Los Angeles County harbors the nation’s largest twin sea port complex by trade volume, the No.1 Customs District, the largest manufacturing sector and an expansive cargo movement supply chain.
The county’s status as a significant international trade hub – and a history of migration dating back to the 1970s – are why, experts say, Japanese companies account for nearly half of the 20 foreign entities on the Business Journal’s list of those that have their U.S. headquarters in L.A. County. In fact, all but three of the businesses on the list, which is ranked by parent company revenue in 2017, are based in Asia.
The original Japanese community’s attraction to L.A., though, was with the region’s cultural diversity, its openness to new ideas and its proximity to the homeland, said Kevin Klowden, executive director of the Center for Regional Economics at the Milken Institute. The initial interest has grown over the years to attract major investments as well, he added.
“It comes down to history,” Klowden said. “The Japanese started making L.A. their key center of investment in the 1970s, and they’ve developed a number of industry clusters in places like Torrance and Gardena. They have a large expat community as well, and have been consistently investing in the L.A. market for decades.”
Japan, China, South Korea, Switzerland and Singapore house the top 10 companies on the list, with four calling Japan home, including No.1 American Honda Motor Co. Inc. in Torrance with nearly $126 billion in parent company revenue, a sub-1 percent gain from 2016 revenue of about $125 billion.
Other Japanese entities include two Torrance-based beer importers, Asahi Beer U.S.A. Inc., ranked No. 5 with 2017 revenue of $18.5 billion, and Kirin Brewery of America at No. 6, which generated $16.5 billion last year, a drop from $19 billion the prior year. Epson America Inc. in Long Beach, with just over $9 billion in revenue, came in at No. 9.
In L.A. County, Japan accounted for 1,272 foreign-owned enterprises and provided 43,012 jobs in 2017, according to a May report by the World Trade Center Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. and Malibu-based Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy.
According to the report, besides Japan, the top countries with the most business investments in L.A. County were the United Kingdom and Canada. The top three local business sectors where foreign investment has the greatest presence are manufacturing, finance and professional business services, the report said.
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