Thoughts from Japan: Day seven

Returning home from a trip is always bittersweet. I have enjoyed our experience in Japan, but there is nothing quite like coming back home to Northwest Ohio.

Our trip to Japan was an effort to represent our community on the global stage. We had the opportunity to meet a lot of people that know Northwest Ohio. When I asked the leaders of both Taiho and Fine Sinter, as well as the National Machinery representative, Mr. Kay Iwata, what they like best about their Ohio locations, all of them mentioned the strength of our community and the safety that comes along with it. Regardless of being a foreign-owned company, they love the fact that when they’re here, they feel welcome and supported. I am proud of that and it is one of the reasons I have called Tiffin home for over 35 years.

Our cultures and our day-to-day routines may be different, but what struck me the most on this trip was how similar our economic needs are to keep our collective communities strong. The fundamental reason these companies are in Ohio is our workforce. They need skilled and hardworking people to fill their jobs, and they can find just that in Northwest Ohio. But there is a shortage, and they see the same set of obstacles in Japan as we do here in the United States as we try to fill the gap.

Both of our countries are working toward reform to ensure we’re prepared for an economy of the future, the New Knowledge Economy. This includes challenging fundamental education by introducing and developing simple skill sets at an earlier age. Just about every company we spoke to emphasized that critical thinking is the most important skill set in new recruits. New hires, with critical thinking skills, that are matched with more experienced workers ,can be trained more effectively and produce better results.

Amazingly, most developed countries are understanding this need. The viability of a country — or city or county — is based on the ability to employ its people.

Another way these countries are moving into the future of workforce is by adopting more flexible human resource working practices. Examples include flexible hours, training, increasing diversity in the workplace, childcare, and stronger healthcare benefits. Companies are serious about getting the best people possible and are willing to make concessions in order to recruit them.

Workforce needs are universal. Governments and businesses across the world are attempting to figure out ways to supply their citizens and employees with the tools and skills necessary to thrive. Mayor Montz, Commissioner Kerschner, TSEP Director Zak and I have had countless conversations before and during this trip about how we can continue our work in maximizing opportunities for Seneca County. We intend to share our learnings with our fellow community leaders and educational partners and to sketch out further plans of how we can better support our workforce and our Japanese partners.

I want to thank everyone for the support they have shown us during this trip. It is always an honor to represent “home,” but having the privilege to do so on a global scale has been incredibly rewarding. Thank you.