Ford reports successful mission to Japan

LOCAL NEWS JUN 4, 2016   WEIRTON – The head of the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle is hopeful about possible economic opportunities for West Virginia following a recent trip to Japan. Pat Ford, BDC executive director, was part of a contingent of state representatives in Japan in recent weeks, meeting with business executives and promoting the Mountain State. It was Ford’s second trip to the Asian nation to represent West Virginia. “It was really exciting,” Ford said of the trip, where he accompanied state Secretary of Commerce Keith Burdette and five others in meeting with eight companies during the five-day investment mission. The mission included business meetings in Tokyo, Nagoya and Yokohama with some companies which already have operations in West Virginia, as well as some which are looking at the state as opportunities to roll out facilities in the United States. The delegation met with companies involved in the automotive industry and metal stamping manufacturers, in addition to companies such as Nisshin Steel. Ford noted one of the biggest differences between this trip and the mission in 2015 was the opportunity to really sit down and interact more closely with each other. Last year’s event was celebratory, he said, as it also marked the 25-year relationship between West Virginia and Japan. “The meetings this year were more intimate and more productive,” Ford said, adding this allowed more detailed discussions on the companies’ history, growth and plans for the future. This year’s trip, he said, continued to build upon that relationship, which he said is important in Japanese society. Many of the companies the group met with, see compatible attitudes between the labor characteristics in Japan and those in West Virginia, which Ford said helps to open doors when industries look to build here. Japanese companies look at those types of connections when making development decisions. “It’s about the relationships,” Ford said. “The dollars and cents will take care of themselves.” According to Ford, West Virginia continues to present opportunities in areas such as metal coating, automotive parts and assembly, metal stamping, rubber and plastic products, engines and transmissions and distribution operations. Since West Virginia began increasing its efforts with Japan in 2012, Japanese companies have announced seven expansions in the state, investing $144 million and creating 231 jobs. There are 21 Japanese firms, with more than $2 billion of investment and more than 3,400 employees currently in West Virginia.