CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced Monday he will lead a business mission trip to Japan next month to strengthen ties with Japanese investors.

The trip will be May 12 through 21 with stops in Nagoya, Yokohama, and Tokyo.

Former Gov. Gaston Caperton will join Tomblin on the mission. Caperton authorized the opening of the Nagoya office during his first term. The state has seen millions of dollars in Japanese investments since then.

Mark Whitley, director of the Jackson County Development Authority, is one of the 14 people who will travel to Japan with Gov. Tomblin.

Whitley told MetroNews affiliate WMOV it’s important to be side-by-side with Tomblin on trade missions.

“When you’re with the governor, it really opens up doors,” he said.

Whitley said most foreign investment in West Virginia is internationally based, so the key is to establish strong relationships with companies who have made significant investments in the state.

“They (the Japanese) come and tour West Virginia, but for you to go over there and show them how important they are to you just means a lot,” he said.

The trip will also mark the 25th anniversary of the West Virginia Department of Commerce’s Nagoya Office. Tomblin will also attend a reception with the West Virginia University Alumni Association’s Japan Chapter and its 75 members.

The governor will be speaking at a JSAE (Japan’s largest automotive trade show) seminar, the Nagoya Chamber of Commerce, and to both current and prospective investors.

Whitley said they want to celebrate their investors for over the past 25 years, but also hope to attract new business investments.

“We’re talking to several companies that we hope are looking to make new investments in the United States, specifically we hope they’d be in West Virginia.”

Currently, 20 Japanese firms employ more than 3,000 West Virginians.

The trip includes:

Former Governor W. Gaston Caperton III
Keith Burdette, Cabinet Secretary, West Virginia Department of Commerce
Steve Spence, Director, International Division, West Virginia Development Office
Hollie Hubbert, Asia Pacific Project Manager, West Virginia Development Office
Chelsea Ruby, Director of Marketing & Communications, West Virginia Department of Commerce
Kris Hopkins, Director, Business and Industrial Development , West Virginia Development Office
Tom Heywood, Managing Partner, Bowles Rice LLP
Lloyd Jackson, President, Jackson Resources Company
Cam Huffman, President, Wood County Development Authority
Mark Whitley, Director, Jackson County Development Authority
Andrew Dunlap, Director, Putnam County Development Authority
Matt Ballard, President, Charleston Area Alliance
David Graley, Board Member, Huntington Area Development Corporation
Mami Itamochi, Coordinator, International Education, West Virginia Department of Education

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