Japan/America Society of Kentucky

Since 1987

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Board of Directors

Executive Committee

Chair, Kevin Smith - Beam Suntory

Kevin is Vice President of Public Affairs at Beam Suntory. He is a 28-year veteran of Kentucky’s signature bourbon industry, having worked for the top distilleries in the state. He is currently serving on the Flaget Memorial Hospital Foundation Board, the Kentucky Chamber Board, chair of the KY Chamber Competitiveness Council, chair of the Kentucky Distillers Association Government Affairs Committee, Louisville Downtown Development Corporation Board, Greater Louisville Inc. Public Policy Council, Bardstown / Nelson County Tourism Commission Board, Bardstown Nelson County Chamber Board, Metro United Way Campaign Cabinet, and American Red Cross – Louisville Area Chapter/ Kentucky Region Board.

Previously Kevin worked in the manufacturing and supply chain side of the bourbon business as Director of Operations / Plant Manager for Jim Beam and Vice President / Master Distiller for Maker’s Mark where he created Maker’s 46, the company’s first innovation since 1953. In addition to manufacturing, Kevin has also promoted and represented the bourbon industry around the world conducting seminars, tastings, and media interviews for small and large audiences. In 2010 during his time as the Master Distiller at Maker’s Mark, Kevin debuted as a judge on the Food Network’s Iron Chef America….the secret ingredient was bourbon.

Vice-Chair, Koichi Kani - Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky 

Koichi is Senior Executive Engineer at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky. Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc., Toyota’s $5.3 billion investment in Kentucky is a 1300-acre site which includes vehicle production facilities for the Camry, Avalon and Solara as well as a power train plant for engine and axle production. TMMK has the capacity to build 500,000 autos and 500,000 engines each year. TMMK is one of Kentucky’s largest exporters, exporting over $1.3 billion annually in vehicles, parts, components and engines.

Secretary, Kay Sargent - Lexington Sister Cities

Kay is the Executive Director of Lexington Sister Cities, a program designed to encourage global understanding between American cities and other world communities. Lexington has sister-city ties with Deauville, France; County Kildare, Ireland; Shinhidaka, Japan; and Newmarket, England.

Treasurer, Tomo Nakamura - Crowe

Tomo is Audit Senior Manager at Crowe. Crowe LLP is one of the largest public accounting, consulting and technology firms in the United States. Crowe uses its deep industry expertise to provide audit and tax services to public and private entities while also helping clients reach their goals with advisory, risk and performance services. Crowe serves clients worldwide as an independent member of Crowe Horwath International, one of the largest global accounting networks in the world. The network consists of more than 760 offices in more than 120 countries around the world.

Yukie Cooper - Gray Construction

Yukie is Manager of Business of Development at Gray Construction. She has been with the company for almost 19 years and has played various roles in the sales and marketing for Gray’s Japanese projects. Previously Yukie worked for Panasonic in Troy, OH in the Equipment Department and also taught Japanese language classes at Owensboro Community College, University of Southern Mississippi and others. She enjoys bridging the gap between Japan and the U.S. by promoting better understanding for one another. Yukie enjoys volunteering at Humane Societies. She is a music lover, especially classical music.

Rene DeBerdt - Denham-Blythe

Rene is Construction and Development Manager at Denham-Blythe. Denham-Blythe was founded in 1976 by Charlie Denham and Dale Blythe, both former recipients of  the Construction Management Founders Society Lifetime Achievement Award.

John Ferguson -  Pro Tech Quality Solutions

John is the President of Pro Tech Quality Solutions, an industry leader in third party quality assurances services including Containment, Sorting, Rework, Launch Assistance, Representation and Problem Solving.

Bill Quenemoen - Denham-Blythe

Bill is Chief Executive Officer at Denham-Blythe Company. He is a registered professional engineer in 24 states and member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and the American Concrete Institute. Bill graduated with his BSCE from Ohio State in 1993. Afterwards, he pursued his master's degree in civil engineering at the University of Kentucky while working as a teaching assistant to Prof. Hans Gesund. In April of 1995, Bill accepted a position at the Denham-Blythe Company as a structural engineer in their design department and the following year he received his MSCE degree from UK. In 2004, Bill received his MBA from the Gatton College of Business at UK. 

The Denham-Blythe company was founded in 1976 by Charlie Denham and Dale Blythe, both former recipients of  the Construction Management Founders Society Lifetime Achievement Award. As a structural engineer, some of the design projects that Bill had the opportunity to work on included a $11.5 million industrial plant for Caterpillar in Danville, Kentucky, a $2.0 million facility expansion for the Okonite Company in Santa Maria, California, a $4.4 million new manufacturing facility for Webasto in Lexington, Kentucky, and a four-story office building for  Lexmark in Lexington.  

Kosuke Tomii - Toyota Tsusho America

Kosuke is Senior Project Manager of Corporate Accounting at Toyota Tsusho America, Inc. He has 14 years of experience in finance and accounting at Toyota Tsusho Corporation and Toyota Tsusho (Guangzhou) Co., Ltd.

Board Members

Matt Adams - Sumitomo Electric Wiring Systems

Matt is General Manager of Sumitomo Electric in Bowling Green. In 1986, Sumitomo Electric Industries (SEI) of Osaka, Japan, and Sumitomo Wiring Systems (SWS) of Yokkaichi, Japan, combined to form Sumitomo Electric Wiring Systems (SEWS), an independent US corporation. Today, with approximately 8,000 employees and net sales over $1,127 million, SEWS manufactures power distribution systems for Toyota, Honda, Ford, GM and others, streamlining the entire product development process, from concept to manufacturing and delivery.

Doug Bowling - Hitachi Automotive Systems

Doug is Vice President, Executive Officer, Head of Operations at Hitachi Automotive Systems, Ltd. The company is a Tier 1 supplier of world-class products to the global automotive market. The company operates ones sales and research and development office, one aftermarket sales office, and three manufacturing facilities in the United States.  

Todd Dorsey - Topy America

Todd is the Director of Topy America, Inc. located in Frankfort, Kentucky. Topy America was the first Japanese automotive parts supplier in Kentucky, established in 1985. Topy has a steel wheel manufacturing facility on 85 acres in Frankfort's Industrial Park and supplies parts to most of the Japanese transplants, Detroit 3 and the Korean transplants.

Craig Fisher - Hitachi Automotive Systems

Craig is the Senior Vice President of Human Resources & Administration at Hitachi Automotive Systems Americas, Inc. The company is a Tier 1 supplier of world-class products to the global automotive market. The company operates ones sales and research and development office, one aftermarket sales office, and three manufacturing facilities in the United States.  

Vanessa Grossl - Council State of Governments

Vanessa is JASK's Young Professional JET Programme Representative. She is a Policy Analyst at the Council State of Governments. Prior to joining CSG, Vanessa worked in Multicultural Affairs with the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government. Prior to her time as a civil servant, Vanessa spent nearly a decade as a foreign language teacher. She was a JET Programme participant in Tahara, Aichi for 5 years from 2006-2011 before serving as Vice President and President of the Kentucky Association of Japanese Language Teachers.  While in Japan, Vanessa also worked for the U.S. Embassy in Japan at the USDA’s Agricultural Trade Office where she collaborated with foreign governments on a number of initiatives and coauthored several reports, including the 2007 Exporter Guide.

Bob Helton - Morehead-Rowan County Economic Development Council

Bob is Executive Director at Morehead-Rowan County Economic Development Council. The mission of the Morehead and Rowan County Economic Development Council, Inc. is to coordinate all aspects of local economic growth. They serve the region by providing first class industrial properties at which businesses may develop and prosper. 

Masamichi Inoue - University of Kentucky

Masamichi is an Associate Professor of Japan Studies at the University of Kentucky. Since the mid-1990s, he has been conducting a series of anthropological and cultural analyses of the U.S. military base issues in Okinawa. Masamichi has initiated a project which traces, through a set of case studies, how Japanese culture has evolved since the 20th century as a global sanctuary—a transnational space of refuge, intimacy, and social critique open to social bodies with diverse gender, ethnic, national, linguistic, and cultural backgrounds. Furthermore, he has been conducting fieldwork with the campus police to examine issues of security in the increasingly globalized environment of post-9.11 American society. “Border-crossing” as a form of intellectual enterprise mediates and unites these projects, manifesting itself as Masamichi writes Japan (including Okinawa) from a global perspective on the one hand and explore global America as a Japanese intellectual on the other.

David Kidd - PNC Bank

David is Senior Vice President in the Commercial and Corporate Banking Department at PNC Financial Services Group. He is in his seventh year at PNC and his seventeenth in corporate and commercial banking. Prior to his banking career, David was in corporate sales at AT&T. In addition to being a board member of JASK, Mr. Kidd is also the current President of the Lexington Children’s Theatre, sits on the Shriner’s Hospital Corporate Council, the board for United Way of the Bluegrass, and is a coach for 4-H Shooting Sports. He is also on the selection committee for Leadership Kentucky and on the steering committee of Leadership Lexington. 

Kiyotaka Kobayashi - PricewaterhouseCoopers

Kiyotaka is the Managing Director of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. Pricewaterhouse offers assistance in areas ranging from business consultation and tax preparation to audit services. 

Jeff McKenzie - Dentons Bingham Greenebaum

Jeff is a Partner at Dentons Bingham Greenebaum. He serves as corporate, transactional and business counsel to numerous industrial, commercial and service businesses. Jeff has provided extensive services and is a principal legal advisor to national and regional clients in the following industries: distilled spirits; hospitals and healthcare; financial services; automotive production; logistics and distribution; steel production and fabrication; construction; engineering; architecture; consumer products; real estate development and brokerage; pharmaceuticals; professional services; restaurants; and medical products and devices. Dentons is the world's largest law firm. Their global team builds agile, tailored solutions to meet the local, national and global needs of private and public clients of any size in 184 locations serving 76 countries. 

Michael Rodenberg - Murakami Manufacturing North America

Michael is a Senior Operating Officer of Murakami Corporation Japan and President/COO of Murakami Manufacturing North America. He has a Bachelor’s degree  n Japanese from Brigham Young University and a MBA in Global Management from the University of Phoenix. Over the past 20 years, Michael has worked at several leading public companies with assignments in Japan, China, and various locations in the U.S. His experience includes, manufacturing operations, new product and market development, as well as mergers and acquisitions. In 2013, he was selected as the first non-Japanese to serve on the board of Murakami Corporation, an organization with over 130 years of history and tradition. Murakami’s operation in Kentucky, was featured in the 2014 summer edition of Motorworld Magazine for its effort in bridging the gap between two cultures. In 2015, he received The Kentucky Outstanding Civic Education Leadership Award, from the Secretary of State, which recognizes community leaders who have made notable contributions toward promoting or implementing civic learning to prepare students to be active and engaged in their communities. He currently serves on the Advisory Board for the Kentucky Chamber Workforce Center, an organization designed to meet Kentucky’s pressing workforce challenges.

Kunihiro Takeda Bicen Tool Corporation

Kunihiro is the President of Bicen Tool Corporation. The company was established in 1976 as a cutting tool and steel supplier. Purchased by a Japanese wholesaler, Tezuka Corp., in 1990, Bicen Tool has diversified its tooling lines with measuring tools as well as supplying automotive, tool and die.

Karen Wheeler - Beam Suntory

Karen is Community Relations and Operations Support Coordinator at Beam Suntory. Beam Suntory is a world leader in premium spirits with a mission of inspiring human connections. The company is a subsidiary of Suntory Beverage & Food Ltd, which itself is a subsidiary of Suntory Holdings of Osaka, Japan.

Doug Whitlock - Eastern Kentucky University

Doug is President Emeritus of Eastern Kentucky University. He graduated from EKU in 1965. He later received honors such as becoming part of the Hall of Distinguished Alumni in 2011 and the University's 11th President. He has also served as a member of the Madison County Schools Board of Education (1999-2011), the Richmond Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, Commerce Lexington's Central Kentucky Public Policy Council, Bluegrass Tomorrow Board of Directors, the International Town and Gown Association, the Southern Growth Policies Board and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. 

During his tenure, Eastern Kentucky University garnered several national recognitions, including: designations by Forbes and U.S. News as being among America's best colleges; distinctions as a community-engaged university by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and Washington (DC) Monthly magazine; and recognition for two consecutive years as one of America's "Great Colleges to Work For," including 2010's designation as an Honor Roll institution, by the Chronicle of Higher Education. Most notably, perhaps, is EKU's recognition as a veterans-friendly campus by G.I. Jobs magazine and a Number 1 ranking in the nation by Military Times EDGE magazine with its "Best for Vets" honor.

Past Chairs and Honorary Board Members

Robert L. Brown - Lynch, Cox, Gilman & Goodman

Robert represents domestic and foreign companies reach customers in overseas markets. Robert is chair of National District Export Council appointed by US Secretary of Commerce. He is also chair of Kentucky District Export Council, and treasurer of Sister Cities of Louisville. Robert has previously served as chair of the Kentucky World Trade Center, chair of the World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana, and chair of Crane House, a leading Asian cultural and business society. On a global scale, he is chair of the American Bar Association, Section of International Law and its 20,000 members in over 100 countries. In addition to a law degree, he has earned MBA and MS in urban economics (Louisville), MS in Japanese business (Jochi University in Tokyo), and two PhDs in law and development (University of Cambridge and The London School of Economics and Political Science). Recently, he completed an LL.M. in world trade from the University of London. He has also passed the CPA exam. He is admitted in Kentucky, New York, California, District of Columbia, England and Wales, and Hong Kong. From 1990-1993, he was admitted as a foreign lawyer in Japan.

Steve Cecil - Green Metals

Steve is originally from Louisville, Kentucky. A graduate of the University of Kentucky in 1979, Steve has been directly involved in Kentucky recycling since 1980. Steve worked at Baker Iron & Metal in Lexington, Kentucky for 21 years prior to beginning his career with Green Metals, Inc. located in Georgetown, Kentucky. Green Metals, Inc. is owned by Toyota Tsusho Corporation (Japan) and Toyota Tsusho America. Steve currently serves as President of Green Metals, Inc. and is a Board Member of the Kentucky Recyclers Association.

Nancy Fulks - Age International

Nancy is a native of eastern KY and attended the University of KY where she obtained a degree in accounting. Following two years as an Assistant Administrator in a nursing home, she began her career in broadcast financial management. After spending twelve years in North Carolina she returned to KY and in 1993 began working for Age International, Inc. (owner of Blanton's).

Glen Krebs - Wyatt Tarrant & Combs

Glen is a member of the Firm's Labor & Employment Service Team. He concentrates his practice in international and immigration law. Some of his work includes appearing on behalf of clients at U.S. embassies in Ghana, China, Japan, Russia, Canada and Bulgaria and represented clients from more than 65 different countries. In addition, he has assisted more than 40 Japanese companies establish their presence in the United States.

Jim Wiseman - Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing

Jim graduated from Vanderbilt University and had a 23-year career at the Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing before he retired. During his career, Jim served as Toyota’s first CCO for North America and North America Vice President. 

Japan/America Society of Kentucky
464 Chenault Rd.
Frankfort, KY 40601
(502) 209-9630

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