50th anniversary of Kikkoman facility in Walworth highlights Wisconsin-Japan economic relationship

NOW: 50th anniversary of Kikkoman facility in Walworth highlights Wisconsin-Japan economic relationship

LAKE GENEVA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Wisconsin and Japanese officials gathered for the Wisconsin-U.S.-Japan Economic Development Conference to further the two sides' economic relationship and highlight five decades since soy sauce maker Kikkoman established that connection with the Badger State.

To kick off the conference, officials marked the 50th anniversary of Kikkoman establishing a facility in the Village of Walworth in 1973 -- the first time the centuries-old Japanese company built a soy sauce production plant outside of its home country. Five decades later, the Walworth plant is the largest soy sauce producer in the world.

The conference was held in Lake Geneva, a few miles away from the Walworth facility.

Governor Tony Evers participated in the economic development conference, announcing a proclamation of June 9 as Kikkoman Day in Wisconsin.

"It's a great achievement and this is my 50th year of wedded bliss with my wife Kathy and I know 50 years is a really important time," Evers said.

Officials from Kikkoman, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and University of Wisconsin-Madison and others spoke at a news conference ahead of the main economic development conference.

Kikkoman's chairman shared remarks about why the Japanese company picked a village in Walworth County, citing its proximity to wheat, soy, fresh water and a dependable workforce.

"When we set up in Walworth in the early 1970s, we took a risk and made a huge investment," Yuzaburo Mogi told reporters. "And time has shown that risk paid off."

Kikkoman's history with Wisconsin highlights the Badger State's relationship with Japan.

"It's a very prosperous relationship for our businesses and hopefully for Japanese businesses as they are coming to Wisconsin and the U.S. market," WEDC Secretary Missy Hughes said in response to a question from CBS 58

As part of the anniversary celebration, the Kikkoman Foods Foundation donated $5 million to UW-Milwaukee and UW-Madison for sustainability research.

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