OSAKA — Rather than compete with Osaka as a business center, Kobe should be rebuilt as a city that offers a pleasant living environment, and priority should be given to economic development of the bay area, according to Isao Nakauchi, chairman, president and CEO of Daiei Corp.

Since the Great Hanshin Earthquake over two years ago, many foreign businesses and consulates have left Kobe for Osaka. In an effort to lure businesses back, officials are promoting a Kobe airport and Hyogo Phoenix Plan, which calls for revitalizing the area by attracting international investment through the establishment of foreign enterprise zones.

But even before the earthquake, it was clear that Osaka was the business center of the Kansai region, Nakauchi told a Mar. 18 meeting of the Kansai Press Club. “The American Consulate-General used to be located in Kobe, but moved to Osaka when it was clear that was where the business was,” he said. “Kobe officials should rebuild the city so that it is a comfortable place for the international community to live.”

Nakauchi also said it is important to think about how to develop the Kobe bay area and determine what the roles of the three airports — Itami, Kansai International, and the new Kobe airport, which is expected to open in 2004 about 3 km from Port Island — should be. “Osaka is developing its bay area as a potential site for the Summer Olympics in 2008,” he said. “Kobe also has to think about how to develop its bay area.”

But not only foreign residents and businesses have left the area. “There are reports that some 100,000 people have left Kobe. There’s no point in rebuilding the city as a center of heavy industry,” Nakauchi said.

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