by: Melissa Maguire, Manager of International Engagement, Dallas Regional Chamber
The recent announcement of Panasonic Automotive System’s new 15,000-square-foot office in The Colony reaffirms the notion that Japanese companies are taking note of what is happening in Texas, and more specifically, here in the Dallas Region. Panasonic Automotive Systems Company of America provides support systems for Toyota Motor North America, which recently opened its new North American headquarters in Plano.
Panasonic’s move is part of a larger picture: In 2016 alone, more than $4.1 billion in total annual trade occurred between Dallas-Fort Worth and Japan, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Japan is the region’s third-largest trading partner, the department reports.
Toyota’s consolidation of its North American operations to Plano has spiked the number of Japanese companies moving to the region and as well as the number enquiring about Dallas-Fort Worth. Japanese interest in the Dallas Region is not limited just to companies following Toyota to Texas. Over the past few years, companies including Makita, NTT Data, Oki Data, Central Japan Railway Company, and Kubota Tractor Corp. have established new headquarters, distribution centers, and support offices in the region to support their U.S. and North American operations.
The uptick in Japan-related activity is reflected in the DRC international department’s daily workload. At the time of this blog’s writing, there were three Japan-related events scheduled for the week – all after-hours networking receptions featuring guests from Japan visiting the Dallas Region with specific goals related to establishing a new presence or relationship here. The abundance of Japanese visitors has led us to joke affectionately, “Every week is Japan Week.”
Japanese companies, their executives, their expat employees, and their families are walking into a supportive community when they decide to establish a presence in the Dallas Region, which has more than 265 Japanese parent companies operating more than 350 subsidiary entities in North Texas.
Several support groups are helping Japanese companies and their employees acclimatize to the region. The Dallas Japanese Association provides business leaders and individuals with networking opportunities both in social and in professional settings. The local Japanese-language school offers Saturday school for more than 550 dual-language students. Mitsuwa Marketplace, a Japanese supermarket that opened in early 2017, continues to bring the flavors of Japan to Plano; Mitsuwa serves as the anchor of the surrounding Japanese Food Hall, a shopping center which includes specialty stores full of Japanese baked goods, imported teas, ramen, books, toys, etc.
Earlier this year, the DRC’s international engagement team embarked on a mission to Japan with a small group of economic developers and DRC members to promote the Dallas Region to Japanese manufacturers, bankers, real estate developers, and other influential individuals, such as Gov. Hideaki Ohmura of Aichi Prefecture. Aichi Prefecture has been referred to as “the Texas of Japan,” acting as a strong economic engine for Japan, particularly in automotive and other industrial sectors. (Gov. Ohmura repaid the visit in May, when he sat down for a closed roundtable discussion with DRC members and Tomorrow Fund investors.)
Plans to return to Japan for the U.S.-Japan Council Annual Conference in Tokyo are already in the works. The November 2018 trip will allow the DRC to represent the Dallas Region to a large, concentrated population of Japanese business executives and elected officials. Preceding the Thursday-Friday conference will be three days of business meetings in which the DRC will pay special attention to existing relationships, as well as make introductions to develop new partnerships abroad.
Between now and our November touchdown in Tokyo, a series of Japan-related events have been planned in the Dallas Region.
Aug. 6 saw the visit of six Japanese companies to the region for two days of site tours and informational sessions. The companies represented the restaurant industry, including ramen and other traditional Japanese cuisines.
The next major event is the J-GoodTech matchmaking visit scheduled for Sept. 24-25. A small group of Japanese companies – predominantly small and medium-sized companies looking to expand to the U.S. – will visit the Dallas Region with support from the Japanese government. Their common goal is to meet and match with potential buyers, distributors, suppliers, and partners. J-GoodTech, a sort of dating website for companies looking to connect with other companies abroad, is the tool that will allow the connections to happen online before and after the delegation’s visit to Dallas. U.S.-based companies looking to find specific goods or services in Asia can also use the J-GoodTech website to create a profile and initiate a search, receiving translation assistance as potential partners discover the company’s listing.
Japanese companies currently slated to visit the Dallas Region as part of the J-GoodTech delegation deal in metal products and fabrication; industrial machinery; electrical equipment; medical equipment; and chemicals. Their products have potential applications in the industries of medical and life sciences; automotive manufacturing; food and beverage packaging; and more. Companies in the Dallas Region interested in meeting with the visiting companies should contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Following the J-GoodTech is the scheduled Symposium on Asia-Pacific Economic Integration, organized by the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), and co-organized by the DRC and the Japan-America Society of Dallas/Fort Worth. The symposium will be held on Friday, Oct. 12 and will feature a panel discussion on Chinese trade policy, U.S.-Japan relations, and other topics in economics, foreign affairs, and international business. More details about the symposium will be provided as they become available.
In short, the DRC’s international engagement team has been working hard in its ongoing efforts to support Japanese expansion, entrance and enquiries into the Dallas Region. DRC members and Tomorrow Fund investors interested in supporting company or delegation visits to the region should contact me at the above-listed email address to be kept informed about all Japan- and international-related activities.