Connections with Japan Critical to Strong Economy, Manufacturing Industry

By: John Sampson on October 4th, 2017

Northeast Indiana Travels to Japan for Trade Mission with Gov. Erin Holcomb

It is over 6,400 miles to Tokyo, Japan from Fort Wayne. It took a 30-minute flight to Detroit and another 14 hours on the non-stop ride. While it is a long flight, in today’s global marketplace and business world it just isn’t that far. 

Without a doubt, our Japanese friends and business associates are much closer than we might realize.

The 2017 Japan-Midwest US Association Conference was held in Tokyo this year and I attended with state representatives. The conference is held every fall, alternating between Tokyo and a Midwest state. This year’s conference gathered five governors from Indiana, Illinois, Nebraska, Michigan and Wisconsin to cement relationships, expand trade with Japan and encourage continued investment by Japanese companies in the Midwest.

For several years running, Indiana Governors have led the largest delegations to attend these conferences. This year, Gov. Eric Holcomb continued the tradition. Without a doubt, it was a privilege to travel with Gov. Holcomb to Japan to represent the interests of our state and region in renewing and building critical business and government relationships.  It is indeed a special moment to see our governor stand with four others along with officals from Japanese prefectures and business leaders with one common purpose – to build trust, expand trade and multiply investment in our countries. 

Certainly, we could not afford to participate without the generous support of investors in the Regional Partnership. This year, utility partners Indiana Michigan Power, NIPSCO and Wabash Valley Power Authority, all with strong interests in Northeast Indiana, stepped forward to make sure that our region was represented on this important trade mission.

Why is our relationship with Japanese companies so important to Indiana and our region? Why go the many extra miles to make sure Japanese companies know how important their investment is to Hoosiers here in Northeast Indiana? Bottom line, there are 2,644 reasons. 

Japanese-owned companies in our region employ over 2,600 Hoosiers at 18 locations in seven of the 11 counties of Northeast Indiana. 

Companies like Kamaya, Oji Intertech, Nishikawa Cooper and American Mitsuba are incredibly important to our region. And I suspect that many Northeast Indiana residents may not realize that other company locations they drive by every day are owned by a Japanese interest. The ownership of firms like Helena Chemical, Univertical, Carlex, Key Fasteners, SEAVAC, TRIN and FCC Adams may not be obvious.

The lion’s share of these 2,644 reasons are directly related to our core strengths in manufacturing. These firms create products commonly used in vehicle production, like precision pistons, electronic switches, clutches, fasteners and high-quality glass for windshields. Less commonly recognized are the high purity copper and nickel for circuit boards and anodes, chip resistors and integrated circuits. Not to overlook the agriculture connection, multiple locations are devoted to fertilizers, seeds, herbicides, insecticides and fungicides.

We have a long history devoted to building strong relationships with our Japanese friends. In May, a delegation from Fort Wayne traveled to Takaoka to celebrate the 40th anniversary of our sister city relationship with this beautiful and historic Japanese city. This relationship has deepened through cultural and educational exchanges over the years. At least four high schools in our region now have Japanese sister-school relationships to encourage educational exchanges.

From a broader perspective, Indiana has derived even more benefits, both cultural and economic, from our longstanding relationships with Japan.

  • More than 280 Japanese business facilities operate across Indiana, employing more than 58,000 associates.
  • Among all U.S. states, Indiana has the largest amount of Japanese investment per capita.
  • Indiana is the only U.S. state that is home to three Japanese original equipment manufacturer automotive companies – Honda, Subaru and Toyota.
  • Exporting $1.6 billion of Hoosier-made goods to Japan in 2016, Indiana counts Japan as its fifth-largest export partner.
  • Since Jan. 2013, the IEDC has secured nearly 70 commitments from Japan-based companies to locate or grow in Indiana, which project to create more than 7,600 new jobs and invest $3.16 billion in their Indiana operations.

As the strongest manufacturing state in the country, Indiana’s economy is fueled by our leadership role in manufacturing. According to the Indiana Manufacturers Association, Indiana manufacturers account for 29 percent of the total output of the state, which equates to $99 billion. 

On Friday, Oct. 6, our country’s manufacturers will celebrate National Manufacturing Day. While Indiana is number one in the country for manufacturing employment, our region leads the way with 7 of 11 counties in the top 5 percent of counties nationwide for manufacturing employment.

Our relationships with Japan have long been a part of our strength in manufacturing. These relationships are extremely important to our state and specifically Northeast Indiana. Our thanks to Gov. Holcomb for his commitment to expand and strengthen Indiana’s relationships with this critical trading partner.

It may be a long plane trip to Japan, but we appreciate the close relationships continually cultivated with Indiana’s Japanese business partners and investors.  We have much invested in these critical relationships with our Japanese partners.

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