Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced today that he will lead a business mission to Japan, May 31 through June 9.
The mission's goals will be to attract new business investments in West Virginia and to maintain strong ties with established investors.
"The business relationship between Japan and West Virginia continues to be an important part of our state's growing economy," Gov. Tomblin said. "I will be meeting with companies that have invested in the state to discuss their current operations as well as potential expansion projects. I will also meet with Japanese companies currently considering West Virginia as an investment location."
Gov. Tomblin and First Lady Joanne Jaeger Tomblin will be joined by representatives of local development authorities from Wood, Jackson and Putnam counties, the Polymer Alliance Zone and Bowles Rice McDavid Graff & Love. The Bowles Rice law firm represents several Japanese companies doing business in the state.
In meetings with individual companies and through networking receptions in Tokyo and Nagoya, Gov. 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.
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.
"West Virginia has a strong track record with the Japanese companies doing business here," said Secretary of Commerce Keith Burdette. "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.
The participating mission members are:
Keith Burdette, Secretary of Commerce, West Virginia Department of Commerce
Angel Moore, Deputy Secretary of Commerce, West Virginia Department of Commerce
Karen Facemyer, President, Polymer Alliance Zone
Tom Heywood, Managing Partner, Bowles Rice McDavid Graff & Love LLP
Breck Martin, Partner, Bowles Rice McDavid Graff & Love LLP
Cam Huffman, President, Wood County Development Authority
Heather Vanater, Economic Development Project Director, Putnam County Development Authority
Mark Whitley, Executive Director, Jackson County Development Authority
Steve Spence, Director - International Division, West Virginia Development Office