Condoleezza Rice, Gov. Bentley and Others Welcome Japanese Business Leaders to Birmingham

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Esther Ciammachilli, WBHM

"Growing up in Birmingham, I remember being a little girl and thinking the sky was supposed to be orange," said Rice, recounting the city's steel heyday. Rice gave the keynote speech to a group of Japanese and American business leaders at the South East U.S.-Japan Conference on Monday at the Alabama Theater.

Japanese business leaders met Monday at the historic Alabama Theater in Birmingham with delegates from a handful of southern states for a conference aimed at strengthening cultural ties and expanding commercial opportunities.

Governor Robert Bentley played host to the group at the South East U.S. – Japan Conference, which included Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Rice spoke about growing up in Birmingham, her time as Secretary of State during 9/11 and her support of the Trans Pacific Partnership, or TPP. She says the plan will only strengthen the U.S. trade relationship with Japan and she expects Congress to vote in favor of the agreement.

Rice also talked about an urgent need to deal with ISIS, noting that many members of the group hold European and American passports, making them a security threat here in the U.S. as well as abroad.

Governor Bentley boasted the who’s who of Japanese businesses call Alabama home, including Honda and Toyota. Since 1999, Japanese firms have invested more than $4.8 billion in the state, creating nearly 16,000 jobs.