DUSSELDORF, GERMANY - Ohio's self-proclaimed ``education governor'' may well lay claim to being America's only ``polymer governor.'' Gov. George V. Voinovich on Oct. 8-9 became the first U.S. governor ever to visit the K show in Dusseldorf, the world's largest plastics trade exhibi-tion.
This follows by 18 months Voinovich's involvement in helping to convene the Ohio Plastics Summit, a two-day gathering of industry executives and legislators in Columbus.
The governor was the star attraction at a two-hour, Sunday evening State of Ohio reception on the Messe Dusseldorf fairgrounds.
German trade officials used the event to announce plans to establish a German-American Chamber of Commerce office in Cleveland early next year.
The governor, who served as Cleveland's mayor from 1979-89, hailed the move in an interview the following day as ``recognition that Ohio is a major player'' on the international trade scene.
Ohio exported $718 million worth of goods to Germany in 1994, Voinovich said, or 3 percent of Ohio's total exports. He also noted that 35 Ohio companies were exhibiting at the K show, and that 150 German companies have established operations in Ohio.
Reciting numerous statistics about Ohio's vigorous plastics industry, Voinovich told the reception audience: ``I wanted to be here to pay tribute to the plastics industry and to what it has contributed to the state of Ohio, and also to pay tribute to our bond of friendship with Germany.''
The K show visit kicked off an Oct. 7-14 European trade mission by Voinovich that was to continue on to Austria and Slovenia, where he has family ties. When asked at a pre-mission news conference in Columbus about what he would be doing at a plastics and rubber trade show in Germany, the governor replied: ``I'm going to schmooze people.''
And schmooze he did. In addition to pressing the flesh at the reception, on the morning of Oct. 9 he toured the K show machinery booths of Mannesmann Demag/Van Dorn and Cincinnati Milacron Inc., as well as those of several firms in the Ohio pavilion.
At the reception, Voinovich -who was elected governor in 1991 on a platform promoting education and jobs creation - stressed the need for educating the work force.
Voinovich reiterated his pledge that the state will provide assistance to any company willing to establish operations in Ohio and create an apprenticeship program.
He later explained that state support of the apprenticeship programs could take a number of forms - from funds, to in-kind services, to helping facilitate interaction with community colleges.
He went on to point out that ``Ohio is the first state in the nation to start a certification program for the machining and tooling industry.''
The program will result in ``certificates of readiness'' for successful candidates that will be applicable in all the Great Lakes-area states, according to the governor.
Voinovich said he learned at the K show that the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. of Washington is creating its own industry certification program for shop-floor operators. Voinovich urged SPI President Larry Thomas to contact his office so that the two initiatives do not duplicate too much effort.
As a means of attracting business to Ohio, Voinovich touted the state's investment tax credit for manufacturing machinery and equipment, which began earlier this year.
Voinovich declined to comment on any specifics regarding the recent decisions by Japanese plastics machinery makers Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Ube Industries Ltd. to site manufacturing facilities in Ohio's neighboring states of Kentucky and Michigan, respectively. When asked if the state is close to attracting Japan's Toshiba Machine Co. Ltd., which has expressed an interest in establishing U.S. injection molding machine manufacturing operations, Voinovich deferred to a department of development aide. That official simply said: ``Toshiba is looking for a U.S. manufacturing site, and [Ohio] certainly can be competitive.''
The governor then pulled out of his pocket the business card from Hiroshi Iba, Toshiba's general manager for international planning, and the person heading the company's U.S. site search. The two had met briefly at the reception the night before, Voinovich said.
Chalk it up to schmoozing.