Tomblin optimistic about results of European trade trip
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Wrapping up a 13-day trade mission to Europe, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said he couldn't announce any business prospects Monday, but added, "I bet I can announce some in the next few days."
Tomblin met with the media via video teleconference from the Zurich World Trade Center in Switzerland, where West Virginia has its new European trade office.
The trade mission, in its 12th day Monday, has visited five counties, eight cities, and met with representatives of eight companies that currently have investments in West Virginia, and 23 prospective investors, Tomblin said.
"It's kind of a whirlwind tour, but the companies we've met with have been very positive," Tomblin said.
The group also attended the K Trade Fair in Dusseldorf, Germany -- the largest plastics and rubber industry trade show in the world -- and visited the state Polymer Alliance Zone booth at the show.
"There were 19 buildings, each probably the size of our Civic Center, full of displays," Tomblin said.
Earlier Monday, the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce hosted a luncheon for Tomblin in Zurich, and the governor said there were representatives of about 40 companies in attendance.
"They had a great deal of interest in West Virginia," he said.
Tomblin said European companies' interests in the state run the gamut, from energy -- particularly natural gas -- to building products, auto manufacturing, metals, plastics and chemicals.
He called the face-to-face meetings with potential investors "very valuable."
"It showed we do have an interest to sit down and talk with them and say, "is there anything we can do as a state to encourage expansions in West Virginia?" Tomblin said.
He said the 16-day partial shutdown of the federal government was a frequent topic of conversation during the trip, prior to Congress reaching an agreement Wednesday. However, he said the delegation was able to assure their hosts that the shutdown had minimal impact on operations of state government or on businesses in West Virginia.
Tomblin and Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette addressed the media from a teleconferencing room at the Zurich World Trade Center.
Burdette said the state's office in the trade center is about one-third the cost of the state's former European trade office in Munich, Germany.
He said the high-tech features, such as the conferencing center, essentially provide the state with virtual office space throughout Europe.
"It's not only going to provide us more resources around Europe, but at a fraction of the cost," he said.
Burdette said the state Development Office does not currently have a European trade office director, but said international economic development representative Angela Mascia, who participated in the trade mission, is spending part of her time at the Zurich office.
Also in the entourage are Hallie Mason, the governor's director of public policy; state Development Office international development director Steve Spence; and two State Police troopers on the governor's security detail.
Reach Phil Kabler at email@example.com or 304-348-1220.