Above: Japanese companies have invested more than $4.8 billion in Alabama since Honda announced plans for its auto plant in Talladega County in 1999. (contributed)
As leaders from seven Southeastern states gather with their Japanese counterparts for a high-level forum in Birmingham, this longstanding Trans-Pacific relationship is positioned to strengthen as trade and investment ties expand.
Those strong economic bonds provide the foundation for the SEUS Japan 38 joint forum that began this past weekend in Alabama’s largest city, an event that drew scores of corporate leaders, political officials and economic development specialists from Japan and across the region. (Read about the conference.)
SEUS Japan 38 is a reminder of the significant cultural and commercial links between the Asian nation and the states that make up the Southeast-U.S. Japan Association: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Two-way trade between Japan and the Southeastern states exceeded $30 billion in 2014, a figure that includes nearly $8 billion in SEUS-region exports to Japan, led by chemicals and transportation equipment.
“The partnership between Southeastern states and Japan continues to flourish, driving economic growth, creating opportunity and fostering friendship,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. “Across the Southeast, it’s easy to identify examples of how this Japanese business connection has boosted prosperity in many cities and towns.”
Here’s a look at four ways the close relationship with Japan has benefited the SEUS states and how the partnership will continue to pay dividends through expanding trade, investment and job-creation.
No. 1: Investment impact
Japanese corporations continue to build on a long tradition of investing in the SEUS region. Hundreds of Japanese companies now have a presence across the seven states, including steel makers, chemical producers, pharmaceutical firms, logistics organizations, auto manufacturers and many others.
Since 1999, when Honda announced plans for an assembly plant in Talladega County, Japanese companies have invested more than $4.8 billion in Alabama alone. Last year, Japanese companies announced projects valued at $345 million in the state, creating 1,120 new jobs, according to the Alabama Department of Commerce.
The momentum hasn’t slowed in 2015. In October, Yorozu, a global Tier 1 auto supplier, announced plans to build a $100 million factory in Jasper, creating 300 jobs. Yokohama-based Yorozu will be the third Japanese auto supplier to operate in the Walker County city, located 40 miles from Birmingham.