Yokohama Welcomes Apple after Panasonic


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The mayor of Yokohama in Japan announced last week that Apple will open a new advanced R&D center in that city next year. Mayor Fumiko Hayashi told reporters the R&D center could be the largest overseas facility for Apple and will be a one of a kind scientific park. The complex will include not only a huge R&D building, but also a residential building or utility area. The city of Yokohama is hoping Apple’s new facility will generate new job opportunities for high-tech engineers and researchers, as well as funnel many Yens into the local economy.

The location of Yokohama is just south of Tokyo, less than a half hour ride by train.  Yokohama’s history is not as deep as other cities in Japan.  About 150 years ago it was a very rural village dotted with a few cottages for fishermen. The area became popular after Matthew Calbraith Perry, a commander of the United States Navy, visited Japan 1853 with four warships.   The Perry Expedition and it resulted in the opening of Japan to America and international trade. Prior to this, Japan’s trade was limited to just two countries - the Dutch and Chinese.  Historically, it is called “Kuro-Fune Shock” for old Shogun Government. Kuro-Fune means black ship, and was named this because the color of the navy’s frigates was black with steam locomotive engines.  After the Kuro-Fune Shock, Japan was changed forever.  Everything changed – people’s life, culture, politics, the economy, education, industry and more.

During the next century and a half, the city of Yokohama changed remarkably. It is now home to more than five million people and is Japan’s second largest city after Tokyo.  Because Yokohama is a relatively young city, its culture is more modern compared with Tokyo or Osaka.

The site for Apple’s R&D center is a huge parcel in Yokohama. It was previously the manufacturing home for Panasonic. Panasonic fell on hard times and terminated their operations at this site a couple of years ago.  The buildings were razed and the land sold to a broker. The city of Yokohama suffered a great financial loss as their tax base shrunk and the local economy took a big hit.

Yokohama is welcoming Apple’s plan for the new facility!  The new R&D center will be home to many new advanced technologies that could be life changing. State of art equipment will be installed for the technical center, and the energy consumption will be reduced more than 40% because the buildings will be environmentally friendly. Several thousand trees will be planted and the whole area will be covered by an ecological green color. Yokohama is pleased to introduce the next generation science town.

A few Japanese people are concerned with some negative effects from Apple’s plan.  The new R&D center will employ several thousand engineers and researchers. Many employees working for other electronics companies may consider a career move over to Apple.  This could cripple some companies; let’s face it, the major asset for most of these companies are their employees.   It could be a devastating blow for some of these Japanese electronics companies that have suffered though one of the worst recessions.  They are afraid of new “Kuro-Fune Shock in the 21st Century.

Dominique K. Numakura, dnumakura@dknresearch.com  

DKN Research, www.dknresearchllc.com  

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