The Mountain States comprise a region of breathtaking beauty where the splendor of nature is on full display. More than two centuries after the first westward migrations, the region remains the embodiment of the pioneering spirit that characterizes the United States.
What were once trading outposts in rugged and untamed territories have become thriving cities and urban centers at the forefront of innovation and sustainable growth. In the 21st century, the Mountain States, which include Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, still attract pioneering investors from around the world.
Capitalizing on a long-running trade relationship with Japan, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis headed a five-day trade mission in March to Japan, the state’s sixth-largest export partner. The visit also coincided with the 10th anniversary of the first direct flight between Denver International Airport and Narita International Airport.
“They put together an excellent program for the delegates. I think we all learned a lot about so many Colorado-Japan connections that I had no idea existed,” said Japan America Society of Colorado Executive Director Claudine Locascio, who joined the trade delegation and cited the biotech and life sciences as examples of U.S.-Japanese cooperation.
“Biotech, bioscience and clean energy are important sectors in Colorado. Terumo Blood and Cell Technologies is the largest Japanese employer in the state,” Locascio added.
Opening its first office nearly six decades ago, Terumo Blood and Cell Technologies has focused primarily on the improvement of patient care.
“Our priorities are centered on the patients that we serve. What we do is tied more to what will make a difference to the patient population with blood donation, other treatment options and access to therapy. This is generally what we focus on as we understand they are among the superiorities of Terumo,” said Terumo BCT Head of Global Corporate Communications Claudia Formiga.
“As a company, we are going to reach 60 years in Colorado. We have an important footprint in Colorado. We are one of the biggest private companies in the state and the biggest private company in Lakewood,” Formiga added.
Facing a global economy that prioritizes sustainable growth, the city of Craig, once the heart of Colorado’s coal-mining industry, is looking to develop an innovative eco-friendly renewable energy source: clean coal.
“Because of its high volatility and low sulfur content, the coal mined in Craig is some of the best in the world. As the state of Colorado plans to have 100% renewable energy by 2040, and with plans to shut down Craig (coal-burning) Station, local leaders are strategizing how to market our coal to other countries that continue to rely on coal-burning power plants as their main source of energy production.
With some of the highest Btu (British thermal unit) content, the quality of the coal found in the mountains surrounding Craig is some of the best in the world,” said Craig Economic Development Manager Shannon Scott.
In New Mexico, the pursuit of clean energy has broken new barriers, particularly in aviation.
“There’s a company based at ABQ Sunport’s Aviation Center of Excellence called Universal Hydrogen, which very recently launched the first successful test flight of a hydrogen-powered commercial aircraft. The Dash 800 regional jet flew on a dual system utilizing both hydrogen and aviation fuel to power its engines. During the flight, they flew strictly on hydrogen,” said Sunport Innovation and Commercial Development Manager Manny Manriquez.
Meanwhile, Arizona is experiencing an economic boom that surpasses the other 49 states. According to The American Legislative Exchange Council’s Rich States, Poor States 2022 rankings, the state had the best-performing economy, thanks largely to the efforts of the Arizona Commerce Authority.
“Arizona is experiencing unprecedented economic growth and delivering increasing economic opportunities to residents across the state. With a reputation as the premier destination to do business, Arizona continues to attract global companies in high-wage industries such as advanced manufacturing, life sciences, technology and more,” said ACA President and CEO Sandra Watson.
Among the biggest drivers of economic growth in the state is the American-Japanese partnership in the semiconductor industry.
“Arizona is a fast-growing state and very much looks forward to more collaboration with Japanese businesses. Phoenix is a sister city to Himeji. The Greater Phoenix Economic Council has been very helpful in supporting Japanese businesses. The semiconductor sector is very important, not only economically, but also strategically. The Japan-U.S. collaboration in the semiconductor industry is very critical for our future businesses as well as security,” said Consul General of Japan in Los Angeles Kenko Sone.
Arizona’s third-most-populous county, Pinal County, has become a hotbed of the semiconductor sector in the middle of the state.
“There have been announcements of an $850 million expansion related to the semiconductor supply chain industry. We are seeing that spillover effect as Pinal County becomes more part of the Phoenix metro region in terms of interconnectivity. Our partners will find that everyone is pulling together in the same direction and wants to see our economy grow here,” said Pinal County Director of Economic Development James P. Smith.
Arizona’s central location in the region has also made the state an ideal transit point in the semiconductor industry supply chain.
“With all this semiconductor expansion going on, we’re ripe for the supply chain, whether you’re a first-tier or second-tier supplier. We’ve created the Elliott Road Tech Corridor and the Pecos Advanced Manufacturing Zone to invest in infrastructure and cut entitlement risk. Those developments have been very positive for us,” said William Jabjiniak, the recently retired director of Mesa Economic Development.
To the northwest, Nevada is building further on its existing relationship with Japan, both on the economic and cultural fronts.
“In Nevada, Japan is the sixth-largest importer of products. We export electronics and other products to Nevada. Exports from Asia to Nevada are increasing. Also, Japan is the largest investor in the production background in Nevada. We are the largest job creation country in Nevada in terms of production,” said Yasushi Noguchi, former consul general of Japan in San Francisco.
“And speaking of Japanese and American residents, there are 4,000 Japanese in Nevada and 30,000 Japanese-Americans living in Nevada. I would also like to point out that in these 20 years, the number of Japanese-Americans has increased significantly,” said Noguchi, whose office also oversees Nevada.