POSTED ON FEBRUARY 20, 2013:
Politics of Travel
Mayor describes trip to Japan
Had the pitch been successful, Japan-based Mitsubishi might have a much larger footprint in Tulsa.
But a budding relationship with the business conglomerate could still boost Tulsa's economy, according to Mayor Dewey Bartlett.
Mitsubishi, perhaps best-known in the west as an auto manufacturer, also makes planes, including the new Mitsubishi Regional Jet.
"My pitch to them was to consider building it in Tulsa. I found out that probably is not going to happen," Bartlett said.
It was one of several meetings related to Tulsa's economy which took place during a two-week-long sojourn to Japan in November, ultimately costing the city about $19,000 in reimbursements for Bartlett's travel expenses, including translator fees.
Mitsubishi, instead of building aircraft in Tulsa, will likely assemble what's known as the MRJ aircraft in Japan, Bartlett said.
But the company is "going to have some of the major components made in the United States, or they'd like to see them made in the United States. So we want to be considered for that opportunity," Bartlett added, calling that possibility a "very big" opportunity which could "certainly solidify employment for hundreds of people in Tulsa."
Tulsa-based Intercontinental Jet Service Corp. is a factory-owned Mitsubishi service center.
Lloyd Wright, the mayor's press secretary, said a Mitsubishi executive has been bullish on Tulsa.
"We worked for two solid years to try to develop this relationship, and it all happened almost by accident when we found out that Mitsubishi repairs and has parts for their MU-2 at Intercontinental Jet," Wright said, referring to a type of aircraft. "And we met the VP out of Dallas. He likes Tulsa and he moved all his parts from Dallas to Tulsa. ... He told us about the MRJ and we got kind of excited thinking about that."
The trip included visits to several Japanese cities as well as Taiwan, meeting with business leaders who "expressed a desire to meet with the mayor of a major city that has oil and gas in his background -- which I do, that's my business -- but also has aerospace and aviation in his city as well as energy," Bartlett said.
Talks about energy reflected interest in liquefied natural gas, especially in the wake of nuclear shutdowns following the 2011 tsunami disaster in Japan.
"They were very interested in my relationship with the natural gas industry," Bartlett said, adding that he touted Tulsa's aviation workforce and made sure to emphasize the local port to those unaware of it.
His wife, Victoria, accompanied him on the trip, but Bartlett said he -- not the city -- paid for her expenses. To keep the Japan relationships going, Bartlett said he invited many he met with to visit Tulsa.
Since Jan. 1, 2010, Bartlett's travels have been reimbursed by the city for expenses incurred on about 26 trips (some involved swings through multiple destinations on a given trip).
These total expenses have come to about $62,000, including visits to federal lawmakers and leaders as well as a week-long trade mission to Europe last October.
"There isn't any activity -- if a good personal relationship exists, all things being equal -- normally we prefer to do business with somebody we know and trust," Bartlett said.
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