A Japanese metal casting company opened its first American office this month in downtown Idaho Falls.
In establishing an eastern Idaho presence, Tokyo-based Sakae Casting opened the door to partnerships with Idaho National Laboratory, local universities and manufacturing firms.
Regional Economic Development for Eastern Idaho CEO Jan Rogers introduced the company during a Thursday news conference outside Sakae’s new office on Shoup Avenue.
The conference included local economic development and university representatives, along with Sakae president and CEO Takashi Suzuki and other Japanese corporate proxies.
“We’re pleased to welcome everyone here, but also to welcome the company of Mr. Suzuki, Sakae Casting and their directors and partners,” Rogers said. “There is really a lot of opportunity here, and this is just the beginning.”
Four employees work at Sakae’s Idaho Falls office, which is shared with Ozhen, another Japanese production firm. Ozhen officials hope to conduct machining-related business in Idaho, while Suzuki is aiming to begin manufacturing work in Idaho in the near future, a company representative said.
Sakae Casting developed pipe-casting technology “that opens up new possibilities,” according to a Japan Protechnology article. “The extraordinary precision of the casting enables a minimum clearance of 0.5mm, with a space between both parts of just 1mm, a plate thickness of 8mm, and a pipe diameter of 6m. Sakae has used this technology in creating their ‘water-cooled thin-type cooling plate (cold plate),’ a mainstay product that has been adopted by the world’s largest semiconductor manufacturers, and their high technical ability is already attracting attention from around the world.”
Rogers began talks with Sakae representatives in March 2016 during a sister city visit between Idaho Falls and the Japanese city of Tokai. She encouraged Sakae officials to attend a summit held by SelectUSA, a federal agency that encourages foreign direct investment in the U.S.
Idaho Falls’ proximity to nuclear-focused laboratories and universities makes it an ideal landing spot for collaborative research, Suzuki said.
“We are very excited of course,” he said. “Idaho is known for its nuclear program and creative research, and we wanted to contribute to that research.”
In response to the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster caused in part by insufficient reactor cooling following an earthquake, Sakae will work with local institutions, including the University of Idaho, to enhance nuclear safety through the creation of more efficient and resilient cooling mechanisms. UI has nuclear engineering and industrial technology programs in Idaho Falls.
“Over the last several months we’ve been able to interact with our friends in Japan and talk creatively about ways we might be able to do research connected to their industry focus and our expertise, both in our main campus in Moscow but especially in Idaho Falls,” said Marc Skinner, UI’s southeast region executive officer.
Fluent Japanese-speaker Sen. Kelly Anthon, R-Burley, also encouraged Sakae’s fledgling presence in the Gem State, which could pave the way for additional Japanese companies, he said.
“This represents a great new opportunity for this community and the state of Idaho — it’s a success story,” Anthon said. “There’s a certain feeling of arrival today, but the truth is this is just opening a door. We are going to see a lot more business growth in the state of Idaho because of this moment.”
Reporter Kevin Trevellyan can be reached at 542-6762.