Motohiko Kato, Consul-General of Japan based in Nashville, spoke to representatives at the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce President’s Club Luncheon today on the importance of uniting the Japanese and Kentucky cultures.
President’s Club Partners invest in South Central Kentucky’s economic development strategy to assist existing targeted businesses as they expand in the region and attract new business, including foreign direct investment.
“The Kentucky / Japan partnership is a wonderful example of the opportunities created by international trade and investment,” stated Kato. “The strong ties I see in Bowling Green, as in countless other communities across the Commonwealth, are the foundation of our partnership. During my frequent visits to central Kentucky, I am always discovering new projects bringing the people of Japan and Kentucky together.”
Kentucky is home to more than 150 Japanese companies, representing nearly 40,000 workers. There are currently over 15 companies represented throughout the ten-county region of South Central Kentucky and in the past decade, these Japanese facilities have contributed a total capital investment of more than $200 million and added over 700 jobs.
“The Japanese footprint in South Central Kentucky is a significant part of our business climate here,” stated John Mark Fones, Chamber Board Chairman. “We take pride in each facility’s decision to bring their foreign investment to our region. The partnerships within our community have provided these companies with the tools they need to succeed and we look forward to continuing to strengthen our ties with the Japanese culture.”
The success of international companies in South Central Kentucky is apparent in the influence they have beyond the borders of the region in export, collaboration and leadership.
Gregory Head, Corporate Secretary/General Affairs for Kobe Aluminum Automotive Products (KAAP), a Japanese-owned facility located in Bowling Green, recently served as a panelist for the WORLD FORUM for Foreign Direct Investment held in Shanghai in 2013.
“It remains an honor to work alongside the employees of KAAP; especially our Japanese expatriates. Over time the spirit of the American dream and the Technical and Market prowess of our Japanese ownership has culminated in a win/win for all invested. We have experienced additional capital investment near $80 million in expansion of an entirely new product line and facility as well as the fourth expansion of our core business in the main building, since 2011. Our employment numbers have increased from a modest 150 in early 2011 to 300 in early 2014 and we have enjoyed the Business of the Year Award in 2012 and 2013, for the third time since 2008,” Head stated. “Without doubt our unique cultures have blended to create a ‘best of best’ manufacturing scenario that continues to enrich our employees and delight our customers. I am proud to be a part of this great company.”
The South Central Kentucky region continues to develop partnerships in an effort to strengthen the connection with the Japanese culture, both for businesses and residents.
The Japan/American Society of Kentucky (JASK) is an organization that works to sustain a favorable business and community relationship between Japan and Kentucky. The Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce has partnered with JASK to provide the organization with means to establish a stronger footprint in south central and western Kentucky.
“As an organization, we have had a strong presence in the Bluegrass region of the state. However, until recently our members in the southern and western part of the state have had to commute to participate in many of the programs we provide,” stated David Carpenter, Executive Director. “A number of companies have expressed their desire for JASK to be more prominent in these communities and because of the space that the Chamber is providing, we will be able to better service those facilities. Our hope is that through this partnership, JASK will be able to establish a strong relationship with the companies and organizations here.”
The collaboration with JASK provides an avenue to organize various business, cultural, educational and social programs, provide information and facilitate networking for the betterment of the Japanese and American relations.
“Our economic development effort extends far beyond national borders and encompasses various foreign relationships,” stated Ron Bunch, President/CEO of the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce. “Our existing industries are a top priority and the Japanese culture is a large part of that. By partnering with organizations such as JASK, our hope is to continue to cultivate the ties between the two cultures to facilitate a partnership that will make South Central Kentucky a place where Japanese companies come to succeed.”
Bunch is a member of the JASK Board of Directors and the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce serves as a conduit between the state-wide efforts to build a Japanese/American relationship in the Commonwealth and the Japanese culture here in South Central Kentucky.
JASK received a grant earlier this year that will be used to fund the office in Bowling Green, as well as two events that are planned for this year.
In addition to the South Central Kentucky region, the Consulate-General of Japan at Nashville covers Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.
His primary mission is to care for Japanese citizens and their families residing in the Southeast, protect the interests of Japanese companies and promote Japanese culture and business throughout these five states.
For more information on the Consul-General, visit http://www.nashville.us.emb-japan.go.jp/.
For more information on Japan/America Society of Kentucky, visit http://www.jask.org/.
About the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce:
Incorporated in 1935, the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce is a 5-Star Accredited Chamber by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and was named the 2009 Chamber of the Year by the American Chamber of Commerce Executives. As the fourth largest chamber in Kentucky, the Chamber serves as a premier business advocate for its more than 1,100 partners and is the driving force for economic development in South Central Kentucky. Its primary goals are to promote growth and success in the business community, reaching its small business partners and those in large industries alike. With leadership programs, governmental relations projects, educational initiatives and involvement opportunities, the Chamber aims to support the community and its neighbors in order to enhance the business climate and continue to grow the region.