Team Ohio offers state business globally

Angela Hoover

The world’s largest trade show in Germany may create further economic development for Ohio. It has before.

A 30-person delegation called Team Ohio, including Gov. Bob Taft, and Akron city Mayor Don Plusquellic, will attend at least four of the 10 separate international trade shows running concurrently at Deutsche Messe Hannover Trade Fair last week.

“If you are in business and you’re not there, then you are not considered to be doing business,” said Chris Smeiles, vice president of the Portage County board of commissioners, who will also be attending the fair with Team Ohio.

The annual Hannover Trade Fair is ‘the’ place for international networking. Exhibitors from companies world-wide and country officials come to the fair to promote their products and countries for business networking and economic growth opportunities. Even Kent’s Ametek Lamb Electric, which builds electric motors for vacuum cleaners, will be in Hannover this year.

Representatives from Ohio have been attending this trade fair since 1992.

Team Ohio is the sales and marketing branch of the Ohio Economic Development Association (OEDA) for 51 private and public Ohio organizations, including the Ohio Department of Development.

Another member of Team Ohio is Northeast Ohio Trade and Economic Development Consortium, which is housed in Kent State’s Administration Building Services at the corner of Horning and Loop roads. This consortium is a private, non-profit economic development partnership joining 10 northeastern counties – Ashtabula, Columbiana, Mahoning, Medina, Portage, Richland, Stark, Summit, Trumbull and Wayne.

Its president and CEO, Ron DeBarr, was named chairman of the six-member executive committee for Team Ohio last month.

Team Ohio aims to sell the state in the global market and compete internationally. The primary goal is to create jobs in Ohio by attracting companies to the state. Global networking focuses on persuading companies to relocate plants and factories to Ohio, selling Ohio goods and services to international countries and companies and offering foreign-trade zones in Ohio to eliminate tariffs for other countries doing business with, and in, Ohio.

“Team Ohio is mobilizing in a cohesive effort to brand and market the state of Ohio,” DeBarr said.

This year, Ohio is targeting alternate energy sources for power generation, such as fuel cells and wind power, DeBarr said.

Last year the Hannover Trade Fair drew more than 6,000 exhibitors from 60 countries with displays in an area of about 200,000 square meters.

“I was in awe at how large this thing was,” Smeiles said of his reaction to his initial visit to the fair in 1996. “You see how small Ohio is in relation to the global economy.”

Five days is not nearly enough time to visit each vendor, so Team Ohio hired a consulting firm to send informational packets to all attending visitors. Any interested company or country returned information to the firm so Team Ohio would know who to talk to at the fair.

Ohio has 130 scheduled appointments with specific fair attendees, DeBarr said. About 50 percent are from Germany, 30 percent from India and Asia, and the remaining 20 percent are from all over the rest of the world, he said.

Results from initial contact at the fair usually take anywhere from one to three years to become finalized, DeBarr said.

In 1996 Smeiles said he saw delegates from Georgia, North and South Carolina, Texas and France, just to name a few. Last year, the United States did not make the top ten list of the most displays. Topping that list were Italy with 449 exhibits, China with 321, and Russia with 155.

Contact public affairs reporter Angela Hoover at