As 2017 draws to a close, relations between Japan and the United States continued to thrive amid uncertain times. But as the two countries reaffirmed their solidarity and expressed their commitment to a common future, the northwest region of the United States capitalized on its geographical proximity to Japan to highlight its advantages as a reliable trade partner and investment location.
Northern California: Innovation at its finest
Synonymous with innovation, Northern California is a hotbed of new ideas, non-traditional CEOs and technological advancements that have changed the world. This environment has spawned not only some of the world’s tech giants, but also draws in multinational companies keen on leveraging the region’s strengths.
“The compound of intellectual capital, which drives an explosive rate of innovation, makes Northern California unlike anywhere in the world. Universities providing top-tier education, including Stanford University and UC Berkeley, generate an impressive pipeline of talented candidates,” Avant Global Founder and CEO Demetri Argyropoulos said.
Focused on creating connections for strategic development, Argyropoulos understands that the key to success lies in forging relationships. “It’s crucial in this competitive environment that you build a strong network that can support you in deal flow, references and financing. You can get an edge on everyone else by looking for companies that are being led by serial entrepreneurs,” he added.
The area’s dynamic environment has led to a shift in traditional investment from Japan.
“Originally our member companies were financial, trading and food processing companies. Now, we see gaming, internet and medical companies joining as well,” Japan Chamber of Commerce of Northern California President Hiroshi Tomita said.
And this influx of new layers and fresh ideas has enhanced the region’s strengths.
Benefits of a Japanese perspective are acknowledged by various industries, from software technology to medical research. Stanford Medicine, famous for developing various cell and gene-based therapies, wants to capitalize on Japan’s unique strengths. “These therapeutics are now moving from research to the clinic. We are looking for strategic partners, both financial and operational. While we are unsure how that will happen, we are certainly interested in Japan,” said David DiGiusto, head of Stanford Center for Definitive and Curative Medicine.
Oregon: “We like it here, you might too”
Japan’s fascination with Oregon can be partially attributed to the 1980’s hit drama, “Oregon kara ai” or “From Oregon with love.” The attraction is apparently mutual. Portland’s donut chains, such as Voodoo and Blue Star, are set to have more outlets in Japan than they have in the United States as they expand abroad. The city will soon boast a Portland-themed pub in Tokyo, complete with its own mascot — Mr. Dude — who will promote his hometown among the Japanese.
The attraction, coupled with excellent marketing campaigns, has generated more economic activity.
“There is growing interest among Japanese companies in Oregon because it is a very business-friendly place,” Consul General of Japan in Portland Kojiro Uchiyama said.
As the state’s economy diversifies and draws in more Japanese investment, the state government is not about to get complacent.
“Oregon has a long and deep relationship with Japan. We greatly value this relationship and want to continue to cultivate it. I strongly support increased trade investment and cultural exchange with Japan,” said Gov. Kate Brown, who led a trade mission to Japan earlier this year.
“Oregon is a very special and unique place. We have this incredible beauty and bounty — from our magnificent snow-covered peaks to more than 362 miles of coastal beaches that are publically accessible. So, it’s an incredible place to come visit and enjoy,” Brown added.
“We also want to continue to grow our economy and do it in a way that benefits all of our people. I think there is an incredible opportunity to partner and collaborate with the people of Japan. And I think it provides some opportunity for Japan as well,” she added.
Washington: Japan’s closest neighbor
Home to some top U.S. corporations like Boeing, Costco and Amazon, Washington was ranked by CNBC as America’s Top State for Business in 2017. With an economic growth of 3.7 percent this year, its economy grew twice as fast as the national average.
Washington is also home to the largest concentration of STEM (science, technology, education and math) workers in the country, with nearly one in 10 employees working in these fields. One key factor to the growing Japanese trade with the
Evergreen State is that the Port of Seattle is a day closer to Japan than other major shipping ports on the U.S. West Coast.
“There are over 180 Japanese companies that have a presence in the State of Washington. Our strongest economic presence is felt in the aerospace industry. Boeing has a 60-year relationship with Japan and their 787 Dreamliner has 35 percent Japanese-made components. This is a very significant contribution,” Consul General of Japan Yoichiro Yamada pointed out.
As Washington’s overall third-largest export market, Japan holds the top spot for agriculture, a fact that the state government is extremely proud of.
“When we think of Japan, historically it’s been a great trading partner for us and the next level of development is a combination of technological and intellectual development through the partnership of our people,” Gov. Jay Inslee said.
“We are a welcoming place and as a result, we have built an economy that is second to none. Japan is rooted deep in the history of Washington and we are proud of this relationship,” Inslee added.
The relationship of its people, including the more than 80,000 self-identified Japanese-Americans and 14,000 Japanese expats living in the state, is what both sides are happy to highlight every time.
“Washington is very attractive and vibrant in its own right. One aspect lies in the fact that Japanese culture has woven itself into the fabric of the region in a relationship that stretches over 100 years,” Yamada said.