Walworth Factory Celebrates
45 Years in Wisconsin
Prosperous Relationship with Local Community Continues
• Japan’s major soy sauce maker Kikkoman celebrated the
45th anniversary of its plant in Walworth, Wisconsin on June 8 at The
Abbey Resort in the neighboring city of Fontana. The ceremony was preceded
by a press conference and a forum, the sixth Wisconsin-U.S.-Japan Economic
Development Conference, to discuss economic perspectives in the future.
• Approximately 540 guests joined the celebration, which
was hosted by Kikkoman Corporation in Japan and its U.S. subsidiary, Kikkoman
Foods, Inc. In addition to Yuzaburo Mogi, Kikkoman Corporation’s Honorary
CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors, the celebration was attended
by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. Shinsuke
Sugiyama, and Consul General in Chicago Naoki Ito, as well as prominent
local business leaders and educators.
• Kikkoman began marketing its flagship product in the
U.S. in 1957 as a new type of seasoning. Soon, to meet the soaring demand,
the company started to look for a location for a production plant in the
U.S. After an extensive search, Walworth was selected as Kikkoman’s first
overseas production base for its convenient location, ability to supply
high-quality clean water, plenty of soybeans, and excellent work force.
The Walworth factory began production in 1973.
• Construction of more production plants overseas followed,
including those in the Netherlands, Singapore, Taiwan and China, as well
as in the state of California. Today, Kikkoman brand products are sold
in more than 100 countries, accounting for 60% of total sales and 70%
of operating profit.
• During the press conference, Mogi announced that $600,000
in scholarship funds will be provided by Kikkoman to six local high schools
in commemoration of the anniversary. The scholarship will benefit the
graduating seniors in their pursuit of higher education and career development.
• So far, Kikkoman has donated some millions of dollars
to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and other local institutions.
At the time of its 40th anniversary in 2013, the company donated $1 million
to the university’s laboratory for water quality research.
• In his welcome remarks, Mogi thanked the Walworth community
and the state of Wisconsin for their “strong support” over the past 45
years. The partnership that has developed has been precious, and he was
“delighted to be able to support deserving students” in the local community.
• Mogi was also honored to sponsor the tripartite conference that day,
and noted that the global economy issue is critical for a success of Kikkoman,
which operates in more than 100 countries.
• Governor Walker congratulated Kikkoman’s successful
45 years in Wisconsin, as well as Mogi’s “tremendous leadership” in his
roles as the chairman of the Japan-U.S. Governors Association and the
Midwest U.S.-Japan Association. “We appreciate the positive impact of
Kikkoman on Wisconsin as well as the Midwest and nation of Japan,” he
• Growing up in Delavan, near Walworth, Walker remembers the time he sang
as a member of a choir at a Kikkoman Foods event.
• Back in early 1970s, there may have been some resistance and misunderstandings
among the Walworth county residents, most of them farmers, about Japan
and Japanese companies. Then he saw a video made to commemorate Kikkoman’s
40th anniversary. The interviews of the locally hired employees and executives
in the video showed how Kikkoman had become a part of the community, he
• Walker expects the $600,000 scholarship will have a significant impact
on the economy of the region, where most of the children started to go
to college for the first time in the 1970s and 1980s.
• Kikkoman serves as an excellent model for Foxconn, a Taiwanese multinational
corporation which is scheduled to build a new factory in Wisconsin, and
all other foreign businesses that plan to invest in Wisconsin and the
U.S., he added.
• Asked about the $1 million donation by Kikkoman to the University of
Wisconsin - Milwaukee, Walker explained it had produced some significant
results, including the establishment of the School of Freshwater Sciences
at the University. There, studies have been conducted on sustainable use
and maintenance of water resources, and the findings are being distributed
throughout the world by the Global Water Center in Milwaukee.
• Ambassador Shinsuke Sugiyama, who accompanied Prime
Minister Shinzo Abe on his June 7 meeting with President Donald Trump,
shared his view that the two leaders were absolutely on the same page
regarding the summit meeting of President Trump with North Korean leader
Kim Jong-un. Abe and Trump also discussed Japan’s investment in the U.S.,
according to Sugiyama.
• He has arrived in the U.S. as the ambassador in March. Praising Mogi
as a “pioneer of Japan’s U.S. investment,” Sugiyama said he was looking
forward to traveling around the U.S. to see how much Japanese investment
in the U.S. is profiting the U.S. economy as well as the Japanese businesses.
Sixth Wisconsin-U.S.-Japan Economic
“Economic Perspectives for Sustainable Growth, U.S.A., Wisconsin and Japan”
• In conjunction with Kikkoman’s 45th anniversary, the
sixth Wisconsin-U.S.-Japan Economic Development Conference was co-hosted
by Kikkoman Foods, Inc., University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee (“UW-Milwaukee”)
and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (“WEDC”). The conference,
entitled “Economic Perspectives for Sustainable Growth, U.S.A., Wisconsin
and Japan,” was paneled by Mark Mone, Chancellor of the UW-Milwaukee;
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker; Mark Hogan, CEO of the WEDC; Taichi Sakaiya,
author, economist and former Minister of State for Economic Planning of
Japan; Mike Laszkiewicz, Vice President and General Manager of Milwaukee-based
Rockwell Automation; Toshihiko Fukui, former Governor of the Bank of Japan;
Neil Bradley, Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer of the
U.S. Chamber of Commerce; and Motoatsu Sakurai, President of Japan Society
in New York.
• Quoting Mogi, Mark Mone reiterated that “old strategies
no longer bring success” in today’s new economic environment, and that
“you will be left behind” if you don’t change and innovate. When the rate
of change is accelerating across the world, the work force today must
be able to adapt quickly, and it requires education to encourage innovative
and critical thinking.
• He stressed that advanced skill and emotional intelligence, along with
the ability to learn and adapt, can be obtained through work force training.
• The MBA program at the UW-Milwaukee focuses on encouraging innovative,
long-term thinking, adaptability, global thinking, problem solving and
entrepreneurship, the factors that are prominent in Kikkoman’s corporate
culture, Mone said. A total of 184,000 students had graduated from the
program, a majority of whom is part of Wisconsin’s work force.
• “It’s widely known that education has an enormous impact on economic
prosperity,” Mone said. “Creating partnership with companies like Kikkoman
and many others is important in this respect.”
• Mark Hogan explained the two areas of economic development
efforts involving international businesses that form the cornerstones
of the WEDC mission.
• First is to increase trade activities, specifically for small businesses
in the state.
• Wisconsin’s relationship with Japan is significant, Hogan said, as the
state’s top five trading partners are Japanese companies. A long and mutually
beneficial trading relationship with Japan provides great advantages to
businesses that are looking to increase revenues by developing export
• The second area is direct investment, both inbound and outbound.
• According to Hogan, the WEDC is helping set up direct investment by
Wisconsin corporations such as Rockwell Automation and Harley-Davidson,
both of which have direct investment in Japan. At the same time, overseas
businesses are investing in Wisconsin and prospering. Japanese corporations
such as Komatsu and Fuji Film invest in Wisconsin because they “acknowledge
the skilled work force in the state.” That is also the reason behind Foxconn’s
move to build a factory in Wisconsin.
• “We talk about lifelong relationship, like the one that Kikkoman initiated
45 years ago, which has provided support to thousands of employees and
their families, allowing them to pursue their dreams and improving Wisconsin’s
quality of life,” Hogan concluded. “We are committed to work with Japan
and find new opportunities to build a foundation of a sustainable relationship
between the two countries.”
• Governor Walker recalled Wisconsin’s job market 10
years ago, when job seekers, particularly new college graduates, were
struggling to find a job in one of the worst recessions, and all people
talked about was “jobs, jobs, jobs.”
• Today, with the unemployment rate of 2.8% (a record downturn from 9.3%
10 years ago), the focus is “Workforce, workforce, workforce.”
• Today’s problem is a mismatch between the employer’s requirements and
the skills the job seeker has to offer, while there are more job openings
than active job seekers.
• As a countermeasure, Walker suggested to (1) continue traditional education
and training, for the future work force such as sixth and seventh graders;
and (2) develop skills of the potential work force currently not participating
in the labor market, such as veterans and prison inmates.
• Walker said these measures will help Wisconsin develop its work force
and increase the labor force participation rate.
• Taichi Sakaiya from Japan discussed the issue of the
shrinking population of Japan.
• While it’s obvious that a smaller population means a smaller economy,
Sakaiya argued the Japanese political leaders are not acutely aware of
the problem as Tokyo, the center of the nation, is filled with young people
and gives an impression of prosperity.
• He said the solution is either pushing up the birth rate somehow or
accepting more immigrants as work force.
• “We must have faith in the fact that Japan’s culture can support a large
number of immigrants and implement a policy to accept more immigrants
immediately,” he said.
• Japan’s “time limit” for implementing some kind of immigration policy
is set to be the year 2040, according to the calculation based on the
continuing trend of aging and shrinking labor force. Japan needs to fundamentally
change its social value, ethics, aesthetic, etc. by that time, starting
within a few years. “We don’t have a lot of time left,” Sakaiya warned.
• Rockwell Automation does business in 80 countries,
with a total of 22,000 employees and $6 billion in sales. Mike Laszkiewicz
explained manufacturing is a pivotal industry, specifically in Wisconsin,
with the highest contribution to the state’s GDP.
• In today’s manufacturing operation, supply chains are highly integrated
on a global level and industrial automation is advancing daily.
• When automation advances this fast, some people worry that it may eliminate
manufacturing jobs for human workers. But that is not going to happen
any time soon, said Laszkiewicz.
• As technology and automation advance, the required skills also become
more advanced, and the future work force will be required to be armed
with adaptability and learning skills in order to keep up with the trend,
• Toshihiko Fukui traced how Japanese and global economies
have shifted over the past years.
• According to Fukui, world economy has now reached maturity, particularly
in many advanced economies, thanks to the growth spurt of capitalism following
the industrial revolution. Now the world is seeking a next paradigm, which
hasn’t been found yet.
• One of the plausible world economic outlooks, Fukui pointed out, is
the possibility of the tripartite partnership between Japan, China and
• The combined economies of these three will be larger than that of the
U.S. in three years. Based on this outlook, Fukui said Asia would be expected
to play a greater role in shaping the world order. While it’s not so easy
to achieve, it would be “crucial” for the three countries to discuss how
they could contribute to a new development of the global economy, as well
as who will shoulder which part of the responsibility, he said.
• With an expectation of the U.S. economic growth to
reach 4.5% in the next quarter, Neil Bradley said the key to sustained
growth is productivity and work force.
• There are many ways to achieve higher productivity, such as work force
education, skill development, raising operational efficiency, and improving
competitiveness. Competition means free trade, and, as Bradley pointed
out, it’s under assault by the current U.S. administration.
• While the administration is focusing its attention on trade deficit,
“anyone who has studied economics understands” that every dollar of trade
deficit in goods and services is offset by equal dollar of capital inflow,
Bradley said. What’s important to sustain economic growth is to defend
the free trade system.
• Bradley added that the Chamber of Commerce is currently talking to the
policy makers in Washington, D.C. in the hope of persuading them to get
back into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (“TPP”) talks, from which the
Trump administration withdrew last year.
• Bradley viewed the iron and aluminum tariffs by the current administration
as a factor that will ultimately undercut the U.S. manufacturing industry.
• Free trade is one example of how we enhance productivity, he said.
• According to Bradley, the U.S. work force has been
benefited by two factors in the past.
• One is a demographic factor. The entry of the baby boomers into the
labor market has helped to boost the U.S. work force in the past. But
now they are reaching retirement age - 10,000 people are retiring each
day – and the trend is expected to continue until 2029. Faced with the
problem of the shrinking work force, the U.S. is trying to respond to
the issue with measures such as extending the retirement age.
• Another historical factor that has benefited the U.S. work force is
immigrants as a labor source.
• The current administration is obviously trying to pull the immigrants
out of the labor market by restricting the inflow of immigrants, posing
a political challenge to the labor market. One way to counter this may
be to find a good fit for every job seeker through job training. It would
also be critical to rethink lifelong learning for the future work force
to meet the rapidly changing qualifications and skills required by the
employers, Bradley said.
• Approximately 540 guests joined the celebration, which was hosted by Kikkoman
Corporation in Japan and its U.S. subsidiary, Kikkoman Foods, Inc. In addition
to Yuzaburo Mogi, Kikkoman Corporation’s Honorary CEO and Chairman of the
Board of Directors, the celebration was attended by Wisconsin Governor Scott
Walker, Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. Shinsuke Sugiyama, and Consul General
in Chicago Naoki Ito, as well as prominent local business leaders and educators.
Kikkoman's Yuzabro Mogi (L) shakes hands with Gov. Scott Walker after Mogi
announced a 600,000-dollar donation to six local high schools.
From left: Motoatsu Sakurai, Mike Laszkiewicz, Taichi Sakaiya, M.C. Mike
Miller, Scott Walker, Toshihiko Fukui, and Neil Bradley.
The guests exchange conversations before the 45th anniversary commemorative
dinner at the Abbey Resort.