The Union County Board of Commissioners voted last week to dedicate Honda Parkway to the memory of Governor Rhodes, who passed away last year at age 91. The words "James A. Rhodes Memorial Parkway" will appear as an additional designation to Honda Parkway, which retains its name. The green and white Rhodes markers will be placed at each end of the road.
Rhodes served four terms as Ohio's governor, from 1963 to 1971, and from 1975 to 1983.
Honda Parkway originally was part of U.S. 33, with two lanes running northwest from Columbus toward Marysville. When the old route was replaced with a four-lane highway, the two-mile section providing access to Honda's Marysville complex was renamed Honda Parkway.
Focusing on "Jobs and Progress," Rhodes met with Honda Motor Co. founder Soichiro Honda and Honda Motor Co. President Kiyoshi Kawashima in the 1970s. Those events led to Honda establishing a motorcycle plant near Marysville, Ohio, in 1979, followed three years later by the Marysville Auto Plant. The first Honda Accord came off the assembly line on Nov. 1, 1982.
"It's hard to believe that today marks 20 years of Honda auto production here in Ohio," said John Adams, Honda of America Mfg.'s senior vice president. An engineer when the plant opened, Adams was joined by other associates who were present when the first cars began rolling off the assembly line.
"We set out with a concept that was quite simple - to produce quality automobiles close to the customer," Adams said. " One of Honda's strengths is never forgetting that everything we've accomplished is due to the involvement and teamwork of our associates."
Honda of America's two Ohio auto plants, outside in Marysville and in nearby East Liberty, have produced more than 9 million cars over the last 20 years. The company also operates the Marysville Motorcycle Plant, and an automotive engine plant near Anna, Ohio. The four plants employ 13,000 associates.
In another milestone, Honda of America recently produced its 10 millionth engine. Those engines power vehicles produced at Honda plants in Canada and Mexico, as well as the cars and motorcycles assembled in Ohio.
During the unveiling ceremony, Rick Schostek, Honda of America Mfg.'s vice president of Support Services, said Governor Rhodes was a key partner in encouraging Honda to locate in Ohio.
"Mr. Honda and Governor Rhodes built a relationship based on mutual trust and respect," Schostek said. "Without the leadership of Governor Rhodes, Honda of America Mfg. might not be in Ohio today."
Honda of America has invested more than $4.4 billion in its four Ohio facilities, and the company purchased more than $3.75 billion in parts and services from 162 Ohio suppliers last year.
In addition to manufacturing facilities, Ohio is home to Honda Engineering North America, Honda Transmission Mfg., American Honda Motor Co. Sales and Distribution Center, Honda Rider Training Center, the Transportation Research Center, Honda Trading America and Harmony Agricultural Products, Inc.
Among all its operations, Honda employs more than 16,000 associates in Ohio.