By BRANDON ROBERTS
HUNTINGTON - A Huntington representative participating in a business delegation led by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to Japan this week said the trip has been beneficial.
David Graley, representing the Huntington Area Development Council, said the trip allowed him to renew important contacts in Japan with Tri-State connections.
"This has been very interesting and I have actually gotten to visit with executives of two companies with a presence in Cabell (Nippon Tungsten) and Wayne (Okuno Industries) counties," said Graley, who is also vice president and chief operating officer of the Cabell Huntington Hospital Foundation.
The trip also allowed him to visit the chairwoman of Okuno Industries, something he has not done since HADCO was showing the company properties in the area 15 years ago.
"It is very, very important we are here with Gov. Tomblin's commerce team, Toyota of West Virginia and several economic development agencies from across the state," Graley said.
HADCO interim president Geoff Sheils said it was important for HADCO to be represented. "We thank David for offering his valuable time on such short notice."
Tomblin led the 14-person delegation to mark the 25th anniversary of the West Virginia Department of Commerce's opening of an office in Nagoya, Japan.
According to a press release from Tomblin's office, the goals of the trip were to celebrate and strengthen ties West Virginia has established with investors over the past 25 years and to attract new business investments to the state.
"We understand great business is built on great relationships, and I'm grateful for the vision of Gov. Gaston Caperton, who with then-U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, led the first West Virginia investment mission to the Chubu region, the center of Japan's manufacturing hub," Tomblin said in the release. "We're proud of the strong relationships we've built over the years, treasure the friendships we've made and look forward to ongoing productive discussions to support job growth and investment in the Mountain State."
Caperton, who authorized the opening of the Nagoya office during his first term, joined Tomblin on the trip. Since the office opened, the state has seen millions of dollars in investments from Japanese companies. Today, 20 Japanese firms employ more than 3,000 West Virginians.
The itinerary included stops in Nagoya, Yokohama and Tokyo. Outreach efforts included exhibiting and hosting a seminar at Japan's largest automotive trade show, Tomblin speaking to the Nagoya Chamber of Commerce and nearly a dozen private meetings with both current and prospective investors. Tomblin also attended a reception with the West Virginia University Alumni Association's Japan Chapter and its 75 members.
Since Tomblin's first trip to Japan in 2012, Japanese companies have announced seven expansions to operations in West Virginia totaling $144 million in new investments and 231 new jobs.