The Washington Village Project is a 171 unit housing subdivision developed by the Hyogo Prefectural Government in partnership with the state of Washington. The project is part of Hyogo’s “new town,” Kobe-Sanda International Garden City, located 40 miles from Kobe, Japan. This project is unique because of its large scale and the fact that it has been conceived, planned, and is being executed as an element of the 29-year-old “sister state” relationship between the state of Washington and the Hyogo Prefecture.
Washington Village was conceived to stimulate Washington's manufacture and export of value-added wood products (doors, windows, flooring, moldings, cabinets, etc.) and to help diversify the state’s forest products industry that has historically depended upon the production and export of commodity products (logs, lumber and plywood). Diversification of the state's solid wood manufacturing industry, comprised of numerous small and medium sized firms, to higher value added products is intended to help meet the significant challenges posed by the declining volume, as well as changing size and characteristics, of the harvestable timber supply in Washington State and the entire Pacific Northwest.
Although the village involves construction of only 171 houses, Washington seeks to achieve market recognition and promotion that will create an identity for the state as the leading international center for sourcing building materials and services for the Japanese market. Washington Village will enable the Washington wood products industry to increase and diversify its Japan market with more value-added products by taking advantage of Japan’s housing problems by developing a greater working knowledge of the Japanese market. In addition, trading relations will be enhanced between the wood products industry in Washington and the housing sector of Japan, and the project will serve as an example of how local governments can facilitate this process.
One critical measure of success is the increase in value of wood products that are shipped to Japan from Washington. To date, Washington companies have shipped more than $2.5 million worth of finished wood products to Washington Village. This value will probably approach nearly $10 million by the time all 171 houses are built. In broader terms, Washington companies exported $1.3 billion worth of wood products (excluding paper) to Japan in 1990, compared with $990 million in exports in 1988, a 31 percent increase in two years. The export of value added wood products from Washington to Japan increased from $9 million in 1986 to $58 million in 1990. Another important success indicator is the number of Washington companies from the value-added wood products industry who are interested in developing market share in Japan. One measure of this is the number of Washington companies who participate in major housing and other related trade shows in Japan. In 1987, before Washington Village began, there were no small to medium sized companies who actively participated in Japanese trade show. In 1991, a total of 25 companies took part in shows, which was up from a total of 12 companies in 1990.