Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) discussing economic and trade relationships between Japan and Indiana.

Boone County Councilor Elise Neishalla and I recently attended the Japan American Society of Indiana‘s Japan Update where we discussed key developments in the Japan-America and Japan-Indiana economic and workforce relations.

Below is a synopsis of what I gathered from the event:

  • There are currently over 300 Japanese-based companies operating in Indiana which employ approximately 60,000 Hoosiers. Boone County is home to six Japanese-owned companies.
  • Japanese-owned manufacturing companies are significant contributors to the U.S. economy, specifically as it relates to R&D and exports investments. U.S. based, Japanese-owned manufacturing companies spent $8.05 billion in R&D in 2016.
  • The biggest concerns relating to the Japanese-American and the Japan-Indiana economic relationships are:
    • How to attract and retain the workforce during low unemployment cycles
    • How to artfully balance tariffs, specifically with steel, based on United States’ trade relationships
  • As local and state economic development corporations help build and strengthen workforce development, the following workforce initiatives have found success:
    • High-school and college internships and apprenticeships which promote credits earned both in the high schools or colleges in addition to the hard skills learned in a working environment;
    • 2nd Chance programs for formerly incarcerated individuals;
    • Out-of-the-box training and cultural initiatives to help educate and strengthen the existing workforce.

“Labor on the Quick: Workforce Now” Panel discussing current workforce initiatives at both local and state levels.

Overall, the program was both culturally and informationally eye-opening as it focused on specific issues we, as economic developers and employers, face and how we can facilitate creative ways to help facilitate and build relationships with new and existing and Japanese companies and combat workforce issues experienced specifically in our communities.