Takanobu Kuroda, ARUN Partner
■Fukuoka City: a Special Startup Zone
Fukuoka City, where I am living, has the highest population growth rate of all the major cities in Japan with its population exceeding 1.5 million last year. The city also has the highest ratio of youth to its total population, the highest business startup rate and the highest ratio of young people to the total number of those who start businesses. The city is ranked as 10th in the British magazine’s World’s Most Livable Cities ranking. It is serviced by direct flights to major cities in East Asia and Amsterdam. Fukuoka City is also second to the Tokyo metropolitan area in hosting international conferences, where a number of visitors from overseas come to the city for tourism, business and study. While Japan faces a rapidly aging population and decreasing birth rates, Fukuoka City gives me a sense of energy and dynamism that compares to the emerging countries of Asia and Africa.
In September of last year, Japan’s Cabinet Office publicly solicited the ideas of the National Strategic Special Zones in order to implement its Growth Strategy. Fukuoka City was highly acclaimed for its proposed “Global Startup National Strategic Special Zone for Creating New Enterprises and Employment” project, and was selected as one of the National Strategic Special Zones. The city has already worked hard to support business startups since 2000. Reasons for the selection of Fukuoka City as a Special Zone include the fact that the city has successfully integrated “Content industry” businesses. It has actively supported startups of Content industry businesses in particular since 2011. As a result, more than 50 such businesses have opened new offices in Fukuoka City, in addition to LINE Corporation having decided to move its headquarters to Fukuoka in October 2015. Reasons also include that, with the announcement of the Startup City project in 2012, the city has matched local businesses and venture businesses from both inside and outside of Japan, and has developed industry-academia cooperative frameworks.
In the future, being a Startup Special Zone, Fukuoka City will be playing a leading role in creating support systems for “entrepreneurs” who make innovative challenges by taking steps to introduce special measures such as relaxing the requirements for residential status for foreign business starters and reducing the corporate tax rate for 5 years after startup. Also, the city is working on matching existing businesses and young entrepreneurs, simplifying the legal procedures for startups, and expanding loan programs for these new businesses. Because of the growth of job opportunities in Fukuoka City, the annual number of new workers is expected to increase up to 200,000 in the fiscal year of 2018, which is 50,000 more than the current number.