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Japan’s Troubles Concern Minnesota Businesses

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(credit: CBS) Bill Hudson
Bill Hudson has been with WCCO-TV since 1989. The native of Elk Rive...
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By Bill Hudson, WCCO-TV

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Whether it’s the car you drive, the camera you hold or the plasma television you’ll watch, chances are pretty good many of that product’s electrical components were either made or assembled in Japan. For years, Japanese manufacturers have led the world in the production of microchips and consumer electronics.

“Yes, some of these parts, undoubtedly, come from Japan,” said Minnesota businessman Harold Hamilton.

Hamilton’s Micro Control Company in Fridley builds sophisticated test equipment for the electronics industry.

Since 1972, his company has depended on a steady supply of parts like resistors, capacitors and microchips to create the circuit boards crucial to business. In particular, the socket assemblies that the company uses to place microchips for testing come from a Japanese supplier.

“That would be very inconvenient for us if we couldn’t buy these sockets anymore,” said Hamilton.

Fortunately, for companies like Micro Control, they are not yet experiencing any disruptions in the parts-supply chains. Still, Hamilton said he will be keeping a close eye on any potential changes among his network of distributors.

So will Twin Cities auto dealers, who, for now, report no problems with their vehicle inventories. But economists say that damaged Japanese shipping ports and auto factories that are expected to stay closed through the weekend may slow future shipments of vehicles and parts.

“Japan is our third largest export market for this state,” said Katie Clark, director of the Minnesota Trade Office.

Clark said she expects the export market will grow even more important in the weeks and months to come.  Japan will undoubtedly be looking overseas for help with rebuilding its shattered cities, infrastructure and industries.

“This could actually create an opportunity for Minnesota companies. Japan is going to need quite a few materials and products as they go through the rebuilding process,” said Clark.

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