Our last full day of meetings featured some of the leading companies of Nagoya and the Chubu Region. The day began with a meeting at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and a tour of their massive aerospace manufacturing facility. On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of meeting with Mr. Tetsuro Hisano, Vice President and General Manager of Aerospace and Airplane Division and was pleased that he made the trip to Nagoya today to accompany our delegation on the tour of his facility.
At their Nagoya plant, MHI manufactures the wing of the Boeing 787, which is a massive undertaking. The precision and craftsmanship necessary to build a wing of an airplane is without compare, and as such, the manufacturing facility in which it is done is as equally impressive. Unfortunately, due to proprietary reasons I was unable to take any photos within the manufacturing facility. However, I had the opportunity to walk the floor, meet the workers, and see first-hand how the wing of the 787 is constructed. I have had the pleasure of a similar tour at MHI Canada (MHICA), with Canadian President, Mike McCarthy. In Mississauga, MHICA manufactures the wing of the Bombardier Global Express aircraft.
In speaking with Mr. Hisano he conveyed that the MHI Canadian Aerospace MHICA operation is attractive to the parent company because of our highly skilled workforce. As I have mentioned previously, there is a long history of aerospace in Mississauga and in close proximity to Pearson International Airport. This legacy, combined with our high level of education means we have a workforce in Ontario, and in particular Mississauga, that is tough to match. Our talented and highly educated workforce is one of the most important assets Mississauga has and is one of the reasons the current campaign of our Economic Development Office is “Win the Human Race.” I encourage you to read more about this campaign, as well as Mississauga’s economic goals and objectives, here: Winthehumanrace.ca
Throughout this trip we met with a number of MHI Canada’s key suppliers and visited another today. Like many aerospace companies in Japan – SPP included whom we met with earlier in the week – these suppliers work closely with MHI to build components of the Mitsubishi Regional Jet, as well other aircraft. By working with MHI and MHICA, these companies are growing and it is our hope they will consider Mississauga for future expansion. Following a plant tour at one of these companies, I was pleased to join their president and his leadership team for a traditional Japanese lunch at Masuisu, a 100 year old restaurant on the mountain side with a river running through it and fresh carp swimming in the small pools. It was truly one of the most picturesque restaurants, and unique and authentic Japanese meals I have ever had.
Following lunch, we travelled to Mississauga’s sister city, Kariya for a tour of Denso and a meeting with their leadership team. Denso began operations in the 1960s by developing state-of-the-art air conditioning units for Toyota Motors. They also built one of the first electric cars, before branching out into many other product areas. In particular they focus on automotive after market products, such as alternators, spark plugs, console electronics, and in-car navigation equipment. They have big plans for developing future automotive technologies that will assist in making the automated car a reality. Denso has had a sales office in Mississauga since 1973. In fact, the Vice President of International Sales actually lived in Mississauga for 10 years and raised his family in our city. He told me of his fond memories of Mississauga and the connection he feels to our city.
I had the pleasure of touring the Denso showroom, and much like my tour of the Panasonic showroom earlier in the week, I was thoroughly impressed by the innovation and leading technologies produced by this Japanese company. Interestingly, Denso was also one of architects behinds Mississauga’s sister city agreement with Kariya, Japan. More on that to follow.
Our meeting with Denso concluded the business portion of this mission.
Our final official day featured a reunion with our sister city of Kariya. Mississauga and Kariya officially became sister cities on July 7, 1981. In fact, City Council declared July 7th as Kariya Day in honour of our relationship and in remembrance of the date the founding documents were signed. As the story goes, Chairman Suzuki of NTN Bearings suggested to then Mayor McCallion that Mississauga ought to have a sister city with a Japanese city. Denso agreed and recommended the same. At the time, Mississauga and Kariya were roughly the same size geographically and in population, and both boasted many manufacturing businesses working in the automotive sector – it was a natural fit.
In 1992 Mississauga officially opened Kariya Park, just south of Burnhamthorpe Road and West of Hurontario Street. It is a gem nestled in our growing downtown core. In 1992, the Mississauga Friendship Association was created to encourage cooperation and cultural exchange between Mississauga and Kariya, and more broadly, between Canada and Japan. The MFA is a volunteer organization that works with the Kariya International Friendship Association to nurture our ongoing relationship. Over 250 Kariya residents and students have visited Mississauga on culutral exchange and in return, many Mississauga residents have travelled to Kariya to experience Japanese culture.
Arriving in Kariya, I received a warm welcome from Mayor Takenaka at “Mississauga Park,” the largest public park in Kariya and a hub of activity and recreation. I toured the park with my fellow Mayor, taking in the artwork, including the “Water Road”, a Canadian piece of art given to Kariya as a gift to mark our 20th anniversary as sister cities. The highlight of this tour was the scale model of the City of Mississauga City Hall that is featured prominently within the park. Passers-by can sit inside the stone building and children can play on the structure. It was wonderful to see a little piece of home half a world away.
I was pleased to experience an ancient Japanese tea ceremony following my Mississauga Park tour. Tea is important in Japanese culture and the preparation and consumption of it equally so. It was an honour to take part in this ancient ritual at traditional Tea House next to the museum and I thank KIFA for arranging the unique cultural experience. Our matcha tea was served by local high school students who have been studying the tea ceremony rituals as part of an after school club. The formality and precision associated with this ceremony was incredible to witness and underscores the Japanese people’s commitment to excellence in everything they do.
Following the tea ceremony, I was asked to address the Annual General Meeting of the Kariya International Friendship Association. KIFA is tasked with orchestrating cultural exchange between Kariya and other countries around the world, most notably, Canada. I spoke at length about the bond our two cities share, as well as the importance of Japanese companies to the local Mississauga economy. I also assured the KIFA executive of our commitment to Japan and our desire to build even further ties.
Our day in Kariya ended at City Hall with a reception hosted by KIFA and the Mayor. I was again pleased to speak to the attendees about our shared history, the importance of our sister-city relationship, my commitment to pick up where Hazel McCallion left off, and most importantly, the high value we place on our local Japanese companies and the important role they play for our city. At the reception we were treated to some outstanding cultural entertainment, including traditional Japanese dance and a mock Samurai sword fight. Mayor Takenaka ended the reception with the exchanging of local gifts. I presented him with the key to the city, and his colleagues with soapstone art crafted by local Mississauga artists. He presented me with the key to Kariya city as well.
It was a great privilege to visit Kariya and to meet the people who have been working hard to keep our sister city relationship alive for 35 years. While the relationship is symbolic, it has taken deep root within the cultural identity of each city and is a testament to the high regard in which we hold our Japanese residents and businesses. Through our strong relationship with Kariya, we send a strong message to Japanese companies that we understand their culture and more importantly, that we are willing to put in the necessary effort to build strong ties with their country. In many ways, our relationship with Kariya is a factor that differentiates us from many other Canadian cities and sets us apart as a destination for Japanese international investment and cultural exchange. I look forward to welcoming Mayor Takenaka to Mississauga in July to celebrate JapanFest at Celebration Square and to giving him a tour of my office, Council Chambers, and our great city.
Hazel McCallion made the Japanese market a priority during her 36 years as Mayor. She did so because of the incredible potential for investment in Mississauga. It is because of her work and the targeted strategy of our Economic Development Office that we are home to over 101 Japanese companies, a thriving aerospace cluster, and are poised to realize many more investments in the years to come.
During the 2014 campaign, I made economic development a cornerstone of my platform and committed to carrying on what Hazel McCallion had begun. I remain committed to this course of action because I see the importance of developing relationships with companies in order to attract their business. We talk often about the importance of securing international investment and what it means to our local economy: jobs and commercial tax revenue, experience and expertise, and a greater level of economic and cultural diversity. However, we do not always think about the mindset of the companies looking to invest globally. It often means taking a significant risk and an unfamiliar market. By meeting face to face on a continual basis with the senior leadership of these companies, we provide a level of comfort to allow them to take the next step and invest in Canada, in Ontario, and most importantly, in Mississauga.
I would like to recognize the work our Economic Development Office does on a daily basis to not only attract, but also retain business in our city. They are in constant contact with our existing businesses to ensure they are provided with all of the information and assistance they need to grow and thrive in Mississauga. Our EDO is also continually looking for new investment leads and opportunities abroad. They have developed a targeted strategy to do this and are executing it well. To see their results, please review their 2015 report. Mississauga has been committed to Economic Development and as a result we have grown the number of businesses in our city to over 63,000, including 1,400 multi-national firms and 73 Fortune 500 companies. Not too many cities our size can boast these numbers, which is why we have been named the second best mid-sized city in North America. Our ratio of business tax assessment to residential tax assessment is roughly 60:40. Attracting investment and growing existing businesses is good for the city’s bottom line and allows us to keep taxes low.
I would also like to thank Matt Fraser, Canada’s Consul General in Nagoya, and Dr. Robert Ulmer, our provinces international representative in Tokyo for accompanying me to all of our meetings. As I said in an earlier post, having all three levels of government at a meeting is important and sends a strong signal that Canada, Ontario, and Mississauga are open for business, but more importantly, that we are ready to work together to attract and nurture investment. Both gentlemen and their staff were instrumental in planning this trip and laying the ground work for our success.
As Mayor, if I do not sell our city globally, who will? Like Hazel McCallion, I believe it is my job to sell our great city to the world and tell prospective investors about the benefits of locating in Mississauga. Our City is in tough competition for foreign direct investment with regions and cities all over the globe and as such, it is imperative that we do all we can to stand out. Through missions like this one to Japan, we do just that. I am pleased and honoured to have had the opportunity to visit this country, experience its culture and talk directly to the key decision makers at many Japanese companies about the benefits of doing business in Mississauga.
I will be sad to leave Japan tomorrow, but I hope to have the opportunity to return at some point in the future. Sayonara!