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Friendship dinner strengthens ties between Japan, Radius Indiana cities

Carol Johnson, Southern Indiana Business Report

FRENCH LICK – In the years since Toyota, Honda and Subaru built manufacturing plants in Indiana, Japanese business investment in Indiana has grown to 320 business facilities providing more than 70,000 jobs.

Across the Midwest, 1,500 Japanese businesses employ 150,000 workers. 

The Midwest is favorably regarded by Japanese investors because of its geographical position as the Crossroads of America, its high quality workforce, and collaboration between the governor, mayors and local economic development organizations.

The foreign investment in Indiana and other midwestern states also has been the result of what the Japanese call kizuna – a strong bond of trust and friendship. 

That friendship was strengthened Tuesday during a Japan Friendship Dinner & Reception at the French Lick Resort.  

Radius Indiana hosted the dinner. Invited guests included Consul-General Yanagi of Japan in Chicago, Hiroyuki Nemoto, chief executive director of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), mayors and local economic development officers from the eight-county Radius region.

Yanagi said the strong bond of trust and friendship “has been nourished by a vibrant network of business partnerships and people-to-people interaction.”

Mari Kubota with M&C Tech shakes hands with Mitchell Mayor Don Caudell at the Radius Indiana and Japan Friendship Dinner & Reception Feb. 27, 2024 at the French Lick Resort. Also pictured is Larry Ingraham, Japan-American Society of Indiana board member.

He emphasized that human connections and sister city relationships – there are 72 sister-states and sister-cities in 10 Midwestern US states – have played a big role in building trust.  

Yanagi referenced a time in the 1980s when the Japan-US business relationship was defined by tension, but over time and deliberate efforts, that tension decreased. 

“I am optimistic since our partnership has been built from (the) ground up, supported by multiple layers of human connection, sharing basic values such as democracy, freedom, human rights,” he said. “The significance of the US-Japan partnership will endure beyond 2025.”

Yanagi stepped into the role of consul-general in July 2023. Prior to that, he was deputy director of the Cabinet Intelligence and Research Office.  Over the past few months, he has attended  Gov. Eric Holcomb’s State of the State address, met Purdue University President Mung Chiang and toured the Toyota plant in Princeton. 

Loogootee Mayor Brian Ader, left, and Bedford Mayor Sam Craig attend the 2024 Radius Indiana and Japan Friendship Dinner Feb. 27, 2024 at the French Lick Resort.

The Radius region is home to one Japanese company – M&C Tech in Washington, which is a plastics manufacturer to Tier 1 automotive suppliers.

Guests were welcomed to the dinner by Jeff Pipkin, Radius Indiana board chairman, and Jeff Quyle, Radius CEO. Other notable guests included Indiana State Treasurer Daniel Elliott and State Comptroller Elise Nieshalla. More than 50 guests attended the dinner.

“The visit by our guests from the Japanese Consulate and JETRO was a wonderful way to stimulate conversations about future Japanese business investment in the Radius region. Our Mayors were very attentive to the information they received, and they were especially effective in communicating about the strengths of their communities,” Quyle said. “I was very pleased; this was the strongest collective effort we’ve ever seen from our Mayors in the region.”

The guests from the Japanese Consulate and JETRO also met with the mayors and LEDOs for a breakfast Wednesday to continue discussing the economic vitality of the communities in the Radius region.


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