Gov. Eric Holcomb delivers remarks during the Midwest U.S.-Japan Association conference in Japan in September 2023. (Courtesy official Flickr)
Although he’s just days into an economic development trip in Japan, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb is “confident” his efforts with Japanese government and business leaders will bear fruit.
He said competition is fierce: four other U.S. governors are also in Japan, promoting their own states and stories.
“We were born and raised Hoosiers — I was, at least — and kind of ‘Midwest-nice,’ and we like to be polite and be accounted for,” Holcomb said. “(But) the world’s run by those who show up. And we show up.”
He has already met with three of the state’s largest automakers — Honda, Subaru and Toyota — and others.
“There’s so many other companies that we have talked to while we’re here that do have in mind plans for expansion, and we are seeking new business as well,” Holcomb told Hoosier reporters over video call Tuesday evening.
He said there’d be nothing to announce immediately, but added, “I’m pretty confident there will be some good news to share later.”
Building relationships abroad
It’s Holcomb’s third official visit to Japan — and likely his last, as he’s term-limited.
Japan invests more in Indiana per capita than any other U.S. state, and is Indiana’s largest foreign investor. More than 300 of Indiana’s foreign-owned businesses are Japanese-owned, and they employ more than 55,000 people, according to Holcomb’s administration.
Holcomb, who will be in Japan for about a week, also attended the Midwest U.S.-Japan Association’s annual conference in Tokyo. He’s additionally scheduled to visit manufacturing-focused Gunma Prefecture, which established a formal partnership with Indiana a year ago.
His role, he told reporters, “is to make sure that everyone that we meet with is up to date on Indiana’s story.”
Talking (auto) shop
Holcomb focused heavily on the automakers in his remarks Tuesday, emphasizing the state’s history with them — and the future ahead.
“They may all have different timelines, different plans, portfolios, lines, but we want to make sure that they know that we pledge to be just as supportive in the future, as they make big decisions, as as we have been in the past,” Holcomb said.
He added that he’ll judge the success of the trip by “how those conversations are proceeding, so that they can make informed decisions and, ultimately, more investments in our home state.”
But Indiana’s other automakers are American — and on the verge of a 146,000-strong strike.
When asked about the looming walkouts, Holcomb said he had “concerns” because of the industry’s prominence throughout the state.
But, he said, he wouldn’t be “one of those individuals who lobs something from the cheap seats — some explosive rhetoric or statements — to try to encourage agreement.”
“What I do hope is that they can strike a balance in their approach in these discussions,” Holcomb said.
“This is not an opportune time for the wheels to come off, so to speak,” he added. “And I just hope that they can get to a place to where they can continue to be the world-class companies they are and meet the market demands — because the demands are great.”
When asked, the governor also defended Indiana’s economic development efforts at home.
The LEAP Innovation and Research District in Boone County has generated outrage from residents and other stakeholders over proposals to pump millions of water to the site daily from Tippecanoe County, along with transparency-related complaints.
Holcomb said the state wouldn’t “rob Peter to pay Paul” in its water plans.
“We’re going to stay on this path to be an attractive state, and we’re going to grow at the ability that our natural resources and our God-given talent puts us in a position to realize.”
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