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Developer says German mission promising

December 16, 1997

Developer says German mission promising

By DON AINES

Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A commerce and tourism office in Germany could be one result from a recent trade mission to that country, according to a member of the West Virginia delegation.

"It was a very good experience and the state should see some benefits from it," said Ken Lowe, a real estate developer from Shepherdstown, W.Va., and a member of the West Virginia Council for Community and Economic Development.

The 17-member delegation was led by U.S. Rep. Bob Wise, D-W.Va., and U.S. Rep. Nick Joe Rahall, D-W.Va., and returned on Saturday. Lowe said the goals was to determine whether there is a need for a commerce and tourism office in Germany, where it should be located and how much the state should spend on one.

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"There are 44 states with offices in Europe. I just wish we'd been there long ago," Lowe said Monday.

West Virginia has trade offices in Nagoya, Japan, and Taipei, Taiwan, according to Lowe.

"Both of those have paid excellent dividends," he said.

The Eastern Panhandle has benefited from the Far East connection. Two Taiwanese companies, Sino Swearingen and TLM, are preparing to produce aircraft at the West Virginia Eastern Regional Airport outside Martinsburg. Ten Inc. of Nagoya recently announced plans to build a plant in Morgan County to produce radio wave-absorbing tiles for testing electronic equipment.

Lowe said the issue of establishing an office in Germany could be taken up by the state Legislature when it meets in January.

The trade mission concentrated on meeting with business and industry officials in Frankfurt and Stuttgart, according to Lowe. Discussions with companies already doing business in the state focused on their retention and expansion.

"We got some commitments on that and they will be announced at a later date," Lowe said. He said there are seven or eight German corporations doing business in West Virginia in chemicals, coal, machinery manufacturing and other industries.

Two of the more familiar names for American consumers are Bayer and BASF, which have plants in the western part of the state.

Wise, Lowe and Tom Burns, executive director of the West Virginia Development Office, also held talks with officials from the automaker Porsche, he said. They discussed the possibility of locating a manufacturing facility in the state.

Lowe said a number of small and medium-size firms in Germany expressed an interest in locating in West Virginia, or entering into joint ventures.

The trip also aimed to promote exports from West Virginia to Europe, he added. Tourism is another area the state could benefit from, according to Lowe.

"The German work force ... has approximately six weeks a year of vacation and they would like to spend even more of it in the United States," he said.

Hiking, biking, whitewater rafting and skiing are among the activities Germans could find attractive here, Lowe said.

Lowe was impressed by the German attitude on getting down to business. He said the culture "allows them to make much faster decisions than in other countries."

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