February 27, 2009,09:29 +0900(JST) Happy 100th Birthday, Mr. Yorozu! (1)
I went to Hokkaido in early February to exchange New Year's greetings with local folks, as I do every year, and also to present Mr. Toshio Yorozu, former mayor of Naie Town, who celebrated his 100th birthday this year, with a letter of appreciation on behalf of Sumitomo Electric. Ever since the establishment of Hokkaido Sumiden Precision Co., Ltd. (NSS), our group's first business base in Hokkaido, Mr. Yorozu has provided generous support to our group and its business development in Hokkaido. In this entry and the subsequent one, I'd like to tell you about the ties between Mr. Yorozu and Sumitomo Electric.
According to Mr. Yorozu's autobiography “Yorozu Toshio Hyakusai no Seishun” (Toshio Yorozu 100 Years of Youth), he was born in 1909 in Naie, had a brush with death in the Battle of Khalkhin Gol (the Soviet-Japan border war, also known as the "Nomonhan Incident") in 1939, fought in the Pacific War, returned to Naie after the War and took part in establishing Agricultural Cooperatives there.
In May 1967, he was elected mayor of Naie, serving his hometown in that post for four terms, or 16 years, with noble ideals, deep insight and foresightedness, contributing greatly to the town's development. He was made Naie's Honorary Citizen in 1984 and was decorated with The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette in 1985.
Today, the great man is still active as Chairman of Yoshizumi Coal Mining Co., Ltd. and President of Naie Development Co., Ltd. Broad-minded, openhearted, caring, humorous and honest, Mr. Yorozu charms everyone he meets. I also admire and look up to him whole-heartedly.
Sumitomo Electric encountered Mr. Yorozu when, as the mayor of Naie Town, he was busily working on the town's revitalization following the closure of Sumitomo Naie Coal Mine. The President of Sumitomo Coal Mining Co., Ltd., and the Senior Managing Director of Sumitomo Electric at the time, had been classmates in junior and senior high schools and college, and it was proposed between them that the gap left by Sumitomo Coal Mining’s departure from Naie be filled by another Sumitomo Group company. Mayor Yorozu then began soliciting, emphasizing his town's advantageous features including land and water availability, transportation convenience and climatic conditions that were particularly well suited to powder alloy manufacture. Finally, Mr. Masao Kamei - then President of Sumitomo Electric - was persuaded, partly because of Mr. Yorozu's personality, and in 1972 decided to establish NSS in Naie. So our presence in Hokkaido today is largely attributable to Mr. Yorozu.
NSS started operation in 1980, eight years later than originally scheduled, due to the impact of the oil crises. This delayed start was in fact a blessing in disguise, for it enabled the company to start one of the world's most advanced factories in the area, using technological developments that had been realized in the meantime. NSS quickly developed into a powder alloy manufacturing company of medium standing.
This later resulted in the birth of Hokkaido Electric Ind., Ltd. (HKE) in 1988. Today, NSS and HKE together employ about 500 people, as one of the largest companies in the region. We are truly grateful to Mr. Yorozu, Mr. Kita - the present mayor - and residents of Naie Town, for their warm support and understanding.