Lt. Governor on hand to welcome Japanese plastics business to Hardin County
When the people of Japan say “good morning” to their friends, they use the word “ohio” and on Wednesday, Hardin County said “ohio” to their new friends from Japan. A large crowd of guests from Hardin County, the state of Ohio, including Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, and from Japan met at the new Sekisui plant south of Kenton to commemorate the opening of the plastics parts manufacturer’s new American plant. When he greets his friends in Japan in the morning, said Sekisui Japan President Masoto Kashiwabara, he will think of the people in the company’s newest plant in Ohio.
The Sekisui company has been producing plastics products for 55 years with the company’s home located on Osaka, Japan. In 1964, said Kashiwabara, Sekisui opened a plant in Pennsylvania. While that plant failed to meet the company’s expectations and was closed, it was the first Japanese manufacturer to open a plant in the U.S. Soni was the second, the president said.
Under the guidance of then president Keizo Ono, Sekisui adopted a 100-year strategic plan for the company which included returning to the global market. In 2007, the company opened another American plant in Tennessee with positive results. The new facility was so successful in such a short amount of time, continued Kashiwabara, that it needed to build a second plant in the U.S. to meet the demands of its American customers.
Thomas Pontiff, President of U.S.A. Sekisui, as company executives attempted to locate the best location for such an expansion two years ago, they drew a circle around a map of northern Ohio, southern Michigan and northern Indiana. Kenton was within that range and a visit to Hardin County convinced the executives they had found the ideal location.“We were welcomed with a can-do attitude and open arms,” recalled Pontiff.
Economic Development Director John Hohn worked closely with the company executives, Jobs Ohio and other organizations to make the move into the plant owned by Steve McCullough become a reality. “John did a lot to make it possible for what is happening today,” said John Cross, President and CEO of the Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance. Addressing Hohn personally, he said, “You worked hard to make this a monumental success for the community and for your career.”
Kenton Mayor Randy Manns also congratulated Hohn on his work on securing the new business for the city in an atmosphere where “everyone worked together.” “You picked the right place and the right location,” said Manns. “I ask God to bless your company.”
The $5.2 million facility will begin operations next week with 50 employees, said Pontiff. It is the third Japanese-owned business to locate in the county. The nearby Durez plant is now owned by a Japanese company, as is Ada Technologies.
The Sekisui company met with state and local authorities at the plant Wednesday morning to thank them for their assistance in the process. Lt. Governor Taylor welcomed Sekisui Plastics to Ohio. She had been a part of the efforts which made it possible for the company to locate in Kenton, Taylor said.
The Japanese manufacturer was facing issues with regarding the use of boilers. The problem was a hurdle, but Taylor, through the Common Sense Initiative, was able to review the regulations which were outdated and offered the legislature changes needed to remove the obstacles. “Thank you for believing in Ohio and for believing in our people,” Taylor told the Sekisui leaders. “I think we will make you proud as you expand with opportunities in Ohio.”
Wednesday’s ceremony was a bit of a homecoming for one of the officials. Ono, who had been president of the company from 2004 to 2014 and now works as a consultant, shared with the large crowd he had first come to America as an engineer in 1987. He learned about the U.S. while employed at a business in Troy, Ohio. He was the first Japanese worker in the plant and was made to feel welcome by his co-workers and the residents of western Ohio, Ono said. “Things changed,” said Ono. “I could have easily called Ohio my home. Now I call Ohio my home away from home. I love Ohio and look forward to many future visits.”