HOME > news&event > Japan-America Society of Oregon, Mercy Corps, and PFJ reached an agreement of a fund for Minami-city with presence of Governor of state Oregon with his wife

Japan-America Society of Oregon, Mercy Corps, and PFJ reached an agreement of a fund for Minami-city with presence of Governor of state Oregon with his wife


 Shortly after last year’s unprecedented triple disaster in Japan’s Tohoku region, Mercy Corps and PlaNet Finance Japan conducted an assessment of the disaster’s impact on small businesses in the tsunami-affected area with the aim of finding a way in which we could support the early recovery of local economies.  30% of the small business owners surveyed were unable to resume business due to the destruction of their facilities or financial difficulties they were experiencing related to the disaster.  More than 50% of business owners said the largest obstacle they faced was the "reconstruction of business facilities" followed by an inability to "ensure the continuity of employment" of their personnel.  Over 75% indicated a readiness to restart their businesses if they were able to access the financial resources to do so.  Government business recovery programs have focused on large industries or have been otherwise difficult for small businesses to access.  Small businesses, which are cumulatively the largest employers in Tohoku, have faced substantial challenges in accessing the capital needed to recover.

Working in partnership with the Kesennuma Shinkin Bank - a local cooperative bank with over a century of experience serving the Sanriku Region - PlaNet Finance Japan and Mercy Corps were able to design a three-part program which would encourage the startup of new businesses, support the early re-employment of those who has lost their jobs and facilitate access to small business recovery loans.  The program was inaugurated in November 2011 and quickly began disbursing small business recovery grants. By the end of September 2012 the program had supported over 171 small businesses to start-up, recover or re-employ staff.  The businesses supported cover a wide range of shops and services that constitute the core of local economic life: restaurants, day care facilities, a machine shop, a bio-fuel producer, a nursing home, a bait-and-tackle shop, bakeries, a beautician, a dry-cleaner and many more.

With the success of this ongoing partnership program and with additional resources provided by Mercy Corps and the Japan-America Society of Oregon (JASO), PlaNet Finance Japan has been able to enter into a new partnership with the Abukuma Shinkin Bank to expand the small business recovery program on a pilot basis to the community of Minami-Soma in Fukushima Prefecture, the sister city of Pendleton, Oregon.  In addition to struggling with the destruction wrought by 3/11 earthquake and tsunami, Minami-Soma also falls partially within the exclusion zone surrounding the disabled Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear reactors, which has further hampered its recovery.  Nevertheless, there is a resilient entrepreneurial community in Minami-Soma which is eager for the opportunity to restart livelihoods in areas which have been shown to be un-contaminated.

The Minami-Soma Tomodachi Fund for Economic Recovery will be inaugurated on 29 October.  The program will provide startup grants to three new businesses, four re-employment grants and five interest subsidy grants to leverage small business loans for recovering businesses. The program can be easily expanded with additional resources.  Contributions can be made through JASO, Mercy Corps or PlaNet Finance Japan.

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