Idaho beats the drum for Japanese investment

Sharon Fisher//March 22, 2019

Idaho beats the drum for Japanese investment

Sharon Fisher//March 22, 2019

photo of taiko drumming
Members of Sangha Taiko performed at a recent reception hosted by Japan’s Consul General of Portland. Photo by Sharon Fisher.

A new partnership between an Idaho company and a Japanese company is expected to be announced soon— part of an ongoing relationship that is leading to foreign direct investment.

The two regions have been connecting since a March 2016 visit from the CEO of Tokyo’s Sakae Casting. In March 2017, the company opened an office in Idaho Falls. In April 2018, it was Sakae’s turn to host Idaho for a visit to several Japanese companies, and in July, seven executives from those companies came back to visit Idaho.

photo of kelly anthon
Kelly Anthon, speaking at the reception. Photo by Sharon Fisher.

Another Japanese group visited Idaho in February, and another visit to Japan from Idaho government and economic development representatives is scheduled for this summer.

photo of Takashi Teraoka
Takashi Teraoka, Japan’s Consul General of Portland, which is responsible for Idaho. Photo by Sharon Fisher.

Japanese companies such as Sakae have been partnering with Idaho because it is more welcoming than larger states such as California, according to Sen. Kelly Anthon, R-Burley, who speaks Japanese and has been involved in a number of the visits.

Anthon spoke to attendees at a recent reception hosted by Takashi Teraoka, the Consul General of Portland, who is responsible for Idaho.

A sister city relationship between Idaho Falls and the Japanese city of Tokai-Mura also helped build ties, he added.

Since 2016, trade between Idaho and Japan has increased 17 percent, Teraoka said.

Other Japanese investments include the purchase in January for an undisclosed price of Alta Forest Products. The company is based in Chehalis, Washington, with one of its four manufacturing plants located in Naples, Idaho. And the Japanese company Setouchi Holdings purchased Sandpoint, Idaho-based Quest Aircraft in 2015.

On the U.S. investment side, Micron owns three factories in Japan. In addition, BioLogiQ Inc. — an Idaho Falls bioplastic resin manufacturing company specializing in environmentally friendly plastic products made from renewable resources — announced in October that it was partnering with Inabata & Co Ltd. Japan to focus on sales, film production, and polymer compounding while also acting as Japanese importer and distributor for BioLogiQ products. The company is also developing additional relationships with other Japanese companies that are not yet announced, said president Brad LaPray.

In November 2017, the Idaho Department of Commerce awarded a nearly $238,000 Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission (IGEM) grant to the University of Idaho, Boise State University and the Center for Advanced Energy Studies to partner with Sakae on research and development on spent nuclear fuel storage and cooling capabilities. Ohzen Precision Machining Cutting, a partner of Sakae, set up shop in Idaho Falls to make titanium after-market parts for Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

Anthon and Jan Rogers, the retired former CEO of Regional Economic Development for Eastern Idaho, indicated that another partnership between a Japanese company and an Idaho company was underway, but couldn’t be publicized yet.

Idaho attendees at the event included Gov. Brad Little (who, Teraoka pointed out, has not yet visited Japan), Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, Sen. Brent Hill, Sen. Michelle Stennett, Sen. Steve Vick, Sen. Chuck Winder, and Rep. Scott Bedke. In addition, a number of Idaho regional economic development professionals also attended.

Both Idaho and Japanese dignitaries acknowledged the past history between the two regions, which has not always been so cordial. More than 13,000 people of Japanese ancestry were incarcerated at the Minidoka Internment Camp in Hunt, east of Jerome — now a National Historic Site — between 1942 and 1945.

“Our relationship has had both tragedy and triumph,” Teraoka said.