Port seeks closer ties with Japan

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EPHRATA — The Port of Moses Lake is looking to broaden the region’s sister city arrangements, and is asking the Grant County Commission for help.

Jeffrey Bishop, executive director of the Port of Moses Lake, told Grant County Commissioners on Tuesday that while there is no equivalent to county government in Japan, they could be instrumental in helping to foster stronger business and commercial ties across the Pacific.

He was particularly focused on the Japanese cities of Komaki, Kasugai and Toyoyama — all of which are in Aichi Prefecture, where Mitsubishi Aircraft is located.

Bishop asked the county to considering becoming a “sister city” with all three cities in Japan.

“Our hope is that we can continue to develop lasting relationships with that area of Japan,” Bishop said. “It’s one of the aviation centers of country.”

“I think it’s an interesting idea,” said Commissioner Tom Taylor. “It would be good to learn more about these cities.”

The city of Moses Lake has a longstanding sister city relationship with Yonezeawa, in Yamagata Prefecture, and Bishop said the Port does not want to jeopardize that relationship.

“Moses Lake is concerned with Yonezawa, and there may be some cultural offense,” Bishop said. “We understand that.”

Mitsubishi Aircraft is currently testing its regional jet (MRJ) at the Port of Moses Lake. The testing and certification operation employs roughly 450 people.

Bishop said developing other business relationships is important because someday, in a few years, Mitsubishi will finish the MRJ testing and certification program. And the Port will need other clients and business partners.

While Komaki (147,000 people) and Kasugai (309,000 people) are both fairly large cities, Toyoyama is a town with a population of about 15,000. It’s also the birthplace of former Seattle Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, and the town where Mitsubishi actually assembles the MRJ.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at countygvt@columbiabasinherald.com.

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