SIDNEY — City of Sidney officials welcomed Consul General of Japan Yusuke Shindo and his wife Seiko Shindo to city hall Friday afternoon. Mayor Mardie Milligan, former mayor and Councilmember Mike Barhorst,and City Manager Andrew Bowsher met with Mr. and Mrs. Shindo in Council Chambers before taking them on a tour of the city.
During the formal greeting, there was an exchange of business cards. Milligan presented the consul general with gifts that has both Sidney and Ohio significance, and Mrs. Shindo with a box of Winan’s chocolates.
After officially welcoming Mr. and Mrs. Shindo and telling them how honored she was that they were visiting Sidney, Milligan explained the important role the five the five Japanese owned businesses that call Sidney home were to the local economy. She then asked Barhorst if he would talk about the work that had been undertaken to form a partner-city relationship with a Japanese municipality.
Barhorst reviewed the steps that have been taken for nearly two decades, and the impediments that various disasters had played in delaying the process.
“Both the United States and Japan had to recover from the Great Recession of 2008,” Barhorst said. “We were close when the tsunami struck Japan in 2011. We inched closer again before the pandemic struck.
“Fortunately, Japan External Trade Organization’s Chicago Chief Executive Director Ralph Inforzato has assisted in the process,” Barhorst said. “We’ve had the first initial virtual meetings between Sidney staff members and the staff of Ichihara City, and those meetings have gone well. Sometime in the future, the mayors will have a virtual meeting, and hopefully we’ll be a bit closer to our goal.”
Ichihara City is located in the Chiba Prefecture and is the home of Mitsui Chemical. Mitsui Chemical is the parent company of Hexa Americas and Advanced Composites.
Milligan then asked Bowsher to talk a bit about the downtown and revitalization efforts taking place. Downtown revitalization is of particular interest, as several Japanese municipalities are working on similar issues.
Bowsher explained several of the steps city officials have taken to assist in the revitalization of the downtown, the fact that he and his family were purchasing a building on Courthouse Square in which they intend to live and open a business, and the generational desire for millennials to live close to their workplace, and to have amenities nearby including restaurants, shops, parks, libraries and churches within walking distance.
Following the discussion in council chambers, the group took a driving tour of Sidney that included the downtown, the location of four of the five Japanese-owned companies that call Sidney home (Hexa Americas, NK Parts, Advanced Composites and Stolle Machinery), Cargill, Emerson, Wilson Health, Sidney High Schooland a drive through Tawawa Park.
“You have a beautiful city,” Mrs. Shindo exclaimed. “I wish we could live here!”
“Having lived or visited both coasts,” Consul General Shindo said, “we can’t tell you how delighted we are that we’ve had the opportunity to live in the Midwest. The people in the Midwest is so much more inviting and welcoming than those on the coasts. It is a joy to live here!”
“We were very pleased to have the opportunity to meet the consul general and his wife,” Milligan said. “We had a wonderful visit.”
“They spoke about the important role that education plays in Japanese businesses locating in a community,” Milligan said. “They talked about the importance of being able to walk from place to place, the role that parks play in Japanese culture, and the overall beauty of Sidney. I very much look forward to further such meetings.”
Earlier in the day the consul general enjoyed lunch at Fuji Japanese Restaurant with company officials from Honda, Hexa Americas and Advanced Composites. Following their visit to Sidney, they returned home to their residence in Detroit.
The Consul General of Japan in Detroit represents Japanese interests in Michigan and Ohio. Approximately 500 Japanese business offices now operate in each of these two states, making significant contributions to their local economies.
This region is also home to about 14,000 Japanese residents in Michigan and another 10,000 in Ohio. The Consulate General makes every effort to ensure the safety and well-being of these Japanese residents.
“Our Japanese businesses play and important role in our local economy,” Bowsher said. ”Japan is Ohio’s top international investor, and certainly is Shelby County’s top international investor. Second only to California, Ohio has the largest number of Americans employed by Japanese companies, and certainly, we can say the same about Shelby County.”