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Shifting to high gear

   Feb 28, 2023
Credit : GMI Post

As the world returns to normality following the protracted COVID-19 pandemic, the southeastern United States has seen sharp growth in the number of new businesses coming to the region. For Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, the transition was smooth, if not because of a collective will to succeed, then due to the deeply ingrained hospitality the South is famous for.

“We are looked upon as a good business site. Our political leaders are extremely interested in helping our industries grow. So when a project comes along, whether it’s an expansion or a new project, our political leadership is very aggressive in supporting that growth for both its immediate and future potential,” said Norris Tolson, president and CEO of the public-private recruitment agency Carolinas Gateway Partnership.

Building on that openness, the southeastern states are also adept at maintaining their ties with government agencies and business partners. Among the oldest and most stable relationships are those with Japanese companies.

“We want our relationship with Japan to grow because it is a very important trade relationship. Our international partners have a tremendous impact to our economy. Japan is one of our top investors and we want to see our relationship advance further. We are here to expand each other’s economies and not only our own,” said Enterprise Florida Deputy Secretary of Commerce Laura DiBella.

“We are a safe place to invest in. Florida is seen as among the least risky environments and that is why we are seeing so much investment happening in our state right now. I do not see that changing. And over the next several months to the next year, you’ll see an incredible amount of investment coming to Florida that has yet to be announced,” DiBella added.

The importance of nurturing the close relationship between Japan and the United States is shared by many on the other side.

“I believe in the people-to-people relationships. Business and economic development would not be possible without the personal connections we make with people from around the world, from Georgia and from Japan. You’ll never know who you’ll meet and what new opportunities will open up, whether on a business, professional or personal level. Start small and it will lead to better things,” said Japan-America Society of Georgia Executive Director Yoshi Domoto.

Florida, Georgia, and North and South Carolina are forecasting an extremely good year as more companies announce expansion plans and government agencies streamline processes to open new businesses.

“Japan is truly a great ally and very important economic partner of the United States. Japan has consistently been the largest foreign direct investor overall of the United States and ranked one of our top foreign direct investor countries here in Florida,” said Southeast-Japan Association in Florida Executive Director Dave Miller Woodward.

On the other advantages of the South, the Consul-General of Japan in Atlanta, Kazuyuki Takeuchi, said, “Our region can always be a home to the Japanese, whether for their companies or their families, because of our excellent climate and the warm Southern hospitality. All four states also have infrastructure that (is) excellent for their businesses.”

For Georgia, the profile of Japanese investment is impressive, not only for its size but for its breadth.

“We’ve got every sector from agriculture, food processing, biomedical, aerospace, automotive, construction equipment, agricultural equipment and everything in between. The economy of Georgia in a lot of ways is a microcosm of the U.S. Our economy as a whole very closely mirrors the makeup of the U.S. economy. That lends itself to Georgia being an attractive place, not just for Japanese investment in one particular industry, but really across the spectrum,” said Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Japan Office Managing Director Joseph Huntemann.

For more than 50 years, the southeastern states have been pursuing fresh investment and new business, including the expansion of operations, never losing sight of the long-term benefits for the companies, the state and its residents.

“For companies looking at this market, especially those that are dynamic and constantly looking for growth, our culture is a close match. We’re a natural partner because of our excitement. We might be punching above our weight but it’s also because we care. We’re not driven just by our metrics or how many businesses we recruit in a day. We’re building an ecosystem. We want to make sure that we get the right partners, that they complement each other and that we create room for future growth,” said Pasco Economic Development Council President and CEO Bill Cronin.

That broad and long-term vision is what has attracted many Japanese companies, who value commitment and trust.

“We appreciate the investment that the community gives back to us, for us. We are extremely proud of the amount of people that we support. People’s lives have benefited significantly. There are also millions of people across our network that support our ability to do this, and that is a powerful part of our partnership,” said Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies President and CEO Martin Meeson.

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