A Massachusetts entrepreneur is delighted to have gained access, at no expense, to the Japanese market, often described as closed to foreign products.
"Trans Pacific Connection gives me a market I couldn't reach," said Arthur Metzger, the entrepreneur, whose Smart Aim Co. recently reached broad agreement with a large Japanese firm to license production there of an innovative noise and thermal insulation material for housing wall systems and other applications.
Metzger had been looking for licensees. But he said: "I'm nervous and I would not have gotten my company to (the attention of) financial people."
Trans Pacific Connection is a New York division of Japan's Shin-Nihon Kohan Co., which early this year began introducing promising North American products to Japanese firms by means of a monthly magazine and arranged deals between potential U.S. and Japanese partners.
The introduction and arrangement service involves no charge to American firms. The magazine costs a Japanese corporate subscriber $225 a year.
Trans Pacific gets substantial consulting service fees only if specific business deals are reached between North American and Japanese partners.
Hideo Ohkubo, president of Shin-Nihon, said: "Trans Pacific has turned out far more successful than expected." In only six months, as many as 45 deals emerged for negotiations between U.S. and Japanese firms, he said.
The magazine, Success Sensor, displayed more than 200 U.S. products between April and October and about 10 deals are expected to be clinched by early next year, he said.
Besides Smart Aim, an inventor of sophisticated golf clubs has gotten a Japanese partner who sells them by mail order in Japan. Import into Japan is handled by Shin-Nihon.
A New Jersey company is negotiating with a Japanese firm to export pretzel manufacturing technology and franchises. Another Japanese firm is considering introducing American-made space-saving interlocking containers.
Ohkubo, 32, devised the new business after making his firm Japan's top business telephone leasing company in one year after its founding in 1980.
He said his leasing business helped him identify his Japanese corporate clients' strong hope for diversification in the saturated Japanese market and department stores' demand for new products. Then, when he visited the United States in May, 1985, Ohkubo said, he found that American ventures were developing new products that could meet Japanese requirements.
Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, under strong American pressure, had urged Japanese people and corporations to buy more American goods to cut Japan's snowballing trade surpluses with the United States. Also, appreciation of the Japanese yen had made American imports into Japan cheaper.
"The circumstances warranted my idea and prompted me to start the new business early this year," Ohkubo said.
Trans Pacific's New York office collects product information through a toll-free number, trade associations, federal and state agencies and others. Producers of promising goods are interviewed for the magazine.
Trans Pacific now covers mainly the U.S. East Coast, but plans to set up a Los Angeles office next year and another office in Chicago or Dallas later to reach as many U.S. and Canadian companies as it can.
Ohkubo said he places great hope in the American entrepreneur who can turn out new products to sell in Japan. "We can help small American ventures get access to the Japanese market with time and money saved."
Each deal coming out of his business may be too small to affect the large U.S.-Japan trade imbalance, Ohkubo said. "But small deals could pile up to produce a significant result."