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Jeff Willis Hired to Lead International Division at Commerce

Dec 20, 2019

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Topeka, Kan. – Secretary David Toland has appointed Jeff Willis as director of the newly reconstituted International Division at the Kansas Department of Commerce.

As director, Willis will lead efforts to grow Kansas exports and attract more foreign direct investment by international companies in Kansas. Exports for Kansas totaled $11.6 billion in 2018. 60,800 workers in Kansas are employed as a result of international investment.

The top sources of foreign direct investment in Kansas are Germany, Canada, UK, Japan, and The Netherlands.

“Jeff brings a wealth of experience and contacts to this position, and he will be invaluable to strengthening our international trade division,” Secretary Toland said. “Jeff is a welcome addition to our dedicated, talented team of international experts at the Department.”

Before joining the Department, Willis served as President of Eastern Strategies, LLC., specializing in helping manufacturing companies with strategic planning, partner selection, problem resolution and many other aspects of their Asia-related businesses. Willis also founded a subscription-based web service,, which enabled U.S. companies to easily add foreign language marketing content to their websites and more effectively use the internet to generate trade leads and sell goods and services to overseas buyers.

Willis is a former commercial officer with the U.S. Commercial Service and held positions at the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China, and the U.S. Consulate in Shanghai, China. He left the diplomatic service in 1992 to return to the U.S. where he directed the Asian international marketing program for the State of Kansas. He is also a past president of the International Trade Council of Greater Kansas City and past Chair of the U.S. Department of Commerce Mid-America District Export Council. Willis is a current and long-standing member of the Kansas International Trade Coordinating Council.

Jeff graduated from the University of Kansas with a bachelor’s degree in both French and philosophy and also earned his Master of Arts in East Asian languages and cultures from KU.