The robust economic and cultural ties between the U.S. Southeast and Japan are on full display in a virtual meeting of organizations dedicated to strengthening the long-standing relationship between seven Southern states and the Asian nation.
The 43rd joint meeting of the Southeast U.S.-Japan and Japan-U.S. Southeast Associations had been set for October 2021 in Tokyo, after the 2020 installment was canceled due to COVID-19. Organizers decided to hold the meeting virtually because of the pandemic
A video of the virtual meeting, featuring remarks from Japanese officials and Alabama Governor Kay Ivey and leaders from other Southeastern states, is now available for viewing. Click here to watch the video.
Teruo Asada, chairman of the Japan-SEUS Association and a former leader of the Marubeni Corp., said Japanese companies have been major investors in the Southeast, with over 1,500 Japanese companies investing a combined $60 billion in the region, generating around 200,000 jobs.
Plus, he added, Japanese companies have continued to invest in the Southeast during the pandemic, highlighted by Mazda Toyota Manufacturing’s $830 million additional investment in its joint assembly plant in Huntsville, which began production in September.
In her remarks, Governor Ivey praised the SHOWA Group, the only U.S. producer of single-use nitrile gloves for health care workers. During the pandemic, SHOWA’s expansion project at its Fayette facility doubled production to 2 million gloves per day, and it is now working on another large-scale growth project there.
“This is just one example of our Japanese investors working to help to Alabama and the world fight COVID-19,” she said.
Governor Ivey said Southeastern leaders need to sustain the strong bonds between the region and Japan that have been forged over decades.
“As we look toward the future, we must continue to build upon the rich history of business collaboration between the Southeast United States and Japan,” she said.
“Let’s continue to move forward in finding ways to strengthen this partnership between our great region and Japan to fully realize the opportunities for the benefits for all of our citizens.”
Alabama today is home to around 80 Japanese companies, involved in industries including chemicals, steel, advanced materials and nutritional supplements in addition to a heavy concentration in automotive manufacturing.
Since 2015, Japanese investment in Alabama has totaled $4.4 billion, resulting in over 7,500 jobs, according to Commerce data. Two-way trade between Alabama and Japan totaled nearly $2 billion in 2020.
“The relationship with Japan is strong not just for the state but for our local communities,” said Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. “We all utilize the SEUS Japan conference to connect with our Japanese investors, and it is particularly useful when the conference is in Japan. It provides us an invaluable opportunity to enhance the relationship personally.
“I know we are all looking forward to the time when we can meet face-to-face and deepen connections with our Japanese friends.”
(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)