Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (right) is on a 10-day mission to Asia where he has been drumming up business for the state. Snyder has visited Japan and China, including the city of Chongquin, where he met with representatives of the parent company of Menominee’s Enstrom Helicopter Corp. Special to the EagleHerald
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (right) is on a 10-day mission to Asia where he has been drumming up business for the state. Snyder has visited Japan and China, including the city of Chongquin, where he met with representatives of the parent company of Menominee’s Enstrom Helicopter Corp. Special to the EagleHerald
BEIJING - Business leaders in China and Japan are getting a taste of Pure Michigan thanks to Gov. Rick Snyder who is wrapping a up a 10-day economic mission to Asia. During his visit to Chongqing, China, Snyder met with business executives from the parent company of Enstrom Helicopter Corp. in Menominee.

"It went very well. We had a chance to talk and they're very pleased with how things are going," said Snyder in a telephone interview from Beijing. "They expect strong growth and they expect to see Enstrom continue to do well in terms of selling more helicopters."

Enstrom is in the midst of a multi-million dollar expansion project at the Twin County Airport. With orders already stacked up from China and Japan the added work space can't come soon enough. Company president Jerry Mullins said the project is half finished and is on track to be completed on schedule by the end of the year. Welcomed news for the 190 employees filling the orders.

"We've got more to do than we can shake a stick at," he said. "We're still hiring. We have probably about 14 open requisitions for additional people; engineers, mechanics and maintenance people."

Enstrom is continuing to seek contracts and plans to add even more personnel as work progresses on the manufacturing facility.

"It is a good success story and it's going to continue to be a success story," said Snyder. "If you think about it, it's a wonderful company that makes great products and has had a great track record for many years. Now with additional investment from their parent company, it will also open up more sales opportunities for them. It's a great way to grow."

This is Snyder's sixth mission since taking office, his third to Asia. The governor said response so far has been excellent. He was joined by about 20 representatives from companies around the Great Lake state. The reps conducted their own meetings and set up deals.

"We're working on the traditional business track of getting investment of exports and we've got an agriculture track and we have a Pure Michigan track," explained Snyder. The bottom line is, the trip is not a junket, but an investment in the future of Michigan jobs and businesses. Snyder said this type of endeavor truly makes a difference.

"It does. It's about not just talking from afar but building people relationships," he said. "One of the things you need to do is show you're committed to building good commerce, good economic ties and friendship."

Snyder also attended a formal dinner meeting with Huang Qifan, the mayor of Chongqing, where he introduced the Michigan delegation. The gathering included the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Michigan and Chongqing pledging to continue exchanges and explore expanded relationships.

Snyder later flew to Beijing to meet with senior government officials and executives of some of China's largest companies and was scheduled to deliver the keynote address at the Chinese International Auto Parts Expo this week. Snyder in turn has invited Chinese representatives to come to Detroit for the annual auto show and International Transportation System World Conference next year.

"One thing that really helps is to meet on a regular basis like that because it really shows you're committed," said the governor. "If you only do it once, it really doesn't have the value. You really have to come back and have continuing relationships."

Snyder visited Enstrom's facility in Menominee in May and has now carried his appreciation for the investment half way around the world, something Mullins takes great pride in.

"I think he sees the value of having a relationship with China," said the helicopter president. "They have a growing market and I think we in the state of Michigan need to take advantage of it, Enstrom surely has. Our market in the U.S. is pretty flat and Asia is a growing market so developing a relationship with all of Asia makes a lot of sense."
EagleHerald staff writer

MARINETTE - U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus visited Marinette Marine Corp. and gave his full support for the littoral combat ship (LCS) program during an employee address Thursday morning.

"LCS represents the future. The future of the Navy, the future of manufacturing, the future of how we get things done," he said. "The work that gets done here in Marinette is the work that protects America. You can't come through here and not think that American manufacturing is exceptional. That American manufacturing leads the world. Just like the American Navy is exceptional."

Lockheed Martin along with Marinette Marine Corp. have a contract with the Navy to build a portion of the first 20 ships in the program. Austal USA in Mobile, Ala., is also a part of the LCS program.

Marinette Marine is currently working on four different LCSs, including the Detroit which is set to launch later this year. They've already completed two LCS including the Freedom and the Fort Worth.

"I don't think people understand how hard a profession you are in and how there can't be any errors when you're at sea, especially in a combat environment," Mabus told the employees. "On behalf of those folks, thank you Marinette. Go Navy. Go LCS."

According to Mabus, the next ship to be finished by Marinette Marine, the Detroit, is on track to cost about half of what the Freedom cost.

"What that means is that you all are doing your job really well," he said. "What that means is that we can buy the ships that we need."

Mabus also addressed the recent study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) that questioned the LCS program, citing design flaws and a questionable plan to acquire the ships.

"As the Secretary of the Navy, I'm doing everything that I can to protect shipbuilding," he said. "Freedom had some issues. Freedom was built as the very first of its class and it was built as an experimental ship. Yes, its going to have some issues. Every single first ship the Navy has ever built has had those issues. The important thing is that we learn from those, that we incorporate the stuff that happened with Freedom and we make improvements."

He cited two things that endangers the program: Sequestration which cuts 2 percent of the Navy's budget each year, and continuing resolutions which hinders how the Navy can acquire and repair their ships.

"If we don't do something about these, then this presence that the Navy gives, this being all over the world in the right places all the time... that may not be here," he added.

Mabus went on to affirm that the Navy does take GAO reports very seriously and that they are working together to iron out the more serious problems.

"We work with them, but what we find is that they tend to be way behind the curve," he said. "They tend to be a couple years late and we've already addressed most of the issues."

He plans to give Congress and the GAO the information they need to make an informed decision.

"It's the future of the Navy," he added. "Its the future of how we fight. Its the future of America."

Not only does Mabus support the programs, but he said that the sailors on the LCS Freedom love the ship.

"They think the ship gives us capabilities we haven't had before," he said. "They really like the fact it goes fast and that it gets into places our other ships can't get into."

After the employee address, Mabus admitted that showing his support of the program was a motivator for his visit on Thursday.

"This workforce is doing great work," he said. "One of the reasons for this visit is that clearly I want to show my support for this program. It has my absolute support. This is a ship we need in the Navy and we need the entire number in the Navy."

Marinette Marine Corp. President and CEO Chuck Goddard said that while he can't speculate on what Congress may or may not do for the LCS program, he will continue to make sure the craftsmanship is top quality.

"All I can do is work hard here to make sure that we deliver fine ships," he said. "We'll continue to perform here and we'll let him do the heavy lifting."

However, he did say he would love the opportunity to continue building more ships for the Navy.

More ships require more workers. According to Goddard, Marinette Marine's current workforce is about 1,400. He hopes to grow that to 1,500 within the next year.

"Currently, we do have a requisition for 150 people we'd like to hire and grow our union workforce from the 850 people it is today to more than 1,000," Goddard said.