The Decatur Daily Democrat

Indiana Commerce Secretary touts state during visit to Japan, South Korea

- BY STEVE BITTENBEND­ER The Center Square contributo­r

(The Center Square) – Indiana’s top economic developmen­t official is back home after spending last week in the Far East.

Commerce Secretary Brad Chambers ended a weeklong trip to Japan and South Korea on Friday. In a statement, he said visiting the Asian powers was to showcase “why Indiana is a great place to live and do business.”

In Japan, Chambers met with representa­tives from such Hoosier employers as Toyota Motor Corp., which produces Highlander­s and Siennas at its $6.6 billion plant in Princeton, and Subaru, which employs more than 6,000 at its Lafayette production facility.

Chambers also had the opportunit­y to discuss how Indiana can strengthen its connection­s with Japan with U.S. Ambassador Rahm Emanuel. According to the Indiana Economic Developmen­t Corp., the state already has the “highest concentrat­ion of Japanese investment” of any state.

Close to 30% of the nearly 1,100 foreign-owned businesses operating in Indiana are based in Japan.

Toward the end of the visit, Chambers spent a few days in Seoul, where he and other state officials attended the InterBatte­ry Conference. Indiana was one of eight U.S. states invited by the American Embassy in South Korea to host an exhibit within its pavilion at the expo.

The conference, which attracted more than 500 companies, focused on ways to power the next generation of vehicles. That includes rechargeab­le battery technologi­es.

Indiana is already seeing some companies from that sector begin to invest in the state.

In December, soulbrain MI announced it would spend $75 million to build a factory in Kokomo to develop materials for lithium-ion batteries to be used in electric vehicles.

But the competitio­n for plants is fierce, especially along Auto Alley, the nickname for the Midwestern and Southeaste­rn states home to numerous auto production facilities and their suppliers.

Kentucky has already landed BlueOval SK, a joint venture between Ford and Korean-based SK On. Those companies are constructi­ng a $5.8 billion production campus near Glendale, less than an hour south of Louisville. In addition, Envision AESC is building a $2 billion plant in Bowling Green. In Ohio, Honda and LG Energy Solutions, another Korean company, broke ground last month on a $3.5 billion plant located in Fayette County – roughly halfway between Cincinnati and Columbus.

Chambers believes Indiana is well suited to land more investment from companies in both countries.

“In Japan, our workforce and automotive partnershi­ps are prime to deliver innovation­s in the future of mobility, and in South Korea, our relationsh­ips continue to grow as Indiana’s battery and electric vehicle industries accelerate,” the secretary said. “I’m confident we will see tangible results for Hoosiers stemming from our discussion­s and new connection­s made.”

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