Historic Georgetown, Kentucky claims to be the first place where Kentucky bourbon whiskey was produced. Today, this town just north of Lexington has another claim to fame: it’s one of the state’s fastest-growing economies and a prime example of how foreign direct investment can spur U.S. economic growth and generate employment.
Japanese companies play an integral role in Kentucky’s economy. In 1988, the first Camry rolled off the line at Toyota's largest North American vehicle manufacturing plant in Georgetown. The new plant generated 7,000 jobs, transforming the community.
“Japanese investment in Georgetown-Scott County ... has been magnanimous to say the least,” said Jack Conner, Executive Director of the Georgetown-Scott County Chamber of Commerce. “We have been able to establish great relationships with our Japanese partners as well as use their expertise to retain, expand, and grow our own group of businesses.”
Georgetown’s population has grown from about 11,000 to more than 30,000 people, and Toyota’s success has attracted many more Japanese companies to the region. Six Japanese companies subsequently established operations in nearby Marion County, generating 2,000 jobs and creating more diverse communities in the area.
The 174 Japanese businesses now operating in Kentucky have created more than 41,000 jobs alone, according to the office of Kentucky Governor Steven Beshear, and have invested more than $2.3 billion in the state.
“During my many visits to Japan, I have been impressed with how we share common goals of mutual goodwill, economic development and prosperity,” Beshear said.
"Japanese investment in Georgetown-Scott County…has been magnanimous to say the least. We have been able to establish great relationships with our Japanese partners as well as use their expertise to retain, expand, and grow our own group of businesses." — Jack Connor Executive Director of the Georgetown-Scott County Chamber of Commerce
Kentucky offers a prime example of how Japanese foreign direct investments can invigorate communities throughout the United States. Today, some 3,000 Japanese companies operate in the US, generating (directly and indirectly) 1.7 million jobs and $580 billion in cumulative output, according to the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren).
The US-Japan economic relationship will continue to thrive under the new global trade agenda. The recently passed Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) paves the way for the conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the broad-reaching trade deal that President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe both say will strengthen U.S. and Japanese global economic influence and spur opportunities throughout Asia. During a joint news conference with Mr. Abe at the White House in April, Mr. Obama said TPP will be “good for the workers of both our countries.”
“By working together as we are, we can help establish mutually beneficial trade architecture in the Asia-Pacific region,” said James Fatheree, president of the U.S.-Japan Business Council and executive director of Japan and Korea for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Higher standards will enable our economies to grow and will over time accelerate the growth in the Asia-Pacific economies.”
Republican Senator Orrin Hatch has been bullish on the passage of TPA. “With Trade Promotion Authority back in our trade arsenal, we can continue as the premier leader on global trade and open more international markets,” he said in a recent statement. “These new opportunities will mean better jobs, bigger paychecks, and a healthier economy here at home.”
Japanese auto manufacturers such as Toyota, Honda, and Nissan are key drivers of these opportunities. Seventy-four percent of Japanese vehicles sold in the U.S. are manufactured in North America, and Japanese automakers employ more than 457,700 people through direct operations and dealerships, according to the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, Inc.
In addition to the automotive industry, Japanese companies maintain a vital presence across many industries, including pharmaceuticals, gaming, entertainment, retail, and others.
“Corporate citizenship is deeply embedded in the culture of Sony,” said Mark Khalil, president of the Sony USA Foundation Inc. and executive vice president, general counsel and secretary of Sony Corporation of America. “We have been dedicated to assisting local communities, fostering better educational systems, supporting the arts and culture, helping disadvantaged youth, protecting and improving the environment and encouraging employee volunteerism.”
Japanese corporations like Sony not only bring thousands of jobs to the U.S., but also support their communities through philanthropic initiatives, many of which are highlighted at this link.