In 1976, Honda Motor Co. executives in Tokyo leaked word to the Japanese business press that they were interested in building an assembly plant in America.
The news spread quickly to the United States. Ohio officials were the first to react. Here's how things unfolded.
APR '76 An article in the Columbus Citizen-Journal reports that a Japanese automaker is conducting feasibility studies for a U.S. assembly plant. No company is named. James Duerk, Ohio development director, shows the clipping to Gov. James Rhodes. The next day Rhodes and Duerk fly to Japan to meet representatives of Toyota, Honda and Nissan. They make the case for a plant in Ohio but leave Japan without knowing which manufacturer is interested.
JAN '77 Honda Vice President Shige Yoshida asks to meet privately with Duerk and Rhodes in Columbus, Ohio. They gather secretly at a downtown Columbus hotel. At the meeting, Rhodes learns that Honda wants to build a plant in Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana or Tennessee.
APR '77 Yoshida returns to Ohio with more questions.
JUN '77 Honda representatives visit more than 50 possible plant locations in Ohio. None are to their liking. But Yoshida tells his Ohio hosts what Honda is doing. He says the company is interested in setting up a motorcycle plant in the United States and might someday follow with an automobile assembly plant.
AUG '77 The Honda group looks at five more Ohio sites. They are intrigued by one near the Transportation Research Center, about 50 miles northwest of Columbus and six miles west of Marysville, Ohio, a town of 8,400. The center, owned and operated by the state, includes an auto test track spread over 8,000 acres. The site impresses the Japanese team, and the Honda representatives become interested in a 260-acre tract of land nearby. The Marysville location is appealing because the city is within an hour's drive of both the Dayton, Ohio, and Columbus airports.
SEP '77 The state offers to provide $2.5 million in direct aid to Honda - mainly to improve roads and utilities.
OCT '77 Honda signs an agreement on Oct. 11 with the state to begin construction of a $35 million motorcycle plant. Honda of America Manufacturing is incorporated.
JUN '78 Six Japanese employees move into a 2,000-square-foot office building in suburban Columbus to begin hiring workers.
SEP '79 Sixty-four employees arrive for work on Sept. 10 at the 260,000-square-foot Marysville plant on the first day of production. Ten CR250 dirt bikes are assembled that day.