Economic Development Team Attends Conference in Japan


Four local officials left for Tokyo, Japan, one week ago, with three purposes in mind. They attended the 53rd Annual Joint Meeting of the Midwest US/Japan Association Conference, had numerous meetings with Japanese-owned parent companies from our region, and made a brief visit to Bellefontaine’s sister city of Suzuka.

The Logan County team consisted of Ben Vollrath of the Logan County Chamber of Commerce, Bellefontaine City Councilman Kyle Springs, Bellefontaine Mayor Ben Stahler, and Logan County Commissioner Joe Antram.

Other people from the Midwest States spanning from Ohio to Nebraska, including nine states in between are in attendance. Ohio has the strongest delegation, with 60 representatives attending.

This conference is located in Tokyo every other year, alternating with various host states from the Midwest. Representatives from Logan County have attended this conference since 2013. Columbus, Ohio will host this same conference in September of 2024.

The conference began by inviting attendees to be guests at the home of the US Ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel. There were a total of eight governors in attendance; five from the USA and three from various Japanese prefectures. The keynote speakers and topics, over the three days, included strategies for innovation, green and digital transitioning, and partnerships for our global economy.

For many, this marks the end of the journey. However, the Logan County team arranged visits to eight key industries from our area. Those visits took the team to the global headquarters of Honda, AGC, and Belletech, Nikkon holding company (NKP parts), Nippon ( NX automotive logistics), and Honda Logistics Co. (Midwest Express).

The team also traveled, by train, to Nagoya, to meet with leaders from Daido Metals & ISS America. In most cases, the presidents or senior administrators take part in these meetings. The Logan County team sent a strong message of gratitude and willingness to continue with an atmosphere of cooperation toward the success of their businesses. “There seems to be a common thread, throughout the various meetings, of a vision for growth and continued prosperity” stated Mayor Stahler.

From a global perspective, it should be noted that the United States is the number one foreign investor in Japan and likewise, Japan is the United State’s largest foreign investor. Ohio is ranked second, only to California, with the number of associates employed by Japanese-owned companies. Ohio has over 800 Japanese-owned companies and, closer to home, Logan County’s Japanese-owned companies employ over 7,000 associates.

Lastly, the Logan County team traveled by train to Suzuka; Bellefontaine‘s sister city for over 32 years. The group met with Honda executives there and toured their automotive plant. This was followed by a formal reception with the Suzuka Mayor Suematsu and a dinner that included area community leaders. The group stayed one night in Suzuka and returned to Tokyo the next day.