Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge, left, and Economic Development Council CEO Mitch Miller, center, will travel to Takashima, Japan to visit Nakatetsu Machining Technologies facilities at the invitation of the company's president, Katsumi Okita.
A trip for two to Japan will cost the partially taxpayer-funded Washington County Economic Development Council nearly $5,000, but the officials headed out of town say the expense could pay off if it helps bring more jobs to the area.
Last week before the WCEDC’s board of directors, CEO Mitch Miller said a visit from Katsumi Okita, president of Nakatetsu Machining Technologies, to the manufacturing facility in the Telford Industrial Park ended with a surprise invitation to Takashima, Japan, for Miller and County Mayor Dan Eldridge to meet with Okita, see the company’s Japanese facilities and discuss future plans for the Telford site.
Miller said dining and accommodations will be provided by Nakatetsu during the five-day stay, but the transportation to Japan was the responsibility of the development organization at a cost of $2,425 per person for a commercial flight.
With the Japanese company considering another U.S. expansion project, Miller said the travel expenses were well worth the potential for future benefits, a sentiment echoed by the county mayor.
“First of all, this trip is being initiated at the invitation of Mr. Okita,” Eldridge said Monday. “The need for this is more related to furthering the relationship between Washington County and its key employers.”
Recently, Eldridge said he took a similar trip to South Carolina, when he drove there to meet with the management team of Koyo, another automotive parts manufacturer located in the Telford park.
For that trip, the mayor said he drove his personal vehicle at his own expense, but said the cost of a tank of gasoline was not comparable to the price of the plane ticket to Japan.
Eldridge said Nakatetsu, which employs almost 80 in Washington County, is considering a major expansion, and local leaders want to land the new jobs it would create.
“When you get an invitation like this, I think you have to say yes,” he said. “We want to know you better, we want to know your business better and we want to understand your needs better, because the ultimate goal is to be able to serve them better and, when the opportunity presents itself, be first in line for job creation.”
Eldridge said Okita visits Washington County two times each year and meets with select public stakeholders for dinner and business discussions at the company’s expense.
The WCEDC, recently made the official economic development organization for Washington County and the municipalities contained therein, is funded in part by public money and in part by pledges from private businesses that pay for voting memberships on the organization’s board of directors.
This year, the body projects revenues of more than $400,000 from local public sources and more than $220,000 from pledges.
Nakatetsu Machining Technologies makes tapered roller bearings for the automotive industry. The company’s manufacturing facility has been in the Telford Industrial Park since 2007.
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