Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin today reported on the success of his ongoing trade mission to Japan. Since arriving in Japan on June 1, the governor has met with many Japanese companies with existing investments in West Virginia, as well as several potential investors. The trade mission, which continues through June 9, aims to strengthen the state's ties with Japanese businesses.
Since arriving in Japan, Gov. Tomblin has held private meetings with senior executives from Nisshin Steel, Nippon Thermostat, Hino Motors, Kureha Corporation and Okuno International- all companies currently doing business in West Virginia. The meetings have focused on nurturing existing commercial relationships and exploring potential business expansions. The governor also has hosted several larger forums with current business partners and companies considering investing or locating operations in the state. Gov. Tomblin will spend Friday with executives from Toyota, whose Buffalo manufacturing plant is one of the crown jewels of Japanese investment in West Virginia.
"I'm very proud of the business relationship our state has built with Japan over the years," said Gov. Tomblin. "We are committed to upholding the standards of excellence they have come to expect from both our government and our workforce. We are building on the reputation we have established to bring even more jobs to the Mountain State. I expect to announce new investments and jobs shortly after I return."
In undertaking his first Japan trade mission, Gov. Tomblin joins a long list of West Virginia governors who have traveled to the Pacific Rim economic powerhouse to promote West Virginia. Japanese companies play an important part in our state's strong economy, with over 20 Japanese companies doing business here. Those companies employ over 2,400 West Virginians and have invested over $2.1 billion in our economy. Last year, the state's exports to Japan totaled more than $420 million.
Nisshin Steel, a leading steelmaker and the owner of Wheeling-Nisshin, Inc., was the first Japanese company to invest in West Virginia. Nisshin opened its steel coating plant in Follansbee, Brooke County in 1988. Its products are used by automobile manufacturers, building and construction companies, appliance makers, and in many other industries.
Nippon Thermostat has been doing business in West Virginia for ten years. Its 32,000 sq. ft. facility in the Putnam Business Park in Fraziers Bottom produces thermostats for the automotive industry.
Hino Motors, a major worldwide truck manufacturer, established its assembly plant in Williamstown, West Virginia in 2007. The Wood County plan produces Class 6 and 7 medium-duty trucks.
Kureha Corporation's West Virginia facility is located in Belle . The Kanawha County plastics plant produces PGA, an innovative polymer used as a gas barrier for plastic soft drink bottles. The plant's grand opening was held in 2011.
Okuno International established its operations in Wayne County in 1999. The plant, located in Prichard, manufactures hydraulic cylinders used in industrial equipment.
Toyota, the global auto giant, opened its manufacturing plant in Putnam County 16 years ago. The Buffalo automotive engine and transmission plant employees over 1,200 West Virginians and continues to grow.