Sub-leader Minoru Ikeda (left) and Yusuke Harada (right) of Mizuho town Urban
Development Department Industries Division
Mizuho town Urban Development Department Industries Division
Mizuho Town, with a 30km reach from the central Tokyo, has accommodated many firms, and boasts one of the locations particularly dense with manufacturers in Tama Area. The Town, however, has had only a few opportunities to listen to opinions directly from such firms that moved in from other areas and has not joined our commerce and industry association. To improve the situation, Town’s Industries Division started activities in 2014 to incorporate these manufactures’ direct opinions to plans for support initiatives through visiting and listening to them. We interviewed on the activities with Minoru Ikeda, sub-leader, and Yusuke Harada of Mizuho town Urban Development Department Industries Division.
The Town is one of the few having industrial technologies in Tama area, with its value of manufactured goods shipments at \355.3 billion, ranked 6th in the area, and gross added-value at \159.1 billion, ranked 4th (according to FY13 Tokyo industry statistics). We have many processing companies such as in machinery, plating, cutting, pressing, precision components and plastics which are mostly vulnerable SMEs not heavily dependent on any particular industries.
Among support initiatives for these SMEs, the Town has a “Mizuho town mediation system for financing SMEs.” This is to finance working capitals, capex funds, and start-up funds. For working capitals, the upper limit is \10 million with repayment-due of 7 years, and the Town subsidizes half of interest payments. They say needs for capex funds have increased recently.
While the Town helps firms facing financing difficulties with its loan programs, it plotted out “Mizuho town industry promotion plan” in 2013 and has been working to launch concrete supports since the following year.
“We started activities in 2014 where staffs of Industry Division Commerce and Industry Unit have been visiting resident manufacturers. Basic thoughts behind are it is better to support through incorporating business operators opinions rather than for the Town to make plans randomly,” Ikeda says.
The Town started visiting activities for vulnerable resident SMEs, borrowing know-how of support staffs of financial institution subcontractors. Most visits have been to non-members of commerce and industry associations whom the Town used to have only a few opportunities to listen to.
An initiative of ”Support Scheme for Participating in Industrial Trade Fairs, etc.” was born from these activities. Starting in fiscal 2015, the scheme subsidizes half of exhibition expenses up to \100,000.
“It has been well received and Town’s whole budget for it has been fully used up. We didn’t know so many firms were using exhibitions, which we think is the result of the visiting activities.” Harada says.
View of an exchange meeting
Another opinion very frequently raised through visiting activities was “horizontal ties among manufacturers are weak.” To respond it, manufacturer-only exchange meetings were commenced. The first meeting was held in February 2016, joined by 37 firms with 42 participants, which were more than anticipated.
“We also decided to listen to firms when we were planning the meetings. It turned out to be in fact the place for exchanging business cards as many said ’it was better to have no formal programs,’ where everybody enjoyed and exchanged business cards proactively,” Harada says.
“We had thought everyone wanted cross-sector meetings but, to our surprise, actually favored single-sector meetings. It was also an opportunity where we learned anew ties in the same sector were weak.” Ikeda says.
The exchange meetings are planned to be held once a year as before. For the next meeting, we have received opinions such as “we want to have company PR time,” “we want keynote lectures on management and marketing,” “let us learn about SME support initiatives by Tokyo City and Government,” and so forth.
“We learned building trust relationships with firms is so important throughout our activities. These relationships should enable Town’s initiatives to be used easily. Stronger horizontal ties among manufacturers would, for example, retrieve works previously outsourced far to the Town and help vitalize resident manufacturers. We plan to enhance our visiting activities in order to build trust relationships between the Town and manufacturers and also among manufacturers themselves,” Ikeda says.
Horizontal ties among manufacturers in Mizuho Town should spread more widely through the exchange meetings.
The meeting is expected to enhance ties in the coming years.