Under then Gov. Jimmy Carter, Georgia strengthened its efforts to strengthen ties between Georgia and Japan by opening its first international trade office in Tokyo in the early 1970s.
Around half a century later, the effort has paid off handsomely. Japanese companies in Georgia have contributed around $11 billion to the state economy and have employed around 40,000 people.
Recognizing the bright prospects of ties with Georgia, JETRO opened an office in Atlanta in 1985 and kicked off, shortly after, JapanFest Atlanta, the first in the Southeastern USA. The event has been held continuously and has grown in size despite global recessions and other crises, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Unfazed by such disruptions, Japanese companies remain confident in the economic outlook of Georgia and have even increased their operations. Heavy equipment maker Kubota Corp. announced plans to open a new plant in Georgia to meet rising demand for tractors in North America, while YKK Group, the world’s largest manufacturer of zippers and other fastening products, is expanding its facilities in the state.
Amid the influx of fresh investment, Japan-America Society of Georgia Executive Director Yoshi Domoto believes that retaining existing investors is equally important in the state, traditionally an agricultural economy making new inroads in manufacturing and financial technology. For him, the answer to that challenge revolves around people-to-people relationships.
JASG finds all the means for Japanese and Americans to build long-lasting friendships that transcend business, like cultural and student exchange programs, among them a 10-year partnership with J. F. Oberlin University, a private university in Tokyo.
“Business and economic development wouldn’t be possible without the personal connections that we make with people from around the world and people from Georgia and people from Japan,” he said.
To celebrate the long friendship between Japan and Georgia, the Japan-America Society of Georgia, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Georgia, the Consulate General of Japan in Atlanta, and JETRO Atlanta are working on completion of the Peace Bell Tower at The Carter Center.