By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R), Alabama Department of Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield (R), and other state economic development officials spent fours days in Japan last week holding talks with Japanese businesses’ movers and shaker including Toyota Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada at the automaker’s headquarters. Governor Bentley met Toyota Chairman Uchiyamada, company President Akio Toyoda and Executive Vice President and board member Seiichi Sudo. Toyota is expanding it’s engine factory in Huntsville.
Governor Bentley said in a written statement, “The State of Alabama enjoys a strong business relationship with several companies that are based in Japan. Thousands of people in Alabama have a job today thanks to that ongoing relationship. By building on those relationships and by discussing our positive business climate, we can further our goal of recruiting more jobs to Alabama.”
The head of the Toyota engine factory in Huntsville, Jim Bolte, accompanied the Alabama officials on their visit to the automaker’s headquarters. Bolte said, “Relationships are important in any business, but especially when it comes to global ones.”
Governor Bentley also met with Hiroyuki Ishige, the chairman and CEO of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), a group which promotes trade and investment. Bentley said, on Facebook, “ I met with Hiroyuki Ishige, Chairman & CEO of the Japan External Trade Organization. We discussed the automotive industry and opportunities for growth.”
Governor Bentley, Secretary Greg Canfield and the department’s Asia business development expert Hollie Pegg were shown Toyota innovations, including an experimental personal vehicle, hybrid cars and eco-friendly design and safety improvements.
Toyota announced in 2001 that it was building a $220 million, 325-worker engine plant in Huntsville. The facility has had four major expansions in 11 years, pushing the Alabama investment to $850 million and the workforce to nearly 1,200. The factory can produce 750,000 engines per year and can produced four-cylinder, six-cylinder, and eight-cylinder engines.
Bolte said, “We are very proud of our team members … their big efforts, and great results. It’s one of the main reasons we have continued to grow. Our partnership with AIDT (the state’s workforce development agency) has been stellar in this regard as well.”
On Tuesday, Governor Bentley and the Alabama team met with the president and CEO of Otsuka Holdings. Otsuka Holdings is the parent company of Pharmavite, which produces Nature Made vitamins in the United States. Pharmavite opened a $90 million, 240-worker plant in Opelika, Ala.
Numerous Japanese manufacturers have made Alabama their a U.S. base including: Honda and Toyota, HTNA in Jasper which produces carpet and interior trim products for automakers, Daikin Industries in Decatur which makes chemicals, and Toray which makes carbon and Teflon fibers in Decatur. More than 65 Japanese companies have operations in Alabama.
Since Honda announced that they were coming to Lincoln in Talladega County in 1999, Japanese companies have invested more than $4.4 billion in Alabama and have created more than 14,300 jobs. The Alabama Department of Commerce estimates that Alabama also exports $795 million worth of of goods to Japan annually.
This week, Governor Bentley will be in Biloxi, Miss., for the annual Southeastern U.S.-Japan Association (SEUS-Japan) conference, which connects top business, economic development and political leaders from the Southeast with delegates from Japanese companies. In fall 2015, the SEUS-Japan conference will be held in Birmingham.
To learn more about the Governor’s trip to Japan visit the Alabama Commerce affiliated website: