Regional Leaders Pursue Japanese Investment

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The 36th Annual Joint Meeting of the Southeast US/Japan Association took place November 17-19 in Biloxi, Mississippi. The 3 day event promotes trade, investment and friendship between Japan and the seven member states of the southeast. The Tokyo based counterpart organization, the Japan/US Southeast Association, is composed of Japan’s top business leaders and government officials.

The 36th Annual Joint Meeting of the Southeast US/Japan Association took place November 17-19 in Biloxi, Mississippi. The 3 day event promotes trade, investment and friendship between Japan and the seven member states of the southeast. The Tokyo based counterpart organization, the Japan/US Southeast Association, is composed of Japan’s top business leaders and government officials.

Participating in the NC delegation, among others was, NC Secretary of Commerce, Sharon Decker, NC International Trade Director, Jean Davis, John D. Chaffee, President & CEO of the NCEast Alliance, and Oppie Jordan, VP Edgecombe County of the Carolina’s Gateway Partnership. Many of the attendees this year from the US and Japan had ties to the automotive sector, including those from the Eastern Region.

“SEUS was a wonderful opportunity to expose key consultants to the great things happening in eastern NC. We teamed up with a couple of representatives from Keihin and their participation was a tremendous asset,” said Jordan.

Eastern NC is home to a number of large Japanese companies, including Keihin Carolina System Technology (CST) in Tarboro, a leading manufacturer of vehicle engine and climate control systems.

“We have a lot to be proud of and getting the word out is essential. When we attend events such as this, our goal is always to get in front of those who can bring projects to our region,” Jordan added.

Another of the region’s Japanese companies represented at the event was Fuji Silysia Chemical of Greenville, a leader in synthetic silica technology used as absorbents, as dehumidifying agents and chromatography gels in the pharmaceutical industry and research labs. Fuji Silysia’s silica gels are also used in paints and composites.

“Meeting good leaders and being able to see what they bring together was an honor.  We unite more and grow as a support system, in the Southeast every time we come together at SEUS,” said Wanda Williams, Human Resources Manager, Fuji Silysia Chemical USA, Ltd.

“Our networking is phenomenal, especially with the talent from Japan and our Southeast states as we are able to listen, interact, ask questions, and see each other’s visions, we learn where and when we may have more benefits for each other,” Williams added.

While manufacturing has seen an uptick recently in the US, challenges still exist for the US to remain relevant. Much has been reported about the growing need to improve technical skills of the American workforce to meet the needs of modern manufacturing.

“The most critical issue for American manufacturing is focus and investment in STEM education. I know it’s long-term, but we recognize these people represent our future employees,” said Mr. Osamu Nagata, President & CEO, Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc.

“With the Global competitive market becoming increasingly more challenging for U.S. manufacturing, the demand for a more highly skilled workforce will only continue to increase. The STEM education system plays a vital role towards ensuring success in this area,” remarked David Catt, Plant Manager, Keihin CST.

NC’s Eastern Region and its many allies bought into the importance that STEM education plays a vital role in the availability of skilled labor, fostering the creation of STEM East.

By partnering with private companies, government and community organizations, K-12 schools, community colleges and universities, STEM East is undertaking a number of activities: creating professional teacher training programs and student learning centers, providing regional advocacy, and identifying career pathways that are aligned to workforce needs and existing/emerging industry clusters.

North Carolina’s Eastern Region is a regional economic development agency serving 13 counties from I-95 to the coast. For more information visit North Carolina’s Eastern Region’s website (www.nceast.org).