With increased competition around the world to take advantage of the growing global economy, Massachusetts and New England offer a strong entry point for international companies looking to do business with the United States.
Tens of thousands of American companies have major business interests overseas. US trade with Japan alone accounted for $66 billion worth of exports in 2011. About $2 billion of that is attributed to Massachusetts. Japan is the number four trading partner for both the United States and Massachusetts.
One thing is certain: Central to our region’s ability to take advantage of this opportunity is the continued development of first-class infrastructure to keep goods — and people — moving efficiently from here to all over the world. This is probably the most important role that government serves in creating an environment for economic growth. First-class infrastructure — not just roads and bridges, but tools of commerce like service out of Logan International Airport — is a critical ingredient for New England to be competitive on a global scale. And when states like Massachusetts show a commitment to that, it’s a real commitment to growing our economy.
This spirit of public and private partnership has produced an important development for the Massachusetts economy through the introduction of new, non-stop flight service from Boston to Tokyo on JAL Airlines. This important tool for global commerce will pay dividends for Massachusetts long into the future.
For the leading employers and industries in Massachusetts — be it life sciences, technology, or financial services — efficient air service to Tokyo provides greater incentive for Japanese companies to do business here, and to position highly skilled workers in the Bay State.
It also improves the ability of companies in all sectors to make the most out of business relationships they have in Japan and elsewhere on the Pacific Rim. Some of our state’s leading employers — Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Teradyne and EMC — have major installations and business interests in Japan. Supporting their ability to do business there helps fuel their growth here.
There are many ways to measure value and savings. Recapturing lost time is certainly one. The half day or more that can be saved through this new direct flight service has a real dollar value to companies doing business overseas. Predictability and reliability in overseas business travel is a valuable commodity.
Enhancing the efficiency of travel to foreign markets enhances a company’s overall effectiveness in doing business. It shrinks the obstacles of time and distance. It fosters better connection and communication. And it speeds the sales cycle. More efficient points of connection between US cities and key overseas markets will help fuel the entire nation’s economy.
The new JAL flight service is an important step for Massachusetts. But we should look at it as just the first step. The Bay State’s number three export market is China. Number eight is Taiwan. India continues to be an important market that supports US business operations around the globe. If you were to prioritize foreign cities for improved flight service from Boston, Shanghai, Taipei and Mumbai should be considered prime opportunities.
There will always be a variety of stops and starts and ebbs and flows in the ongoing pursuit of a more equitable balance in the trans-continental flow of wealth. But this type of investment will help put our region in the best possible position. The JAL flight should be followed by an initiative to create more such connections between Massachusetts and these other prized markets overseas.
Greg Bialecki is the Massachusetts Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. John Hailer is CEO of Natixis Global Asset Management — US and Asia.