Skeptics might say it's just a junket.
But a local delegation's trip to Japan is the sort of journey smart communities support, provided the trip focuses on relationship building to draw interest in local business development.
Anderson Mayor Tom Broderick; Greg Winkler, director of Anderson economic development; Rob Sparks, director of the Madison County Corporation for Economic Development, and Ayako Girt, business development specialist for Anderson economic development, departed Friday.
Broderick and Winkler will return Oct. 18. Sparks and Girt will stay a bit longer to meet in Japan with the owners of Elsa Corp., which is located in Elwood. They'll be back in Madison County on Oct. 20.
The same group traveled in the spring of 2017 to Japan to meet with with seven companies headquartered there. Also that spring, the mayor traveled to Italy and met with Techno-Plas, Italpollina and Sirmax officials. All have a presence in Anderson.
“The city of Anderson has been quite successful in attracting and securing foreign companies into our community, which have brought advanced manufacturing and good-paying jobs,” Broderick said before the group departed for Japan on Friday. “In order to continue this process, it is important that we keep up our efforts at building relationships that promote Anderson and that lead to continued economic growth.”
The local team will meet with representatives of several Japanese manufacturers that have plants in Anderson, including NTN Driveshaft, NTK Precision Axle, GTI and Keihin.
At least 19 foreign companies hailing from eight countries have operations in Madison County. By early this year, their local facilities accounted for more than 3,000 new employees and over $1.5 billion in new investments.
Clearly, Anderson and Madison County can attract foreign investment. That's no surprise, considering the area's central location in the United States, with easy transportation access by truck, airplane and train. The Madison County area also boasts a low cost of living, as well as space at the Flagship Enterprise business park and elsewhere for new facilities. Another plus: The local presence of Ivy Tech, Anderson University and Purdue University.
Winkler and Sparks have done a masterful job over much of the past decade of working with local government to recruit and secure commitments from foreign and domestic companies to site plants here.
One of Broderick's best decisions as mayor was to keep Winkler, who had served previously under the Republication administrations of Kevin Smith, on as the head of Anderson economic development. Broderick is a Democrat.
Without a doubt, the team's current trip to Japan has the potential to be so much more than a junket. It can be a major factor in expansion of Japanese investment in Anderson and Madison County.