As Gov. Eric Holcomb has traveled the state this year, he has continued to hear from businesses that employees are lacking skills, and they would hire more workers if they could find applicants with the right skills.

This week, he is 6,000 miles away visiting companies in Japan with more than 40 elected officials, economic development recruiters and business leaders from across the state, but he is hearing the same message from the leaders of Japanese companies.

The companies already know about the advantages of doing business in Indiana, such as the low cost of doing business and living, the infrastructure, the healthy state budget and a cooperative regulatory environment. But the companies need more skilled applicants for openings.

He’s been able to tell them that he is tackling that problem, and share details of a program he unveiled in August to help residents get the skills they need to work in high-demand industries and help employers pay for the costs of training new employees in the same industries. For example, adults can earn career certificates in advanced manufacturing, building and construction, health and life sciences, IT and business services and transportation and logistics.

Nearly 60,000 Hoosiers work for 280 Japanese companies located in Indiana. Seventeen of those companies, such as KYB, Nachi and Mitsubishi, are located in Johnson County.

The mission of the trip was to continue to build a relationship with Japanese companies located in Indiana and learn about their needs, while showing appreciation for their investment in Indiana.

“We are here first and foremost to say ‘thank you’ and express how much we cherish our partnerships,” Holcomb said by phone Tuesday morning in the midst of his seven-day trip.

“We want them to know just how much we value our friendship and our partnership and what it means, not just what it means to the people and their jobs and the opportunities, but their corporate citizenship as well,” Holcomb said, noting community partnerships and volunteerism.

Holcomb said he had been inspired by his meetings so far. On Tuesday, he met with Hitachi representatives and walked away feeling like the Indiana delegation and the company representatives spoke the same language because both recognize that they are in a globally competitive environment and have to plan for today and the next 15 years and beyond and anticipate changes in technology, automation, data, 3D printing and artificial intelligence, for example.

Indiana will have to continue to be a pioneer in manufacturing and agriculture, and the Japanese companies share that goal and want to remain a leader, Holcomb said.

“That’s why that partnership is so important, to take the state and businesses to the next level,” Holcomb said. “Both rely on people — our greatest asset and resource. We are willing to invest in our people so we can be as healthy and wealthy and wise as possible.”

He also met with representatives of Mitsubishi and reinforced that he is trying to improve the skills of Indiana’s workforce, and will continue to welcome them, follow through and follow up. The company builds turbochargers at a factory in Franklin and expanded in 2015.

Tokyo-based KYB, an auto parts manufacturer, is one of the largest employers in the county and has its North American headquarters in Franklin.

“We will continue to invest in our relationships just as others invest in us. The welcome mat is out and the light is on, and I have shared with every single person I’ve met with that I am eager to host them in Indiana,” Holcomb said.

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Michele Holtkamp is editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at mholtkamp@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2774.