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12-10-02: Japanese industry leaders confer with local officials
The Daily Standard
    Celina city officials were surprised and pleased to see their August trip to Japan to forge business relationships already paying off.
    On Friday, Wright State University-Lake Campus housed a meeting between local economic development officials and the Japan Auto Parts Industry Alliance (JAPIA).
    The meeting comes just three months after city officials toured plants and development offices in Japan.
    The Daily Standard on Monday talked with Celina Mayor Paul Arnold, Celina Community Development Director Sue Canary, Grand Lake/Mercer County Economic Development Corporation Director Julie Miller and Lake Campus Assistant Dean Tom Knapke about the purpose of the meeting.
    Miller said the purpose of the meeting was not to pitch business ideas, rather, the participants were to become acquainted with how Japanese companies deal with other companies.
    "We're looking for direction from them on how to get our supply chain more in line with what Japanese auto makers are looking for," Miller said.
    Knapke said the local group's visit to Japan this summer made a "huge impact."
    "It put us on the map," he said.
    Knapke said he felt Japanese industry officials were interested in Mercer County, after learning about the proximity to Interstate 75, Detroit, Anna and other places, as well as the abundance of local companies already part of the automobile manufacturing industry.
    The group also said Horomi Doy, director of overseas manufacturing for The Honda Foundry, gave the Mercer County area high remarks in a letter to Hiroshi Ohsawa, North American director of the Japan Auto Parts Industry Alliance (JAPIA).
    Friday's guests included Ohsawa; Keith Conroy, the international business liaison for the Ohio Department of Development; and Aiichiro Morita, senior trade adviser for Japan External Trade Organization. Also, more than 30 business officials from the area attended as well as development officials for Mercer, Van Wert and Auglaize counties.
    The most prominent thing learned at Friday's forum, Miller noted, was that Japanese companies hold quality as the highest business priority, with a timely supply chain and low cost taking second and third.
    In the United States, Miller said, most companies are driven by cost, number one, followed by timely production and quality.
    That priority order is key to understanding what Japanese auto makers are seeking when deals for parts are made in America, Canary said.
    JAPIA companies seek other companies that have similar goals and priorities. Also, Japan-ese companies like to stay informed on the partnered company's community development actions, management style and environmental practices.
  "It's really important how they perceive your ability to become a supplier," Miller said.
    "It opened the eyes of some of the people around here on what would be expected of them," Mayor Arnold said.
    Miller and Canary said the next step is organizing area manufacturers into a new business group, such as the United Manufacturers Alliance. Also, a business fair may be on the horizon to showcase the area's abilities to Japanese visitors seeking business partnerships.


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The Standard Printing Company
P.O. Box 140, Celina, OH 45822