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The Big Picture San Diego Blog


WTC San Diego goes global: telling San Diego's innovation story in Japan

February 4, 2016

By Nikia Clarke, director of World Trade Center San Diego
 
Konichiwa from Osaka!
 
Given the deep linkages between our regions, it is fitting that the World Trade Center San Diego 2016 calendar of trade and investment activities begins with a targeted focus on Japan. Sean Barr sent his reflections from Tokyo last week, where he was supporting a UC San Diego Technology Symposium and representing our region at an international nanotechnology and robotics show.
 
And this week I am traveling across the country with SelectUSA, the federal government’s foreign investment attraction agency. Japan is the second largest source of foreign direct investment to the United States, and more than 800,000 Americans are employed by US subsidiaries of Japanese firms. San Diego is a microcosm of this larger relationship, with companies like Takeda, Kyocera, Ajinomoto, and Murata employing thousands of San Diegans.  
 
On Monday we kicked off the Roadshow in Tokyo with HE Caroline Kennedy, Ambassador to Japan; Ambassador Vinai Thummalapally, Select USA Executive Director; and Mr. Tatsuhiro Shindo, Executive Vice President of JETRO for the signing of an historic MOI. We then moved on to Nagoya and Osaka, meeting with groups of potential investors at each stop.  
 

Representatives from the head offices of Japanese companies that have made long term investments in our region joined me on the road. Their eagerness to support our efforts here and tell their own San Diego story to their peers is a testament to the deep ties between our two economies.
 
In Tokyo, Toshitake Kobayashi from Takeda Pharmaceuticals joined me to speak to the group of 200 potential investors about how collaboration between Takeda California and Takeda Japan drives innovation in drug discovery for the firm as a whole. This is why Takeda closed its Bay Area facility and consolidated operations in San Diego. Takeda is Asia’s largest drug manufacturer, employing more than 30,000 people worldwide.
 
This emphasis on innovation was echoed by Naoki Sekizawa from Denso, a global manufacturer of parts and technology for every major auto maker from Toyota to GM. He explained to a group of 60 investors in Nagoya that Denso’s operations in Vista – located along the 78 corridor – remain the multinational’s North American research headquarters because of the talented workforce available in ‘telecom valley.’ 
 
Naoki Mori, from Nitto Denko, a water technology company that acquired Oceanside firm Hydranautics in 1987, joined me in Osaka to share his perspective on the advantages of our region. He emphasized the premier universities and research institutions as we spoke to another packed room of over 100 investors interested in the US market. 
 
Three companies from diverse industries delivering the same message: San Diego’s innovation ecosystem – with its strong research institutions and top-tier talent - is a world-class asset. And yet, it is clear that in terms of maximizing these assets, we could be doing more. Out of over a dozen states and metros participating in the roadshow, San Diego is the only one without a Japan trade office staffed with dedicated investment personnel. 
 
Our investors and partners have done tremendous work over the last few years to generate a comprehensive trade and investment plan for the region. And our Port, Airport and City are driving the execution of that plan through the revitalization of World Trade Center San Diego. That kind of regional coalition building is both rare and formidable, and for that we are grateful. 
 
So you will be hearing much more about Japan in the coming months, as we prepare to host several incoming delegations of Japanese companies in advanced industries. And you will also be hearing from Auckland, Sydney, London, Toulon, and Stockholm, as we work to grow exports to, investment from, and relationships with the markets that matter most to San Diego’s growth, prosperity and resilience.
 
Big thanks and kanpai to the San Diego leadership of Takeda, Denso, and Hydranautics for coordinating support on the road, and for the language lessons too.