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Pine Bluff East: marketing office in Osaka will attempt to attract more Japanese companies to Jefferson County.

Within the next 60 days, the Jefferson County Industrial Foundation will open a branch office.

It will be 7,400 miles away.

It will be in Osaka, Japan.

Isn't that taking industrial recruitment to an extreme?

Wallace Gieringer, the foundation's president, doesn't think so.

He points to the success of Century Tube Corp., which opened a plant at Pine Bluff 13 years ago. Since then, the Japanese-owned company has expanded six times and now employs about 200 people.

More such Japanese investments are being sought.

"We needed a presence in Japan, preferably in Osaka," Gieringer says. "Osaka is the industrial center of Japan."

Gieringer predicted the opening of the office eventually could "create jobs, expand the tax base and increase purchases. That's what we're all about."

The Jefferson County Industrial Foundation will be the only U.S.-based economic development organization with an office in Osaka, a highly industrialized city of almost 14 million people.

Larger U.S. cities have opened offices in other areas of the Far East and Europe.

The idea for the office came from Matsuichi Nakamura, chairman of Century's parent company, Daiwa Steel Tube Industries Co. of Osaka. Daiwa is funding the foundation's trade office.

Nakamura had discussions with Gieringer about attracting other Japanese companies to Pine Bluff. In October, Gieringer traveled to Osaka to meet with several organizations willing to assist with the industrial recruiting effort.

During that visit, Nakamura suggested that a Pine Bluff marketing office be opened in Osaka with Daiwa's assistance.

"The success of Century Tube has demonstrated that Japanese companies can operate efficiently and profitably |in Arkansas~," Nakamura says. "Additionally, Pine Bluff has demonstrated that such companies and their Japanese personnel are readily accepted as a part of the community.

"This has been a good partnership for Daiwa and Century Tube. I believe it can be a good partnership for other companies as well."

Setting Up Shop

The office space and employees for the Osaka office will be provided by Daiwa. The industrial foundation will pick up nominal costs and provide economic data on the city, Gieringer says.

Promotional materials about the state and its natural resources will be provided by the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission.

Mariko Yajima, an advertising, public relations and marketing specialist, will manage the Osaka office. She will act as a liaison between the Far East and Pine Bluff, disseminate information about Jefferson County and contact Japanese corporations looking to expand.

Yajima recently returned to Osaka after spending almost two weeks in Pine Bluff.

"In the United States, we have various allies such as Arkansas Power & Light Co., the AIDC and other utilities |that assist in industrial recruitment~," Gieringer says. "In Japan, there are additional allies. We will be working with banks, which take a much more active role in plant location there; with industries; with economists."

Gieringer hopes to see results within two years.

"Industrial development is a long-term effort," he says. "You build upon a foundation. That's especially true in the Far East. Relationships there are built upon mutual trust and understanding. The mutual trust exists with Daiwa. They are a walking testimonial for Pine Bluff and Arkansas."
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Author:Webb, Kane
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Jul 13, 1992
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