Gov. Terry McAuliffe and his sleep-deprived entourage of economic developers phoned home from Beijing on Wednesday to offer an update on deals done — and underway — during his trade mission to Asia.
Speaking on a conference call to reporters at 10 p.m. China time, the governor, state and Virginia Economic Development Partnership officials announced an agreement with the Dynax Corp. of Hokkaido, Japan. The company has agreed to invest nearly $33 million to expand operations of its automotive component manufacturing operation in Botetourt County, adding 75 jobs.
McAuliffe also said Virginia has “handshake deals’ on an additional five or six economic development projects.
“So far it’s been very good, very fruitful discussions,” the governor said of the 11-day trip, during which 70 meetings have been scheduled in Japan, China and South Korea.
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The governor said tourism officials have also been active in promoting Virginia tourism to Japanese and Chinese travel executives, with a view toward expanding the number of flights from both countries to Washington Dulles International Airport.
The delegation had just come from a tourism reception during which U.S. Ambassador to China Max Baucus touted the commonwealth.
The good fortune reported so far during the trip, however, is not without its costs — more than $250,000 — most of it underwritten by the publicly funded Virginia Economic Development Partnership, at a time when Virginia faces hundreds of millions in cuts and recently announced plans to lay off 565 workers.
“We are in tough times — we have to make cuts, but we also have to generate revenue,” said Secretary of Commerce Maurice Jones, who is on the trade mission. “These trips generate revenue. The state will get revenue from these trips.”
VEDP chairman Martin Briley said having the governor literally and figuratively on board, and in the boardrooms, of foreign companies makes a huge difference in opening doors, accelerating and closing deals.
“A governor-led mission gives us opportunities to get into offices we couldn’t do otherwise,” he said. “Our governor has contacts all over the planet that have been extraordinarily useful to us, and Japan, China and Korea are no exceptions to that.”
McAuliffe, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee with a reputation as a political fundraiser and deal maker, quipped that his overall strategy is to “try to convince everybody that there really is only one state in the United States of America — that it’s the commonwealth of Virginia.
“I think for a lot of the Asian countries, historically they’ve thought about California, they have thought of New York, they have thought of Texas, they have thought of Florida,” he added, noting that he had been the third governor to visit Japan this year.
But the governor said the mission’s participants have been working hard for the money it cost to send them overseas.
“You can’t do these types of things on telephones, he said, adding, “We have not slept much on this trip.”
The governor mentioned Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd P. Haymore’s marathon, seven-hour meeting on a bid to increase exports of Virginia soybeans to China, part of roughly $600 million in commonwealth agricultural exports sent to the country last year. This year’s exports are up 38 percent.
“That’s a long time talking soybeans, I gotta tell ya,” the governor said.
McAuliffe will spend the next few days traveling to business meetings in several locations throughout China, including a stop in Hong Kong. The delegation then heads to South Korea for more meetings before returning to Virginia next week.