Building Rock-Solid Relationships in Japan

Banjaku. That’s the word heard in a meeting between Japan and Indiana representatives, describing the relationship between Japan and the United States, specifically Indiana. Translated it means “solid as a rock,” and nurturing this solid relationship led EDC Director Corey Murphy to visit Japan along with several other leaders from the region.

According to the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, Indiana has the largest amount of Japanese investment per capita in the nation. Henry County has two Japanese-based companies: American Keeper and TS Tech. These companies have invested more than $37 million into growing their companies in Henry County and provide jobs for approximately 450 people.

New Castle Mayor Greg York joined Murphy on the trip, along with representatives from the East Central Indiana Regional Partnership and Rush and Wayne Counties. Yoshi Ogawa and Theresa A. Kulczak with the Japan-American Society of Indiana were helpful throughout the trip with consultation and translation. Additionally, Paul Roland of the IEDC office in Japan provided translation services for the meetings with Keeper Corporation and TS Tech.

The visit spanned several areas in the country, which is approximately the size of Montana. York and Murphy visited the head offices of Keeper Corporation and TS Tech, met with representatives from Toyota, Honda, and Subaru, and visited with business development organizations.

Keeper Corporation, known locally as American Keeper, was founded in 1943 as Nippon Dust Keeper (the letters NDK still comprise their current logo). Keeper is an engine component manufacturer, creating rubber and plastic material for industrial use. The company has seven locations with more than 1,000 employees. They are in the process of doubling the size of their plant in New Castle, recently pouring concrete on the added space. They plan to double their workforce, from 40 to 80 within the next few years.

“Our meeting with Keeper was very warm,” Murphy shared. “They were enthusiastic about our visit, and we were excited to see their headquarters, which include a new technical center.”

TS Tech was founded in 1960 and is a seat manufacturer for the automobile, motorcycle, and healthcare markets. They are a primary supplier for Honda, and Honda’s decision to locate a plant in Greensburg necessitated TS Tech locating in Henry County in 2007. TS Tech has 47 locations, 36 outside of Japan. Their Henry County facility employs more than 400 people.

“We had a good meeting with TS Tech and were able to see their new head office,” Murphy noted.

In addition to meeting with these companies, the group met with the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO). This organization promotes mutual trade and investment, and several JETRO experts who are similar to site selection consultants were available during this meeting.

“This is my third trip to Japan, and I find the culture there to be clean, polite, and extremely efficient,” Murphy expressed. “Mayors are held in very high regard in Japan, so it was very important for me to be accompanied by Mayor York.”

York expressed his appreciation for the treatment and respect he received while in the country. He once had mixed feelings about foreign investment, having been raised in the time where “Made in the USA” was a value held in high regard. That feeling has since changed.

“We have to look at the big picture. The products made here are ‘Made in the USA,’” he explained. “These companies are putting food on the table for our people.”

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