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Mayor Bell piques interest overseas

Businesses in steel, renewable energy, and technology express interest in Toledo

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In between meetings at Hannover Messe, in Germany, Mayor Mike Bell stops to talk with Dana excutives. Brian Cheadle, director of global business development, shows the mayor fuel cell technology, including its newly announced Metallic Bipolar Plates.

The Blade/Ignazio Messina
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HANNOVER, Germany — Mayor Mike Bell and his team in Germany today piqued the interest of at least three overseas companies doing business in the steel, renewable energy, and technology industries while at Hannover Messe, the world's largest technology fair.

Mr. Bell spent the day moving from meeting to meeting at the fair, which is held over a week on a campus of more than two dozen convention center-sized buildings.

"There was a lot of interest in North America and when we said where we are, they thought it to be a good thing," Mr. Bell said. "One company was looking at rural capacity and they had been looking in Indiana and possibly Pennsylvania and the thought of Toledo, because of where it is centered, made a lot of sense to them."

Mr. Bell declined to identify which companies he met with since they had requested that the reporters following him in Germany stay behind during those appointments. His first meeting was with a Korean company that produces air compressors.

The mayor and Paul Zito, vice president for international development for the Regional Growth Partnership, worked the fair floors - attending seven scheduled meetings throughout the day while Deputy Mayor Paul Syring and Finance Director Patrick McLean "cold-called" exhibiting companies.

"Divide and conquer," Mr. Zito said before hauling off with Mayor Bell to another meeting.

"For years, many people have seen the Hannover fair as an economic indicator," Mr. Zito said. "If it is good, than that is good for Europe, good for the United States, and good for the world."

Many of the 6,000 companies exhibiting at Hannover Messe were based in Germany, elsewhere in Europe and also Asia.

Some companies were interested in Toledo's access to rail and the port, the mayor said.

"For some of them it was the transportation possibilities, because once we told them we could bring in the international freight on our ships, they got excited about that and they thought it could be very viable to their company," he said.

Mr. Bell, after taking a moment to admire an electric sports car, hustled to his first meeting. Later in the day, the mayor, Mr. Zito, Mr. Syring, and Mr. McLean stopped by the booth operated by Maumee-based Dana Holding Corp.

Brian Cheadle, director of global business development for Dana, said he was pleased the mayor and his team came to talk with them.

Dana has displayed at the fair for 10 years, Mr. Cheadle said.

"Hannover Messe is an international fair so we get people from all over the world," he said. "We look for the engineers of potential customers who are looking for solutions to their needs and show them what we have here."

Like the mayor, Mr. Cheadle said the event is about forging relationships. Unlike the mayor, whose intent is attracting new businesses to Toledo, Dana is looking for customers to its global operation that is based in Maumee, but still inside a joint economic development zone with Toledo.

Dana has used the Hannover venue in recent years to showcase its fuel cell technology and development.

"It is a new market. It's rapidly evolving. We are going to have fuel cell cars in a few years," Mr. Cheadle said.

Fuel cell technology was one industry displayed at the massive fair. It also included companies showing robots; heavy machinery; industrial automation; energy and wind power; mobile technology; industrial supply; green technology, and research and development.

Mr. Bell said he was amazed by some of the displays.

Mr. McLean said the key is to find companies that want to do business in the United States, but warned that deals don't close too quickly.

"That would be like getting married after the first date," he said.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.

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