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Support for Recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake Efforts by SME Support, JAPAN | Yoshiki Ohya General Manager Earthquake Disaster Recovery Support Department Organization for Small & Medium Enterprises and Regional Innovation, Japan (SME Support, JAPAN) [Date of Issue: 30/May/2014 No.0231-0930]

Date of Issue: 30/May/2014

Support for Recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake
Efforts by SME Support, JAPAN

Yoshiki Ohya
General Manager
Earthquake Disaster Recovery Support Department
Organization for Small & Medium Enterprises and Regional Innovation, Japan
(SME Support, JAPAN)


Here we report on SME Support, JAPAN's performance in providing disaster recovery support, including steps taken immediately after the disaster through to the provision of temporary facilities and the dispatch of recovery support advisors to date.


1. Efforts immediately after the disaster
Immediately after the disaster on March 11, 2011, SME Support, JAPAN set up a Disaster Support Headquarters. As we were concerned that the impact of the disaster could have nationwide reach, we also set up special advisory counters at all of our regional branches (now known as regional head offices). On March 14, the Disaster Countermeasures Headquarters was created with our Chairman & CEO as the Head Director, followed by the establishment of the Department for the Promotion of Emergency Disaster Recovery (now the Earthquake Disaster Recovery Support Department) on April 1, establishing the infrastructure for pursuing cross-organizational disaster recovery support measures.

Specifically, we extended the premium repayment period for SMEs that are registered in our "Small-scale Enterprise Mutual Aid System" and "Business Safety Mutual Relief System", relaxed lending conditions and added grounds for applying for loans. We also responded to requests from disaster-affected local authorities to provide support that could be extended immediately within the parameters of existing schemes, such as providing industrial land to site temporary housing.

SME Support, JAPAN planned the establishment of temporary facilities such as stores and factories so that disaster-affected SMEs could resume businesses as soon as possible, and visited 102 cities, towns and villages in six prefectures before any legislative actions in order to ascertain needs and inform businesses about our programs. We also launched a disaster recovery advisor allocation program to provide support for SMEs in planning business reconstruction and for local authorities as well as support institutions in drafting recovery plans. Providing temporary facilities and allocating recovery advisors have been the main aspects of our recovery support, and these are outlined in detail below.

2. Supplies of temporary facilities construction
This program takes advantage of the knowledge and knowhow of SME Support, JAPAN members in setting up and supplying temporary (prefab) stores, offices and factories to disaster-affected SMEs. On April 11, exactly one month after the disaster, we sent out project teams comprising executives, engineers and certified SME consultants to disaster-affected areas to explain our programs and ascertain needs. At the beginning, we had no idea whether anyone would want our assistance, but in contrast we received such an unexpectedly high number of applications that we didn't have enough staff to keep up, and had to keep businesses waiting while we worked our way through the pile. To meet the unexpected demand, we brought in staff from our Chugoku, Hokuriku and Chubu offices to create a team of more than 100 people during our peak response period and hurried to get construction underway. Our first achievement was the Shiogama Port Recovery Market in Shiogama City, Miyagi Prefecture, which opened on 9 August, followed by the Hamakaze shopping area in Hisanohama in Fukushima Prefecture's Iwaki City and "Taro-chan House" in Miyako City, Iwate Prefecture. As of March 31, 2014, we have provided 616 temporary facilities with a floor space of 219,868 square meters in 51 cities, towns and villages in six prefectures (110KB)(see the attached table).

As of March 31, 2014, 2,819 companies have moved into our temporary facilities, employing 11,983 people, evidence that these facilities are contributing to SMEs in resuming businesses as well as promoting employment. In terms of business types, more than 40 percent are commercial operators such as wholesalers, retailers, restaurants and service firms, and those premises which came together nicely from the planning stage are now playing an important role as hubs for progressing recovery plans, forming shopping areas which have even been showcased by the media, taking on commercial functions in affected areas, and providing places for communication among residents.

3. Allocation of recovery support advisors
In response to requests from affected companies and local authorities, we dispatch various types of highly experienced experts free of charge to provide advice. After the disaster, we registered certified SME consultants, public accountants and tax accountants, as well as lawyers, class-1 architects, engineers and disaster recovery advisors with experience in the Kobe recovery, providing support for SMEs in drawing up business plans, proposing new businesses, and restoring and repairing facilities, as well as helping local authorities and support institutions in creating recovery plans and sending advisors to management consultations. Immediately after the disaster, we had around 800 advisors registered; currently, we still have around 450.

In FY2011, we sent out advisors to 232 locations on 2,568 occasions, mostly in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima Prefectures. In FY2012, advisors were sent to 240 locations on 2,989 occasions, and in FY2013, 300 places on 3,113 occasions (110KB)(see the attached table).

4. Other support
SME Support, JAPAN has also assisted SMEs to participate and exhibit in various types of trade fairs to help affected companies develop sales channels overseas and in Japan; provided financial support such as interest-free financing for businesses admitted to SME Group Subsidies; introduced special measures for business operators making a business innovation; and a support program for the development of equipment and facilities.

5. Supporting town-building for recovery
The FY2014 federal budget includes provision for the effective use of temporary facilities (long-term use, relocation and removal). SME Support, JAPAN will continue to provide support in line with the needs of affected areas to ensure that these facilities are used as effectively as possible. The FY2013 supplementary budget, "Subsidy for Tsunami & Nuclear Power Plant Affected Regions and Development of Industrial Sites for Promoting Employment" (Tsunami Subsidy), launched a "Reconstruction of Commercial Facilities Program". Together with the shared store scheme that uses SME Group Subsidies, this increases the number of options for development in central commercial facility areas in the affected parts of Japan, and we expect to see plans move forward for the development of these areas.

SME Support, JAPAN has sent out staff and advisors to assist town-building and the recovery of shopping areas, as well as providing advice to town-building councils and study groups. Next we plan to strengthen our support toward the proposal of concrete plans.

(original article : Japanese)
(For the Japanese version of this article)


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