CHARLESTON - Some local officials are accompanying Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on a 10-day business mission to Japan.
Cam Huffman, president of the Wood Economic Development Authority; Karen Facemyer, president of the Polymer Alliance Zone; and Mark Whitley, executive director of the Jackson County Development Authority, were among a delegation of state and local officials leaving Thursday with Tomblin. The trip mark's Tomblin's first overseas trip as governor.
Tomblin's office issued a release Thursday morning announcing the trip, just hours before the delegation took off.
The mission's goals will be to attract new business investments in West Virginia and to maintain strong ties with established investors, the governor's office stated.
"The business relationship between Japan and West Virginia continues to be an important part of our state's growing economy," Tomblin stated in the release. "I will be meeting with companies that have invested in the state to discuss their current operations as well as potential expansion projects. Also, I will meet with Japanese companies currently considering West Virginia as an investment location."
Tomblin and his wife Joanne will be joined by representatives from development authorities from Wood, Jackson and Putnam counties and state Secretary of Commerce Keith Burdette, as well as Facemyer and representatives of the law firm of Bowles Rice McDavid Graff & Love. The firm represents several Japanese companies doing business in the state.
A Second Trip For Some
This is the second time West Virginia Secretary of Commerce Keith Burdette and Cam Huffman, president of the Wood Economic Development Authority, have traveled to Japan. The two were part of a delegation of state and local officials who took a 10-day trip to Japan in 2008.
Tomblin and the delegation members will promote West Virginia to firms representing the state's target industries. These include Japanese manufacturers of automotive components, chemicals, polymers, aerospace components, metalworking and other sectors.
According to the governor's office, international companies that have invested in the state employ more than 20,000 West Virginians. More than half of those jobs are in the manufacturing sector.
Wheeling-Nisshin was established in Follansbee in 1986 and was the first Japanese investment in West Virginia. Since the West Virginia Japan Office opened in Nagoya in 1990, an additional 20 Japanese companies have invested in the state. Today those Japanese firms employ approximately 2,300 West Virginians. Those firms include Toyota and Hino.
"West Virginia has a strong track record with the Japanese companies doing business here," Burdette stated in the release. "They have found West Virginia to be a good place to do business and always are willing to assist us in sharing their experiences with other potential investors." In addition to investment in the state, Japan is West Virginia's second largest market for non-coal exports. In 2011 the state's exports to Japan totaled more than $420 million. Officials return to the state June 10.