Hours before a gala dinner celebrating the strong business relationship between Japan and Indiana, the Chicago-based Consul General of Japan, Naoki Ito, and Consul of Economic Affairs Keizo Shirakura toured Honda Manufacturing of Indiana and met with city officials in an effort to examine and further strengthen those ties.
Ito, on his first visit to the Tree City, said he came away “very impressed.”
In particular, Ito praised the relationship between Honda associates and management and their engagement with one another.
Noting the “amazing size” of the 1,600-acre site which opened in 2008 and is capable of producing 250,000 vehicles each year, Ito said he believes the auto manufacturer – and the six other Japanese-owned manufacturing facilities in Decatur County – will continue to thrive.
Ito said the support of city and county officials has been integral in Honda’s success in Greensburg, and he painted a picture of a future where that relationship continues to strengthen the economies of Greensburg, the Hoosier State, the United States and Japan.
That support is crucial, but already in place in Greensburg, the Consul-General said.
“You have rock solid support here,” said Ito.
Ito and Shirakura met with Mayor Dan Manus and Greensburg-Decatur County Economic Development Corporation executive director Marc Coplon at City Hall shortly after the Honda visit where they discussed the current state of Japanese-Greensburg business relations as well as plans for the future.
Complimenting Honda and several other local facilities, such as GECOM, Hitachi Powdered Metals and Steel Technologies, Ito said the strong business relationships are based in prospective outcomes that are mutually beneficial for the economies of Japan and Greensburg.
“There are a lot of possibilities between Japan and Greensburg,” Ito said, who described the ideal business relationship as one that is a “win-win” for all involved.
Ito said the United States’ economy is growing, buoyed by continued demand for automobiles, such as the Honda CR-V which first rolled off of HMIN’s production lines in February.
The Consulate-General said the encouraging economic signs should be met with tempered hopefulness.
“We should certainly be optimistic, but not overly optimistic,” said Ito.
Ito noted that Honda’s success pays positive dividends for its suppliers, such as Indiana Assemblies and One Solution Logistics, which together employ more than 600 people.
In all, Japanese-owned businesses in Decatur County account for about 4,500 jobs.
The relationship between Greensburg and Japan dates back to 1987 when GECOM, a subsidiary of Mitsui Kinzoku ACT of Japan, opened its doors. GECOM employs approximately 740 people and recently received a tax abatement from the City of Greensburg in order to create a $28 million expansion.
The outlook across the state is encouraging as well, with 280 Japanese business facilities providing more than 58,000 jobs in Indiana, according to information from Shirakura.
“We’re hoping this trend will continue,” commented Ito.
Japanese companies created more than 47,000 jobs in Indiana in 2014 and the country ranks first in job creation in California, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Hawaii, and Nebraska, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Japan is Indiana’s third largest exporter and its fifth largest exporter, according to data from the Department of Commerce.
As a whole, employment by Japanese multinational enterprises in the U.S. is second only to the United Kingdom, and ahead of Canada and China.
Ito assumed his duties in February and heads an outreach organization that serves 10 Midwestern states and includes approximately 1,300 Japanese businesses. In all, about 130,000 people are employed at those companies in the region helmed by Ito.
The Consul-General and Consul of Economic Affairs had only a few hours to spend in Greensburg before departing for the annual Japan-American Society of Indiana’s annual gala.
Ito noted that the event welcomed Gov. Eric Holcomb and Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch and marked the first time the governor and lieutenant governor attended the ceremony simultaneously.
He sees that as another sign that Japanese and American business relationships are strong – and growing stronger.
“It’s quite an honor for us,” said Ito. “Indiana’s leadership has a clear focus on Japan-American relationships, and that’s really a good basis for further collaboration.”
Ito added that governmental support is another reason why Japanese companies have found a welcome second home in the Crossroads of America.
The dinner was expected to be attended by about 600 people and celebrates the 30th anniversary of the establishment of Subaru of Indiana Automotive, Inc.
Ito was an honored guest as was Tomikazu Fukuda, Governor of Tochigi Prefecture in Japan. Ito explained that Tochigi Prefecture is located about an hour north of Tokyo.
Although the dignitaries’ visit was brief, city officials hope Ito and Shirakura will return soon.
Coplon said the officials are weighing the possibility of expanding the EDC’s annual Business Appreciation Day held each September into two days. Ito and Shirakura would be invited guests if such plans come to fruition.
In any case, it appears the business partnerships between Greensburg and Japan remain strong, and the outlook is one of optimism from local leaders.
“We’re hoping to expand on our relationship, our friendship, and open up more opportunities in our community,” said Coplon.
Source: Greensburg Daily News