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The endurance of the East

Across the entire United States, Japanese companies recognize the advantages of diversifying their operations and activities, recognizing that each area and state provide their own distinctive benefits — whether it be lower labor costs, favorable tax regimes, an abundant pool of skilled workers, excellent infrastructure or easy access to policymakers.

Although the farthest region from Japan, the U.S. East Coast has been the home of many Japanese companies representing a very wide spectrum of industries.

Located next to Washington D.C., Virginia has emerged as a hub for the aerospace and defense industries as former armed forces personnel join the private sector, bringing with them a wealth of expertise useful in commercializing new information technology ventures. In addition to that, the state has an affordable cost of living that has attracted a continuous stream of investment.

Among the country’s largest and most sophisticated logistical gateways, the Port of Virginia has also given businesses the valuable advantage of quick turnaround times, especially to manufacturers and distributors on the East Coast.

One of the more than 80 Japanese companies in the state, Toshiba Mitsubishi-Electric Industrial Corp. (TMEIC) has delivered cutting edge technologies, reliable industrial products and state-of-the-art automation system solutions to a wide range of industries, including oil and gas, mining and solar power utilities. TMEIC was formed in 2003 following a merger of Toshiba Corp., Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and General Electric Co.

“We pride ourselves in developing innovation and technology solutions right here in Virginia. The geography of innovation that is found in Roanoke is a big part of our agility as a company,” TMEIC CEO Dale Guidry said.

And Roanoke Regional Partnership Executive Director Beth Doughty is grateful for the presence of TMEIC. “(It) is a success story of a Japanese company that contributes a lot to the local community and benefits a lot from the local community,” she said.

Local talent, with diverse experience in different industries, has strengthened TMEIC as it develops new control systems that keep the Port of Virginia safe and efficient.

In neighboring Maryland, businesses have benefited from the state’s well-populated urban centers, excellent transport infrastructure and the constant requirements of the federal government.

Home to the National Institute of Science and Technology and the National Institutes of Health, the state has drawn in Japanese bioscience research laboratories, all in search of breakthroughs that can be commercialized globally.

Frederick County, the largest by land area, is a fast-growing center for bioscience research and IT innovation. Among the biggest employers in the county include household names, such as AstraZeneca, Leidos Biomedical Research Inc., Fannie Mae Co., Lonza Co., State Farm Insurance Co. and Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Inc.

“We are one of the fastest-growing economies in the state of Maryland. Our substantial economic development assets include a rapidly growing population, competitive tax rates and affordable real estate,” Frederick County Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Helen Propheter said.

Further up north, the states of New York and New Jersey remain the leading trading partners of Japan, thanks to their proximity to the country’s financial capital, Wall Street.

With its headquarters in Camden, New Jersey, Subaru Corp. is both a story of success and an inspiration. The Japanese car giant has stepped up efforts to revitalize the city by providing jobs to the local population, in addition to carrying out other charitable activities. Going the extra mile has only strengthened the brand as seen in the record sales this year.

“We know that customers have a lot of options when shopping for a car. But we are honored that they select Subaru as their vehicle of choice. It is a testament to the trust that we have established with new and returning customers,” Subaru Americas CEO Thomas Doll said.

Among the New England states, Massachusetts continues to lead its neighbors in terms of trade ties with Asia, as well as its status as the center of scientific research and innovation.

While everyone may have heard of Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, not everyone knows that Massachusetts hosts 194 Japanese-owned firms and affiliates, all of which employ around 9,000 people. As of 2017, Japan was the state’s seventh-largest trading partner.

“Our ties with Massachusetts are very strong, and we hope to continue growing our business relationships,” Japanese Consul General in New England Rokuichiro Michii said.

Ansaldo STS, a subsidiary of Hitachi Ltd., secured the contract to manage the signal system for the locally known “T,” Boston’s public transportation network.

Even in the smallest state, Japanese investment has found favorable conditions. In Rhode Island, Toray Plastics America Inc. built a plant to develop a new generation of polyethylene

terephthalate products, as well as bio-based polypropylene and metallized films, while observing the strictest environmental standards.

“Aside from manufacturing high value-added products, environmental sustainability is very important for Toray’s future. If we can develop a new polymer, we can expand our business significantly. We are very sensitive to customer feedback and values,” Toray Plastics America Inc. Chief Technology Officer Ken Kurokawa said.

Eastern USA 2018 was prepared for and originally printed in The Japan Times Newspaper.

PDF of the printed report

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