The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

COMMITTEE | INITIATIVE

MARCH 2015

Cities Targeted for FDI

Furusato Project aims to boost bilateral US–Japan investment

By Alyssa Smith

In an effort to build on the success of the first SelectUSA Summit in November 2013, and to further encourage economic integration between the United States and Japan, the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) Globalization and Labor Diversity Committee is working with the Commercial Section of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo and the U.S. Consulate in Osaka to launch the Furusato Project.

A key aspect of the project is the utilization of personal connections to encourage mutually beneficial relationships.

To add a human touch, the committee is encouraging ACCJ members to serve as advocates and liaisons for their US hometowns by connecting potential Japanese travelers, investors, and businesses to their furusato (towns).

Two long-term objectives of the project are to increase the comfort level for Japanese companies looking to invest in the United States, and to encourage US companies to invest in Japan. This exciting new initiative will match Japanese companies with US towns that would greatly benefit from foreign investment.
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To further enhance opportunities for the Japan delegation to the upcoming SelectUSA Investment Summit, the Furusato Project will allow Japanese companies to visit their matched US towns, guided by liaisons well acquainted with local opportunities and incentives.

The 2015 summit is a special opportunity to bring Japanese companies and institutions together with representatives from various US locales. The summit will take place March 23–24, near Washington D.C., and will be hosted by the White House.

Following the success of the inaugural summit in 2013, this year’s event will draw some 2,500 participants representing US economic development organizations, state and local governments, and domestic and international companies looking to establish and grow operations in the United States. In 2013, Japan had the second-largest delegation.

The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo expects 50 Japanese companies to attend this year, twice as many as in 2013. The presence of Japanese companies offers the ACCJ and the Furusato Project a distinct opportunity to bolster economic ties.

Target towns
In the weeks leading up to the summit, the Globalization Committee will target three to five US hometowns, with populations of between 200,000 and 600,000, that have cutting-edge industries in their communities.

These hometowns will be championed by “hometown advocates,” professionals based in Japan who will coordinate with the Commercial Section of the U.S. Embassy, as well as local liaisons from each US furusato.

Together, they will identify Japanese companies to recruit for the summit, identify meaningful reasons for those companies to visit a target town, and provide commercial support to local liaisons on how to encourage the Japanese companies to visit their town before or after the summit.

Once hometown advocates match their towns with specific Japanese companies, designated local liaisons will be responsible for identifying local businesses interested in meeting the Japanese visitors and leading informative tours that effectively showcase the assets of the town.

Some towns will offer financial incentives, while others will provide key infrastructure. It is important for the advocate and the local liaison to facilitate the gathering of this information.

The Globalization and Labor Diversity Committee is looking into opportunities of all sizes and scopes, as well as in all industries, to maximize mutually beneficial matches between US towns and Japanese companies.

The Furusato Project began with a case study in Buffalo, New York, when committee Chair Bryan Norton identified his hometown as a prime candidate for foreign investment. Buffalo has significantly opened up for foreign investment in recent years.

In 2012, Toshiba Corporation invested $15 million to expand its world-renowned Toshiba Stroke & Vascular Research Center, located on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, a consortium of the region’s premier health care, life sciences research, and medical education institutions. Meanwhile, Solar Frontier, a thin-film solar company owned by Showa Shell, has entered into negotiations with New York State and is undertaking due diligence to build a plant in the city.

Acting as a hometown advocate, Norton pinpointed the Ross Eye Institute, the Hauptman-Woodward Institute, the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, and the Toshiba Stroke Research Center as educational institutions representing a cutting-edge medical research industry.

Government and business organizations such as the Buffalo Niagara Enterprise and the U.S. Commercial Service were contacted and invited to support the project.

The SelectUSA Summit is an opportunity to expand the Furusato effort by identifying other communities with innovative technology ripe for investment. Albany and Salt Lake City, US hometowns with burgeoning industries, have shown interest in joining the project.

Albany will host a delegation of Japanese visitors interested in expanding their business in nanotechnology. The city is home to the SUNY Polytechnic Institute Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering’s NanoTech Complex, run by CEO and Professor of Nanoscience Alain E. Kaloyeros.

While SelectUSA is focused on aggressively seeking foreign investors that will bring their businesses to America, the main objective of the Furusato Project is to foster relationships that will encourage investment in both Japan and the United States.
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Alyssa Smith is a writer and project coordinator at T-Mark Inc.

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The Globalization and Labor Diversity Committee will target three to five US hometowns.