster economic growth," Granholm said.  "The friendship between our two states means the potential for economic growth between our two states is strong, too. 
"In a global economy, education is especially important," Granholm added.  "In Michigan, we are excited to be educating citizens of the world.  The cross cultural exchange our young people experience at the Japan Center for Michigan Universities is important for us both." 
Following the meeting with Governor Kunimatsu, Granholm visited the Japan Center for Michigan Universities (JCMU) located in nearby Hikone.  The center, administered through Michigan State University's International Studies and Programs Office, accepts students from any college who come to study Japanese or environmental programs.  A board of representatives from all 15 Michigan public universities governs the center.
The Governor's five-day investment mission to Japan includes individual meetings with senior-level executives from 14 Japanese companies, as well as seminars and government meetings.  Her delegation will meet with more than 150 representatives of business, higher education, and government during the week.   Her aim in this mission is to forge stronger alliances with the leadership of the country's automotive and new technology industries to bring new, job-creating business development to Michigan.