The executive director of the Jackson County Industrial Development Corp. says the new Japanese Ambassador to the United States’ first visit to Indiana reinforces the importance of the relationship between the state and one of its largest global trading partners. Jim Plump says Shinsuke Sugiyama’s stop in Seymour also marked the first time any ambassador has been to the city. In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Plump says multiple subjects like workforce, corporate citizenship and trade tariffs were discussed among Sugiyama, Consul General of Japan in Chicago Naoki Ito, Mayor Craig Luedeman and executives from businesses with Jackson County ties like Seymour Tubing and Aisin World Corp. of America.
The ambassador and consul general on Monday made Seymour part of their "Grassroots Caravan" tour throughout the United States. Plump said the county’s relationship with Japan has a long history. "We have been recruiting Japanese companies for 30 years and making numerous trips to Japan," he said. "I think the consul general, as well as the ambassador were listening to companies talk and one of the common themes that we see in our area and that we see really all over the state of Indiana dealt with workforce, dealt with the skills of workers, dealt with the number of candidates that were out there."
Another issue that garnered attention during the visit was trade tariffs. The United States has imposed the fees on industries with heavy connections between Japan and Jackson County like steel and automobiles. "A lot of the companies are concerned and are keeping an eye on what exactly is going to happen dealing with the tariffs," Plump said, "in terms of the exclusions and exemptions and all that is kind of going into this and I think it’s on a lot of people’s minds. Not only from the international companies, but also domestic companies that are doing some importing of steel."
Plump says Vice President Mike Pence recently visited with Ito in Washington D.C. and advised the consul general to meet with Indiana companies. After the stop in Seymour, the caravan continued on to a meeting with Governor Eric Holcomb. The JCIDC says nearly 3,000 Jackson County jobs are connected to Japanese-owned businesses.