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Meet Jim Reed of YKK Corporation of America in Marietta

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jim Reed.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I grew up in Goshen, Kentucky, a small town a few miles up the Ohio River from Louisville. I attended the University of Virginia for college. I had the great opportunity to be an exchange student in Japan in my fourth year where I attended Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka (Hirakata), Japan. This experience changed my life significantly.

I was exposed to the extremely rich Japanese culture and came to understand there was a much larger world out there. I went to law school at the University of Georgia and had a great career in private practice working at Troutman Sanders in Atlanta, Georgia. I really enjoyed working closely with my clients and jumped at the chance to go in-house, where I had the opportunity to work with some great companies like BellSouth and Georgia-Pacific before coming to YKK Corporation of America in 2009. I had the privilege to serve as our North and Central America Region Chief Legal Counsel until 2017 when I was named the president of YKK Corporation of America, the holding company for the region.

Has it been a smooth road?
Looking back I feel extremely fortunate to have the experiences that I have had. If I think about the things I considered struggles or challenges, or even setbacks, in the past I can now see they were the most important and useful experiences in my career. I was a commercial real estate broker during the 1990-1991 recession, and that convinced me of the value of a law degree. I was General Counsel of an Internet company during the Internet Crash of 2000, and that taught me the value of not panicking. Those and other experiences were tremendously valuable to me later in my career. I am especially grateful for the people in my life who have given me tremendous support and love throughout my career, such as my mentor and former boss, Alex Gregory.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Located in Marietta, Georgia, YKK Corporation of America is the western hemisphere parent of YKK Corporation’s North and Central America Group, which has continuously set industry standards for quality, service, value and innovation in the production of fastening products such as zippers, hook & loop fasteners, plastic buckles and notions, webbing, and snaps & buttons, marketed under the YKK brand, and architectural products such as storefronts, curtain walls, entrances, sun controls, windows and doors, marketed under the YKK AP brand. Geographically, this Group consists of 12 dynamic operating companies spread across five time zones covering Canada, the U.S., Mexico, Central America and Colombia, South America.

YKK entered the U.S. market in 1960 as a zipper distributor, settling in New York City to be near garment district customers. In 1970, YKK set up a sales office in Atlanta in 1970, and in 1972 it purchased 54 acres in Macon, one of the first Japanese companies to set up operations in Georgia. It was Georgia’s then-Governor Jimmy Carter who actually helped to convince YKK founder Tadao Yoshida that Georgia was the place to manufacture. In 1992, YKK AP America opened its Dublin, Georgia, manufacturing plant. YKK and YKK AP now employ more than 1,600 Georgians in 3.5 million ft² of manufacturing and office space in Macon, Dublin, Marietta and Austell.

Ever since YKK was founded in 1934, we have taken our responsibility to give back to our local communities seriously. Based on our corporate philosophy of the “CYCLE OF GOODNESS” – no one prospers without rendering benefit to others – we constantly think of new ways to contribute to the communities we call home.

In 1977, YKK facilitated the formation of a sister city between Macon, GA and Kurobe, Toyama Prefecture, which is the location of YKK Corporation’s manufacturing headquarters. In the 40 years since the relationship was established, more than 500 students and 160 dignitaries have visited each other’s cities. In addition, the two cities have a unique medical exchange. Each summer, between May and September, three physicians and two nurses from Navicent Health visit Kurobe City Hospital for two weeks each to share their knowledge and experience of the American healthcare system with young physicians and nurses at Kurobe City Hospital and to learn about the Japanese healthcare system.

Then, between September and January, six resident physicians and one nurse from Kurobe City Hospital visit Navicent Health and Mercer University for 4-5 weeks to observe American physicians in action and experience American healthcare firsthand. To date, 63 residents, 11 nurses and 3 healthcare providers from Kurobe have visited Macon-Bibb County, and 42 doctors and 16 nurses from Macon-Bibb County have visited Kurobe. In 1998, YKK AP helped establish a similar tie between Dublin, GA and Osaki, Miyagi Prefecture, home to a large YKK AP manufacturing facility. Over 130 students and 24 dignitaries have traveled between the two cities to date.

YKK is also proud of its ongoing partnership with President Carter and The Carter Center. YKK was a contributor to the fund to establish The Carter Center in 1982, and in 1986 YKK donated the funds to build the Japanese garden, which can still be seen at The Carter Center today. In 1997, YKK established the Yoshida Scholarship Foundation-Carter Center Research Scholars Program for Japanese students to work as interns at The Carter Center, and 18 students have participated in the program to date.

We are also proud of efforts to contribute to our local communities by protecting the environment. The YKK Group Environmental Pledge was signed on September 20, 1994, with the directive that YKK “promotes harmony with the environment as the highest priority of its business activities.” We celebrate World Environment Day on June 5 with tree plantings around the world, including right here in Georgia. In Macon, we recycle 90% of our brass waste on-site, in addition, special recycling programs with key customers. We are able to divert 2.8 million lbs. of waste annually through recycling programs. In Dublin, we recycle 100% of aluminum waste on-site, and we have reduced the amount of other waste materials sent to the landfill by 40%.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
I think Atlanta is a great place for our regional headquarters. We have to travel internationally a lot, and we can reach almost everywhere we want to go with direct flights out of Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta Airport. The city offers a deep pool of professionals from which to pull, and people want to live here. The suburbs offer great places to raise kids and in-town living is really exciting as well. I would encourage anyone wanting to establish a global or Americas headquarters to set up shop in Atlanta.

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