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Back from Japan

Adding Japanese content to Lakehead University’s student body was a top priority for the mayor during an official visit to Gifu City, Japan.
(Photo supplied)

Adding Japanese content to Lakehead University’s student body was a top priority for the mayor during an official visit to Gifu City, Japan.

And if successful, Mayor Keith Hobbs believes it can more than pay back the $10,000 taxpayer dollars used to send some delegates. 

The 11-delegates group included city officials and private citizens. City officials, whose trip was paid for by public funds, included Coun. Brian McKinnon, infrastructure and operations general manager Darrell Matson, city Aboriginal liaison Anna Gibbon and city clerk John Hannam. Non city officials paid out of pocket to join the excursion.

The group visited universities across the city and worked toward increasing enrolment numbers at Lakehead University.

“I think the university is the best bang for the buck,” Hobbs said.

“When you get 500 students enrolled they bring a lot of money to the city. Lakehead University is a big economic driver for our GDP in Thunder Bay. That was really good news that they wanted to reinvigorate that program. That was probably the thrust of (the trip). I believe the trip is going to pay off in the end.”

But university enrolment was only part of the trip’s focus.

Following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that decimated homes and killed thousands, Japan shut down all its nuclear power plants after safety concerns were raised in the wake of the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi reactor.

Hobbs said Japanese officials were interested in creating a 25-megawatt biomass plant and the plan was that Thunder Bay would help drive the project forward.

He said they would solidify the deal even more when the Japanese delegates come for a visit in July.

The mining sector also sparked the interest of Japanese officials and Hobbs said they would help them on that front as well.

“I think with our mining guru that we have John Mason we’re going to team him up with the CEDC and our partner sister city and see what we can explore in that regard,” he said.

“Gifu City is coming here and we`ll continue with the dialogue.”

During the visit, Gifu City mayor Shigemitsu Hosoe gave Hobbs honourary citizenship – an honour only given out about 12 times in the city’s long history – as well as a medal.

The mayor said the whole experience was like the Steve Martin comedy classic Planes, Trains and Automobiles, but overall enjoyable.

Although the biggest highlight for Hobbs on his visit was that residents of Gifu City took pride in their city and said he didn’t see any cigarette butts or coffee cups on the ground.

“I think more people need to take more pride in this city,” he said. 


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