Overseas trips help cultivate relationships

In his 30 years as executive director of Jackson County Industrial Development Corp., Jim Plump has made 25 trips to Japan.

During a few years, including this year, he has made two trips.

With seven Japanese-based companies in the county, these trips are crucial.

“Now, it is something that when we put our budget together, it’s not even discussed,” Plump said. “It’s a given that at some point in a calendar year I will be in Japan.”

Plump’s ventures to Japan began after Aisin selected Seymour for its first North American manufacturing facility in 1986. Today, Aisin has nearly 30 manufacturing operations throughout North America, including three in Jackson County; and its headquarters, Aisin Holdings of America, is in Seymour.

“Aisin is just a tremendous company, and the growth potential was very apparent back then,” Plump said. “The idea was we need to stay close with this company. We need to establish good relationships with this company. We need to be responsive if the company needed something. We needed to be able to deliver that so that when they had expansion opportunities, we would have an opportunity.”

The trips generally last a week to 10 days. Plump’s longest trip was two weeks.

This year, he went in the spring and in the fall. With the most recent visit, he was accompanied by Seymour Mayor Craig Luedeman, and there were 16 people from the south-central region of Indiana along with representatives of businesses that do work with Japanese companies.

Meetings were in Tokyo and Nagoya, and Plump and Luedeman also spent time in Oyama, which is where the largest manufacturing operation for Komatsu is located. Komatsu has a joint venture with Cummins Inc., which has an engine plant in Seymour.

During Plump’s spring trip, he also visited Osaka, which is were O&k American has offices. The company has a manufacturing facility in Seymour.

Wherever Plump visits, it’s all about marketing Jackson County and maintaining and building relationships.

Marketing includes sharing information about the county’s workforce, partnership with the Jackson County Education Coalition and educational opportunities.

Relationships are built through sharing information on current and future projects by companies and learning about new companies and opportunities out there.

“We also talk with bankers, construction companies, trade organizations to get their idea of how the Japanese economy is going and are they going to continue to invest in the U.S.,” Plump said.

For Luedeman, the October trip to Japan was his fifth. He said it’s a good opportunity to thank the businesses that have invested in the local economy.

“Just relationship-building more than anything,” he said. “It has taken many years to get the investment that we have from the Japanese companies. You just secure those relationships and make sure they are happy with everything going on not just in Seymour but in Jackson County.”

The goal also is to spark more investment, which could create more jobs, Luedeman said.

“It’s more for the future than the exact moment,” he said. “You always want to bring back investment. … It’s always building for the future.”

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Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.