Miki Nakamura returned last month from a trip to Japan and, despite what the country's poor economy might suggest, it's still an opportune time for U.S. companies to develop business relationships in the region, she said.
"Because the economy is bad, people tend to save their money more, but that doesn't mean they won't buy anything," said Nakamura, director of the USA-Japan Trade Expansion Center in Pensacola, Fla. "There's a change of lifestyle there. People are tending to do more outdoor sports. Ventura County has a lot of outdoor sports [companies] and that could be a growing area of product or service."
Nakamura will stress the still-viable Japanese business opportunities--in the outdoors industry and elsewhere--when she conducts a seminar at the Trade Expansion Center in Ventura on March 26. The seminar will be co-sponsored by the Center for International Trade Development at Oxnard College.
Nakamura and Kenji Nishida, director of the international division of the Osaka, Japan, Chamber of Commerce and Industry, will be trying to attract business owners interested in joining an export trade mission to Osaka in October.
The trip will coincide with Osaka's Global Business Opportunities Convention, one of Japan's major annual international trade shows. The cost to participate is $3,700 per person, plus additional individual marketing expenses.
"It's a good opportunity, specifically for small- and medium- sized companies," Nakamura said. "We do prearranged meetings for companies to meet with potential buyers. We take care of the main obstacles like the lack of proper introduction and resources like market research."
The USA--Japan Trade Expansion Center, established under the Florida Small Business Development Center, has led seven annual tours to Osaka. It collects participants through seminars in about half a dozen sites throughout the United States.
Along with the Oxnard stop, the seminar tour will hit Fayetteville, Ark.; New Orleans; Orlando, Fla.; Atlanta and San Jose.
"As long as we know there is a market out there for businesses, we will help them," Nakamura said. "The place we are going is in the Kansai region of Japan, and Osaka is the biggest city. Most of the main imported goods are food, machinery, high tech and medical care."
Michael Caress, manager of the Oxnard-based regional Center for International Trade, said that the export mission offers great potential for Ventura County businesses and the community at large.
"Trade shows in general are probably one of the best ways to reach a foreign market--there will be buyers, manufacturers and distributors from all over the world," he said. "For a market like Japan you almost have to be there to develop a [business relationship]. A lot of it is based on cultural perceptions, how much effort you are willing to make."
Caress said that Ventura County businesses in the fields of electronics, computer peripherals, medicine, biotechnology, building products, and marine products and services could potentially benefit from such contacts. And as a result, he said, so would the local economy.
"For every $50,000 we export out of this county, we generate one job," he said. "We have to generate almost twice that domestically to create one job."