In hopes of realizing the International Linear Collider (a huge particle collider to be built in the Kitakami moutains of Iwate), Ofunato City became the first town on the coast of Iwate to install an office for ILC matters. As the dust starts to settle on the reconstruction from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the city is hoping that usage of its port will become a trigger for development in the future.
Ofunato created its Office for ILC Promotion in December 2017 with 8 employees (one of whom is also Director General of the Department of Planning and Policy). They will make plans for Ofunato’s port and related facilities.
Mayor Kimiaki Toda said, “Ofunato is the closest port to the candidate site of the ILC. I think that the roads will also be improved in order to make it more conveniently accessible.”
In June 2017, Iwate Prefecture stopped accepting applications from businesses to site their locations within the completed area of Ofunato’s industrial district. This was done in hopes that the ILC, if realized, could use the space for receiving and storing related materials and parts.
Ofunato’s income and residence taxes have risen since the disaster due to the special demand of the reconstruction. However, the end is now in sight, as reconstruction projects have reached an 80% completion rate as of the end of the last fiscal year.
According to a survey done by the Ofunato Chamber of Commerce, over 50% of their member businesses answered that their sales were down from last year, and that things will get even worse in the next year.
Furthermore, ever since the disaster, cargo ship service for international trade at Ofunato port has been stopped since the disaster. At neighbor Kamaishi City’s port, they have installed a new gantry crane and have also started cargo ship service with Chinese and Korean lines, so they are booming.
Port officials in Ofunato say, “If we don’t work together with the other two towns in the region (Rikuzentakata and Sumita), then our region will continue to suffer.”