The Alliance Working in Alabama

Japanese economic investments in Alabama continue to play a pivotal role in moving Alabama forward. With over 174 Japanese owned or affiliated firms already in Alabama, Japanese companies are continuing to invest in Alabama. In addition to the investments Japanese companies have made in Alabama in terms of establishing new business operations, they have also invested heavily in the communities they now call home. Honorary Consul General of Japan Mark Jackson explains it best, the single largest one-time Japanese investment in the U.S. occurred when Daichi purchased a Birmingham life insurance company for $5.7 billion and more companies have followed suit including Mazda-Toyota which recently completed a $1.6 billion investment in Huntsville, AL.

The East-West Center in Washington’s Japan Matters for America publication details the many ways that the Alabama-Japan relationship continues to grow in other sectors as well, as five Alabama cities enjoy sister city relationships with Japanese cities, including the Tuscaloosa-Narashino relationship which began in 1954, Japanese gardens are maintained in eight locales, and the Japan-America of Alabama provides opportunities throughout the state for enriching the Alabama-Japan relationship.

As Alabama continues to be the destination for Japanese businesses to establish their headquarters, Sasakawa USA traveled to the Huntsville, AL, the Silicon Valley of the South, from April 25-26, 2022, to hold a public panel discussion on the importance of the U.S.-Japan relationship on U.S. and Alabama economic interests and the opportunities for increased Japanese investment throughout Alabama.



April 26, 2022 | Huntsville, AL | U.S. Japan Cooperation and Economic Legacy

Sasakawa USA co-sponsored a public panel discussion at the Redstone Federal Credit Union Atrium in Huntsville, AL, in partnership with Global Ties Alabama. The featured panelists included Mr. Mark Brazeal, Vice President of Administration, Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA, Inc; Ms. Emma Chanlett-Avery, Specialist in Asian Affairs, Congressional Research Service; The Hon. Paul Finley, Mayor of the City of Madison, AL; and Mr. Kenji Kunimoto, Treasurer, Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Alabama. Ms. Shanti Shoji, Director of Programs, Sasakawa USA, moderated the discussion. Panelists discussed why Northern Alabama continues to attract Japanese businesses to establish operations in the area, what their presence means for the community, and the wider U.S.-Japan relationship. This event was held as part of The Alliance Working in America (TAWA) series.

The event began with a welcome address by Ms. Jacquelyn Shipe, CEO of Global Ties Alabama. Ms. Shipe draws on her wealth of experience in a variety of sectors including work for the World Bank Group to lead Global Ties Alabama by coordinating international exchange programs that bring people from all over the world to Alabama. The Hon. Mark Jackson, Honorary Consul General of Japan for Alabama then presented introductory remarks on Alabama-Japan relations, including the deep impact Japanese FDI provides to the people of Alabama, and efforts throughout the state to enrich the relationship further.


Ms. Shoji then began the discussion by briefly introducing the panelists and having Ms. Chanlett-Avery provide information on current U.S.-Japan topics and future outlook for cooperation. Mayor Finley then explained the impact of Japanese investment in Northern Alabama, particularly in Madison and Huntsville and his role as Mayor in facilitating greater opportunities for Japanese companies. Mr. Brazeal and Mr. Kunimoto took turns discussing their respective organizations, Mazda Toyota and Toyota, and how they have impacted the community as well as opportunities for growth. During Q&A, one audience member asked about increasing Japanese investment in Alabama’s more impoverished areas, specifically the “Black Belt” region which has seen limited investment. Panelists then had a discussion on what brings companies to Northern Alabama, and that the presence of Redstone Arsenal and NASA have really driven increased investment. In order to increase investment in other areas, they explained that the State of Alabama needed to take a bigger role in increasing investment in the Black Belt region. Other topics of discussion in the Q&A included future investment in Alabama and Huntsville/Madison community specific questions.

Please see the below for photos of the event.


*All times indicated in Central Time.

11:15 am – 11:30 am | Registration and Reception

11:30 am – 12:00 pm | Welcome Remarks and Lunch is served

12:00 pm – 1:15 pm | Panel Discussion

1:15 pm – 1:30 pm | Closing Remarks and Conclusion of Event


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