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Mass. Businesses Stung By Crisis In Japan

BOSTON — Japan is the state’s fourth largest destination for exports. Massachusetts companies sent more than $2 billion worth of optical and medical instruments, industrial machinery and other products to Japan last year, according to the World Institute for Strategic Economic Research.

“It’s a major export area,” said Greg Stoller, a lecturer at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management who specializes in Asia.

“Now in the wake of the trifecta of the tsunami, the earthquake, the nuclear problem, I think it could be problematic for a while,” he added.

Some of the state’s biggest companies have offices in Japan or are owned by Japanese firms. Millennium Pharmaceuticals, the network storage company EMC and the semiconductor company Teradyne are some of the largest employers in the commonwealth.

Massachusetts companies sent more than $2 billion worth of optical and medical instruments, industrial machinery and other products to Japan last year.

Even so, some Japanese companies in Massachusetts haven’t felt much of an effect. Kawasaki Microelectronics in Wakefield, a semiconductor maker, said its production has not been slowed.

Rika Denshi makes semiconductor tests probes in its Attleboro facility and also in Tokyo. They ship small containers back and forth a few times each week. General Manager Larry Nelson said they are having some shipping problems.

“The only thing that’s impacted us is that some of the common carriers that we use worldwide have discontinued deliveries to the northeastern portion of Japan,” Nelson said.

Nelson said he doesn’t expect the disruptions to result in losses for the company.

Massachusetts companies also export drugs to Japan. Biogen Idec in Weston that makes a drug to treat multiple sclerosis. Last year sales of that drug were $69 million in Asia, primarily in Japan. Naomi Aoki, a spokeswoman for Biogen, said they’re especially concerned about the patients and doctors in a large multiple sclerosis center that is close to the earthquake.

“I think for us it’s less a business concern than it is a concern about patients and making sure patients can be sure that [they] can continue to the get the drug they need to [treat] their multiple sclerosis,” Aoki said.

“But it’s hard to imagine, given the situation on the group there, that there wouldn’t be some challenges involved.”

Time is of the essence when it comes to facing these challenges, Stoller said.

“With every day that passes, it’s yet another hour, day, another week that a company that does business with Japan can never recoup those losses,” he said.

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