Chamber members heading for China

By Don Shilling

One of the companies being visited is looking for a Midwest distribution site.

Local officials are headed to China and Taiwan on Sunday to let corporate executives know about business opportunities in the Mahoning Valley.

The Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber is sending four people on the 16-day trip, which will be paid for with a $15,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Chamber officials will stress the availability of plant sites and workers to a variety of companies and government officials, said Tom Humphries, chamber president.

One Asian company that will be visited on the trip is looking to set up a distribution plant in the Midwest, he said.

Plus, he said he will let the Asian companies know that Warren has an idle steel mill in case there is interest in taking it over.

The former WCI Steel is now owned by Severstal, a large Russian steelmaker, but it hasn’t made steel in a year, and more than 1,000 workers are laid off. Some state legislators recently called on Severstal to put its Ohio operations up for sale because they have been idle for a long time.

Humphries said, however, that the Asian trip isn’t about signing deals. The goal is to build relationships with company executives and government officials so that they consider the Mahoning Valley for future expansion.

Companies that will be visited include a metal processor, steel mill, aluminum extruder and maker of solar panels.

Humphries said he has been laying the groundwork for the trip for two years, including a visit this month with Taiwanese diplomats in Chicago.

The agenda includes stops in the city of Shanghai and the Shandong Province in China and the city of Taipei, the capital of Taiwan.

Three others are traveling with Humphries, including Eric Planey, who was hired in July as the chamber’s vice president of international/ national business attraction.

The chamber used federal funds to bring on Planey, who worked in Asia as a vice president of Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi.

“This is the beginning of the execution of a coherent international strategy for the chamber and the Mahoning Valley,” Planey said.

Florence Wang, who also will be on the trip, assisted in setting up the meetings in Asia. The Taiwan native is a member of the chamber board of directors and operates an international consulting business in Youngstown.

Also traveling with the chamber officials will be Jiacheng Guo, a native of China who is a graduate student at Youngstown State University. He has been helping the chamber with research for the trip and in setting up contacts.

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