There was once a time when mention of the U.S. state of Idaho conjured images of rows upon rows of potato farms. That was then. Now, Idaho is putting its rural farmland image behind it as it transitions to becoming one of the fastest-growing economies in the Mountain West and an attractive destination of choice for Japanese investment.
The Idaho Department of Commerce’s single-point-of-contact approach has immensely improved the ease of doing business for expanding companies. This, plus the state’s high GDP growth, low unemployment, and incentive programs, have made Idaho a magnet for Japanese business.
Cities like Idaho Falls, Magic Valley and Twin Falls are experiencing a boom after having attracted Japanese companies that decided to expand their North American presence. ON Semiconductors opened offices in Nampa, Pocatello, and Meridian. There are eight Japanese majority-owned companies in the state that employ over 700 workers in 12 major metropolitan areas within an 800-mile radius of the capital Boise.
The Idaho Japan Business Council leads the way in helping connect Japanese investment with the Gem State.
“Our goal is to connect Japanese and American business, or more exactly American and Japanese communities, so they can know each other and hopefully understand each other,” Honorary Consul General of Japan in Idaho Ed Klopfenstein said.
Even the potato has received a Japanese upgrade as well. American company J.R. Simplot Co. formed a joint venture with ITOCHU Corp. called Simplot Japan to produce frozen french fries, fruits and vegetables, like avocados.
“You would think potatoes are just potatoes. But, everything from robotics to chemistry, to farming science is coming together to make potatoes a leading industry for this state,” Klopfenstein explained.