July 10, 2017

Japanese business federation, Keidanren, finds strong industries, opportunity during Kentucky visit

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Ties between Kentucky and Japan are strong and opportunities for new business may have never been greater.

So compelling, in fact, that a delegation of 19 corporate executives from Japan’s business federation, called Keidanren, recently spent two days touring Kentucky learning more about the existing relationship and identifying areas for additional investment. Masami Kinefuchi, consul-general of Japan in Nashville, organized the visit and attended.

Keidanren, an economic association whose roots date back to 1946, includes 1,300-plus Japanese companies and 160 associations and regional economic organizations. Its mission supports Japanese economic development and quality-of-life improvement for Japanese people. The Kentucky visit came as part of a weeklong info-gathering trip in the US.

Members of the delegation, which included representatives of Japanese companies with ties to the commonwealth – Sumitomo, Toyota, Hitachi and Mitsubishi – found themselves in good company. Japan is Kentucky’s No. 1 international investor with nearly 200 manufacturing, service and technology facilities, which employ more than 45,000 Kentuckians full-time.

Japan is Kentucky’s No. 7 export destination by dollar amount. In 2016, Japanese companies and individuals purchased just over $1 billion in Kentucky goods and services. Top products sent to Japan last year included aerospace products and parts, leather products for automotive seating, motor vehicle parts, purebred horses and bourbon.

During the visit, Keidanren members met with Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Dave Adkisson, and former Gov. Martha Layne Collins, who announced and broke ground for the Toyota plant in Georgetown 31 years ago. The plant has grown to employ 8,000 people full-time, making it the single largest Japanese-owned employer in Kentucky.

They toured Woodford Reserve Distillery and met at the Executive Mansion in Frankfort for a dinner, remarks and a Q&A session with Gov. Matt Bevin. The following morning, members engaged with Cabinet Sec. Terry Gill during a breakfast roundtable to learn about Kentucky’s economy and job creation efforts. Several Japanese-owned companies with Kentucky facilities participated including INOAC, Akebono, Topy and Denyo.

The delegation then headed to Washington for the Invest in America! 2017 Summit at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce where Kentucky was represented with a booth on the display floor and where Gov. Bevin spoke about the state’s recent economic development success.

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