When NTN Driveshaft announced a $90-million investment creating up to 100 new jobs in Columbus, Indiana in October of 2018, the news confirmed what Hoosier Energy leaders had already known for a long time: The world is coming to the Midwest.
More specifically, companies from Japan and China are flocking in record numbers to Hoosier Energy’s service territory, which is stretched across 59 counties in Indiana and Illinois. Whether it’s Honda Manufacturing of Indiana, LLC investing $32.5 million to bolster production at its Greensburg, Indiana, assembly plant, or ATTC Manufacturing investing $27.3 million in a foundry operation in Tell City, Indiana, foreign direct investment deals are popping up all over the electric utility’s region. It’s not happening by accident either. Hoosier Energy works closely with state and local partners to arrange personal visits to CEOs and other business leaders in foreign countries, selling them on the advantages of choosing a Hoosier Energy location in the Midwest. Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb led such economic development trips to India and Japan in 2017, while Indiana Commerce Secretary Jim Schellinger led a delegation to China in 2018.
“In Indiana, we’re proud to be home to a global economy that now supports more than 950 foreign-owned business establishments that provide 193,000 jobs for Hoosiers. That’s up from 152,000 just three years ago,” said Schellinger. “Under the leadership of Governor Holcomb, we’re working to take Indiana to the world and bring the world back to Indiana. Our international efforts are strongly evident in communities like Columbus and Bartholomew County, which have worked hand-in-hand with us to cultivate these partnerships, supporting Japanese companies like NTN Driveshaft, Toyota Material Handling & Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing, OSR and Daiei, as well as now India-based Axiscades.”
Jim Turner, general manager and CEO of the Bartholomew County REMC, notes that “the officials from Columbus have forged strong relationships over the years, leading several Japanese companies to move to our town. They don’t want to come and simply do business here. They want to become part of the community. Japanese companies’ long-term commitment to Columbus, Indiana — as seen in their steady employment growth at their manufacturing operations — is truly remarkable. I am confident that Columbus and Japan will continue to build upon their strong, mutually beneficial ties.”
Jason Hester, president of the Greater Columbus Indiana EDC, agrees. “Our organization was formed in 1976 to diversify the economy, and our first foray into FDI came in 1978,” he says. “We have been pursuing FDI for more than 40 years now.”
By the 1980s, Columbus began seeing a steady influx of Japanese investors, culminating in 28 Japanese firms employing more than 5,800 workers in the community today. Most are in the automotive sector, but other industries are showing signs of FDI growth as well.
“It started with Japan, but FDI interest in our region spread quickly to Germany and France,” Hester adds. “Faurecia, a global automotive company based in France, does its R&D and production for emissions control technologies here. One out of every four cars produced in the world has Faurecia components and technology.”
Hester notes that Columbus has been sending delegations to Japan annually for more than 35 years and to China for more than a decade. “Three companies from China have come here in the distribution sector,” he says. “From India, we have welcomed two firms in engineering services. One of them, KPIT, employs 170 people here. The newest one is Axiscades, and they have been here for about a year. They employ five people now but plan to grow substantially in Columbus in coming years.”
This growth is happening, he notes, because Columbus has one of the highest concentrations of engineering talent in the U.S., with a strong concentration in mechanical engineering. “About 38 percent of all jobs in Columbus are in manufacturing, which puts us in the top 2% of all counties in the country,” says Hester. “The regional campus of Indiana University-Purdue University of Columbus confers degrees in mechanical engineering, while the regional campus of Purdue Polytechnic offers degrees in industrial engineering and related programs.”
Purdue and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology are two well-known engineering schools that keep the region stocked with a pipeline of talent, which acts as a magnet for FDI. “We have averaged 365 new international residents each year for the past three years,” Hester says. “A lot of them are engineers. Others are in headquarters positions in manufacturing. Our largest employer is Cummins Inc., a Fortune 200 firm in diesel engines and power systems. Their global headquarters is here. They employ 8,000 people in Southern Indiana, mostly in Columbus.”
He adds that “Hoosier Energy has been a great partner. They have helped us with dedicated funding for our international recruitment efforts. Hoosier Energy has also helped in site readiness and with their tax abatement calculator. That is a great tool that is made available to all Indiana economic developers.”
This Investment Profile was prepared under the auspices of Hoosier Energy. For more information, visit www.hoosiersites.com or contact Harold Gutzwiller at 812-876-0294.
Ron Starner is Executive Vice President of Conway Data, Inc. He has been with Conway Data for 22 years and serves as a writer and editor for both Site Selection and the company's Custom Content publishing division. His Twitter handle is @RonStarner.