Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield presents a glass sculpture from Alabama’s Orbix Hot Glass as a gift during a visit to Honda’s headquarters in Tokyo. (Made in Alabama)
“It is a solid, proven base for Japanese investment to only grow bigger,” he said. “The Japan America story is tremendous, but I think the Japan Alabama story is even better.”
Jackson is part of an Alabama delegation that visited Tokyo last week and participated in SEUS Japan 39, a high-level forum that aimed to strengthen cultural and economic ties.
Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, and other Commerce officials were part of the delegation in Tokyo, where they visited Honda’s corporate headquarters. While there, Canfield presented Honda officials with a hand-crafted glass sculpture from Orbix Hot Glass in Fort Payne.
The Commerce team also engaged in meetings with representatives of Unipres, an auto supplier with an operation in Steele, and others.
Last year alone, 19 new and expanding Japanese companies and joint ventures announced more than 700 new jobs and new investment topping $365 million, according to Alabama Department of Commerce data and the Japan-America Society of Alabama.
They included Pharmavite, a dietary supplement manufacturer in Opelika that is a subsidiary of Japan’s Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., and southwest Alabama carbon steel processor AM/NS Calvert, a joint venture that includes Japan’s Nippon Steel.
In other recent moves, Japan’s Dai-ichi Life Insurance Co. completed its purchase of Birmingham’s Protective Life Corp. last year, a $5.7 billion deal. Shortly after the merger was completed, the companies announced $4.1 million in donations to medical research, education and cultural organizations in Alabama.
Elsewhere, other Japanese companies are also actively contributing to their communities in Alabama.
In Decatur, for example, chemical firm Daikin and Toray, maker of carbon fibers and fluorofibers, continue to grow their businesses and shape the region, said Jeremy Nails, president and CEO of the Morgan County Economic Development Association.
“Every year Daikin America hosts the Daikin Festival, a free event to educate our community on Japanese culture that often boasts attendance of more than 20,000,” he said. “Daikin also donated funds to add the Daikin Amphitheater to downtown Decatur, allowing the city much-needed space for events.”
“Toray is the annual title sponsor of the Dragon boat race where 75 teams compete and raise over $150,000 for the local hospital,” Nails added.
Daikin added 20 jobs in 2014 amid plant expansions in Decatur and has been in a continuous growth mode since starting up in the early 1990s. Today the company has 370 employees, and this year marks its 25th anniversary in Alabama.
Toray currently has 320 employees at its carbon fiber plant and 53 at its fluorofiber plant, both in Decatur. To date, Toray has invested more than $500 million in its Decatur plants.