Innocents abroad
By STAFF Alan Farnham, Frederick Hiroshi Katayama, David Kirkpatrick, Patricia Sellers

(FORTUNE Magazine) – For decades Senators and Congressmen have toured the world on ''fact-finding'' missions, but until recently governors were so untraveled that they would get excited about a convention in Hot Springs. The guvs are finally catching up. The National Governors' Association says 44 of them traveled overseas in the 19 months ending last December, making 120 trips, mostly in search of export markets for the products of their states as well as direct investment. And 44 of the trips were to Japan. This year the number may be even larger: Since mid-July the governors of at least seven states have trekked to Tokyo. States as a group now spend more on international trade promotion than the federal government does. Some 35 states maintain 84 offices abroad, 31 of them in Japan. Does all this effort and expense pay off? The governors claim it does. Washington Governor Booth Gardner has visited Japan four times and says his trips have led to investments in Washington by Matsushita, Sharp, and others. Kentucky Governor Martha Layne Collins has visited Japan seven times. On one excursion she stopped in to see Toyota Motor executives after Kentucky's Tokyo office heard through the grapevine that the carmaker might soon be looking for a manufacturing site in the U.S. She called on the company on every subsequent trip. Toyota is now nearing completion of an $800-million Kentucky plant that will provide 3,000 jobs. But couldn't a subordinate carry a state's message and leave the governor free to mind the home front? The governors insist not. ''There's a lot of competition between states in economic development,'' says Kentucky's Collins. ''Nothing can take the place of a governor talking to top company officials and telling them you want them in your state.'' John C. Anderson, Washington State's director of trade, acknowledges another point: ''Governors and mayors | are held in much higher esteem in Japan than they are in the U.S.''