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Alabama-Japan partnership grows with new investment, jobs

MONTGOMERY, Alabama – Alabama is attracting new investment and job-creating projects from Japanese manufacturers as the relationship between the Asian economic powerhouse and the state continues to grow.

This week, Japan-based Asahi Kasei, which operates manufacturing facilities around the globe, held a groundbreaking ceremonyfor a $30 million plant in Athens that will produce plastic pellets for a variety of industrial applications. The company’s only other U.S. facility is in Michigan.

“Its decision to add a second U.S. plant and create up to 100 new jobs shows that Asahi Kasei has confidence in its Alabama partners and in the Alabama workforce,” Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield said. “All the agencies that worked on this project as part of the Alabama team will continue to support the company to make this endeavor a success.”

The Athens News Courier reported that Asahi Kasei President Yuji Kobayashi is already looking forward to expansion. Initial hiring is targeted at 40 workers, with long-range plans to increase that number to 100.

“The city of Athens is becoming a second hometown in America,” Kobayashi said in the newspaper’s report. “I believe the city of Athens can provide us with necessary resources to make this project successful, like good quality of workers and infrastructure and customers.”

Alabama has long been a prime target of Japanese investment. Since 1999, when Honda announced plans to build a $400 million plant in Lincoln to assemble Odyssey minivans, Japanese companies have invested more than $4.7 billion in Alabama.

Last year alone, 16 Japanese companies announced Alabama projects involving nearly $337 million in investment and 800 new jobs. Honda was one of those, investing $48.4 million in improvements to its Alabama facility, creating 60 jobs, according to Alabama Department of Commerce data.

In addition, Toyota announced $150 million in upgrades to its Huntsville engine plant, and auto supplier North American Lighting embarked on a $36 million expansion at is Muscle Shoals facility, adding 275 jobs.


Alabama officials, meanwhile, continue to build on relationships with Japanese trade officials and industry leaders.

Last November, for instance, Governor Robert Bentley led a trade mission to Japan that included high-level meetings with officials from companies including Toyota and Otsuka Holdings, which operates a Pharmavite vitamin plant in Opelika that announced a $16.5 million expansion in 2013.

In September, Secretary Canfield led an Alabama delegation that traveled to Tokyo for the annual meeting of the Southeast U.S./Japan Association and the Japan/Southeast U.S. Association, a venue for high-level talks and relationship-building. (Next year’s meeting is in Birmingham.)

While in Japan, the Alabama delegation met with companies in industry sectors ranging from automotive to pharmaceuticals, and from chemicals to biosciences.

“Over 70 Japanese companies have chosen to invest capital to operate in Alabama and to employ over 12,000 Alabama workers,” Secretary Canfield told Yellowhammer News. “The Japanese business culture places great emphasis on teamwork, quality, dedication and innovation.

“These Alabama-Japanese companies have found our state to be ideal as a right-to-work state; a state with a supportive governance and regulatory environment; a state whose workforce provides the dedication to quality, teamwork and innovation necessary to meet and exceed customer expectations; which all translates to market growth and success in the North American markets by choosing to locate in Alabama,” he added.

Read the Yellowhammer News story.

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