Local representatives in the photo above include Councilman Henk Berbee, Mayor J.R. Rausch, Commissioner Chris Schmenk, Economic Development Director Eric Phillips and City Manager Terry Emery. As part of the visit to Japan, delegates met with Panasonic, which has expressed an interest in Marysville and the U.S. 33 Smart Mobility Corridor. (Photo submitted)
Japan visit pays dividends with electronics maker
Panasonic wants to do business in Union County.
This was one of the major takeaways from Union County Economic Development Director Eric Phillips’ recent presentation to Marysville City Council. Phillips was offering highlights of a trip to Japan, Sept 1-13. Phillips, along with council member Henk Berbee, council member and mayor J.R. Rausch, city administrator Terry Emery, along with Union County Commissioner Chris Schmenk and Marysville Early College High School Principal Ken Chaffin were in Japan to conduct a series of business visits as well as attend the U.S. Midwest-Japan Association meeting.
While in Japan, regional delegates conducted 39 company or multiplier visits.
“These are high profile visits,” Phillips said.
He reported the delegation had a “great meeting” with Honda Chairman and Director Mikoshiba-San.
The group visited Honda’s plant in Yorii, Japan, Marysville’s Friendship City. Phillips said Honda’s Yorii Auto Plant is the most technologically advanced Honda production facility in the world.
The delegation also visited Panasonic P-Center, the company’s world headquarters and museum as well as the company’s Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town, an actual smart town with 1,000 households created by the company for research. Phillips said Panasonic has expressed interest in the 33 Smart Mobility Corridor.
“Panasonic is looking to do some smart mobility testing in Marysville,” Phillips said.
Phillips said the mission included strategic meetings with Nissin, H-One, Honda Logistics, Toyo Corp. and Sumitomo. Phillips said there are 24 Japanese companies in Union County, “and that continues to grow.”
He said visits like the ones done in Japan help strengthen relationships, which helps recruit new businesses and retain the ones we have.
Emery said the companies were “very appreciative.”
We also talk about growth opportunities and from that, I think we have some potential leads,” Emery said.
Phillips said this was the first time in almost 20 years the Ohio governor has attended the U.S. Midwest-Japan Association meeting.
“Our governor hit a home run, a grand slam,” Phillips said.
U.S. Midwest-Japan Association is a bilateral organization comprised of the governments of ten U.S. Midwestern states, eight prefectures in Japan, and about 100 Japanese corporations. Phillips said Japan is Ohio’s top international investor, with more than 72,860 Ohioans employed at 852 different Japanese-owned businesses across the state.
Phillips said the Union County delegation was so large, DeWine publicly commented on its size during remarks at the Governor’s Conference Reception.
“We were definitely noticed and proud to be there,” Phillips said.
He said Union County’s relationship with Japanese trade officials is “stronger than it has ever been.”
Berbee said he came away with an appreciation for the way Japanese companies do business. He said he sees a strong correlation between Japanese companies and Union County businesses.
“They are in it for the long haul,” he said.
He said the entire trip was “a very positive experience” but stressed it was the visit with Panasonic that “really blew us away.”
Marysville Finance Director Justin Nahvi has said between airfare, hotels, food, in-country transportation and miscellaneous expenses, the trip cost the city about $32,600.
Kelly Higgins, clerk to the Union County Board of Commissioners, said the county paid for Schmenk’s visit. She said the total cost including, flight, conference, hotels, meals and taxis was $8573.99, but there are two small bills, estimated at $100, to be paid yet.
While in Japan, the Union County delegation met with officials from Yorii. Each year, representatives from Yorii come to the U.S. or a delegation from this area goes to Yorii. City officials from the Japanese Friendship City were in Marysville in August to help celebrate the bicentennial.
The cultural exchange has even moved to the schools. Phillips said that since the Friendship City agreement was signed, 56 Marysville students have traveled to Yorii as part of student exchange program. Dozens of Japanese students have traveled to the U.S. through the program as well.
Chaffin said that during the conference he was able to speak with educational leaders from the state as well as international leaders. He said it is important to visualize what global business will look like in 15 years and how the workforce needs to be prepared.
“I came back more excited about our city, but also more focused on our trajectory of where we are going,” Chaffin said.
Phillips said the student program is a great example of how private business helps the community.
“Honda has been a major investor in the exchange program,” Phillips said. “We wouldn’t be here talking about this if Honda didn’t invest here 40 years ago.”
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