Northwest businesses assessing impact from Japan quake



Posted on March 11, 2011 at 7:54 PM

SEATTLE – Several Northwest businesses have employees and operations in Japan, where an 8.9 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami devastated parts of the country.

A Japanese warehouse for Issaquah-based Costco was hard hit. At least one car with people inside was trapped when the Costco parking garage collapsed.

Calls to Costco’s headquarters were not returned Friday.

In Redmond, Microsoft activated its disaster response center. Workers are assessing the damage at the company's ten facilities in Japan and trying to account for its 2,300 employees there.

The software giant is also putting its powerful tools to work, using its satellite imagery program "Bing" to develop before and after photos of the hard hit areas.

“Non-profits and relief agencies can use that to see what roads are disrupted and what routes they can take to deliver food and water,” Claire Bonilla, director of Microsoft's disaster response program said.

Boeing is increasingly dependent on Japan. More than a third of the company’s 787 Dreamliner is produced there. It isn't saying yet what impact the quake will have on the much delayed delivery of its new plane.

Boeing says its 200 employees in Japan are unharmed.

At smaller companies like Kent’s Japan Food Corporation, an Asian food importer, business is taking a back seat to personal affairs.

Many of the Japanese-American employees are trying to connect with family in Japan.

“Yeah, I tried to call my sister,” salesperson Tsuyoshi Umezawa said. “She's in Tokyo, but the phone didn't work and I sent e-mail and there was no reply."

Later in the day, he was able to reach his sister and learned that she was not hurt.