Gov. Mike Pence told an audience of business and community leaders from Japan and the Midwest on Monday that Indiana is seeking to “remain a destination of choice” for companies seeking to locate in the United States.
“Our state’s future looks bright, and we look forward to seeing the entire state – families and businesses, both homegrown and from afar – succeed,” Pence said during a speech in Tokyo.
“We hope more and more Japanese firms will be able to leverage Indiana’s favorable business environment, convenient location and strong workforce to grow and expand in the coming years,” he said.
Pence is on his first foreign trade mission as governor and spoke at the 45th Annual Joint Meeting of the Midwest U.S.-Japan Association and Japan-Midwest U.S. Association.
Indiana has the largest delegation of the nine states that are part of the event. The group includes several mayors and business leaders who are in Japan to visit companies already doing business in Indiana and promote the state to those who might consider it.
Already, Japan is Indiana’s largest foreign direct investor, Pence said.
“The relationship between our two countries is personal for me,” he told the group. “I grew up in Columbus, Ind., where Japanese companies have long been an important part of our economic base. As a boy, I saw how Japan’s investment in my hometown made it a better place, and I’ve been appreciative ever since.”
Columbus is currently home to 22 Japanese firms that employ more than 4,800 Hoosiers. Across the state, more than 200 Japanese firms employ nearly 44,000 people.
Also, Japan is Indiana’s fifth-largest export country.
Pence told the group that the Japanese influence has filtered into the state’s education system as well with major universities creating partnerships with schools in Japan. And today, more than 100 Indiana high schools offer Japanese language programs, he said.
The governor touted Indiana as “one of the only places in the United States where you can find taxes going down, while funding for schools and roads goes up.”
“You have to look long and hard for a state that generates surpluses as large as ours at the same time it puts more than $1 billion back into the economy through tax relief,” he said.
Those tax cuts – which will be spread out over several years – include the elimination of the inheritance tax and a small reduction in the individual income tax rate.
Following his address at the conference, Pence met with the leaders of Japanese companies already doing business in Indiana – including NSK Ltd., which employs more than 400 people in Liberty and Franklin, where it has expansion plans, and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which will invest $10.8 million to manufacture turbochargers at an existing site in Franklin.
During the weekend, Pence traveled to Tochigi Prefecture, Indiana’s sister-state, where he met with Gov. Tomikazu Fukuda and commemorated the states’ 14-year relationship.
Pence also announced that the Japan-America Society of Indiana planned to establish a Japan Center and Gardens in the state. The goal is to create a “cultural gateway to Japan, providing the Hoosier state with a culturally appropriate venue for events and meetings relating to Japan, gardens and nature,” the governor’s office said.
Theresa Kulczak, executive director of the Japan-American Society of Indiana, said in a prepared statement that the project is in its early stages. But she said it “promises to showcase the substantial commitment of Hoosiers to attract, welcome and partner with Japanese visitors in Indiana, and to enhance the cultural and economic cooperation between the state and Japan.”
“As both a learning center and quiet retreat, this will be one more shining beacon of Indiana’s vibrant, long-standing relationship with Japan,” she said.
On Tuesday, Pence plans to continue meetings with business leaders, including executives from Mitsui & Co., Sony, Keihin Corp. and several other companies.