Thoughts from Japan: Day one

It is 4:51 am on Monday (3:51 pm Sunday in Ohio) as I write this from my 25th floor hotel room at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. I was awakened a little while ago by Typhoon Faxai, a Category 2/3 hurricane with sheets of rain pounding against my window and winds up over 90 mph making themselves heard. The oncoming storm had authorities issue non-compulsory warnings to 110,000 people to evacuate, and airlines cancelled more than 100 flights scheduled for later today. I am glad to use the time to write down a few thoughts about the Japan trip so far.

We arrived Saturday at the hotel after about 21 hours of travel, and I was glad for a quick chance to freshen up before Rep. Bill Reineke, Mayor Aaron Montz, and Commissioner Mike Kerschner and I went to dinner with Paul Zito and Mindy McLaughlin. Paul heads up international investment for northwest Ohio at our regional economic development partner RGP Northwest Ohio, and Mindy does the same thing for Team NEO in northeast Ohio.

I’ve known Paul since 1996, when I got my first job in economic development at the State of Ohio primarily working with companies from Europe and Canada. Paul headed up the state’s European office in Brussels, and we worked closely together on at least ten international missions, including the Hanover Fair, the world’s largest general industrial trade fair, and the Governor’s 2012 mission to Europe. Paul has been indispensable in helping us plan this year’s trip and has been a fantastic partner in working with the many international companies we have in Seneca County.

We ate at a small, modest restaurant underneath the nearby bullet train tracks, and we talked about trends and issues in the auto industry, foreign direct investment, renewable energy, economic development strategy, as well as the upcoming conference and how to make our community better and stronger. A quick walk after dinner in downtown Tokyo, an impressively clean, modern, and dynamic city put the finishing touches on a long first day.

Yesterday, we checked into the conference, worked on recovering from jetlag, and went to the general reception of the Midwest-US Japan Association conference, which was an incredible networking opportunity. After listening to opening remarks about the 2020 Summer Olympics, our group started working the room.

I had the chance to talk to Governor DeWine about the importance of trips like this and how noteworthy it is that Ohio has the largest delegation of any state (almost 60 members). I had the chance to chat with Ohio Development Services Director Lydia Mihalik about their export and technology initiatives, as well as her experience with sister city relationships. I talked with Tsutomu Nakagawa, Consul General of Japan in Detroit, about our Japanese companies and potentially coming to visit Tiffin and Seneca County to see our Manufacturing Showcase.

I also had the opportunity to interact with at least twenty more, including J.P. Nauseef, leader of JobsOhio, the state’s economic development organization; Rie Takahashi, the senior international business manager for Ohio’s sister-province Saitama; as well as other members of JobsOhio, the Ohio delegation, and other Japanese officials.

As Bill, Aaron, Mike, Paul, and I sat together to grab a bite to eat after the event, we all agreed that the reception was outstanding. We began relationships; we strengthened relationships. We connected personally and professionally. We shared how special the Tiffin-Seneca community is and represented our community well.

It’s 6:51 am, and the winds have died down to 40 mph, as the storm has moved east. Time to get ready for a full day of conference activities. I can’t wait.