“IHI is a huge corporation in Japan, as big as General Electric,” said Brian Dill, the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce vice president of economic development and global commerce. “This was a big deal for Villa Rica and Carroll County. This relationship will hopefully help us create more opportunities for attracting Japanese industries.”
Chamber President and CEO Daniel Jackson said local development officials are talking with three Japanese industries now and more firms could follow the path blazed by the IHI-ICR pact.
Jackson and Dill last month joined the annual SEUS-Japan delegation on a five-day visit to Japan by southeastern U.S. development officials from seven states, to recruit Japanese industry to our shores.
“This trip gave us encouragement and ammunition for promoting international trade in Carroll County and Georgia,” Jackson said. “The Georgia delegation worked together as a team to make the most of the trip, and we as a state, will be rewarded for the effort.”
Jackson said that he and Dill, representing Carroll County, one of only two Georgia counties on the trip, had three goals in making the trip.
“First, we wanted to participate in the conference and learn about what’s going on in Japanese industry and where there’s opportunities,” he said. “Then we wanted to pursue opportunities there we already had, such as IHI, and finally, to participate with Georgia state leadership, including Gov. Deal and the development commission.”
“IHI is only about 45 minutes west of Tokyo, so I had an opportunity to visit there,” Dill said. “Our success story with IHI is energizing the market for Carroll County.”
Dill noted that Georgia has one of the largest trade offices of any state in Japan, which is headed by Yukimo Nakazomo.
“She is employed by the state of Georgia and has helped us with many prospects,” he said. “She acts as a liaison with potential clients, and also as a translator and authority on American tax codes.”
Dill explained that the U.S. tax structure is much different from Japan’s, since their country does not have local taxes, property taxes and sales and use taxes.
Dill said there’s many things that the Japanese industrial leaders like about Georgia and the two share similar work ethics values with our southeastern states.
“We pay attention to our work force,” he said. “In Japan, they like company loyalty. They pride themselves in hiring people who stay with the company for a long time. Most of their companies have low employment turnover. They take pride in their workforce and make sure the workers are taken care of.”
He said the Japanese companies are also good matches for existing Carroll County companies, such as SMI and Greenway.
“It’s important that they know our community is there to support them long-term, as we support our existing industries,” Dill said.
Jackson said that many Carroll County industries area already doing export business with Japan and that country ranks as number 5 in imports and exports with Georgia.
“Georgia is the home to more than 375 Japanese companies, with nearly 20,000 employees,” Jackson said. “At least 42 Georgia companies have operations in Japan.”
He said Carroll County currently has three Japanese firms. In addition to IHI, there’s also Sony (the first here) and OFS Brightwave, formerly Fitel, a fiber optics company in Carrollton.
Jackson said Japanese companies are attracted to Georgia and Carroll County because of the geography.
“We are close to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the busiest airport in the world, with direct flights to Tokyo,” he said. “Georgia is the home to the port of Savannah, which serves five Japanese ports.”
Dill noted that the Japanese industries also like our school system, with Carroll County having great K-12 education, plus West Georgia Technical College and University of West Georgia. The Quick Start training program here allows workers to get training in the jobs they will perform. Japanese firms are interested in our regional health care provided by Tanner Health System, he added.
“The currency exchange system is also working in our favor now,” Dill said. “In addition, the tsunami tragedy a few years ago in Japan started them looking overseas for additional suppliers.”
Jackson said building trust and relationships is a major factor with Japanese industry leaders and conferences such as the one they attended last month in Tokyo are huge steps forward.
“Our community has a legacy of leadership that brings us together with renewed focus and planning to carry us forward and upward,” he said. “We have a plan to grow existing business and industry and to identify other prospects, domestic and international, that are a fit for Carroll County.
“Those in our profession know that it often takes months or even years to foster relationships and bring a project to fruition,” Jackson said, “especially international projects, which require much effort, energy and patience for all involved.”