German manufacturing and trade association officials may make future trips to Wapakoneta and Auglaize County after a pair of local economic development directors traveled to Germany as part of an international trade mission.
Wapakoneta Area Economic Development Council (WAEDC) Executive Director Greg Myers and his St. Marys counterpart, City Development Manager Susan Crotty, traveled to Wolfsburg, Germany in October, for an auto supplier trade show as part of the West Central Development Coalition. He also traveled to Chicago with two more trips this next week.
Myers gleaned a few trends in his talks abroad and at home about business expansion, specifically in the United States.
“There is a lot happening right now and things have been in a holding pattern for the election until it concludes,” said Myers, who is encouraged by the trips and the message he is receiving from executives. “I don’t know which companies individually are going to be happy and not going to be happy with the election results, but in talking with all of them they wanted certainty. They want to know what was going to happen with health care, what was going to happen with taxes so they could plan.”
Myers was alluding to President Barack Obama, a Democrat, winning re-election against Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney.
“For companies the biggest concern is they don’t want to be out there doing something and then it doesn’t match the market forces because they anticipated one thing was going to happen and another did,” Myers said. “With the election behind us and having some sense of where the country is going is going to be reassuring to them.”
He said he believes some of these companies will move closer to “pulling the trigger on some of these projects” and some of the companies are operating at full capacity and looking to expand.
While in Europe, Myers also traveled to Lengerich, Germany and met with government and business leaders of Wapakoneta’s Sister City. He told WAEDC members during Wednesday’s meeting he was encouraged after the two trade stops in mid-October and another to Chicago last week, and he was ecisting about making more inroads to be made in the next few days as he travels to Milwaukee and southern California.
“The trip went very well and we took full advantage of this great opportunity to talk with 20 companies about locating in west-central Ohio and specifically talking about the West Central Ohio Industrial Center, or the Job Ready Site,” Myers said. “I also believe our talks with the two trade association will pay dividends as we encouraged them to come over and see things first hand.”
During Myers and Crotty visit to Wolfsburg, Germany, they met with 20 companies and two trade associations, with three companies in the site selection process. The pair touted the benefits of locating in Auglaize County so “they may be put in the hopper on those.”
The two trade associations — a German textile group and an Austrian automotive consortium — have embarked on trade missions to the United States in the past and Myers and Crotty encouraged them to travel to west-central Ohio during their next trade missions.
Myers said they provided them with materials on the area which they told the two development directors they would share the materials with their members.
Myers and Crotty also touted the message from Ohio starting with the tax reform and the more friendly business climate fostered under Gov. John Kasich and former Gov. Ted Strickland.
Crotty also stressed the proximity of the region to major highways and automotive operations across the Midwest.
“I have a map that shows we are right in the heart of a concentration of auto manufacturers,” Crotty said. “That includes the original equipment and Tier I and Tier II suppliers. We are so close to Interstate 75, that makes us perfect for manufacturers. I-75 is called the automotive corridor because it links a lot of manufacturers together. It’s really a great target industry for us.”
Myers also met with executives of two companies in Lengerich — Windmoeller-Hoelscher, which makes transparent film from plastic pellets, and Bischof-Klein, which makes packaging machinery.
During his visit in Lengerich, Myers presented a gift of a model lunar module to the city’s burgermeister from Mayor Rodney Metz so they could remember Neil Armstrong. The mayor presented Myers with a clock.
“For me, it also made sense to see Lengerich and to have a better sense of our Sister City relationship,” Myers said.
In Chicago, Myers attended an international food processing and packaging show where he met individually with 15 companies. Two of the companies expressed an interest in Wapakoneta and Myers discussed the advantages of locating in Wapakoneta and 471-acre Job Ready Sites manufacturing site south of the city.
“The other companies do not have current specific plans but they are always looking forward to expansion in the future,” Myers told the Wapakoneta Daily News. “It is always good to introduce oneself and create a relationship with them.”
Myers left Wednesday for a two-day trip to Milwaukee to meet with executives from six companies and executives from seven other companies could not schedule time to meet with Myers but have expressed interest in obtaining materials about the region.
On Monday, five local economic development officials fly to southern California to meet with a dozen food processing companies.
Myers said Wapakoneta residents should understand that if a manufacturer locates here that production may be high but require fewer workers as more of the facilities are automated requiring less manual laborers and more technicians who operate the computerized equipment.
He said with fewer workers and more technicians, he anticipates the pay level to be higher.