SIDNEY — A delegation representing the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) was in Sidney last week where they hosted an informational luncheon for representatives from Sidney and surrounding communities. JETRO Chief Executive Director Ralph Inforzato, JETRO Executive Director Tomofumi Nishizawa, JETRO Public Affairs Director Tsubasa Hashimoto, and JETRO Business Development Director Mayu Kasukawa all traveled to Sidney from Chicago. As a result of the pandemic, it was their first trip away from their home base in Chicago in 18 months.
Sidney Mayor Mike Barhorst, who helped organize the event, invited the mayors from several surrounding communities to attend the luncheon. He also asked them to bring along their economic development representatives. The mayors of Bellefontaine, Celina, Greenville, Russia, Troy and Urbana were in attendance.
“Not unlike the entire Dayton region, Sidney has a unique combination of right-brain innovation and left-brain resourcefulness,” Barhorst said as he welcomed those gathered for the luncheon. “We create and make things here; it’s part of our DNA. It always has been and hopefully always will be.
“One of the reasons I’ve found my relationship with the Japan External Trade Organization to be helpful is their emphasis on helping small to medium size Japanese firms maximize their global export potential,” Barhorst said. “It is my hope that all of you can find renewed ways to work to strengthen the ties between Japan and the United States. By working together, we can help find homes for those Japanese companies wishing to expand here, and likewise, assist our own companies who may wish to expand into Japan.”
A part of the message imparted by the Japanese delegation was a review of the dynamic of Japan’s direct investment in the United States.
“By the end of 2019, Japan is the leading foreign investor in the United States,” Inforzato told the group. “By 2019, Japan’s total investment in the United States reached $644.7 billion. That is why in the pre-pandemic years numerous U.S. governors, including Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, visited Japan enabling them to build new and sustain existing relationships with Japanese companies.”
“Job creation by Japanese companies in the United States has never been at a higher level,” Hashimoto told the group. “Just over 885,000 Americans are employed by U.S. based operations of Japanese companies.
“According to our 2019 JETRO Survey on U.S. based Japanese companies, 98.7% of respondents indicated they provide medical and other health benefits, such as dental and vision care, to their American team members,” Hashimoto said. “Since 2007, Japan employs more Americans in the manufacturing sector of the United States than any other foreign investor.
“Significantly, U.S. based Japanese companies are the #1 foreign contributor to America’s exports,” Hashimoto said. “We’ve contributed in helping erase the balance of trade deficit to the tune of $95.3 billon.
“Japanese companies based in the U.S. are also a major contributor to research and development,” Hashimoto said. “Our companies have invested more than $8.8 billion in research, and that number continues to grow as I speak.”
“We appreciate leaders who understand the importance of the relationship between Japan and the United States,” Inforzoto said. That is one reason that we asked Bellefontaine Mayor Ben Stahler and Sidney Mayor Mike Barhorst to make presentations during the 2021 Select USA Summit. Because of the pandemic, their presentations were virtual, but that allowed companies in Japan to hear their messages without having to travel to the United States, so in some ways, it was a tremendous benefit to giving them an even wider audience.”
“If you have not developed a working relationship with our friends from JETRO, I would strongly suggest that you do so,” Barhorst said in his closing remarks. “They are responsive and can help you make things happen in your community.”
“Before I close, I want to relate a brief story. Just before the pandemic reared its ugly head, Sidney was ready to celebrate her Bicentennial,” Barhorst said. “Sidney’s birthday is February 12, and because Shelby County was just concluding her Bicentennial celebration, Sidney had agreed not to do anything elaborate – but we did meet to drink a toast. It was a dreadfully snowy night, and many of our invited guests did not attend. Ralph (Inforzato) and Kiko Hanashiro, representing JETRO, did attend. I’ll always remember their raising a glass to toast our future.”
Following the luncheon, held at The Bridge restaurant, the JETRO team walked across the street to meet further with Sidney officials at city hall. A part of that discussion concerned Sidney developing a Sister City relationship with a city in Japan.
“The luncheon was a first of its kind event for JETRO,” Barhorst stated. “It went well, and there was some discussion of making the event an annual affair.”