Despite the collapse of Japan’s “bubble economy,” the YKK Corp., the world’s largest zipper manufacturer, is continuing to succeed because of its strong operations in locations outside of Japan, including those in Macon and Dublin, Ga., according to the company’s president and CEO, Tadahiro Yoshida.

          “I characterize our business as very busy,” Mr. Yoshida told GlobalFax in an interview at the Japan-America Society of Georgia’s 21st Annual Dinner on May 1 at the Grand Hyatt in Buckhead. “Busy in a good way because our fastening products business is booming, but busy in a bad way because we have much work to do, especially with the architectural products business.”

YKK has two different businesses, fastening products including zippers and architectural products including doors and windows. Mr. Yoshida said that the architectural parts side of the business, which accounts for two-thirds of YKK’s total sales, has suffered from the current slump in Japan’s construction industry. But with operations in 58 countries, YKK has been flexible enough to survive the recent economic downturn, he said.

YKK was the first Japanese company to open operations in Georgia. Mr. Yoshida said the company’s manufacturing plants here, unlike some Japanese companies in Georgia, are permanent, even as many of their garment industry customers are moving production to Latin America. Incidentally, YKK itself opened a new factory in Irapuato, Mexico, last week, yet Georgia will remain a strong arm of the company in the U.S., he emphasized.

He added that he always cites the Georgia plants as models for YKK’s locations worldwide because of the “cycle of goodness” entrenched in its operations here. He said the Georgia employees and communities have been so welcoming to YKK that the company has tried to be a good “corporate citizen” and “repay Georgia’s southern hospitality.”

          At the dinner, the Japan-America Society awarded Mr. Yoshida the Mike Mansfield Award, named after the former U.S. ambassador to Japan, for YKK’s long-term contributions to the state of Georgia.

YKK Corp. of America was invited to open its manufacturing plant in Macon in 1974 by then-gov. Jimmy Carter. Mr. Yoshida said that the close relationship established between his father, YKK’s founder, and Mr. Carter helped make for a lasting positive relationship between the company and the state.

For more information, see Contact the Japan-America Society at (404) 524-7399.