Three Smyrna town council members as well as the town’s mayor, vice-mayor, and town manager flew to Japan in May for an economic development trip that possibly cost taxpayers as much as $16,000.
This, according to Town Manager Brian Hercules, who told The Tennessee Star the six officials were away for a week. Hercules said he had no exact figures for the cost of the trip, but he estimated a sum of at least $15,000 to $16,000.
Hercules told The Tennessee Star this week he could not yet announce any new jobs or industries for Smyrna as a result of the trip.
Specifically, this delegation flew to Zama, Japan, on the island nation’s east coast.
Mayor Mary Esther Reed (pictured above), Vice Mayor Marc Adkins, Hercules, and three council members Hercules did not identify went to Japan to, among other things, meet with officials at Nissan and Nissan supplier Topre America.
Smyrna has had a Nissan assembly plant since the early 1980s.
Only three of the five town council members could make the trip, Hercules said.
“We felt strong enough about our economic development and the investment these companies had made. We opened it up to the council, and some of the council members decided not to go for personal reasons. They had other commitments,” Hercules said.
“We looked at taking the council as a whole, as a body, to show our endorsement. When someone invests the kind of money that Nissan and Topre have invested in our community we felt strongly it was a good investment for us to show our support.”
Reed, Adkins, and the five council members did not return The Star’s request for comment this week.
Hercules said the delegation spent two days discussing economic development. They also spent an unspecified amount of time looking at Japan’s landfill and trash collection practices and fire department protocols, he added.
Hercules said the cost was worth the trip.
“This is the first time the delegation has gone, as far as the mayor and any of the council members. It’s the first time we’ve been to Zama in over 20 years. The Zama delegation has been over here three different times,” Hercules said.
“It is an investment. When we think about the economic value of a Nissan or a Topre America or an industry of those standards, the $15,000 or $16,000 that was spent multiplies back through goodwill and continued relationships tenfold or better.”
Hercules said state officials take similar trips on a regular basis, although he did not offer specifics.
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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Background Photo “Smyrna City Hall” by Skye Marthaler. CC BY-SA 3.0.