13th District lawmakers visit Japan to market Washington’s strengths

Airplane at Grant County International Airport
Lawmakers from the 13th District traveled to Japan to foster relationships and encourage Japanese companies to consider Washington state as a viable option for expanding their businesses. Photo: Team McChord

Washington’s 13th District lawmakers recently embarked on a trade mission to Japan to foster mutually beneficial relationships and encourage new development within the state. Lawmakers said they were optimistic that the district and the entire state can offer valuable resources that Japanese companies are looking for, including space, modern power and connectivity setups.

Japan has already indicated its interest in the Millennium Bulk Terminals export facility in Longview to help fulfill its energy needs, as it is looking for cleaner coal in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.

State Rep. Tom Dent (R-13) told Lens it was exciting to see how the country operates, and he and his colleagues were able to market aspects of Washington that the Japanese may be interested in.

“The mission was about international trade and going over there to demonstrate the fact that we are willing to build a relationship,” said Dent. “We truly want them to do business here in the United States, most importantly with Washington and the 13th District.”

Dent was joined by State Sens. Judy Warnick (R-13) and Mark Schoesler (R-13). Warnick said in an online statement that she recognized her district could be a great fit for Japanese interests.

“We offer inexpensive power, a strong skilled workforce and the willingness to be a strong international trade partner. Our agricultural industry is a cornerstone in that relationship with wheat and other crops grown in our district for export. I am committed to increasing those ties and looking for opportunities to support our growing economic cooperation. In terms of furthering the relationships that result in those opportunities, our mission was a success.”

According to Schoesler, the efforts of his fellow lawmakers were noted by the companies and elected officials they met.

“There is nothing like meeting face-to-face when it comes to doing business, whether it’s in the next county or a continent away,” he said. “Our Japanese hosts were very gracious and receptive to our delegation, and I believe they were truly impressed with the amount of time and energy we were willing to devote to the tour.”

“I think the thing that really touched me was the ingenuity,” Dent told Lens.

Dent said he visited a Panasonic battery factory where they make rechargeable batteries for computers, and that he saw the workers perform checks to make sure the products are in working condition.

Dent said it stuck out to him that there didn’t seem to be any products failing the test. “They just do it right. It means a lot to the them to do the job right and do the job well.”

“I was really impressed with their desire to make things happen,” he said. “They have energy and excitement. It’s a win-win to have them here longer, since Mitsubishi is already here. Maybe we can get a long-term commitment with a company in Moses Lake… that would be incredible for our entire state.”

The lawmakers met some 20 companies on the trip. Dent said they encourage the businesses to expand in Moses Lake.

“They are here now and created about 400 jobs in Grant County here as a result of Mitsubishi being here,” he said. “Additional companies will bring jobs with district economic activity which is always good.”

The 13th District is also home to the Grant County International Airport, one of the country’s largest airports, which is located in Moses Lake. According to Dent, the facility may attract Japanese interest because of its potential for a variety of uses.

Dent dubbed the airport “a major facility not equal to any other in the West.” He added the airport hosts the longest runway west of Denver, spanning 13,500 feet.

“The airport can handle anything and is not locked in passenger service… certain aircraft testing would be impossible at airports like SeaTac” where passenger aircraft fly in and out.

Dent said the military frequently uses the facility for practice sessions, and it has room for manufacturing or storage expansions which would be selling points for Japanese companies.

Benefits also include very inexpensive power use and fiber optic setups.

“New jobs would mean more spent money, paid taxes, increased property values – all of those things come along with economic development.”

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