Japan trip may lead to expansion, official says

The man responsible for bringing jobs to Jackson County believes his trip to Japan this week will lead to expansion announcements in the coming year.

Jim Plump, executive director of Jackson County Industrial Development Corp., has spent this week with an Indiana delegation meeting with officials from some of the 250-plus Japanese companies with operations within the state.

Gov. Mike Pence is leading that delegation of 35, which includes Hoosier business and community leaders. The delegation left Sept. 11 and will return today.

On Thursday, Plump and other members of the delegation were scheduled to conduct business meetings with executives from Aisin, Toyota Industries Corp., Toyota Motor Corp. and Toyota Tsusho Corp.

Together, these companies employ more than 8,000 Hoosiers through their operations in Indiana, many located in Jackson and Bartholomew counties.

There are seven Japanese-based companies in Jackson County, including Aisin U.S.A. Manufacturing in Seymour, which is the largest employer in Jackson County at this time with 1,803 workers.

Seymour Tubing also ranked among the top 10 employers in the county with 511 employees, and Aisin Drivetrain in Crothersville has another 305 workers. Other Japanese companies in the county include Cummins Komatsu Engine Co., O&K American Corp. and Aisin World Corp. of America, all located in Seymour, and Aisin Chemical Indiana in Crothersville.

Plump said he has been meeting with officials from some of those companies that have invested here and will continue to expand here.

“Everything is going well,” he said. “I feel confident we will see expansion announcements in 2016.”

In his 31 years as executive director of JCIDC, Plump has made 25 trips to Japan. With those seven Japanese-based companies in the county, the trips are crucial, he said.

In 2014, Aisin Chemical Indiana and Aisin Drivetrain announced plans to invest $45.35 million at their Crothersville operations, creating up to 74 jobs.

In August, Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing, a joint venture of Toyota Industries Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp., announced plans to spend $16 million to expand its Columbus campus by 50,000 square feet. Many Jackson County workers head to Walesboro each day to Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing, which makes forklifts.

Plump said the delegation had one surprise from the trip so far. That was an unexpected appearance at the Friends of Indiana reception in Tokyo by former Vice President Dan Quayle, who happened to be staying at the same hotel.

“Indiana Secretary of Commerce Victor Smith formerly worked for Quayle and, along with Governor Pence, was able to invite the former vice president,” Plump said.